As we made our way up through the flat landscape, occasionally glimpsing the edge of a vineyard or orange grove. We had no idea where exactly we were heading. You see, to us it's not the destination that's important, it's the journey you take to get there.
It must have been around midday; the Spanish heat beat down on the windscreen. Suddenly the landscape seemed to change. The flat planes dropped away to reveal what felt like a different world. We were driving along the edge of a steep canyon, winding our way up the sheer precipice. The road narrowed at times, bringing us uncomfortably close to the edge, leaving nothing between us and the steep drop. The valley eventually widened taking us to a place that time seemed to have forgotten, green fields as far as we could see. We pulled over to take a look at the view and sat quietly on the top of the mountain, vultures and eagles hovering above. Just below at a distance appeared to be what looked like the remains of a castle where a farmer kept mountain goats. Of course, we couldn't resist! We continued towards the turnoff that seemed to head down to the ruin, managing to swing our beaten old van around the windy turns of the dirt track, dust flying behind us.
Ruined castles always seem to keep my mind wondering, who built it? Why did they build it? Did conflict ruin this castle? The one thing I could say for sure: the views from there were breathtaking!
On the completion of exploring the castle, we continued scrambling through the ruins to the edge on which the castle was perched. A sheer drop gave way to a magnificent glistening waterfall catching the rays of the sun. Curiously, chiselled into the cliff edge were steps. They seemed to lead into the wall of water and disappear. Following the weathered path down it became apparent. Behind the waterfall was a cavern. Standing there in the mouth of the cave was magical. A silver mirror of water concealed the entrance, creating a cool soft breeze, as it rushed past.
We'd have loved to have stayed and explored the caves more thoroughly, but the light would fade soon and we needed to set up camp.
Getting back into van, we carried on down the mountainside. We passed through a small village. It was a strange place. As usual there was one bar where all the village seemed to hang out. As we'd drive through, they'd all stop in unison, and stare. It was almost as if they weren't expecting visitors. As if our presence somehow offended them. On the way out of the town, I caught sight of an old battered sign: "Área Recreativa." Great! We followed the track down even further towards the bottom of the ravine.
Down the valley and over the rickety wooden bridge, we came to a sharp bend. The corner revealed yet another hidden valley. A stream formed the edge of a large crystal blue lake. Following the edge along the dust track, we came to our home for the night. The warm evening light glistened on the lake and cut through the trees. Benches scattered around, barbecue areas and a shower block. Yes, a shower block! In the middle of nowhere. We pulled up to settle down for the night. lighting the stove and relaxing with the fantastic memories of the day.
We stayed there for a few days, waking up in the mornings to the sound of the birds and the sight of the cute resident red squirrel. He happily shared our breakfast. Mid-afternoon we made the most of the tranquil water, stripping down to cool off, although we were worried there might be hungry terrapins lurking below the surface...Ouch! After drying off and attempting to catch a fish, we headed back towards the van. In the recreation area there were a few buildings. They looked abandoned, as if they were chalets that never got finished. We found out they weren't what they seemed at all. Later on in the evening we noticed smoke drifting peacefully out from the chimney of the building on the lakes edge. We thought we would investigate to make sure we aren't stepping on anyone's toes or in a place with high overnight charges. Instead, we came across someone living there, almost like a medieval hermit, waiting for the odd pilgrim. He came out from his abode, urging us to come inside and share his liqueur. We didn't take much persuading...
The next morning we found ourselves in bed. Back in the van, not quite sure how, but we could remember having a great time with this guy who couldn't speak English (nor us Spanish) but found ourselves speaking a fluent language that all of us could understand half way through the night. We got our heads back in focus, showered, and shared another breakfast with the cute little red squirrel before we decided to make tracks back hitting the road to the next part of the adventure. We never saw the interesting guy again. He wasn't around that morning; we guessed he may have gone into the forest hunting or gathering wood for his stove. I really wish I could remember his name, and I'm hoping one day our paths cross again.