However pleasant life afloat on the Guadiana is, sometimes we like to get away from it all and so we rented a car for a couple of weeks to be able to see some more of the two countries a bit further inland. We had actually planned to go a lot further inland and do some nights in a hotel, but eventually the weather was so lousy that it turned into not more than a bit further inland by doing daytrips.
Despite the many rainy days we did manage to use the car 12 out of 14 days, sometimes going only some 20 kilometers away where we could do one of the many walking trails.
Giving my new walking shoes a rest
There was lots of water in the small rivers after all the rains.
On those walks we hardly ever met any people. One time we were being overtaken by an American/Austrian couple, who were doing all the walking trails by bicycle. No mean feat, because not all the river crossings were as easy as this:
Another time after having seen no-one for a couple of hours, we came round a corner and were face to face with an astronaut! Well, so he looked at first, but it was a bee-keeper, which was enough reason to get out of the way real quick.
A few more nice pictures:
One of our longer car trips was to the Sierra de Aracena where we visited the Gruta de Maravillas, the Cave of Marvels, full of stalactites and stalagmites in the most wonderful formations. The cave consists of several chambres and lakes where you can only pass through in a guided tour. We thought we were well prepared with our thick fleece jackets but the temperature was 18º and the humidity was 98%, real stuffy. It wasn't allowed to take pictures and we couldn't find out why; it can't be that the flash would damage the stones because the cave was used in the filming of Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
The Lonely Planet guidebook tells one of the chambers is “usually met with roars of laughter from elderly Spanish ladies and bashful silence from their husbands”.
It took a lot of googling to find this picture! This is one of the nicely decorated benches in
the town of Aracena
Travelling by car through a foreign country can turn up some surprises, especially when the road maps aren't really good. The detailed Algarve map makers had been doing some wishful thinking and had drawn a bridge at Pomarão, which just isn't there. Some roads started with nice asphalt but ended in steep and winding dirt tracks, quite scary really. And one time we'd been doing so much detouring we ran out of petrol; however, being well-prepared we had a jerrycan with us to top up. But could we open the petrol cap? Some 20 minutes of trying to stay patient until we finally managed the trick.
And of course we did loads and loads of shopping! How enjoyable a visit to the supermarket can be!
On one of the days we didn't use the car, we went on a school excursion: by bus to Sevilla. The pupils consisted of a few foreigners from the course of Spanish for foreigners, but mostly of Spanish adults – and most of them quite senior – who do courses in the schools for adults in Sanlúcar and other villages in the region. It turned into a real schooltrip: some people started singing and clapping Sevillanas and lots joined in, everyone enjoying themselves. Highlight of the trip was a visit to the Alcazares, where we had been before, but of course we didn't mind another tour. On the way back we stopped for lunch and were treated to Carillada, pig cheeks, delicious!