Cabaneros Natural Park – Ciudad Real Province

We’re tracing the River Guadiana from Spain’s Ciudad Real Province, where it rises. But a scarcity of campsites means that we head to a site in off-the-beaten track Horcajo De Los Montes, which is a gateway to the Cabaneros National Park.

Lunch stop in Toledo Mountains

My endearing pedant, Seán, harps on about the fact that we’re camped nowhere near the river rises, but I point out to him that we have never gone in a direct line to anywhere.

Detour on Road CM403 – Cabaneros National Park

We’re rewarded for the detour even on the journey along the green edged CM403. A picnic stop among the mountains is deserted. I perform my slightly comical stretches with only a water vole skimming along the reeds in the stream for an audience and to the musical accompaniment of the hoopoe’s whoop.

Wild lavender covers mountainsides

Seán relishes swinging the camper, like a cop on a car chase, into a sudden parking space in the mountains. Soon we’re walking through the largest cork oak forest in Europe. The bird hide reveals layer upon layer of blue-hued mountains and the air smells of hot pine and wild lavender, a balm for the senses.

View from camping pitch

The terraced Camping El Mirador de Cabaneros overlooks Horcajo De Los Montes, with its russet plastered pens and stables for sheep attached to the back of houses.

Parish church in Horcajo de los Montes

Olive groves cover the valley and storks nest on the Church Spire. House Martins flitter in and out of their nests on eave after eave.

Watching vultures from our pitch

We watch the storks take flight, the shepherd guiding his sheep, vultures and imperial eagles soaring, and bats swooping from our pitch.

Sunset from our pitch

 At night, with the low-slung lights attached to the cubic houses, Horcajo looks just as I imagine Bethlehem looked when Joseph and Mary arrived on the donkey.

The people are so welcoming. Everyone wants to practise their English, from the cashier in the supermarket to the local bar owner.

Breakfast view from our pitch

They applaud my appalling mangling of the Spanish language. A glass of beer is accompanied with a little anchovy on tomato bread, or  croquetas.

Olive grove that leads to Ruta Plaza de los Moros walking trail

The campsite manager gives us free bread when I go to buy some and a map of the walking trail, Ruta Plaza de los Moros. We walk through the olive grove to the mountain which the trail circumnavigates. Following the trail’s signs takes us to the peak at 812 metres.

Wild flowers rampage through the cork and oak woodland. There’s white and pink cistus, rosemary, lavender and yellow broom.

View from the walking trail

Every turn in the path offers up a vista of mountains and plains, pine, olive and oak, and in the distance the true-blue of a lake.

Remains of Bronze Age Village

Near the top, limestone rocks rise above us. Just as we reach the stones which are the remains of a Bronze Age village on the summit, we’re treated to a rare moment of magic. The air throbs with beating wings as just below our feet vultures and eagles take to the sky, waiting until we disappear and they can return to their eyrie.

The sound of their wings and the majestic birds circling on the thermals fills my dreams and I know I’ll never forget them.

Cork oak forest on trail

If you would like to read my story inspired by the Cabaneros Mountains, called The Trail, click on this link:

Wolf Mural on campsite wall

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