Thursday, December 18, 2008

Continuing on from our adventures in Spain...

With the remaining time with our car running out, we hatched a vague plan to belt north through western Spain. So from El Chorro we headed to Cordoba (still in Andalucia), supposedly a great town with a fantastic culture and history.

What is truely amazing, is that any tourist can find anything they wanted to see in Cordoba. We drove, got lost, drove some more, couldn't find anything... eventually we parked and found an internet cafe, but all we managed to find, was a parking ticket on the car when we returned.

A little dissapointed we continued north. On the map, near a lake, we picked the township of Alange, in the Extremadura. The Extremadura is a land of open spaces and big skys.

In the evening, we did a short walk to a site of some ruins on a hill that offer spectacular panoramas of the landscape. (See photos below).

The next day we made our way north again, stopping along the way in a town called Trujillo. Trujillo is famous for its perfectly preserved old town. We spent a couple of hours exploring the cobbled streets, observing the locals and the architecture, both ancient!

Heading north again, we drove through the Monfrague Parque Natural, where we unexpectedly found the most amazing sight - Near on 100 massive Vultures nesting and circling a large outcrop on the shore of a lake. For over 30minutes, we were treated to an incredible display of the massive raptors soaring.

A little further up the road, we discovered a camp ground that was actually open. Late in the afternoon, with many miles under the tires, we decided to call it a day.

Dani suffering the wind in Alange.

Alange, Spain
The ruins at Alange. Spectacular panoramas in every direction.
Alange, Spain
The village of Alange.

Trujillo, Spain
Old men strolling and talking in Trujillo. A common sight.

Alley Cats
Alley cats getting anxious about a dog in Trujillo.

Trujillo, Spain
The well preserved castle in Trujillo.

More from Sainte Foy

Monday, December 8, 2008

Not too different to the view from our Chalet. This is looking South West across the valley.

The sun shone for the first time since the storm that dumped nearly a metre at the resort. This is just behind the guest chalets. A couple of the others whipped out a toboggan this afternoon for a run in the deep.

Le Sapin Chalet
This is Le Sapin, the largest of the guest chalets. Apparently it costs nearly 20,000 pounds a week to hire every room.

We've now been in Sainte Foy for three days, and its been non-stop snow, work and entertainment. We've integrated into the existing crew very well, and everyone is very friendly and fun to hang around with. On wednesday most of the remaining crew will be arriving, bringing the total work party to 25 members.

The night we arrived it started snowing, and didn't stop for three days. For a while it was looking near impossible to return our car to Lyon on the 5th. I borrowed some chains and crawled down the road from Sainte Foy to Bourg St-Maurice where the road improved. Nearly a metre has fallen, transforming the village into an all white skiable paradise. Mounds of untracked powder are making me anxious for my ski gear!

We ran into some other folk in the village who are working for other chalet company's. They'd just been hiking up the mountain and had fresh tracks all day. They then added salt to the wound by showing me photos of their tracks... grrr.

Work has been quite variable. I've spent most mornings shovelling snow from steps, and using the 'snow blower' - a machine the size of a ride on lawnmover, which sprays snow everywhere. Dani's been sorting threw massive piles of linen and towels for the company's housekeeping supplies. I've also been helping fit out a new area downstairs.

Next time we get a chance to breathe, we'll upload some video.

The Arrival

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Every day is a powder day!
Shot just out the front of the main guest chalet. The view from our little chalet that we're living in is similarly spectacular. Oh I'm sorry, are at your desk at work? Didn't mean to make you jealous...

After two months of living in a tent, 8500km of Europe later, we've arrived in St Foye Tarentaise for the winter. It is GORGEOUS! The day we arrived there was already a foot of snow on the ground, and since then it has been dumping fresh fluffy powder constantly. Unfortunately we've been too busy with setting up chalets to get out and enjoy it, but when we do we'll be sure to post some video and photos of the place. Ski lifts don't open til the 20th of Dec, which is just as well seeing as our ski gear is stuck in customs at Lyon airport!

More to come...

El Chorro

Thursday, December 4, 2008

From Costa de Almeria, we boosted off down the A-routes towards Malaga. Unfortunately the A-route disappears into a winding road with intermittent sprawling coastal towns. Heading inland from Malaga, the landscape changes. After getting lost in the steep streets of Alorha, we manage to find our way to the international climbing mecca of El Chorro.

El Chorro is an incredible place. There is cliffs over 150metres high - Caves littered with tufas - sheer vertical face climbing or jug hauling powerfests - El Chorro has everything.

Plus, El Chorro has one of the most unique settings in the world. Large parts of the climbing is hidden inside an incredible gorge, only a few metres wide in places, and over 150metres high, its a formidable sight. To access the gorge, climbers must navigate a decaying concrete walkway- the infamous "Caminito del Rey", 70metres above the water at the bottom.

The evening we arrived, we ran into a couple of Kiwis we met in Siurana, Phil and Tom. They offered to show us some classic routes for the short stay we had. We went up to a Sector on the frontal crags, and did three amazing routes. We ran out of time to tackle the Caminto, but I'm definitly hoping to make a return to El Chorro one day.

Here are some photos;
El Chorro - The Gorge
'El Chorro', literally means 'The Squirt'. Apparently before the river was dammed upstream, in times of flood, water would come through the Gorge with so much force, it would 'squirt' out the opening with a considerable display.

El Chorro - Front Crags
The sector where we did a few routes, steep lines with tufas. Muy bien!

Caminito del Rey
Here you can see the Caminito del Rey, the aging concrete walkway climbers use to access some of the crags deeper in the gorge. The walkway was built nearly 100years ago as a surveilance and access for a water canal built in the gorge. The King came to lay the final stone at the opening, so they named the walkway 'The Kings Way'

Save El Chorro
Much of the climbing is only accessible via railway tunnels. Recently the powers that be made it illegal to use the railway tunnels to access the climbing deeper in the Gorge. With so many climbers visiting this region, bringing countless tourist dollars its amazing the authorities haven't considered the idea of providing safer access to the back crags.

Chillin' at El Chorro
This is the kind of relaxed, healthy glow you get from not working for 3 months (and climbing topless for two of them). On this day, it was about 25 degrees, two days later we drove into snow... Spain is a country of extremes!

And finally, a YouTube video of some dude walking the Caminito del Rey. Interestingly, he doesn't use any safety devices at all.

Calpe to Costa de Almeria

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

When we left Siurana two weeks ago, we headed South to see some of Spain's Mediterranean Coastline. On the first night we just picked a place on the map (Calpe) and decided to go there. Calpe's most notable feature is the Penon de Ifach; a 300 metre limestone "molar" which stick out of the coast. The area around Calpe is popular with climbers because of the large multipitch routes available.

Our first night on the road was also our first night of sleeping in the car. We found a quiet stretch of street which had numerous Camper Vans and parked up. The sleep wasn't particularly good, but it sure saved us some cash. The campgrounds wanted 25 euro a night!

The next day we continued down the coast and stopped at a town called San Jose, on the Costa de Almeria, in the Cabo de Gata Parque Natural. This region of Spain is known as being the "vegetable garden" of Europe, as plastic greenhouses stretch for miles. Its also one of the last places you can find stretches of undeveloped coast lines, and even the possibility of having a beach to yourself. We quickly found there was much to explore in the area and spent two nights here, again sleeping in the car near a beach south of San Jose. The landscape is barren-desert like, with many cactus and agarve plants. The adobe style housing was common - it was almost like you'd imagine Mexico to be.

On the morning after the second night, Dani woke up and noticed the Civil Guard talking to some people who had camped out in the same car-park. Evidentally, camping here was illegal. We were convinced they were going to finish ticketing them and immediately ticket us! We narrowly avoided any interaction with them by casually walking from the car out towards the beach, until they left.

Heres some photos from Calpe and Costa de Almeria, a beautiful region of Spain. Stories from El Chorro next post.

Calpe, and the Penon de Ifach. The town features many apartment buildings and retirees.

San Jose Panorama
Playa morron de los genoveses, near San Jose - Costa del Almeria, Spain. This is a stitch of three photos.

Playa morron de los genoveses
Playa morron de los genoveses, near San Jose - Costa del Almeria, Spain.

Playa de los Genoveses
One benefit of sleeping in the car at is that we rose when the sun did, Dani took this shot in the early morning light at Playa Monsul.

Taken somewhere along the coast of Cabo de Gata.

San Jose Houses
Adobe style housing in the town of San Jose.