Podcast: Basque Country & Ordesa National Park, Spain

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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.

Location Map


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Links

Photos of the Basque Country, Spain.
Video showing MONSTER surf in Mundaka, Spain
Wikipedia article on Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park.
The Basque Country
Cañón de Añisclo (in Spanish)
San Sebastian
Bilbao
Eduardo Chillida

Photos of the Basque Country, Spain

Photos of the Basque Country…

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…

A year of travels – 14 countries

A year of travels

A year ago today I boarded a plane in London for Madrid, and began a journey that has taken me through fourteen countries in 12 months, culminating back in Spain where I am now. Along the way I have had some amazing high points, and also without doubt some of the most challenging times of my life. The countries I have travelled through are, in this order:

SpainGuatemalaHondurasNicaraguaCosta RicaPanamaColombiaVenezuelaBrazilEcuadorPeruBoliviaChileArgentinaSpain

12 months later I am speaking Spanish fairly well (albeit with multi-country accents & vocabulary), I’ve finally learnt some yoga, and I’m in the process of setting up an online English teaching business with an old friend here in Barcelona. You’ll be hearing more about this sooner rather than later as it should be ‘going live’ within the next couple of weeks.

Finally, I just wanted to say a big thank you to all the people I have met along the way. The trip wouldn’t have been the same without you. Special thank-yous to: All at the Cooperative School in San Pedro, Sushi, Francisco, my mother, Paul, Serena, Jameson & Laney, Pete & Heidi, Svayam, Carlos & the Reina Madre crew in Buenos Aires, Rachel, Ben & Marina, Rory/James & Marcela in Spain, and Ana-Maria.

Click here to see some of my trip photo colllections on Flickr.

Vejer de La Frontera & beaches, Spain

Firstly, some shameless Vejer plugs:

Having spent a couple of months travelling regularly on the Ave train between Madrid and Barcelona, I headed back down to Vejer de La Frontera in Andalucia to meet up with my mother and sister for a couple of weeks of catching up & ‘recuperation’. Arriving in early September, the weather was glorious – Vejer de la Frontera, like all of Andalucia, can become far to hot for comfort in July and August – and we spent our time on the beaches of El Palmar, Los Caños de Meca, Bolonia and Valdevaqueros, and made a couple of day trips to Seville, Cadiz & Grazalema National Park.

The photo below shows Vejer De La Frontera from the air – The town of Vejer de la Frontera occupies a hill overlooking the Straits of Gibraltar (with views all the way to Morocco on a clear day) and is surrounded by orchards and orange groves. It contains several ancient churches and convents, and the architecture of many of its houses harks back to the period of Moorish rule, which lasted from 711 until the town was captured by Saint Ferdinand of Castile in 1248.

Vejer De La Frontera, Spain: Aerial photo

Recently referred to as Vejer de las Fashionistas in the press, due to the increasing numbers of celebrities (like Jude Law) spotted lurking within it’s walls, the beaches near Vejer are some of the least spoilt and most beautiful in Spain. Lying on the Costa de la Luz (Coast of Light), a section of the Andalucian coast facing the Atlantic, and with building restrictions brought in to combat the kind of development seen on the Costa Del Sol, it’s the perfect place to unwind.

Valdevaqueros, Tarifa, Spain

For those of you partial to your kitesurfing and windsurfing, Tarifa & Valdevaqueros lie only 35-40 KM to the South East. This is the busiest kitesurfing & windsurfing destination in the world. Luckily the huge beaches can cope with the hundreds of kites that descend on Tarifa – on busy Summer days there can be up to a thousand kites simultaneously flying. The downside for sunbathers is that on days that the Levante wind blows, sunbathing becomes a serious exercise in exfoliation. (Watch my video on Windsurfers on Valdevaqueros beach)

Map showing Vejer de la Frontera


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Tourist board video of Vejer de la Frontera

Seville, Spain

Finally I made it to down to Seville! More than 2,000 years old, Seville is the fourth largest city in Spain and the artistic, cultural, and financial capital of southern Spain. Two of the most important historical sites in Seville are the Cathedral of Seville (pictured in the background below) and the Alcázar of Seville (the old Moorish/Arabic palace).

Seville Cathedral, Spain

The Cathedral of Seville was built between 1401"1519 on the former site of the city’s mosque. It is amongst the largest of all medieval and Gothic cathedrals. The Cathedral reused some columns and elements from the mosque, and, most famously, the Giralda, originally a minaret, was converted into a bell tower. You can just make this out in the photo – it’s the tower to the right of the palm tree.

The Alcázar of Seville (see photo below) is a royal palace. Originally a Moorish fort, the Alcázar (from the Arabic, al-qasr, meaning “palace”) is one of the best remaining examples of Mudéjar architecture. The Almohades were the first to build a palace, which was called Al-Muwarak, on the site of the modern day Alcázar.
Alcazar, Seville Spain

One of the main sections of the Alcazar is the Patio de las Doncellas – “The Courtyard of the Maidens.” The name refers to the legend that the Moors demanded 100 virgins every year as tribute from Christian kingdoms in Iberia. The legend may have had some truth to it in the sexual abuse of Christian women by powerful Moors.

Climate-wise, Seville is one of the hottest cities in Europe, with temperatures regularly exceeding 40 degrees Celsius in July & August and a maximum recorded temperature of 47.2 degrees Celsius (117 Fahrenheit) in 2003.

View photo slide show taken in Seville

Podcast: Eco Yoga Park, Argentina

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This podcast has been recorded whilst I’m volunteering at an Eco Yoga Park near General Rodriguez, 60km west of Buenos Aires in Argentina.

Run by Hare Krishna devotees, and known by its other name Nueva Vrindavan, the Eco Yoga Park proved to be a wonderful break after nearly 8 months on the road. At only US $12 a day for food accommodation and yoga and meditation classes, it was also great value.

Show notes

As it’s a longer podcast than normal, I thought I’d include a summary of contents with approximate timings:

0-7 mins – Introduction, temple sounds, why I came to the Eco Yoga Park
7-9 mins – Temple Service sounds
9-19 mins – Interview with Svayam, a Hare Krishna Monk/Devotee
19-21 – Hatha Yoga session
21-29 – Tour of the Eco Yoga Park grounds
29-39 – Interview with Jameson & Laura, two volunteers
39-44 – Sounds, music….

Eco Yoga Park, Argentina

Links

Photos of The Eco Yoga Park, Argentina
Video of the Eco Yoga Park
Laura & Jameson’s blog
Eco Yoga Park website
Eco Yoga Park alternative website (in Spanish)
Volunteer in an Eco Yoga Ashram in South America
International Society for Krishna Consciousness

Iguazu Falls, Argentina

With the flooding of the Guaíra Falls between Brazil & Paraguay in 1982, the mighty Iguazu falls currently has the greatest average annual flow of any waterfall in the world. You can view my photo slideshow of Iguazu Falls here, and my Iguazu Falls video here.

La Garganta del Diablo, Iguazu Falls, Argentina

The entire Iguazu waterfall system consists of 275 waterfalls along 2.7 kilometers (1.67 miles) of the Iguazu River. Some of the individual waterfalls are up to 82 meters (269 ft) in height. The Devil’s Throat (Garganta del Diablo in Spanish or Garganta do Diabo in Portuguese), a U-shaped, 82-meter-high, 150-meter-wide and 700-meter-long (490 by 2300 feet) waterfall, is the most impressive of all, and marks the border between Argentina and Brazil.

The shape of Iguazu falls, and the walkways around the falls on the Argentinian side allow for spectacular vistas. At one point a person can stand and be surrounded by 260 degrees of waterfalls. The Devil’s Throat (La Garganta del Diablo pictured below) has water pouring into it from three sides, and being up close to it gave me a peculiar kind of vertigo.

Famously, upon seeing Iguazu, the United States’ First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt reportedly exclaimed “Poor Niagara!”. She was right, the water falling over Iguazu in peak flow has a surface area of about 1.3 million ft ², by comparison, Niagara has a surface area of under 600,000 ft ².

Here’s a few more photos I took – on two separate days, one cloudy, and one sunny: