There is a striking difference between a valley that has water and one where the river has dried up. It is not always clear what happened first, whether there was no water and thus the plants perished, or the water left because the plants perished – maybe through a fire. One day, we drive through a devastated area where a fire has killed most of the trees and bushes for many miles. Only the skeletons of the trees remain, reaching into the burning sun, while the earth beneath crumbles to dust and the riverbeds look like they haven’t had water for years. Each plant is dry and fighting for survival in the hot wind. Farmers have chopped down the dead trees and piled them up along the road… We come through abandoned villages…


The valley without trees and water, after a devastating forest fire…

Once everything has burnt and dried up like this, I imagine it would take a lot of time and effort to replant and reforest the valley, to bring back the water (if that is ever possible) and re-inhabit the village. This makes me appreciate just how dependent we are on the presence of water and trees, and how fragile it all is.

Not far from there, we visit the prosperous town of Montanejos, situated in a lush valley, covered in trees and with several rivers running through it. One of the rivers is fed by thermal springs, reaching a comfortable 25 degrees – a magnet for Spanish holidaymakers who spend the day picnicking in the shade and hanging their feet in the water, while the children play in the shallows. The water is crystal clear.

Swimming has been a constant joy on our journey, and every time I go swimming I think of two people in my life: My mother, who was an avid swimmer, especially outdoors and textile free (being German!); and a close friend of mine who only recently learnt to swim as part of a plan to learn various things that she thought she could never do. Depending on the water, one or the other comes to my mind – if the water is a freezing knee-deep torrent where you dip yourself in, gasping and hanging onto stones so as not to be flushed away, I take my mother with me. She would have done this too. If however the water falls gently into a Jacuzzi-like pool, I have my friend with me and we sit and chat as we frequently do in the Golf and Country Club’s Sauna and Jacuzzi in Devon.


Frank relaxing in a natural Jacuzzi

This morning, I went swimming in a beautiful Gorge, with my mother and my friend :-).

The water was 25 degrees, and there was a 200m stretch deep enough to have a proper swim. Just us and the birds were there to enjoy the calm and clear water. Later in the day, Frank and I discover a lovely place where we spend a couple of hours sitting in the dappled shade reading books, interspersed with  cooling down in the lovely pools of water.

Photos of the ‘Jaccuzzi’ in Montanejos on Flikr

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