The Sierra de Guara is what’s known as a mountain massif in the province of Huesca, the most northerly province in the autonomous community of Aragon, Spain. Its highest point is Tozal de Guara (2,077 m).
It seems noone really goes to Sierra de Guara, except a fanatical bunch of climbers who repeatedly spoke of the Canyon in glowing terms as “…a world class climbing destination possibly the best sports climbing destination in the world.”
It took about three and a half hours to get from Barcelona to Rodellar, where we were staying, and one of the few human settlements within the park. Rodellar is a sleepy little town perched on top of a canyon wall with spectacular views down into the Canyon and over the surrounding Massif. Apart from a few locals and the crazy climbers, all you’re left with are the most beautiful vistas and…silence.
We saw eagles, vultures, mountain goat and wild boar in our short time there, and spent hours wandering through the river valley marvelling at the other-wordly landscape, surrounded by the sweet smell of wild Rosemary and Lavender.
In terms of activities, the climbing in Rodellar is not really for beginners, although we did manage a terrifying ‘Via Ferrata’ which involved scaling some rusty iron rungs banged into the canyon wall, kitted out with helmet, harness and ropes.
In the Summer it’s a top Canyoning spot – Canyoning basically involves donning a websuit and hurling yourself down the river canyon – sliding and jumping from rocks, swimming through underwater tunnels, and leaping off precipices into plunge pools.
We stayed in a ‘refuge’ called Refugio Kaladraka, perched in a spectacular location right on top of one of the Canyon walls. The people were great, the climbers friendly, it was cheap and very, very beautiful… Did I say that already?
Insane. I’m lucky to be alive. There we were, standing in the middle of Plaça Antoni Maura with increasingly large numbers of people building up in front of a huge model of “the gates of hell”, complete with fierce-looking dragon. On the right was a huge collection of people beating out a very intimidating rhythm on a set of amplified drums…
After a few minutes, I started thinking “Hmmm, we’re kind of penned-in by the crowd right in the middle of this area…” (I had an inkling what was about to happen), then people started whistling, and all the people around us started wrapping bandanas around their faces, dousing themselves in water, and pulling hoods (& welding masks!) up over their heads, and putting glasses on. I had two 3-4 year old girls on their parents’ shoulders in front of me, they also began pulling large hoods over their heads.
Then suddenly these ‘creatures’ dressed like devils poured forth through the gates of hell, held up all manner of explosives over our heads and lit them. It was absolutely insane. I had foot-long sticks of explosives exploding one metre from my head, I could feel the shockwaves hitting my head and my ears popped immediately. I tried to get out but couldn’t. Panic! People were trying to come towards us, others trying to escape, I though there would be a crowd crush and people would die…it was all a bit intense, but that’s the Spanish/Catalan way. Fun, fun…Except if you work in a hospital :-).
This video explains rather well what it’s all about:
I’ve just found out that some property developers are trying to push through planning permission to build some super-hotels on El Palmar Beach, near Vejer de la Frontera in Andalucia, Southern Spain. El Palmar sits on the Costa de la Luz (Coast of light), the Atlantic coast between Tarifa and Cádiz, and is one of the most unspoilt stretches of coastline left in Spain.
In December 2009, the local council of Vejer de La Frontera announced a deal with property developers to build a giant 600-bedroom concrete monstrosity of a hotel right on El Palmar beach. The PELP group, who set up the initiatives to prevent this (and whose links I have included above for the petition and Facebook group) strongly believe in the following:
…that the Playa del Palmar, and by extension, the entire Sea around Cape Trafalgar could become an international example of ecological and rural tourism of exceptional quality. An example of real sustainable development, responsible tourism and awareness.
…that the few miles of unspoiled beaches left in our country should not succumb to the concrete development that has already decimated the Spanish coastline.
…that the preservation of natural resources and virgin wilderness areas is of paramount importance.
I made this podcast around Easter on a 1500KM road trip from Barcelona to the Basque Country (País Vasco), then on to the beautiful Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park in the Spanish Pyrenees. The trip takes in various locations including San Sebastian, Bilbao, Mundaka, Biarritz (in France), Torla, the Cola de Caballo trek and Cañón de Añisclo.
Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park (in Spanish Parque Nacional de Ordesa y Monte Perdido) has been included since 1997 by UNESCO in the Biosphere Reserve of Ordesa-Viñamala. It is also part of the cross-border Pyrénées – Mont Perdu World Heritage Site.
Over Semana Santa (Easter Week) I went on a trip to one of my favourite places in Spain – San Sebastian in The Basque Country (País Vasco in Spanish). During the trip I visited Bilbao, Biarritz and Bayonne in France, and several smaller villages along the Basque coast. There will be a podcast on its way soon, but in the mean time, here are a few photos I took along the way…
Finally, I’ve managed to get around to doing an Earthoria podcast, the first since the Eco Yoga Park in Argentina, in June 2009. In this podcast I talk about what I’ve been doing since leaving Argentina in July 2009 – namely, setting up an internet business in Spain.
This podcast, some of which was recorded on Castelldefels beach outside Barcelona in Spain, includes the following:
I don’t usually post negative reports like this on the website, but I am doing it as it is relevant to anyone planning on travelling in Europe using a ‘budget airline’ like Easyjet (aka Sleazyjet). Think again.
Having been living in Spain now for nearly 8 months, I was really looking forwards to the first visit from my sister Hannah. We’d begun planning her four days here months ago, back in late October or Early November, organising work schedules, sightseeing tours etc.
With her due to arrive at 7.45pm last Saturday 13th February, by 6pm I was in the house preparing a tasty meal for her arrival and about to leave for the airport.
That was when things took a turn for the ‘Easyjet worst’.
I began receiving a series of text messages from my sister in Gatwick airport saying things like “I’ve been queuing 3 hours at Easyjet check-in, they say all their systems are down throughout Europe”…so I began checking the Easyjet website (nothing), and the Gatwick and Barcelona airport websites (nothing).
Cutting a long series of anxious texts short, having got them on the plane about 7 hours late, they left them on the plane for hours – no one knowing anything about what was going on, and finally turfed them off at about 10pm.
In Hannah’s own words:
“The pilot updated us first saying the bags were being put on and that he was just waiting for paperwork etc. second to tell us that some people had chosen to get off so we were having to get their bags (although we saw no one get off and no noise of baggage being removed from the hold).
Then he updated us telling us that they were in talks with head office (and via one of the air hostesses who also had no idea what was going on…we were told that she thought the captain was in talks to head office regarding negotiating a day off in lieu for the cabin staff who were now working into their day off (because of the original delay). That came from her but not sure she knew much)
He then came onto to tell us that the flight was cancelled due to some sort of very vague baggage problem…load of rubbish if you ask me. He told us to go to the ‘Menzies aviation group’ desk in the arrivals hall to rebook on another flight. Got there and there were about 300 people and absolutely no one at the desk. When someone did arrive there was basically a rugby scrum to get to them…the guy said absolutely nothing except rebook online and he handed out about 20 pieces of paper with customer rights on it….I didn’t get one!”
There was noone in the airport to help them, noone to tell them where to get their bags, how to re-book, or how to get a refund. In the end, instead of enjoying the first hours of her holiday in Barcelona, my sister was left wondering alone around Gatwick airport in tears on a Saturday night, then was forced to get the train back into London alone late at night, followed by a night bus home (as she got back too late for the tube).
Staff overtime request causes cancellation
The long and short of it is that there never was a Europe wide system failure (200+ other Easyjet flights took off fine from Gatwick that day), but what happened was almost certainly this: due to Easyjet’s sheer incompetence there was a problem with check-in. The delay meant that Easyjet (being a cheap and very crap airline) lost a few of its takeoff slots at Gatwick. This meant a few of the planes were delayed even further, by which point the Easyjet staff began complaining to their superiors about overtime pay. When their wishes were refused, they refused to fly the plane, and they and all the airport staff walked out of the airport, leaving the passengers stranded late at night.
The next day she tried to change her flight for another one, but Easyjet weren’t answering their customer services line (does this surprise you?), and the only flight available was flying to Spain on Wednesday, the day her return flight was bringing her back!
So, in future (and especially because Easyjet did it to ME too in January when I tried to get back to Spain) I will certainly pay a bit more and fly with British Airways or Iberia.