Buzzy Bees, Bends, Butterflies and Birds

Not everyone has been busy. Whilst the sun shines some of us take the opportunity to stop a few rays.

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Others here make friends with the flowers and get ready for the summer to come.

 

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But we all welcome the sun in one way or another.

 

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Unfortunately the sun doesn’t last forever. AS we neared Tarifa further along the coast, the wind picked up and it became altogether colder and darker.  The site we chose to stay on had one or two access problems and we got one wheel spinning in the air getting on the site.  Needless to say it was a free site but it was right on the beach so worth a little trouble getting there.

 

Had we known what getting off was going to be like I doubt we would have contemplated the site.

 

There were already some unusual occupants of the site.

 

There was a carpenter making musical instruments in his most unusual (in Europe) workshop:

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There were the usual residents of fields to be seen from the bedroom window first thing in the morning announcing their presence by ringing their cowbells.

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But as I hinted, getting off the site was not going to be easy.  I had worked out a route but not quite carefully enough.  I gave Sheila all the instructions but got one front wheel down a pothole so I take full responsibility.

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The damage was mostly superficial and was mended within hours.  A fat and purely cosmetic exhaust pipe extension was torn off as we entered the pothole.  However, the worst thing was that the fresh water drain connector came off at the same time and filled the hole we were sliding about in with 100 litres of fresh water.  Gooey and messy.  With the help of another camper we propped up the offending wheel and pushed, shoved, revved, reversed and drove out of there.  Mmmmmm lesson learned I hope.

Tarifa is known for the incessant winds and they hold kitesurfing championships there and is just along the coast from Gibraltar, our next destination.

We parked in La Linea which is just on the Spanish side of the border with Gib.  We were on a car park overnight right out in the open and subject to every whim the wind could come up with.  We were battered all night, it was almost as if we were at sea.

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You really do have to cross the runway by foot to get to Gibraltar, this is after you have been subjected to the usual security checks at an international frontier outside of the E.U. even if most of it is computerised and automated.

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Fortunately for us there were no delays as all the planes had been grounded because of the high winds.

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Gibraltar was a disappointment because the cable car was also grounded because of the winds so no mountaintop photos but we did get to shop in Morrisons with our pound coins  for ginger beer, Hot Chocolate and similarly Hot Cross Buns to keep us warm up in the mountains – our next destination.

 

“Today I am mostly driving John around the bend”  Take a look at the satnav as we approach the town of Zahara.

 

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Well worth the wiggles and the climb though.  A little hilltop town, one of the many Pueblos Blancos of Andalucia that we visited.

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We camped on a picnic ground beside a lake below the town.  The lake was formed when they built a dam across the lower end of the valley.  When we visited the water level was very low and a lot of the original valley floor had been exposed.  It seems that they simply built the dam, let it flood and left everything to rot away.  I walked across the floors of houses, along muddy streets, through abandoned forests to a street sign recently exposed by the receding waters.

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The main attraction of these mountains for me was the birds nesting on the sides of the crags.  Mostly Griffon Vultures, huge birds with a wingspan of nearly 3 metres, they spiral skywards on the air currents without the need to flap their wings more than a couple of times an hour.  I started photographing them with my (Very Cheap!) 500mm lens and got one or two passable pictures:

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Then switched to my more expensive but less appropriate lens and got a few more,

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but whilst camping below, I had met  Terry, a man with a similar passion for the birdlife who owned a MUCH more appropriate lens for these birds.  Terry invited me to try out his lens

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I am just SO in need of one of those lenses, a Sigma 150 – 600mm zoom lens.  Unfortunately it weighs nearly as much as all the rest of my camera equipment put together, is long enough to use as a walking stick and costs nearly £800.00 (My birthday soon if anyone is thinking what to buy for me!!)

 

Oh. The butterflies, I forgot:

 

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A species found in this region of Spain called the Spanish Festoon Zerynthia rumin rthat I spotted whilst we were on a cycle ride along a disused railway line near a town called Coribe.  We cycled about 13km for a picnic lunch then 13km back to the van.  We slept that night in the disused car park of the disused railway station on the disused railway line. Very quiet.

 

Sheila spotted a very obliging Spanish Viperine snake doing about 25mph downhill  and skidded to a halt nearly knocking me off my bike but it was quite worthwhile for the photographs.

 

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Oh! In case you were wondering; it was Sheila doing the 25mph not the snake and no it is not a venomous snake, quite harmless. (But it still gave me the eeebie geebies when it stopped posing for the camera and skidaddled across the track at 25mph.)

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Carnaval Conil De La Frontera

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We extended our stay in Conil for purely economical reasons – (50% discount if you stay a month) but we were then able to see the carnival that was much advertised about town.  The main procession was due to start at 5 in the afternoon and go on for about 3 hours.  We turned up at about 6 and there wasn’t a soul on the streets.   Were we too early? too late? No idea!  We had a beer in one of the nearly empty bars, did a bit of shopping in one of the poundland type shops (Where we saw the most unlikely scruffy man buying a “Fairy Magic Wand”) and went home.  When we got back, one of the other English Greytiders said “Didn’t you hear? They postponed the parade because of the high winds expected.”

Next night we repeated the procedure and it was well worthwhile.  We had been visiting the outdoor market in Conil for a few weeks and had noticed that the material stalls were all very busy selling gauze, fur fabric, foam lining, felt, polyester animal prints etc. and it was easy to see that evening what they were making.

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The costumes and makeup were all brilliantly done and there were hundreds of participants.  This group danced along to their own music for the whole 3 hours.

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The children were dressed up as pirates, balloonists, punk rockers, red Indian braves and a hundred other costumes. 

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The adults were not going to be outdone by their children either and the oldest Smurf, wickedest wizard, scariest werewolf and most charming princesses were all in attendance.

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A great deal of effort and ingenuity was evident in all of the costumes.

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I don’t know if these bottles of Fanta were being sponsored bit they seemed to be enjoying the contents.

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Some of the costumes made from the fabrics from the market stalls.

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These golden boys of sport carried their podia a few dozen metres, had a quick drink, mounted up and froze like statues for a minute then marched on.

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Hells angels and angelettes. I was horrified to see that the little ones were not wearing  crash helmets but they did keep the speed down if not the noise.

 

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There were some fun costumes including these two Dames who walked in their cubicles looking as if in agony all the time.

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Clearly, some took the whole thing very seriously with costumes and makeup to rival Rio.

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Well everyone deserves a break now and then!

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Eventually everyone made their way to the seafront where a huge party was to keep going all night.  But this was Sunday, the original party would have been Saturday, giving everyone a chance to get a little sleep before school or work the next day.  I have no idea what excuses for not turning up for school or work they all used.

The Grey Tide

The grey tide washes back and forth over these lands.  At the approach of winter, thousands, tens of thousands and maybe even millions of motorhoming grey haired people flock to the south to enjoy a more comfortable winter climate than that of their homes in Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Scandinavia and even northern Spain.

 

Here is a typical member of that group carrying out a typical Grey Tide activity:

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Or sitting in the sun enjoying this:

 

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We have settled in quite comfortably into such a community based near Conil De La frontera near Cadiz, spain  There are a few hundred of us on a fairly large campsite so we don’t get in each others way.  We salute each other with various forms of “Ola”, “Gooten Morgen”, “bonjour” or even “Mornin” as we gather round the washing up sinks or water supply point.  For some good food, good wine, good weather and of course good company are enough.

 

But not for me!  Here is a picture of me shark fishing from my stand up paddler:

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MMMM….Well anyway, there is plenty to see nearby.  The town of Conil De La Frontera is a short walk or cycle away

 

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Where the photobombing thrill seekers hang out by the sea:

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and just about 4 or 5 miles away is the port of Conil.

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Just about far enough away to work up a thirst cycling to the little bar there.  We have also walked there and back, some 16 km along the beaches and cliff tops. 

 

The next town inland is Veja, a hilltop fortified town with some typical Andalusian architecture and apparently ceramic frogs!

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Surprisingly for me, not far from Veja is an international centre for show jumping and some friends of ours took us on a trip to see it.

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A definite surprise for me to see this. 

We have always had a hankering to visit the Sahara Desert again and a few nights ago the desert visited us in the form of a red cloud that dropped tons of dust and grit on all of this part of Spain.  The results were pretty spectacular as can be seen from these two cars:

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We had to wash our van and awning pretty quickly before the dust set into red concrete, the owners of these cars may have been a little late for that.

 

Humans aren’t the only species to enjoy the early spring weather and these two were spotted near the beach in Conil.

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One of the delights of this part of the world is the Flamenco dancing and we were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to witness a spirited display of the art form:

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We happened to turn up for a meal with friends on the night that the Dutch contingent of Grey Tiders had arranged a display. 

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Not a place you want to be if you are suffering from a headache, those shoes and the stage floor make a perfect drum and even when there were several dancers performing together, they were perfectly synchronised.

I did enjoy the meal, however.

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