Sunday, June 23, 2019


Laura discovered a while back that you can purchase "experiences" on AirBnb. She spotted a guided bike tour along a rails-to-trails project starting in the small town of Olvera about 100km southeast of here. After some back and forth, we decided to book it for today.

We met our guide, Carlos, promptly at 8:30am just outside our building. He spoke English quite well and looked at the excursion as an opportunity for him to practice his English. He drove us to Olvera in about 90 mins. We talked about a lot of different topics: southern Spain, tourism, cycling etc.

There was a bike rental place at the start of the trail. Carlos managed the transaction and got us 3 bikes for the trip:

The trail, an abandoned railway was smooth, not too steep, and punctuated with many tunnels:

Our plan was to do an out-and-back totaling just over 40km. We were a little worried because the trend is downhill all the way out (and hence uphill all the way back).

The landscape was dry and dotted with many, many olive trees. You felt the age and history of the place as you went along. This part of Spain was fought over for many centuries as Christians and Muslims ebbed and flowed north and south conquering, defending and losing territory in turns.

From one of the railroad bridges, we looked down on an abandoned farmhouse that was either 100 years old or 500 years old (no way to tell):

The old railway stations along the way have been converted into rest areas for cyclists. This one, near an area that is a sanctuary for Griffin vultures, had a museum dedicated to the birds of the area. We had a 20 min tour of the place by an employee of the museum. The tour culminated in a live camera view of a nesting pair of Griffin vultures with a nearly fully-fledged youngster:

On the way to the turnaround point, we passed this moving herd of goats, each with its own bell. Together, they sounded like a Christmas parade (unfortunately, you really have to crank it up to hear it on this video):

At the turnaround point, we stopped at a small public park in a dry bowl between the hills. This large tree occupied the center and is thought to be around 400 years old:

There is also a small chapel in the park:

We ate our PB&J sandwiches in one of the (very) few shady areas hoping to load up enough energy to make it back uphill without bonking:

On the way home, the temperature was around 34 degrees. It was warm, but not too bad. We were generally well-hydrated and had plenty of sunscreen.

Passing back by the bird museum, I noticed this vulture mural on one of the rocks:

A bit further along, we encountered another goat herd, this time on the trail. We approached cautiously, but they were not aggressive in any way. It actually just turned into a bike-based herding exercise:

We made it back to Olvera with no trouble. Carlos offered to take us up to the top of the hill to the Olvera city center. Olvera is one of the "white cities" in southern Spain. They typically sit on top of a high hill and have all of their buildings painted white. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the residents had decorated the town for Corpus Chrisi, which is celebrated today there (instead of Thursday as in Sevilla):

Olvera is one of the "frontier" cities in southern Spain that started life as a defense position in the ongoing Christian/Muslim conflicts. As such, there is a moorish castle/military installation at the highest point in the town:

The view out is impressive and clearly of military value:

The spread of white-painted buildings confirms the "white city" designation.

Overall, a fun experience. This is our last planned activity in Spain before we leave on Friday.