Mérida to Aljucén – Via de la Plata, Spain

21/22 March 2018

Roman theatre, Mérida, Spain.

I went to Mérida by bus from Seville because I completed that 10 days last year. The Leda bus took 3 hours and cost 9 euros.

The beautiful gardens at the Roman Theatre, Mérida, Spain.

I enjoyed a beer and pinxos in the Plaza España (tortilla with bread and goats cheese on toast, neither of which were good but cheap) and visited the crypt (3 euros) and amphitheatre (12 euros) in the afternoon. The people at the tourist information were most helpful.

Roman Amphitheatre, Mérida, Spain.

The out-of-town shopping centre where I bought my new baton was across the Roman Bridge (which is totally pedestrian and a great sight). I was foot-sore but it was a successful trip and after bread, cheese and lettuce I went to bed at 7.30pm.

An evening shot of the Puente Romano (Roman Bridge) over the Guidiana River, Mérida, Spain.

I woke at 6am after a passable night. A cacophony of snorers accompanied me in the 18-bed dormitory which was almost full. I did my meditation and as I went outside to do tai chi I disturbed a heron on the river.

View from the hostel window.
View of Mérida, looking back on departure.

I had a breakfast of milky coffee and packet cakes (2 euros), and was ready to go at 7.30am, only having to return once for my water bottle and map!

The buildings are industrial and utilitarian on the outskirts of Mérida, Spain.

The road took me uphill and although there was ice on the parked-car windows, the sun shone all day; the birds sang to me and, in general, the yellow arrows were clear. I asked a woman for directions at one of the many roundabouts, and the first hour was along the side of busy cars going to work, as well as a green cycle track bedside the motorway.


The statues on the gateposts are impressive.

The flowers were stunning: purple mallow; yellow rape; pink campion and ragged robin; white wild rocket and chamomile with their sunshine middles. Wood pigeons cooed at me when I shed a few tears, sure I had missed the way, although it transpired I had not.

Later, rabbits played with their white tails bobbing, and cow bells sounding like an orchestra of kalimbas were so beautiful.

I climbed up again to the top and there was the first view of the Prosperpina Reservoir. All morning my feet and other joints were taking it in turns to hurt, my back pack felt very heavy, but these things were familiar and if I have learnt anything from sitting it is that everything will pass eventually.

The Prosperpina Reservoir is glorious.

I sat and enjoyed it. I watched the heron on a rock, mirrored, stretching out its long black neck, and the swallows darting around for flies over the water. Individually the birds sang regular songs but together they created a mélange of sound.

I spent almost an hour near the reservoir reading the tourist information and changing out of my cold-weather layers into shorts and T-shirt.


After skirting the lake, I walked by the babbling brook and this second part of the days walk was much closer to what I was hoping for: peace, with the call of the cuckoo and the water swirling amongst the bright green weed and sparkling in the sunshine

This path was across country although initially along a little road with lots of arrows, plastic bags and signs, all yellow to help us find our way. My feet were very grateful for the soft sand, although there were quite a few wet and boggy places.wp-1521724756453..jpg

I saw dog walkers by the reservoir, 2 local cyclists and 2 camino ones. No-one else.

Note for those walking this way: Remember to look on the pavement for arrows and indications, as well as on trees, the backs of street signs and the obvious marble blocks.


A gentleman opened the gate for me as I trekked up into the village of El Carrascalejo where the church was shut.

Parish Church, El Carrascalejo.
Renaissance entrance of the Parish Church, El Carrascalejo.

I snacked at 11am with no sign of any café despite the information in my book (remember, it is March). On the way out of this tiny place there is a playpark and attractive picnic area.

There are lots of lovely benches but the El Carrascalejo albergue is shut at this time of year.
White winding road with fields of vines on either side.

After all my winter reading about the history of the pilgrimage and monasteries, I really felt like a happy pilgrim with my staff and shell, sign of Saint Jacques interred at Santiago de Compostellla, the end of this 1000 km route

Saint Jacques.

As I approached the motorway I took a left turn along a small road and then a right at a Mondrian-like cube with its yellow square and walked through the underpass.


There are many Holm oaks in this area of Extremadura.

Up another little hill I went, along a farm path and past a group of men taking a break who called buen camimo and then I had a view of Aljucén.

I crossed the main road for the last time,  straight on between green fields lush after the rain (the farmers must be happy anyway!) and although there are no signs I kept on going right into the village where they were planting lots of new trees and arrived at the Albergue Turístico Río Aljucén at midday.


Costing 10 euros, this hostel was recommended by the previous hospitalero, has excellent, free Wi-Fi, is spotlessly clean and although it has a washer (3 euros) there is no dryer. I was the first to arrive so I got to have the hot shower and choose my bed in the small dormitory. All my things dried quickly in the sun as other pilgrims arrived. We sat together, mostly German people, one Argentinian, a couple of French and myself from Scotland  We spoke French, German, and a little English and Spanish.


Valencia to Seville, Spain

‘If I can’t get behind myself in order to see what’s going on, if I can only live forwards but understand back, then it follows that at the very least I need time to walk, meditate or pray.’ Kirkegaard.

A few last shots of the exceptionally beautiful Sierra Calderona before moving on.



wp-1521571017327..jpgI left Olocau, near Valencia in Spain with Phil and Fred in the dark, with ice on the windscreen! Thanks for the lift!

Bye bye black pepper tree.

Very soon the sun was rising red, orange and yellow in deep, deep colours on one side of the car, date palms silhouetted against the sky.


We drove into the city of Valencia with many kilometers of industrial sites  including a sex toys supermarket.

Valencia: the early morning sun lights up the modern architecture.

On the other side of the car were pale wisps of pink and baby blue/yellow.

As we drove we knew it was only a brief gap in the Las Fallas festivities after Sunday night celebrations finishing at 5am and then starting again at 8am this bank holiday Monday. Sure enough as I waited for my Bla Bla Car, the sounds of the fireworks escalated until they were reverberating all around me.

Waiting in the cold for 1.5 hours was not much fun. There were no bars open for the toilet so I had to go in a public garden by the side of road 😦

On my third tour of the area I discovered a bakery and bought 3 cakes which turned out to be coconut which, apart from meat is the only thing I do not eat! It was colder and colder and there were many cars picking people up for Madrid.

Eventually, 45 minutes after our driver was due, the young woman next to me (who happily loved coconut cakes) phoned and we ascertained our lift was nearby. This is very unusual as Bla Bla Car drivers are usually very prompt. In addition it transpired that the third passenger was waiting at the wrong place.

As we drove out of the city towards Córdoba, we quickly hit a random road block with eight Guardia de Civil officers stopping people to breathalise them. Luckily not us!


Driving through the Requeña area,  half way between Valencia and Albacete on the N111, I saw the same cliff colours I had been walking through all week – it is a strong orange brown land with an ancient tower and acres of vines mostly espaliered. They are like rows of black commas or embroidery made of dots; like flattened out oranges studded with cloves.

There was a motorway sign warning of hail, ‘niebla‘. I had some conversation: my driver has walked the Camino del Norte ‘muy bonito‘ she said, very beautiful. I dropped in and out of sleep as I finally warmed up again!

We were passing from Valencia to Castille-La Mancha through forests and mountains. The next time I jerked my head, bit my tongue and woke up there were green fields of flatness.


The journey cost each of us £32 and the two youngsters slept. Perhaps they had been up all night?

The driver is a lawyer from a big Cádiz firm. She is smiley and we had plenty of stops but she did check her phone while driving which I would have preferred she did not.

Like almost all women over 45 years, she wanted to know if I was walking alone and then said she wanted to come with me!

With 220kms to Córdoba there were still fields and fields of baby vines and we passed Bodegas Artisanos (artisan wineries). There was, as normal on these long journeys, a nice sense of companionship in the car – often sharing food and exchanging looks on hearing the snorer!

It is a very long drive, right across Spain (650kms). We took the Venta de Cardenas tunnel into the Province of Jaén where Javi (one of my lovely lodgers) grew up. Then the Autovía del Sur motorway which careers down towards Córdoba and there were still 280 kms to Seville. We sang along to  Michael Jackson and outside it was all olives, full grown in rows as far as the eye can see.


We drove on through the rather brooding looking Sierra de Andújar mountains heading south. Raptors (buzzzards?) flew above the landscape. It was not a bad day to be spending so many hours travelling: dull and chilly although there was no snow like Dartmoor (England), the Asturias (northern Spain) or Edinburgh (Scotland)! Later there was pouring rain and we were 60kms from Seville making good time after our late start.

The wind was blowing the tops of the palm trees, all in the same direction of course, and there was sodden ground for the poor Camino Mozarabe backpackers to walk on. I saw my first two cranes’ nests on top of high poles (familiar from previous visits), and the ubiquitous huge black metal bull hoarding, silhouetted – left over from old advertising and now a sort of national symbol.

Here are some photos of my time in Seville.

Plaza de Alameda, Seville.
The Seta de Sevilla (mushroom) or Metropol Parasol by the architect Jurgen Meyer all built in wood. Notice the umbrella!


I had a great couple of days in Seville with Pedro and Jesús: wonderful Shiatsu (see the professional and attractive ShenSations Shiatsu studio website ); attractive surroundings; and good food (especially the tapas last night with wonderful pulpo (baby octopus) and gambas (prawns) in olive oil and garlic. So lucky to be with locals who know the best places! (Una y Media, Camas).




Notes re. past blogs: G. told me the name of the very attractive bird which calls bou bou all day long: the Hoopoo with its black and white tail feathers and tuft on top of its head.
Thanks also to friends Cynthia and Sue for informing me of flower names.

The Town Hall where you can visit free photography exhibitions.

And now I am driving through Monasterio, through which I walked last May 2017, on the way to Mérida. It will take me 2.5 hours on the bus to go the distance it took me to walk for 10 days. I remember it well!

A rather boring shot of the street but that bar was where I had breakfast!

Olocau – the last blog… but is it?

14 – 17 March 2018.

A beautiful spot I came across when walking in the Sierra Calderona Natural Park.

It is Saturday: poor unsuspecting Spanish men are running and cycling in the vicinity and they are therefore besieged by the dogs! After 2 hours plus of careering out of the house in full-bark, I bribed them (the dogs that is) with biscuits and locked them up inside. More for me than for the populace really!

What prickly places I get myself into for a shot! I have the scars to prove it.

At 6. 30am I received message number one of many from G. (the owner of the house in which I am ‘sitting’) telling me about her car break-down on leaving France to return home, so maybe this will not be the last blog after all …

Perhaps if she knew what I did with her other car on Thursday night, she would be here sooner: Sue, G’s colleague, had kindly offered to take me in to Valencia for Las Fallas, a celebration of the coming of Spring. I drove to hers with the aid of Google maps (on the opposite side of the road, remember; in the dark; in a car which is so big for me I need two cushions to reach the peddles), and as usual I got lost.

One U-turn later, I was speeding along a cami (which is a smaller road which runs parallel to the main A-one) in the wrong direction, and, after stopping to ‘recentre’, I followed the instructions and took ‘a very sharp left’ – there was a diagram and everything. In fact I got out of the car to look before I did it as I seemed to be very close to a roundabout and … yes, there was a ridge with black and white chevrons painted on the edge of it, but for some reason I believed Google instead of my instinct. Why on earth? It was hard work, but I persevered. And then the car got wedged – I mean, really stuck: the two front wheels on one side of the bit you were not under any circumstances supposed to try and go over, and the two back on the other.

In retrospect, I do not have any excuses – it was simply stupidity. I got out of the driver’s seat and had a look, disbelieving; I got back in and tried to go forwards; I got out and had another look and then back in again and tried to go in the other direction; I wondered if I might be in danger of being crashed into so located the flashers pretty quickly; then I stood on the road a third time and looked at the vehicle.

Immediately a Citroën stopped and two couples got out. Not long afterwards, another sort of car did the same, and, to cut a rather long story short, one of the brilliant women thought of jamming stones under the front wheel and someone else moved the car and bit-by-bit it was freed. Meanwhile, I stood around and remembered the odd word of Spanish and not one person criticised me or shouted – they just helped. And later when Sue arrived it was just like in Edinburgh: she knew the wonder-woman who had ‘done the trick’, she had actually been her English teacher. Well, that is Spain for you – help coming out of my ears wherever I need it (if you get my drift). Oh, and the car is undamaged.

I tried to feed Severus Snake his warmed up (previously frozen) mouse yesterday, but although he swayed his head around a bit, he would not take it. However, I did remove the poo from his cage, which is all that remains from last week’s meal.
A stunning light display at Valencia Las Fallas Festival – the colours changed with the music. It went on for about 10 minutes. Fantastic.

We did not get into Valencia until about 11pm but it was worth it. Basically Las Fallas seems to be a festival of lights, fireworks, and Disney-style erections in every available plaza (square) designed and built by groups of local residents in a massive competition. Some of the women and girls dress up in national costume with flat circular plaits over their ears. I think the photos speak for themselves. While you look, imagine the loudest possible firecrackers going off unexpectedly behind your back while you run for your life. Perhaps my nerves were a little on edge.

Some of the displays were unfinished and protected by fences.

On an altogether calmer note, I visited the San Vicente National Park near Llíria with it’s attractive chapel and fish/duck ponds. Here are some more images for you to feast your eyes on.

The Ermita de San Vicente, 18th century.
There are little sandy patches under the water where the spring bubbles up and huge carp.

This morning I sent in my latest book review and here I am quoting Thomas Traherne in his Centuries of Meditation, (a book I will certainly be reading later). He was a mid-17th century thinker who said that the Hobbesian world view of a material and mechanistic life was likely to make humans feel depressed, afraid and cut off from the cosmos (p. 198 of The Art of Losing Control by Jules Evans). I am a firm believer that we all need a well-rounded and vast life, one which contains joy and ecstasy, and adventure as well as peace and quiet. That is why I set off to Spain in the first place in Autumn 2016. Never looked back!


I trained as a dancer between 1981-85 at The Laban Centre which was then part of Goldsmith’s College, University of London. I was extremely unhappy a lot of the time and it was really hard, but even now I am glad for the part where we were taught to listen to the rhythm of the body. Walking is a pleasure for me, and when I pace I can hear the melody of my movements, not because I am any more balletic than any other, but because I learned that skill and it is a conduit for mindfulness. Being aware of each step, the quality of the flow and the balance, brings me into the moment and allows me to stop focusing on the past or future.

Dainty blossom: now sprinkled in the puddles by the wind.

Then I can make observations: thyme’s little purple flowers between the stones, and the weird, fluffy and speckled seed heads draw my attention; the volcano-shaped anthill are all a-busy; the heather is clad in its girl colours; and, as my sense of smell returns, the pine, the dogs’ breath.

An Oleander seed pod.
Not sure if you can see the ants.
Beautiful reflections.

It is a funny thing, fitness, you only know it is improving if you measure it: a hill which was a struggle on day one is easier now. With the full backpack (which is supposed to be 10% of one’s bodyweight), I find myself leaping up little boulders and breaking into small runs; taking it at a fair lick; the dogs and I overtaking each other; and my ankles, thighs and centre feeling a lot stronger which gives me confidence for the upcoming Camino.


Like all Shiatsu practitioners I know, once the terrible afflictions have passed my clients simply forget and it is only when I ask them, ‘So how’s your..? that they remember and reply’ Oh, that, I have not thought about that since I last saw you!’ You see, it is the same thing – if one is in the moment, life just is the way that it is.

Euphorbia – spectacular Spring green.

Parque Parochial San Vicente website

Olocau near Valencia, Spain.

12/13 March 2018

Olocau – looking down in the evening sun I see stainless steel pools and whitewashed Piccasso cubes of village.

I am house-sitting for G. outside a village in the Sierra Calderona Natural Park, approximately 40 kilometres from Valencia, on the south-eastern Mediterranean coast of Spain. The family love animals and each time I visit there are more additions to the collection: to date, three dogs; 5 remarkably plump and be-feathered chickens; copious fish (their murky golden forms almost hidden from view) in the deep pail, and a snake.

G. was a bridesmaid with my eldest daughter, then about 3 years old, at my sister, C’s, wedding. G, C and I all went to the same school in Kent, England, though I am the elder.

One day’s offerings from the chickens.

The last two days contained more strong rain, but also temperatures of 18 plus degrees, so the aim of boosting my Vitamin D levels after a Scottish winter will realise that, and the virus I came with is all but disappeared leaving only the vestiges of a phlegmy cough and occasional shortness of breath.

The Iberian blue sky – see why I like coming back here!

In fact, regular readers of Walking Without a Donkey will recognise that I am almost back on form when I note that during yesterday’s walk ‘I heard the silence’ again. That is to say, I heard the wind soughing and my own tread hollow. Hollow but sometimes with an accompanying rattle as stones dislodge,  and other times with a pine-needle crunch. What I guess I mean is,  I remembered to listen to the external environment not just the chatterings inside my own skull.

Silver grey olive trees contrasting with the mountains’ green.

Yes, the rushes were faintly shushing; the birds gently twittering, and the dogs panting as they ran between the frothy almond trees in the late sunshine.


Gorgeous evening shadows showing off the dogs in their best light.

I carried my full rucksack for the two evening hours, to see if I could manage. I will be walking approximately 25 kms per day for the 30 or so days I am planning to finish the Via de la Plata camino, and I will also have some food and an extra water bottle, so this was hardly representative, but doing it uphill, at the end of the day when I was tireder, and while I was still not 100% healthy would, I reckoned, give me an idea. It turned out to be most useful, sending me back with a check-list for the future and the mildly asthmatic sensation whilst unpleasant, prompted me to keep looking after myself to get properly well for the main focus of my trip.

Cairns mark the right path. I add my own choice of stones as I was taught on the Scottish hillsides.

Living with the dogs is an adventure: the puppy is a very active guard-dog and two nights have been disturbed by her growling and barking. It actually makes me more nervous of being away from other people rather than less, but I expect it is wild animals roaming their sweet nocturnal ways amongst the brush and nothing to worry about.

Every day the things Sophie has stolen from around the homestead get more and more chewed up, and I find little pieces of them scattered around – the black plastic filter from G’s former pond; an almond from the bowl on the kitchen worktop which has taken her three days to get into; that trowel that may not ever be useful again!

Louis, the arthritic overweight dog – he is the most excited when I am getting ready to take them out, bless him!

Probably G. does not lie on the terrace that much because the dogs are a bloody nuisance when I try to meditate or do yoga. They are monstrously affectionate, especially by pressing their noses and tongues into my hands while I attempt to be still. I am sorry to admit this, but I realise I am not really a dog person, I like my cat better, because being licked by them is just not my idea of love.

El Puntal des Llops (say yops) with its divers signs and billboards, many in incomprehensible Valenciana.

The next day’s mini-trek was backpack-free and I found my way, without trying,  to El Puntal des Llops, a Roman settlement dating from 5-11th century BC which thwarted trip I had attempted a few days earlier. Louis and I took it gingerly on the steep approach (from the back), whereas Sophie went up and down at least four different ways in the time it took us!


From the top I could see the city of Valencia and the Mediterranean Sea! There was the backdrop of various Sierras in tones of grey against the blue heat-haze. And, closer to home, the orange escarpments; roads like the soft fabric carpet my brother had for his toy cars, the one with hyphenated road markings; the differently-shaped trees, some pointed, some broccoli-shaped; and shadows thrown by clouds the exact shape of my two daughters’ sister-tattoos.

If you want a day-trip from Valencian busyness, hire a car and park at the bottom. Then take your time to wander up this easy (though stony) path because the site is free and open all hours, and even if Roman walls do not turn you on, the view is ‘to die for’.

On your way down you can look out for the rock detail which this landscape offers: tiny thread creases like my skin after a lotion-free day in the sun; or the face of that elderly man, presumably Himalayan, they kept incongruously showing in the film Mountain; like bricks which have been scored but never sandwiched. See the striations of muted colours: orange brown and pink, and be careful as you put a hand out to steady yourself – it could be a brittle paper-dry pine trunk or a hair’s breadth of cheese-cutting wiry green grass.


At any moment you might be touching deadly sharp bamboo shards or the soft curlicues of what we call ornamental grasses.

A stalk with a bulging bud. You can almost guess the flower will be orange from the tone of green.

I can hear today’s book in my head inspiring me as I tramp: Eats Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss is not just a wealth of punctuation information which I am hoping will have rubbed off on me as I come to write, but is artfully written and its humour made me laugh out loud three times!

Everyday a new flower has erupted. Today sprays of delicate white petals with a precise black line down the centre of each, though my camera cannot capture its beauty.

It is getting dark when I make my way home and although I have not seen a soul for two days, I several times think there is a man to my right. When I turn to look closely he has been turned into a tree. This is the landscape wherein fairy tales and bible stories were invented – bushes which could be burning with the word of God at every corner; abandoned houses where witches lie waiting for gingerbread children. Perhaps it is the silence combined gunshots ricocheting around or simply my own fervent imagination!

Even these leaves remind me of Hans Christian Anderson illustrations – sorcerer hands with long bony fingers which reach out to touch the unsuspecting on the shoulder.

Olocau Tourist Information website.

Olocau, Spain Mother’s Day weekend

10 / 11 March 2018

Fonteta Melxor (fountain)

Thanks to the honest shop assistant in Curry’s in Edinburgh where I went to buy a tablet so I had larger keys than my mobile to type with, I am writing this using my new Bluetooth portable keyboard. At less than a tenth of the price, it weighs 197.3g and folds up into a 4×6 inch slim size so is ideal for my rucksack. I have also finally found the brain space to think to download a photo resizing app. I hope my daughters are proud of my technological abilities when forced to manage alone. It is all down to their patient teaching throughout childhood!

After 24 hours without adult conversation (I am lucky that I never seem to get lonely) I slept well and my wrist, which I thought I had broken when I slipped on the bathroom floor the night before last, was considerably better.

Violets for my mum on Mother’s Day.

I therefore reinstated my morning meditation, stretching, porridge and Duolingo routine which of course makes things better. It does seem a little incongruous to be breakfasting on oats and lunching on veg and chickpea soup as at home, but it suits my digestion and is good prep for the upcoming walking.

Louis asleep in Sophie’s kennel. Sophie chews everything if she’s left inside at night.

I thought I had lost the snake and panicked. Luckily I discovered him hanging from the roof bar of his glass case. As yet no poo to clear despite it being 3 days since his weekly rat.

A venerable olive.

A group of T’s friends, 12 year olds in trunks and trainers, caught me typing away in my knickers (it was hot!). I tried out my Spanish by way of explanation that he was not here, but they stayed anyway, all turning somersaults on the trampoline at the same time. They helped themselves to the pool, towels, water and other toys until I had had enough of their boisterousness. They are obviously used to being welcomed.

Gleaming grasses bent in the wind.

Saturday’s walk was a bit of a disaster. I tried to visit Llopps, the ancient ruins on the top of the hill nearby, but it is reached by way of a small road. I discovered that the puppy has probably never been on a lead before so she was none too happy with me insisting and we had to return to the house. Not before the three of them had raced up someone else’s drive and the owner had shouted and cursed at me.

Butter wouldn’t melt!

There was a spectacular storm with sonorous thunder and torrential rain which certainly put paid to my asparagus picking plans and left deep orange puddles everywhere.

After the storm 1.
After the storm 2.

Saturday night was film night as a result: It turns out that I have already seen ‘Today’s Special’ before about a sous-chef who aspires to greater things but needs to embrace his native culture in order to bring them about. I enjoyed this quote in which Samir explains why he is still in New York: ‘I had some plans that changed.’ The wise old ‘magical’ character replies: ‘I had a million and one plans that changed. Even the ones that worked out didn’t work out the way I had planned.’

Usually the river bed is completely dry but today there was some moisture.

On Sunday, my kind friends Emma and Eduardo took me once again to find asparagus for the tortillas. This time we got right up into the mountains (approximately 50km from Valencia), driving around the S-bends of the treacherous CV-25, through Old Marines (where I once found myself mistakenly after 4 hours of walking in 30 degrees heat), and then Gátova with its elegant church tower, until we branched left past the Roman Bridge to the picturesque Fuente de la Alameda. With simple space for picnics, I recommend this day-trip.

Gátova through the wet window.

We wandered between the stepped slopes, almonds trees dressed like Cinderella going to the ball, and olives looking dashing in their own immature silver-green garb. However, the changeable weather – brilliant blue skies interspersed with showers – revealed that the season is still too young at this altitude, and the trip was aborted.

Driving through this landscape, it is as if Paulozzi’s giants have come to life and hurtled rocks at each other, leaving them strewn randomly. It was nice to listen to the constant gentle Spanish in the front of the car – this couple seemed to have so much to say to each other.

Prickly pears starting to errupt on the sides of the quilted cactus pads.

Later I trekked around familiar and new ground with my canine companions for a couple of hours, admiring the wild flowers and feeling my legs getting stronger.

I enjoyed my tortilla later. Thanks to G’s healthy free-range chickens, this is the true colour of my feast.

Olocau, Spain – March 2018

The ranch style property I am looking after.

This trip I am going to try to blog daily or every 2 days and see what it is like, so it will be in real time for my friends and relations. It also means I will not have lots of writing to do on my return. Let me see what the difference is doing it this way and if I keep it up!

Setting off on my walk.

8 / 9 March 2018

I arrived into the familiar velvet Spanish air and exhaled deeply. It is possible that Spain might have been my home in another life because I think if you had flown me here blindfolded and then put me out of the plane I would have recognised that sensation.

Spanish garden plant: a succulent in full flower in March.

My phone was out of battery like many of my air bnb guests when they arrive in Edinburgh, but I was pretty sure I’d find a charging point easily at Valencia airport and I did. It was on the front surface of a broken bar and the Señora asked me if I wanted anything and accepted when I said no. This was quite a contrast to the Ryanair hostess who would only give me hot water if I paid for it!

Vegetable plot with the Sierra Calderona in the background covered in trees.

In fact I was so hungry that I did have a decaff mini cup in a while – black with sugar, something I never do at home – and it hit the spot as I looked to see if my hostess had left me a message.

Almond blossom with a few nuts from last season.

Georgie happily met me soon afterwards which allowed us to start to catch up on news since I visited to house-sit in July 2017. Lots has happened since then, so we sat up until midnight over the vino rojo and delicious Spanish/Thai curry she had prepared for us.

I slept well, amazed at how tired this virus was making me, but my chest was clearing the more I rested (KD supports LU of course in Chinese Medicine), and my eyeballs were not quite as sore when I moved them. This illness has an emotional cause which has given me quite a shock – I am not sure I have ever had one like it but it is definitely a sign that I am now letting go and moving on.

I woke to the chickens clearing their throats outside my window, and the sun was shining on the surrounding Sierra Calderona.

Taken with the zoom so a bit blurry.
Severus Snake.

Later G took me round and updated me on the house and menagerie before she left me in charge of the house. She showed me how to feed Severus Snake: ugh! Not easy to watch or contemplate doing myself, given I am a vegetarian and it involves a rat as food.

Sophie, the 7 month old puppy.

The new puppy bought me a goldfish she had fished out earlier, presumably as a welcome present.


My daily walk was for strengthening (preparation for the camino in 10 days time), to try out my new trousers, and reacquaint myself with the gorgeous area where I am house-sitting.

I have visited here in December and July, but this is a different landscape again.

Previous Olocau blog 1 and 2.

What a wonderful place this is! At ground level there is some green grass (all was of course dry in July 2017) with violets, clear water, and jumpy insects which look like little logs for the second they are still.

Spring water for irrigation and dogs to bathe in.

At eye level flutter cabbage whites and flies with whirring wings. There is straggly rosemary with lilac flowers, scratchy silver bushes left over from last year, and egg-yolk yellow broom (see photo above).


The first half of the walk along Les Macollades (a route with ancient olive trees and irrigation channels for the vegetable and fruit plots) was amidst almond blossom orchards and orange groves. I picked up two windfalls and juiced them when I got back to boost my immune system – delicious.

Almond blossom.
Orange groves.


Towering above me were the rosy hued crags, some of their tops softened by trees in full leaf, and some jagged and sharply pointing heaven-wards. I taught myself this landscape last year to avoid more calamities of the getting lost variety, and thankfully my Body Mind remembered it well. This time the dogs were perfectly behaved – maybe Pollo and Louis recognised me too.


Sophie, Pollo and Louis – my companionable charges.

I met only one person: a gentleman in a cloth cap with an axe under his arm. When he bade me good afternoon, he revealed a toothless smile.

The majestic Sierra Calderona Natural Park.