We’ve just popped over the border to Spain for few days so that we can spend some time in the Coto Doñana National Park in Andalucia and are pleased to say that for the last week, since last Sunday we have had a lot more sunshine and relatively little rain. We’ve even had a couple of tee shirt and shorts days and are both enjoying the change enormously. It rained on the day we left Portugal and was wet for part of the journey but other than that, things are really looking up!
The bridge from Portugal into Spain from the fort at Castro Marim
The Nacional Parque is a massive 50720 hectares and includes a large variety of different ecosystems including dunes, lagoons and marshlands and is therefore home to many different species of birds, mammals and amphibians.
Purple Gallinule This was taken at Olhão but they breed in this reserve too
Access to the park is strictly limited, there are 5 visitor centres where there are marked trails and if you want to venture further you must book onto a guided 4 by 4 vehicle trail which lasts for 4 hours and takes you to many parts of the parque you would not otherwise be able to see. We are booked onto one of these tomorrow afternoon.
Meanwhile, after leaving Castro Marim in Portugal we came here, to a campsite in a little town on the edge of the park called El Rocio. We didn’t know anything about the town as we don’t have a rough guide to Spain but what a shock we got upon arrival.
It’s like being in the Wild West. There are horses being ridden and horses and carts everywhere. All the streets are covered in thick sand, so you can only guess where the white lines should be and there are no pavements, the buildings all have verandahs with rails for tying up horses. You expect Clint Eastwood to come strolling towards you any moment! There are naff gift shops galore and I had to suppress the urge to buy a flamenco dress or a pair of leather boots with spurs on but thankfully I didn’t take any money with me yesterday when I walked into town. (For anyone who is wondering…tongue firmly in cheek here!). Apparently this is the site for a huge pilgrimage every year in June where up to half a million people come from all over, mostly on horseback to take part.
The Church at El Rocio
EL Rocio across the marisma (marsh)
Well, one walk around was enough! Nigel cycled into town whilst I walked the dogs and we were both of the same mind but we can safely say we have seen El Rocio! Today we cycled to the visitor centre and walked around the hides, saw many glossy ibis, purple herons and two marsh harriers who were flying over the marsh and putting the fear of God into the other birds. As we made our way along the board walk we saw many little lizards scurrying along, they had come out in the sunshine for a warm up! We came back to the motorhome for a late lunch and decided we would cycle back just before dusk to watch the ibis, herons and egrets coming in to roost but when we tried to do so, the wind had got up and it became very gusty. We cycled part way into a sandstorm which was most unpleasant so we turned around and came back with sand in every orifice!
But it’s nice when you stop!
We’re driving to another visitor centre tomorrow in the morning and then having our 4 x 4 tour in the afternoon …. watch this space. After that we’ll be heading back into Portugal to travel inland up the border on our return homewards as there are some more places we want to visit before we leave this part of the world.