Heading still further north we had a drive around a few places, we took a walk by a dam where the low water line was clearly visible, then alongside high, rocky cliffs where griffin and back vultures soared on the thermals. The rocks had a wonderful lime green lichen growing on them which literally mace the rocks sparkle.
Continuing through varied countryside we passed a wonderful sight of pink blossom in an almond groove, olive trees which had been trimmed for the next season and many varying shades of soil colour. The countryside is cultivated yet wild as the road signs warned us about passing Linx, again we never got to see any of them.
We settled at Cáceres in a campsite for a bit of luxury, that is we had a dedicated wet-room for each pitch! The site was spacious with large pitches, chairs and a table for that essential evening drink whilst watching the azure winged magpies. The first night I heard a tawny owl calling which made a lovely change from barking dogs! Having driven for miles over 5 hours the day before, we dedicated this day to rest and relaxation, so the awning was rolled out and the side added at the back for a wind break, next the sun lounger were dusted down and that was it folks for the rest of the day. I might add that I had already done a huge pile of washing which dried easily in the February sun, cleaned Bessie inside and done her windows, so I’d earned a rest. Chris fired up the BBQ for lunch which was enjoyed with a bottle of the ‘’ole grape jus’, more lounging and a fabulous sunset to end the day.
Riding on a bus into the old town next day we looked forward to exploring the narrow streets behind the city wall. Having visited the Information centre with a wooden model of Cáceres, we passed under the huge stone archway into the old town, we found a wonderful brick vaulted room under the tower, then climbed up so we looked out over the main square at the tiny figures below.
We visited Santa Iglesia de Concatedral de Santa Maria (not a full cathedral, but consecrated in 1957, sharing the function of being a bishops seat with another cathedral), it has a beautiful natural cedar and pine wood, un-gilded altar piece which showed wonderful craftsmanship. There was a ribbed and vaulted ceiling with subtle decoration which I found most beautiful and at the opposite end of the nave was a huge organ with gilding work over the top.
Climbing a long twisted, spiral stone stairway up the tower, I reminded myself why I had vowed never to do this again, however, too late I eventually arrived at the top. As I was looking around for a suitable photographic opportunity, one of the huge bells clanged most deafeningly, thankfully my expletives were drowned in the sound of the bells, which were hung on all four sides of the tower. As is usual in all the Spanish towns we have visited, there are numerous churches and cathedrals, many attractive buildings within the town and fine views from all the towers and walls. Lunch was enjoyed in the square, looking up at the tower with the bells and watching the white storks which occupy many tall buildings.
After all the culture in the town, next day we escaped to the hills around the campsite for a bit of a wind-down, some nature and great views. Gaining height to the rocky outcrop we stood, breathlessly looking out over many square miles of countryside far below us and the Griffin and Black vultures circling above us.
As we walked through the Holm Oaks and scrub bushes dotted between the rocks, many wild flowers could be seen, dwarf narcissus only 4 inches high, tiny purple flowers as big as my finger nail and about half an inch tall, a delicate creamy white early flowering broom and lots of lichens on the rocks.
At the highest point we found interesting modern artwork painted on the rocks, impressions of an ancient people which looked so fitting in the landscape. Far away down the track was our destination, Cáceres town nestled below the hilltop.
Moving ever northward on our route home, we visited Manfragüe National Park, home to much wildlife and birds. Temperatures are seriously deteriorating although the sun is nice and warm between 10.30 and 5pm. Our camping pitch overlooks a field of horses and the trees are full of beautiful azure winged magpies which are happy to come a feed very close when we put bread or cereals down for them. Waking up to frost outside was not ideal, however, it did have a beautiful benefit, a dripping tap caused water to splash out over the surrounding grass making these miniature crystal sculptures.
By chance we had been told of the Bird Watching Fair which fitted in with our dates as we drove up Extremadura midway up western Spain. Free busses had been laid on by the Bird Fair and it picked up outside the campsite, so we went in the afternoon to book ourselves on a couple of free trips.
Walking around in the beautiful and remote site during a lovely sunny afternoon was very relaxing as we watched the small crowds making their way around the telescopes, binoculars and camera lenses. The first trip was a bus ride around to see different areas within part of the vast National Park. We watched Griffin vultures circling, visited a large reservoir where there were black vultures, red deer and we also watched an otter catching fish and taking them back to the shore to eat. Further on we passed an area of rocks with areas of yellow and white making great reflections in the water below. There were many Griffin vultures on their nests high on the rocky gorges, hard to spot until you realised that the white areas were below each nest, it was in fact their poo squirted out over the rocks! After that we spotted many nests and lots of vultures, it was a good introduction to the area and the resident birds.
After a relaxing night in near silence without hearing any barking dogs, we caught the bus again for the 15 minute journey and had a good look at the tourism tent collecting much information for future trips. The crowds were bigger being Saturday, many looking at the expensive telescopes which we only gave a few cursory glances to, then a photography competition where we spent more time looking at excellent images, all of birds from various countries in different styles. The following day we had booked a 4×4 trip and saw so much countryside and small farmsteads, a dry and dusty landscape desperate for rain, half empty reservoirs with water way below the vegetation line and pools with little water for the livestock, mainly cattle and sheep.
Even the birds were scarce and we could only add golden plover to our list for Spain, now standing at 153 species over 12 months (actually 4.5 months in total that we have spent here). I spotted 6 Great Bustards, the same species that was reintroduced to Salisbury Plain, they were quite distant walking around near cattle feeding troughs and soon disappeared down a gully.
On returning to the Fair we heard the sound of drums and noticed ‘huge birds’ coming over the ridge by the exhibition marquees, standing 12 feet tall in black, red, blue and white plumage and a massive dragonfly with orange and green eyes. Powered by people, all on stilts, they made their way slowly up hill and down over the grass to the main area of activity, attracting crowds all busy with cameras and mobile phones getting photographs. It was a lovely end to the Bird Fair before being transported back to the campsite.