Vulture Culture – around Estepona and Casares

Travel

This autumn we had a lot of reasons to discover our fascinating Costa del Sol region further, thanks to our friends who moved to Estepona for a few months. Willing to spend some time with them, we headed for a weekend there, combining the urban, coastal and hiking highlights, including birdwatching some of the most impressive species out there: a Griffon Vulture (Buitre Leonado in Spanish).

Estepona is a ‘garden town’ of Andalucia, influenced heavily by its coastal location nearby the Gibraltar Strait. Founded its first civilisation during the Bronze Age, nowadays it is a picturesque Andalucian town with a lot of vegetation, flower plants and art all over the place.

There is about 14 km of a coastal path meandering around various gardens. About 30 buildings in Estepona are painted with the original murals, or encrypted with of some piece of poetry on its elevations. The beauty of it soothes so much, that we felt relaxed as soon as we found a parking slot. Probably the only stressful part of staying in Estepona. You can also choose to arrive by bus, frequently passing from Malaga or Cadiz/Algeciras/La Linea.

We took a stroll around the city centre, watched the orange trees grow their first fruits of this season, and took a lot of new pictures from different angles. Estepona offers a lot of daytime attractions apart from being a very picturesque town (an Orchidarium, Selwo Aventura among others), while during the night, there is a lot of romantic restaurants offering wine tastings and tapas.

The proximity of the Gibraltar Strait creates an interesting microclimate and marks a historically important location of Estepona in between the continents and the seas. During our long walk with our friends, I was able to catch some magic moments of the sun setting down somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, on the other side of the Strait, and some interesting seagull flocks too.

The next day, we drove a very pleasurable, winding road all the way up to Casares, a picturesque ‘white town’ in the mountain range of Sierra de Bermeja. It is famous for various reasons: a birthplace of Blas Infante, a staging ‘sponge town’ in Mario Bros 64 from 1996, and for being inhabited by a large group of Griffon Vultures.

We took a circular hiking path around the town, where we admired magnificent views over Gibraltar Strait, as well as Sierra de Bermeja, heavily affected by a large wildfire this year. The damage took over 100 000 m2 and lasted for over a month until its full extinction. The saddest thing of all is that it was not a simple effect of the climate change (wildfires happen in this region quite often). It was set on purpose by some monstrous beings, who knew how difficult the extinction may be in the steep mountain range, in the weather conditions of a strong wind blowing from the West. A single drop did not fall during 10 initial days of the extinction and only thanks to a heavy fall which happened afterwards, the fire got under control. It is a very painful memory of this summer 2021, knowing that one brave firefighter lost his life, among hundreds of wild animals inhabiting the forest and thousands of the inhabitants had to be evacuated to a temporary shelter.

Fortunately, we could see how the nature recuperates, after all. The trees and the whole ecosystem, although so heavily damaged, seem to be recovering slowly. The aftermath of that fire may still affect Costa del Sol in many unpleasant ways – making the winters colder and the summers hotter, reducing the mild  microclimate known around the world.

We were fortunate also for another reason: on that day, several couples of the Griffon Vulture were hovering in the air surrounding Casares. Because of the proximity of a few motorway junctions and local roads, the local ornithologists created a special Vulture Feeding Stations where the birds can safely enjoy their prey. One of these stations is located close to Casares and this is why we could notice these powerful and very helpful animals. The town of Casares seem to like them as well, decorating various outposts (e.g. the church towers) with the vulture silhouettes.

Looking at the vultures a bit more closely, we could observe a special nuptial flight, when the male flies above the female, just before the mating. Hopefully next year there will be more of them welcoming us. This weekend trip was one of those mini breaks, when you can focus and appreciate the nature around you, and nothing else. Especially in the good company of your friends, spending their autumn in such a pleasant, special part of the world.

All the birdsongs of Doñana

Travel

I must have mentioned that autumn marks one of my favourite seasons in Andalucia. The heat in the air becomes bearable, the morning and evenings bring refreshing breeze and between September-October we can see most of the migrating bird species from the North of Europe. Some people migrate too, escaping short and dark days, carrying their caravans all the way to the Southernmost part of Spain which can be easily observed by the types of traffic on the motorway linking Spain and Portugal.

Mild(er) temperatures make it easier to hit the road, as well and enjoy the ride in the sun. Mid-October we visited Huelva Province’s gem for a weekend: the National Park of Doñana, one of the most spectacular outpost to observe wildlife species, almost undisturbed by the human presence. Until the 1950s there were more wolves than people around here which speaks for its wilderness.

October proved to be not the best season to visit this area though, especially after this year’s extremely hot and dry summer season, as the wetlands attracting thousands of migrating birds, were still dry. We mostly saw ‘wild’ horses and ‘wild’ cattle – distant cousins of the North American mustangs, brought there by the colonial forces all the way from the Huelva province, nowadays co-habiting the land with horse keepers from the peculiar town, El Rocio.

El Rocio is a spectacle of its own: build in 20th century, looks like a movie setting for the western type of films, and in all honesty, it is a bit of a Spanish Wild West. Inhabited by less than 2000 people on a daily basis, is known for its religious celebrations around the last weekend of May, as it attracts millions (!) of Holy Brotherhoods from all over Europe, to celebrate the existence of the Virgin of Rocio. It is then also a place where a lot of drinking and bravado happens all over town, contrary to what the guides from the National Park would like to see.

There are no roads nor cobble stone in El Rocio, it is all covered in sand and people mostly ride horses all over the village. Watch out for them even in the night when the Holy Brotherhoods celebrate singing chants and drinking a lot of wine! The traditional character of El Rocio makes it hard to see any culinary spots other than the most typical Spanish food, not even a pizza place. No wonder why pope JPII praised its conservative, religious character wishing that the ‘whole world be like El Rocio’. After the initial few hours in town, we were rather overwhelmed by the religious chauvinism, and escaped to visit the natural side of Doñana.

Early in the morning, we took a trip along the National Park, spotting dozens of deers, bores, spoonbills, storks and partridges. Despite the eye for the species, we weren’t able to see the Iberian Lynx, a species which lives a great success of re-introducing on the Iberian Peninsula for the last 20 years. From 12 to over 2000 of inhabitants, between Spain and Portugal! Still, they are endangered, mostly subject to being hit by cars on the local roads, which don’t respect the signs ‘Paso de Linces’ and a recommended speed of 40 kmph.

On the other hand, we were able to see roaming birds of prey, including the red kite – not so common anymore in Spain. Birdwatching continues to be the most relaxing and rewarding, mindful activity after long weeks of working with code and text. Only after two days we notice how the eye accommodates to the new stimuli!

Eventually, we spent some time at the vast, Atlantic sandy beaches, almost empty around this time of the year. The water was incredibly warm and pleasant to bathe and swim and we managed to get some last tan this year. We are definitely returning to Doñana sometime in the winter/spring, hopefully to see it more wetland species and less of the horse bravado.

As ondas da Ericeira

Travel

After a longer break from posting here, I am coming back after a few exciting but intense weeks which didn’t leave much space for reflecting by writing for pleasure. Exactly a month ago I spent a few magical days in the windy capital of the waves (ondas) in Ericeira, making it my first stay in Portugal since over two years.

How did I end up there? Long story short, this year I moved jobs and joined one of the leading no-code companies operating fully remotely, and my starting date coincided nicely with the very first onsite meeting face to face in this beautiful place on Earth. Working remotely does not mean you are disconnected, or get distant with the people you collaborate with. I could experience that first-hand, only one week after I started.

Logistically, it must have been a great effort to organise such a meeting safely and coordinate the arrival of 140+ people from 20+ countries all over the world. It all worked out to my amazement and was also a very first large social gathering I attended. Thankfully, the agenda consisted of different activities: meeting people in various contexts: joint meals and workshops and then enjoying very social activities but and also focused on self-balance and discovery, such as yoga, morning trail runs or surfing.

I joined a historic walk around the town to learn more about it. Having spent one summer not that far away from here, in Obidos, I knew the region quite well, but not Ericeira itself. Home to several world championships in surf due to very special waves conditions, it is mostly known by experienced wave lovers from all over the place. I wasn’t brave enough to give it a try yet, remembering my first attempts during that summer 2009 which resulted in knee injury.

I enjoyed the morning trail run though, encompassing the town from different angles, and passing through the historical sites. A fishing harbour is located next to the Pescadores beach, above which there is a number of picturesque houses, named after the fishermen or their trade. Next to it, there is also a tiny, magical chapel of Nossa Senhora da Boa Viagem and a church of São Sebastião serving prayers to the seaman and their return, or as they name it ‘good death’.

Each year, during the local festivity dedicated to the Lady of the Good Trip (or we should say: Return), a procession from the sea is organised, bringing the Virgin on the boats from the ocean, in a specially decorated boats, followed by the walk on the streets covered by a colourful sand mosaics. I can only imaginee the harship of the sea life in the past, now looking at the powerful currents and winds in this area. Probably no one in the past would imagine that the crazy waves would attract ones thousands of adventure seekers.

During its hundeds years of the history, Ericeira became home to many travellers. For instance, traders from far away Macau would influence the architecture of the noblemen houses, bringing a little bit of Chinese culture to Portugal. Hundreds years later, Ericeira became a strategic point of further departure to the Americas for the Jewish people fleeing the horrors of the WWII, thanks to the Portuguese Consul Aristides de Souse Mendes.

The powerful sound of the waves, the harsh history or this place and the direct exposure to the ocean energy recharged me a lot while I kept getting to know so many new people from all around the world, sharing a context of the collaboration in such an unrealistically beautiful place.

Finally, we spent a day in a place I used to call home: Lisbon.I had a chance to revisit familiar and new places during the treasure hunt activity, and ending up the day at the sunset boat trip around the Tejo Bay. Some things changed, some remained the same – isn’t it a truism about all of us?

On the trail run path, I saw a poem, coming from Fernando Pessoa’s O Guardador de Rebanhos (The Keeper of Sheep), and I fell in love with these words immediately. Enjoy it, if you understand, and if you don’t, enjoy the sheer sound of the Portuguese language,.

O meu olhar é nítido como um girassol.
Tenho o costume de andar pelas estradas
Olhando para a direita e para a esquerda,
E de vez em quando olhando para trás…
E o que vejo a cada momento
É aquilo que nunca antes eu tinha visto,
E eu sei dar por isso muito bem…
Sei ter o pasmo essencial
Que tem uma criança se, ao nascer,
Reparasse que nascera deveras…
Sinto-me nascido a cada momento
Para a eterna novidade do Mundo…

Creio no Mundo como num malmequer,
Porque o vejo. Mas não penso nele
Porque pensar é não compreender…
O Mundo não se fez para pensarmos nele
(Pensar é estar doente dos olhos)
Mas para olharmos para ele e estarmos de acordo…

Eu não tenho filosofia: tenho sentidos…
Se falo na Natureza não é porque saiba o que ela é,
Mas porque a amo, e amo-a por isso,
Porque quem ama nunca sabe o que ama
Nem sabe porque ama, nem o que é amar…

Amar é a eterna inocência,
E a única inocência é não pensar…

Cabo de Gata – the sun, the moon and the sea

Travel

Craving for tranquility in August is a huge challenge and I believe this year most of the places saw the exponential surge in visitors, as the humanity craved holiday destinations. Paradoxically, the search of the tranquility for many of us cramped also typically quiet, rural spots. Since I have been changing jobs, making sure to leave one ship prepared to sail further and setting the sails for the next one’s course, planning our time off has been more of a spontaneous luck charm. The in between personal destination has been set for Cabo de Gata.

Known for arid, out-of-this-planet landscapes, hundreds of more or less accessible beaches, low-key caravan destination and warm, crystalline waters, Cabo de Gata still attracts thousands of travelers – mostly from around Spain, but occasional German, or French road trip aficionados can be spotted.

We stayed at the rural hotel with little-to-none Internet and mobile coverage, in the middle of the desert, overlooking the sleepy seaside village and the lighthouse. There was only one restaurant to go to, opening late at night within the 2 km of walking trail distance. There was nothing better than the walk at the sunset as well as the return in the moonlight. The smell of the volcanic, dry soil reminded me a lot of places like Canary Islands, Guadix or Atacama Desert.

Driving around the area is a sheer pleasure, especially in the morning light passing through the sleepy towns, and villages. It is worth mentioning that if the area was not protected as a national park, it would soon become a ‘sea of plastic’. Not for the pollution, but for the production. Named as one of the Netflix series Mar de Plastico describes hundreds of kilometers of the plantations in Granada, Almeria, and Murcia’s coastal provinces where the most of the produce eaten out by the European population is grown nowadays. As the area suffers from substantial water shortages, Spain is leading the way of making the most of it, using the tropical humidity and GMO to be the most sustainable in feeding the rest of the continent 365 days per year.

 

We stayed in the area of Los Escullos, famous for its oolic dunes, similar as I have once seen in the Northern part of Taiwan. The sunlight changing into moonlight in such a cosmic scenery adds to the magic, similarly as the distant calls of skylarks, cooing of the Iberian quails, and chirps of various cricket species.

The variety of fish, the plants consisting of the Mediterranean forest impressed us a lot. We even tried fried ortiguillas del mar – fried algae species typical for other remote places, like Flores where I managed to eat a similar treat. The most beautiful part of it was to observe the water plants floating freely serving the school of fish to hide and feed themselves, too! We also shared a dormitory with a friendly gecko who saved us from the tiger mosquitos.

I prefer not to name the beaches we visited, to keep the memories and places private and secret. Some of them still have remnants of the unfortunate yachts who caught a storm, and vast parking spots which are already crowded during the summer season. Some of them are rocky, some of them have pristine white sand. I don’t think Cabo de Gata needs more visitors, quite the opposite, to keep it sustainable. It is a very raw place for the nature lovers and not those who queue up for the Instagram / TikTok pose on the vulnerable oolic dune, or brag about shooting the hares, or quails. The respect for the environment, and its fragility shows up in a full scope in such a place – let’s make sure we preserve it, not even stepping outside of the sandy path when snorkeling with friendly species. I will probably return, but off the season, enjoying the total remoteness and disconnection, not even 3 hours drive from home.

How much is the fish? A weekend getaway to La Herradura

Personal, Travel

Those who know me well, know for a fact my sheer love for birds, and a guilty pleasure passion for the old-timer Scooter band. Quite recently though I found a brand new passion of this world: snorkeling with various school of fish! This post is dedicated to them, the recovery after a few weeks of feeling not too great and the happiness to be on the road again. As I tend to say, 2021 summer for my age group is again not a full-on vacation, it’s most importantly: the vac(cin)ation. All that in the surge of the new variants of the virus which you can still get in between the doses. Celebrating our relative immunity, we went to spend a weekend in La Herradura, about an hour drive away from Malaga, in the close vicinity of Nerja.

As snorkeling became our new passion and the most mindful way of getting back to health, we chose that rocky, rugged seascape of la Costa Tropical, which is the common denomination of the Granada province coast. The part of the national road N-340 is especially plausible for the type of admirer drivers who enjoy the winding curves alongside the sea and the mountains. The entry to La Herradura leads through a particularly narrow two-way street where it is recommendable to honk, announcing your presence. Despite the summer traffic, I find that in this part of Spain it is possible to get out of any situation or trouble without too much stress.

We stayed close to the hiking route to Cerro Gordo and Playa La Calaiza where we managed to spot several fish species on the same evening after our arrival. We also spent a nice evening in the Restaurant Dis Tinto, where apart from delicious food served from the mane oven, several and not trivial red wine all-encompassing various Spanish tiny wineries is on the offer. On the second day due to a strong wind we went on a hike around the Cerro Gordo ending up our passage on the beautiful Cantarrijan Beach.

As the strong levante wind decided to blow during the whole weekend producing over two-meter waves, the weather was probably the best to get a full-body tan given that the beach is primarily destined for the naturalists. I can’t answer the question of how much is the fish in there to Scooter’s HP Baxxter, but possibly I will need to return to do so. There is definitely much more to do around La Herradura and the town itself has a bit of a summer resort vibe. As we were exhausted after the summer of work, recovery and craving the nature, we focused on the hiking and nature mostly. This time of the year is poor season for bird watching, though among the rugged terrain, you will most certainly spot a kestrel,  scanning the landscape on a dry outpost bench or a falcon hovering in search of the game.

 

Cold Brew and other gems from the Little Silver Cup

Personal, Travel

 

 

January and July mark mid-year celebrations for me and my partner. Since years we keep on surprising each other with different locations or venues we visit to celebrate. This year’s July surprise was visiting Cadiz, or Little Silver Cup, given the city’s shape, light and location between the majestic Atlantic Ocean and Bahia de Cadiz.

When we arrived to the city, we literally felt as if we fell into the hot, humid broth to describe the temperature best, so for the rest of the day we stayed at the water side, not able to wander around too long around the historic city center. We enjoyed a peaceful walk as there were not too many fellow visitors despite the high season, so we managed to inhale the relaxed city vibe, its charming parks and its magnificent Cathedral. When breaking free, we don’t like forcing on ourselves too rigid plans or timelines – the magic happens when you accidentally discover something unusual. This entry is about the gems hidden beyond the first sight.

And so it happened. The next day, awaiting the boat to take us to the fascinating town Puerto Santa Maria, and wanting to cope with the humid weather, we ordered a refreshing Cold Brew at the Top Coffee Shop, ran by some very interesting baristas. We even bought the book by one of them, Yolanda Mariscal with a promising, Almodovaresque title Pide Un Deseo in order to practice our Spanish, and experience a good lesbian novel intrigue. Both challenges unlocked! 

When we arrived to Puerto Santa Maria, we were contrasted with a never-ending yacht marina (Cadiz Bay is a popular cross-Atlantic departure/arrival spot) and derelict port buildings. Passing around the quiet and rather rough-looking streets we discovered some of the quirkiest design stores and sherry wine cellars for the connoisseurs. Eventually, our ultimate hidden gem was a restaurant Whose Name Shall Not Be Spoken, situated between the tidal swamps and train station.

A 17th century mill, operating thanks to the powerful Atlantic Ocean tides, was restored and converted into the Andalucian experimental restaurant and a completely out of space experience. Before entering the venue and tasting the main menu, one has to go through the rite of passage, welcomed by the glass of fino and hostia made of sea urchins and sea honey, plankton tortilla and sun-dried octopus nigiri.

I would like to keep the rest of the experience a secret to be discovered only by the curious. Enough mentioning that what you see is not often what you eat. In a Petri dish there may be a dessert. A tardigrade-resembling creature may be a razor clam. While we ate, the tide changed from ebbs to flows, and the migratory birds of the Gibraltar Strait were enjoying their crustacean menu as well. Quoting my partner, there is nothing more (to say): Non Plus Ultra.

Costa de la Luz – tribute to the sun

Travel

Last week the summer officially started, bringing long, intense days, scorching sun, smell of the sea and the appetite to discover new places around. As soon as the travel between the provinces had been allowed, I set myself to my revisit my beloved Ocean, the part of Andalucia called Costa de la Luz. After last year’s visit to Tarifa, I always wanted to return there as much as I could. 

Leaving at the sunrise, the roads were still pretty empty and it was such a pleasure driving slowly around the steep mountains nearby Marbella, changing naturally into the landscape of vast fields, Atlantic forest and dunes as soon as you leave towards the Cadiz province. From time to time I could see the birds of prey or even vultures hovering in the sky just above the car.

Passing by the white towns of Vejer and Barca, I chose my first destination: Conil de la Frontera. At the end of May there was still only a handful of people visiting and it allowed me to enjoy the vast Ocean beaches almost alone, something hard to imagine during the high season. I took my Mom with me as she loves this type of places and it was a great reunion for us to spend a few days together in such a scenery. Conil is one of the most picturesque ‘white towns’, founded by the Phoenicians, famous for the Spanish Reconquista and for its almadraba fishing method. 

The appreciation for the local cuisine led me to check the menu of various taverns, who compete for the most creative tuna dishes. My absolute favourite in Conil would go to Taberna Chanca, full of creative yet simple tapas. I rarely repeat places when travelling, but I enjoyed it so much, I returned there after 2 weeks, this time with my partner. I only hope that the traditional method has the appreciation for this magnificent species. Even the local Virgen del Carmen is blessing the fishermen and the tuna itself.

From the natural paradise lens, another place that completely blew my mind was the endless lagoon on Playa de Castilobo with an ancient Moorish tower, currently inhabited by Hermit Ibises, re-introduced by the group of local ornithologists. Its colonies once existed all over Europe, North Africa and Middle East, and currently it is considered one of the most endangered species on our planet. There, you can hear and watch a few couples, producing synthetic, squeaky sounds and breeding happily – it is a treat for bird watcher’s eye. 

On the way between Conil, Palmar and Barbate there is also a lot of hiking trails around the Natural Park of Brena and Marismas, leading through steep ocean cliffs and forests. I met no one there, except from a few rabbits and a hoopoe! If the visibility is good, it is quite easy to observe the other side of the Gibraltar Strait, and Atlas Mountains in Morocco. 

During my second trip, I stayed at the laid-back town of Zahara de los Atunes, where again I spent a lot of active time on the beach, hiking and enjoying the local 0 km cuisine. A special mention goes to the Taberna del Campero for a lovely treat, heart-warming patio where not only humans, but also doves have their special place. The waiters were quite mindful of the pair of doves, nesting on the patio, disregarding the comment of some customers about the presence of the birds. They simply said “Yes, there are doves here. They live here with us. And they have little chicks now, that’s why we put them a special nesting cardboard to help them out”. 

The importance of being respectful, not only to the local towns visiting, but also the animals living there, like the mentioned tuna, gekkoes, spoonbills, storks and herons one can notice when spending time next to the lagoons and beaches. The South of Spain has an incredible offer for the nature lovers and slow travellers – we cannot destroy it with the new wave of massification of the tourism. And here comes my tribute to the sun, sand and sea. 

Senda Litoral to Marbella – on four wheels

Personal, Travel

The title of this month’s post is only slightly misleading. It has been a long, intense and beautiful month for me and I can’t pin point a single cause of that fact, so I have to choose one. And it is the general kinetic pleasure of being able to travel, on four wheels, further than usual, as the movement restrictions and over six months of Estado de Alarma have been lifted. 

On FOUR wheels though? What happened to the Peugeot urban bike who was a protagonist of most of my recent posts? Here comes the pun! Two bikes equal four wheels (let’s not forget about the brave Kross who came with us all the way from Berlin, and earlier, from Poland!), true. But the fact is, the bikes share a parking lot with a car now! And the best part of it is, that in order to buy the car, we went over 50 kms using our own bikes, to the big surprise of the seller. Who started to doubt if we really need a car, even prior to see us driving it. 

Let me tell you about the way first. Since I moved to Costa del Sol, I started fantasizing of a long bike ride towards the Cadiz coast and learned, that currently, the path leads almost to Estepona, with some degree of creativity. Since I am not a big fan of using the major roads crowded with cars, I try to look for an alternative. It is not as easy in Malaga though as it is in more plain provinces. On one hand, you are limited by the rocks at the sea, and on the other by the steep mountains. So the choice of roads to use is fairly limited. There is a way to reach Marbella/Estepona currently, using the beautiful Senda Litoral via Mijas Costa, but only during weekdays and particular timeframes, not clashing with the pedestrians (9-11 am or 2-4 pm). So here comes the right amount of creativity and planning into the mix. 

While the town of Cala de Mijas looks like the most of the other Costa del Sol beach towns, the magic starts after passing by the next town, Sitio de Calahonda. There is where the Natural Park of Dunas de Artola brings peaceful landscapes of vegetation, sandy beaches and if you are lucky, you can recognize colourful flowers and birds on the way. We were very lucky to hear, and then spot about three hoopoes on that particular ride! Although some of the legends claim that to hear the hoopoe’s call brings sudden death, I prefer to attribute it to the springtime nuptial ceremonies among this species. Especially when I am learning to drive once again. Apparently, the females choose the most attractive male by the quantity, frequency and profoundness of their calls. To learn more about the hoopoe, I truly recommend the movie ‘Return of the Hoopoe‘!

But it is not all about the hoopoe. The vegetation and the wildlife observed by this beautiful path is endless, especially during springtime. The path offers whale and dolphin spotting outposts, especially around Fuengirola’s nudist beaches, making the others doubt if you really do whale or birdwarching (facepalm). This least pleasant part of the ride goes close to the motorway, so escaping the ongoing sound of the roaring engines by looking at the big blue is one of the best strategies to enjoy this 8 km ride. However, I recently learned that the local authorities plan to build a proper path, further down the rocky coast and not so close to the motorway. Judging by the amount of the runners, bikers and pedestrians it is a great idea.

The reality though, at least for now, is that we can’t go wherever we want to by our beloved four bike wheels. Hence, the decision to buy a car came just before turning 2 years living in Malaga, which is by the way, exactly today. Since we have not driven a car for many years, we are quite nervous behind the wheel but still love beautiful design and can’t agree to use a SUV, we decided for a fun, second hand car with a good condition and low mileage. So far we are still learning, yet the freedom to choose to go to the ocean or wherever we point the finger on the map, is priceless. 

Since then, almost three weeks passed and the car is not in use unless we go to practice or if we need to go somewhere further. I still recommend using collective transportation, bike or own feet to discover Andalucia, when possible, thinking about our own health, and the condition of our planet. 

Walking or driving slower, does not take the magic of the discovery, quite the opposite. Thanks to these long walks, lurking into and mindful registering of the nature, I was able to spot this gourmand sparrow, enjoying jamón ibérico, among other magical happenings that we miss by, if we live too fast.

The wonders of wandering

Travel

Following up on my springtime post, I wanted to share some hiking highlights of the past weeks. Since I am currently living in a municipality surrounded equally by the Mediterranean Sea and the Mountains of Malaga I have the best of the two worlds.

Walking up 500-900 m in the neighbouring vicinity, if you are lucky, there are goats, vultures, eagles to be spotted. These days the slopes are also blossoming with flowers and you can witness a buzz of the bees moving from one spot to another.

What I don’t necessarily enjoy are the humans exploiting the hiking paths with their bikes, causing havoc, natural damage and potential accidents to more respectable passer-byes. Extreme sports seem to be the passion of many these days though. In search of less popular hikes I believe it is crucial to leave Costa del Sol and seek slightly more hidden trails of Gran Senda de Malaga. 

Last Sunday our friends took us to Frigiliana to discover the beauty of its forestal paths with hidden wells, Ermitas and waterfalls. During the springtime months you have to be wary of the weather changes as those narrow, quiet mountain streams may change within minutes to dangerous rivers. Similarly, as the sun goes up, waterfalls are drying up – witnessing these changes within only some hours of walk is somewhat magical.

After the long way up the river Higueron we got lost and turned back towards Nerja. Before continuing on the trail, we made a detour to Frigiliana’s Old Town to try a very authentic Polish Restaurant Sal y Pimienta, offering the most famous dishes as both mains, as well as tapas. The restaurant is a family business and both the food and the service were great, and welcoming. Definitely coming back if I am home sick at any point!

After having highly caloric feast, we came back towards on the trail, discovering wild beaches of Maro, self-made shelters of those living the alternative way in the beautiful surroundings, as well as ancient Moorish towers. 

Ending up our walk at the top of a high rock, we could observe sea birds flocking around the school of fish, while breathing the fresh air of water, flowers and Mediterranean spices growing alongside the trail. What a beautiful way to start off the spring. Before the summer and beach time is here to stay again, I am looking so much forward to discovering more of the winding hiking trails of Malaga.

I’m on the road again

Music, Personal, Travel

These days I wake up with the sun and go to sleep with the curfew, embracing my sleep patterns and natural rhythm when the world calls for patience. At the same time, I realized the usual things I took for granted in the past life prior to 2020, like seeing friends, going places grow to enormous happiness when they finally happen. 

Until yesterday I was confined to Malaga capital municipality due to the temporary movement restriction due to COVID-19, which comparing to March-May confinement was ‘light’ and indeed, I was lucky to be able to go out to the museum, concert, eat out or even see my friends. I chose to do so, whenever possible, staying outside, cooking a BBQ together, or working in an urban garden, El Caminito thanks to my friend Rosa. This way the month of November went flying and actually, there was no ‘boring’ weekend. But somehow, I missed riding my bicycle for 50-60 km, as I got used to during the sweet period prior to the 2nd wave. 

Although Malaga has a long way to go to accommodate the city and its surroundings to the level an ex-Berliner is used to cycle around, I can’t complain. I’ve actually spent some hours with my Berliner friend today, who also decided to settle in Malaga, blessing each other for our recent relocation choices. First of all, the weather is mostly fantastic all year round. Secondly, I understand the limitation of the urban design – while Berlin, Amsterdam, or London are mostly flat cities, Malaga is surrounded by fairly steep mountains and the sea. Also, riding a bike seems to be either a very relaxed, family leisure, or hardcore triathlon activity. Nothing in between, unless you choose to leave shortly after the sunrise and return when everyone else is still eating out. Otherwise, bear in mind there will be a lot of families with children on the bike lanes and general ‘congestion’. 

Going slower has its joys, too. On the Westward way, it’s got the wildlife and migrating birds around the Guadalhorce basin, fun chiringuitos in Torremolinos, and picturesque bays of Benalmadena. To the East, one can spot Nuestra Senora del Carmen chapels in the rocky coastline, and on the other hand, there is a treat to brutalists/minimalists, listening to atonal sounds of Fábrica de Cemento de La Araña. 

Reminds me a lot of Deepchord’s production from 2010, as I couldn’t find proper footage of the industrial sounds produced by this massive concrete plant, for which I often stop by around the Penon del Cuervo beach. At the end of the day, techno is an ode to an industrial revolution, and working class cities, like Detroit, Berlin, and surely, Malaga.

As you go East from Cala del Moral, and Rincon de la Victoria, you are literally experiencing spiritual awakenings every now and then. This is where I usually stop by to have a coffee, watching the waves crushing by the empty shore. Today, I experienced a group nearby meditating on this beautiful day. My meditation is slightly different, but we all agree, Sunday 13th December 2020 under this hemisphere has been tremendously beautiful. Some others decided to paddle surf taking their dogs onboard. Chapeau for the dog!

Spotting rare flowers or aloe vera on the way is nothing strange, even in December, in this ever-green climate. As the weekend fades away, and so is the year 2020, I feel nothing but gratefulness that I managed to go through it healthy, with a fulfilling life and job, and the amazing partner by my side. Not sure if this is my last post of 2020, but if it is, I wish you all a better, less dramatic, and bipolar year. In the meantime, I will praise what I feel and experience in a mindful way. 

 

I left my soul there,
Down by the sea
I lost control here
Living free