Thursday, 28 May, 2015:
Friday, May 29, 2015
Still Packing and a Trip to El Valle de Ricote
Thursday, 28 May, 2015:
Normally, Laurie and I have kept La Hacienda in a clean and orderly fashion over the last six months.
This week, not so much
We continue the process of separating and categorizing all of our worldly Spanish possessions in an effort to pack and return to Camarillo next week via Madrid.
Rummaging through our only closet
Some items have been donated to the Spanish equivalent of the Goodwill Industries, although I don't see to many XXL Spaniards roaming the calles of Murcia.
Some items we have given away to friends.
Some items we have simply thrown away.
Our living room serves as
The Sorting Center
Some items will indeed cross the pond with us next Wednesday.
In the evening, Cobras Team Photographer Catalina Gracia Saavedra had set us up with a special tour of the interesting Valle de Ricote about 25 miles north of Murcia.
Our guide would be Catalina's second cousin Miguel Angel is a professional guide who leads tours for tourists all over the Region de Murcia.
We were scheduled to meet him at 5:00 p.m. near Murcia's ayuntamiento (city hall) for our private tour in his car.
Along our walk we, as always, saw things . . .
Cloister at the University of Murcia's
La Merced campus
The small sign at the top warns that
it is prohibited to post signs here
Murcia's Cathedral is old
but it never gets old
We arrived at the ayuntamiento a bit early so we shared, yes I said shared, a refreshing limon gelato to kill a little time. Miguel Angel was punctual, showing up at exactly 5:00 p.m. just as the Cathedral's bells started to chime the new hour.
Off to the Valle de Ricote we went!
First stop . . .
Miguel Angel was full of detailed information about all things Ricote including the fact that the pueblo of Ricote sits atop one of the Valle's mountains and is thus not actually in the Valle that bears its name.
Miguel Angel explained that the Valle de Ricote is made up of seven small pueblos whose inhabitants are 99% dedicated to the huerta's production of all sorts of fruit orchards. The biggest of these seven pueblos has about 16,000 residents.
The Valle features contrasts between the stark, dry, rugged mountains that surround the lush Valle floor, which is fed by a much mightier Rio Segura than we see trickling through downtown Murcia. We'll explain why a bit later in today's post.
A typical Valle de Ricote farmhouse
A small aqueduct from the Rio Segura
to the farm seen previously
Old hatreds die hard
As with much of Spain, the Moors still have strong ties to the land here even after being forced out during the Reconquista that ended with their expulsion in 1492.
In the Valle they introduced an irrigation system using the Rio Segura's waters to bring the Valle to life.
A Noria is the key to elevating the
water to a height usable to the farm
There are still 17 working waterwheels of various sizes that are in use today in the Valle. Note the holes in the side of the wheel at the top that allow the water to spill into the mini-aqueduct to this farm.
Miguel Angel pointing out the
details of this Noria
Plush farm office
A much bigger Noria
in the pueblo of Abarán
This one was less effective than the first one that we saw as it is in need of some repairs. Unfortunately, lots of water was spilling out before it reached the top where it was needed to irrigate the huerta.
Laurie and the Rio Segura
Fishing on the Rio Segura
No, that is not sewage pouring into the river next to our erstwhile angler. It is the clean water that flowed past the previous Noria without being lifted up to the mini-aqueduct return to the river from whence it came.
Santuario de la Virgen de Oro
At some point, a myth cropped up that there was gold in the mountains surrounding the Valle. Thus the Virgen de Oro was created to make sure that the Catholic church was well positioned should a strike occur.
This Santuario sits atop a mountain with a great view of the Valle. The road to it is narrow and has lots of tight turns. As a result, tour busses can not reach it and Miguel Angel admitted that this was only the second time that he had been up here. On his previous visit, the Santuario was closed.
Today the old caballero in charge of the Santuario was about to go home for an early, by Spanish standards, dinner. He told us that the reason for this breech of protocol was that he had recently seen a TV show extolling the health benefits of not eating anything for at least two hours before going to bed at night.
Despite his health concerns, he graciously unlocked the Santuario for us to take an unscheduled visit.
The Virgen de Oro
As with all such Virgens in España, she is walked down from her mountaintop retreat for festivals in the pueblos below at certain times of the year.
Not quite the bell tower
in Murcia's Cathedral
La Virgen de la Soledad
This was one of many different manifestations of Mary that we saw in the Santuario.
Mary and Joseph
The view of El Valle de Ricote
from the Santuario
Heavy Metal Jesus?
The Rio Segura's split
It is at this point that the Rio Segura's waters are sent shooting off in different directions.
To the left, large amounts of water zoom towards Alicante.
To the right, water is forced towards Lorca.
Straight ahead, a relatively small amount of water proceeds to Murcia.
Love couple on the viewpoint
overlooking the split of the waters
Laurie and Miguel Angel
Rugged, dry mountains
Oranges are big in the Valle
Water to wash clothes too,
in the pueblo of Ojós
Although quiet tonight, this community wash basin is still used by local women to do their laundry. They also gather to fulfill their social needs.
The slanted stones on the right is where the laundry is actually washed. At the far end there is a control valve that is used to raise the water if needed to help the ladies do their chores. At this moment the valve was open and the water was at a level too low to make washing easier.
Ojós is a fun little pueblo
Locals selling homemade breads and sweets from their front doors.
Quaint Ojós calles
Some old buildings in Ojós
The pueblo was originally built by the Moors with typically narrow streets. Over the centuries, the buildings have been gradually replaced, but the pueblo's basic, confusing street layout has remained unchanged.
Blue is nice
Another old one
Ancient huerta entrance
Hey, it must be the end of the school year.
According to Miguel Angel, this is the only place in the known universe that makes Bizcochos Borrachos.
Beer and a Bizcocho Borracho
There is actually no alcohol in the bizcocho, instead it oozes all sorts of locally produced sweetness.
I think that the known universe deserves a second branch in say, Camarillo, California.
Eiffel designed Casa del Cura
Yes, that Eiffel.
Apparently he designed it as a thank you to a friend who lived in the Valle. His friend knew that Eiffel suffered from joint problems and he recommended that Eiffel visit the thermal spa in the Valle's pueblo of Archena.
Eifel did and the mineral rich, warm waters did the trick.
Thus in gratitude, Eiffel designed this house for his friend that now is the home of the priest in charge of the pueblo's Catholic church.
Entering the Balneario de Archena
The oldest of the three hotels at this
still extremely active thermal spa
The spa even has its own chapel
Laurie next to a lush Bougainvillea
The Rio Segura's water makes it up here too.
Which way to go Laurie?
Roman ruins of the original
thermal baths at this site
The spa's fun casino,
a meeting place not a gambling hall
We saw people in their robes
returning from the baths
They all looked so relaxed.
On the way home, we asked Miguel Angel to drop us off near one of our favorite spots, the D'Lola, run by the affable Don Antonio. The food and ambience were delightful as usual.
It was another great day in la Region de Murcia for us thanks to the efforts of Catalina and Miguel Angel.