Spain: El Torcal de Antequera

I need to begin this last post of our Spanish adventure with a warning: if you don’t like photos of rocks – or me standing in front of rocks – you should probably think about moving on. After all of the city adventures of the previous days, we needed to get out and stretch our legs. And we did it in a place with very unusual formations, so Yen has a lot of photos to share with you.

But first, we had to drive there. And driving meant we went by a castle Yen had spotted the day before. He decided to stop in for a closer look. I, meanwhile, had a bad case of nausea (from the prunes at breakfast, I sincerely believe), and spent that time curled up, sleeping in the car. I felt much better afterward, but I am seeing this castle for the first time now that I’m posting these photos for you.

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It’s worth mentioning – and will be more important later – how incredibly warm and lovely the weather was. People were out in t-shirts and shorts. And where I was napping in the car, I was so blissfully warm and happy I could barely stand it.

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This walkway leads into Málaga, the city you can see in the distance.

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And then Yen and his sister got back in the car, woke me up, and we all got a move on to the north. The car climbed steadily higher as we neared our destination.

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What are these blooming trees? Almonds, we think. Marcona, to be exact.

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Hi!

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And then we got into the park. Our destination was Torcal de Antequera, home of some very interesting rock formations. It’s all limestone – once it would have been a sea floor. When it rose up to the surface and the climate changed, the heating and freezing over tie created fissures in the rock, and ultimately cracks that allowed water to seep in and erode into the formations you can see here. In answer to Mom’s inevitable question, no. We did not see any fossils. But we were also on a very heavily traveled trail, so I’m sure everything obvious was picked up long ago. I’m sure they’re out there.

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This particular formation is kind of the icon of the region.

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This herd of sheep – including a few members wearing bells – was just roaming wherever they pleased.

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We parked at the visitor center and decided to go on one of the trails instead of just roaming around. That turned out to be a good move, because we got to get up really close to all of the different types of rocks. But man, was it cold! After the day in Granada where it turned out to be much colder than I expected, I started just keeping my heavier coat – the one I’d worn to the airport in Boston, expecting that I wouldn’t wear it again until we arrived back – in the car. Between it and my scarf, I was very comfortable on this hike. But no way I could have gotten by with just the clothes I planned to wear on the trip.

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Spanish Ibex! This guy’s little wife scampered up the side of the mountain right in front of us. There was much screaming for Yen to get ready with his camera, and so he was when this guy appeared. I wish we had a video of the way he just climbed straight up the face of the rock.

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If you look down in the corner of this photo, you’ll see me – that pink blur behind the bush. Sometimes I just get tired of waiting and posing in photos and move on down the trail.

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This is from when we stopped in the visitor center, and I posed next to some hams. Yum.

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The view down into the valley below. Did I mention this park is up on top of a mountain?

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Another little Ibex.

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Here’s the crossroads where you can decide to finish up the hike or double it. I’m sure it’s obvious what we chose. The first trail was pretty well traveled – we ran into a lot of people (“Hola!”). The second one, though, not so much. I think we saw two couples the whole time.

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Shortly after turning onto the longer trail, we ran into this small herd of cows. They were having a peaceful time enjoying the park’s grass. As we passed by, they just blinked at us with their big eyes and kept munching.

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Looks like rain, doesn’t it? First time this whole trip! It never did rain. But the say we left (Sunday) rain moved into the area. We accidentally planned it perfectly.

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Here’s a funny thing. Yen and I have increasingly made taking a day during a vacation to hike or focus on a single location – Ostia Antica in Italy, Pisac in Peru, museums elsewhere. I think there was a time when I would have considered this missing out – as if there were a lot of other things we could have packed into that day if we hadn’t done that. But I’m finding that these days end up being my strongest memory of a vacation. It’s as if by focusing on this activity, I’m relaxing and really getting to know one place. Maybe that’s just making a strong memory.

Last spring we rode our bikes past our usual turn-around point and continued on a path in the woods to the Old North Bridge, and then on home via the Battle Road. I remember thinking at the time that if someone was a tourist out here and only had a week, this is something they should find a way to do. Yes, you’d miss out on the chance to whale watch, or walk the whole freedom trail, or drive super fast in order to see five states in one day (Mom, I just can’t help teasing you!). But it was such a great experience. We saw farms, trees, got to know the battle sites very carefully, and we got some exercise. Vacations shouldn’t be just big checklists (although they are that too!); they should also have room to stop and really experience a place, even just for an afternoon.

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The trail suddenly came to a cleft in the rock. I’m not a big fan of spaces like this – I’m always convinced I won’t fit. But the big yellow arrows we were following pointed the way, so I squeezed inside.

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Then when Yen’s sister followed, I just had to come back and photo bomb.

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Every wonder what Yen looks like while he’s taking all of these pictures? I commandeered the camera and ordered him not to adjust his hat, which he always pushes around so it doesn’t get in the way of the flash. Look at that huge smile! He was in his element, climbing over rocks and taking a thousand photos. I think he would have stayed all night if we’d let him.

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But dusk did start to fall, so we hurried back toward the car and the hour-long drive home. Did I mention how hungry we were?

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Here’s the road leading back out of the park.

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And then we drove to a little pueblo blanco that is known for having many, many restaurants, Benahavis. Here we had a wonderful problem, which is choosing from a lot of choices. In the end, we ended up in a cute little French place owned by a woman who’d grown up in Belgium and moved to Spain “for love.”

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This face is, “Are you really doing that in here?” Those are big salt-grilled prawns on my plate. Yen ate the heads for me.

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And then, “Ok, I guess you are!” This is a grilled pork served with a black peppercorn sauce. Yummers.

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And that’s it! We had a long, long journey home that involved Paris and New York before we finally landed in Boston. We have promised each other that we’ll always work hard in the future to find flights that go directly to Boston. Taking an international flight and then getting on yet another plane is just torture. We’ve also been thinking that we’d like to go back to southern Spain another time and focus more on hiking – visit more of the national parks scattered all across it. Yen has reported that he’s not thrilled by his Alhambra pictures, so I know he’d like to try again. I’m game! My bag is forever packed. Just tell me where we’re headed.