June 11, 2012
Our first full day at Sterling and Teresa’s. We spend the morning exploring Olvera. Southern Spain was contested territory for years, going back & forth between Moorish and Spanish control. As a result, nearly every village was built near the crest of a hill and has a castle or fort and was walled in for protection. Yes, another vertical hill! We don’t know why Olvera doesn’t get with the times and put in an escalator… It’s a very nice town: amenities and local markets within walking distance, but a large supermarket for more extensive shopping and lots of good restaurants, etc.
After wandering through town, we set out to explore the nearby countryside. They are fortunate here to have a system of trails called the Via Verde. These are old Railroad beds which are now available for walking, biking and horseback riding. We walked a section near Olvera which goes out to a sanctuary for Griffon vultures, which have 8 foot wingspans. It’s a walk through beautiful countryside, and the vulture sanctuary is very nice. After viewing the exhibits, we get some rejuvenating cañas of Cruzcampo from a vending machine ( I love this country!) and enjoy them at some picnic tables in the shade of olive trees. Eric and Sterling are fascinated with a different vending machine that dispenses everything the casual explorer could want: binoculars, hats, multi-tools and more! And yes, we did see vultures although couldn’t get a very close look at one.
A word about the countryside: it is arid here, like the southwest states if you’ve been to Arizona or thereabouts. The landscape is grey rock, yellow and brown grasses, and the grey-green of olive trees, with splashes of color from blooming cacti, wild poppies & Oleander. [Oleander is native here, so out in the middle of a field of trees and scrub will be a huge bush that would be the envy of most Florida gardeners.] Most trees are not tall, with the exception of a few older olive trees and oak trees. They harvest olives by beating the trees with sticks, so they keep most of them pruned short. We saw lots of groves where older trees were being dug up and new trees planted, and wondered if the harsh pruning practices shortened the lifespan of the trees.