19 September 2015: The road signs lie: we’ve been promised dancing deer on most roads we’ve travelled but nary a one has showed up to perform. Passing through one national park near Valença in Portugal the signs promised particularly smug looking deer, but again they were a no-show.
I relive last year’s fantastic holiday by bringing posts over from the trip blog. This doesn’t aim to be identical to the trip blog, but an improvement, with text edits and more / better photos. Find all these posts under the tag: Spain2015.
Some signs warned of cows but while we’ve spotted a few, and I mean a few, in paddocks or gardens, there was no obvious reason for the signs. I felt ashamed to be a Kiwi when we did finally see a dozen or two all in one spot together and I said to Deb: There’s a flock of cows. Further down the road, possibly in Extremadura, obviously a very fertile part of Spain, we finally saw enough together to merit the name herd. But only once or twice.
Which brings me to the topic of milk. The first time Deb ordered a cup of tea she couldn’t drink it. It was made with black tea and hot milk, like a milky coffee. Since then Deb’s avoided tea, and I only drink green or herbal teas anyway. Green tea seems to be available pretty well everywhere in Spain and Portugal.
The day we drove the rental car into Santiago de Compostela the roads were chaos because thousands of farmers had brought their tractors to town to protest low milk prices. Yet when you look in shops where Kiwis would expect to find rows and rows of bottles of milk, such as supermarkets or petrol stations, there is not one bottle of milk to be found. Maybe a cardboard box of UHT milk, if you’re lucky. Perhaps they export it all…
One day at breakfast somewhere there were cornflakes and cool milk. The milk tasted faintly of cheese somehow.
Clearly milk means different things for Kiwis and Spaniards.
But back to the animals…
We have seen a few animals in fields and gardens, but not many: sheep, goats, horses and plenty of dogs, even a few cats. Occasionally we’ve seen a few birds around: pigeons mainly, but also black birds I took to be crows or ravens, the storks in Tudela, birds that somewhat resemble magpies.
Today when I walked for an hour in the Sierra Norte of Sevilla natural park I spotted a couple of hawk-like birds I think may have been Black Kites. They seemed bigger than the hawks we see in the countryside at home, and were mainly brown. I also caught a glimpse of what seemed to be a tiny black lizard darting across the path and into the rocks. It must have been smaller than about half the length of my thumb.
I saw a very large and hairy caterpillar crossing the road in Orellán. It was about the same length and thickness as my middle finger. Unfortunately all my photos are a bit blurry as I misjudged the minimum focus distance for both the iPhone and my other camera.
At the hotel in the spa town of Caldas de Reis in Galicia, Spain, Deb spotted a large praying mantis on a wall. It stayed long enough for me to take a photo.
There was a bear one day — in a cafe we stopped at on our walk.
The cafe was so warm and welcoming. They provided excellent food and drink, clean toilets, free WiFi and a friendly atmosphere.
Overall though it feels as though we’ve seen hardly any wildlife. Sheep tend to appear in groups of less than 5. It was only yesterday that we spotted a flock of 20 or more, though in Lestrove the hotel’s huge grounds had a flock of sheep and goats in together that would have numbered a couple of dozen.
It has all made me wonder if the ‘lonely goatherd’ of musical fame was in fact tending only 3 or 4 animals, where I’d always imagined several dozen.
In Orellán as we drove away we rounded a corner of the country road to find a chap ‘walking’ his sheep along the road. It had a rope around its belly forming a sort of harness and the fellow was holding the two ends of the rope like reins.
And when it comes to walking animals: in Tudela I spotted a chap taking his cat for a walk, though I think he didn’t have it on a lead.
One of the delights of the hotel we’re staying at as I write this, Hotel Finca la Herencia in Guadalcanal, Spain, is that they have a dozen horses, and a couple of donkeys. Each day someone arrives at around 5 pm to ride the horses around a small practice area. Yesterday we were called over to witness him making a horse lie down and then given the opportunity to pat the horse while it was down and have our photos taken. It was all a little odd, but perhaps some of the hotel’s visitors haven’t seen a horse up close before.
I wonder now how tourists in New Zealand react to our endless paddocks of cows, sheep, sometimes alpacas, horses, sometimes goats or pigs and occasionally deer? While I feel we don’t really have many birds, perhaps we have more than other places in our towns cities and countryside. Perhaps I’m just not looking in the right places on this side of the world.