Thursday 24th March
Last night we cycled into the nearest village Bollulos de la Mitacion.
It’s not far, only 7km, but most of that is rutted dirt track. In the village we did some shopping and had dinner. Cycling back in the dark along the dirt track was challenging. We don’t cycle much in the dark, let alone on rutted dirt tracks. But we got back safely to our campsite – no one else around for miles.
This morning it’s a beautiful day and should be good for Daz’s jumps. The only disappointment is the cafe hasn’t opened and it’s already 9.15am.
Today Daz does another 3 jumps, that’s AFF levels 1-7. Today there’s no Victor, which we weren’t expecting,but Roberto resumes the mantle of instructor and all goes well. He’s having problems arching sufficiently, which makes him unstable. I’ve only watched one of his exits (from a Gopro) and he tumbled twice before stabilising – I’m not watching any more. But he’s turned 360s, done a backflip and tracking. His last level is AFF 8 – a hop and pop; jumping out at 5000ft and then pulling. He’s going to leave this for the moment.
He has 10 consolidation jumps; an instructor will ensure he exits OK but then he’s on his own. He completes his first ‘consol’ jump – all good and excellent landing. He’s got a slightly smaller canopy but he still takes forever to come down. The experienced jumpers have high performance chutes and spiral down at, what appears to me, to be excessive speeds and then hammer towards the landing strip before flaring at the last second.
After his last jump we try and have a nap before we head into Seville for the Good Friday, Madruga, processions. We need to cycle into Seville because the bus service is just too sketchy. It’s a nice run and in Castilleja de la Cuesta we run into a village procession.
In Seville we cycle over the river and already we see that Seville is really busy. We dump the bike at the bus station.
We head to the Basilica de la Macarena stopping off for tapas on the way. The place we choose is really busy and the way the waiters and barmen work in these hostelries is incredible – they put English bar staff to shame. Food and drink is served in minutes – no queuing for the electronic till and bills paid at the end not after every round. I love it, the hustle and bustle is great. The owner bears an uncanny resemblance to a British comedian, but we can’t think who. It’s Russ Abbot.
We get to Macarena for about 11.30pm. The streets are busy with penitents and crowds of people.
Before midnight what appears to be a troop of Roman gladiators marches into the Plaza and through the church gates. Then at midnight the church doors open and out flood the penitents.
Eventually this is followed by the pasos. It’s only just left the church gates and it halts and from a balcony a lady starts to sing. She is the saetero and she is singing the Saeta. The saeta is a very old traditional Spanish religious song. The Spanish word saeta has different meanings -“arrow“, “bud of a vine”, “hand of a clock” or “magnetic needle”. Since the 19th century saetas includes elements of flamenco.
We watch the procession pass and then head to another part of the route hoping for a better view. The streets are packed with spectators and they pick a spot and wait patiently for the procession. Children are out, shops and bars are still open and everyone claps when the pasos appears.
We’ve seen enough and head back to our bike but every route we pick we seem to stumble across another parade and our way is blocked. Finally we’re back on our bike. It’s 2.30am and having crossed the river we stay on the autopista. We’re pretty sure this is illegal. The hard shoulder is really narrow and some traffic is giving us no margin but of course they probably can’t see us and they’re travelling at, in excess of 120km/hr. A truck and a coach give us a particularly nasty scare and then we’re off onto the backroads and home. In bed I’m particularly cold and sleep doesn’t come easily.
Friday 25th March
Daz gets up to do his refresher training. It’s a compulsory element of each day and is designed to embed ‘emergency procedure’ should there be canopy issues. Then he’s back in bed. There’s a thick fog so no jumping at the moment. Conveniently this gives Daz a chance to recover from his late night.
It’s 1.30pm and Daz is on the next load. This will be his 2nd jump today and his 3rd of 10 consolidation jumps. So far so good. This is his first jump with a different exit from the plane, head first dive to the rear! But he enjoys it and is stable quickly, then he does a series of back and front loops (somersaults) and finishes with a 360 turn before pulling at 4500 feet. His lowest level yet. Back down and the wind is stronger now and he lands 5 metres short of the DZ, but no problems as this is just a fallow field next to the DZ. But owing to the winds there is now a restriction on student jumpers so no more jumps for Daz today. In the evening we have a quiet night of camping and watching some TV on the tablet, luckily our tent is right next to the bar on the DZ and we can pick up WiFi whilst snuggled in our sleeping bags!!
Saturday 26th March
Another foggy start and also low clouds means that there’s no jumping ‘til gone 1pm. Daz still has 8 jumps to gain his A licence so needs to get them done in the next 2 days and this weather isn’t helping. The good weather doesn’t last and soon the winds pick up; a 50 jump limit. Fortunately Daz has managed to squeeze in another consolidation jump and his AFF 8 – jumping at only 5000ft, gain a stable position and pull. It’s called a ‘hop & pop’. So only 6 jumps left to do. If Daz doesn’t leave here with his ‘A’ licence then there’s ‘rules’ regarding what is required of him depending on the time lapse. If he didn’t jump for the next 6 months, he’d need to repeat AFF 3,5 and 7 and have 3 hours ground training. An expensive procedure. He’s done incredibly well not having to repeat any AFF stage. We’ve been chatting to Nick and Alan (2 UK jumpers) and they’ve seen many having to repeat stages. 1 to 3 are especially costly because you’re paying for 2 instructors. Another TV night watching the Bill Bryson movie (with Robert Redford). It’s good but I can’t stay awake.
Sunday 27th March
The clocks have gone forward. Daz is at the hangars on time for his refresher training and it’s blue skies and barely any wind but there aren’t enough jumpers here to fill the first load. With 6 jumps needed and an early finish for us today because we’re heading into Seville for a bullfight, we know Daz will need to jump tomorrow and perhaps even Tuesday. We were supposed to be heading off tomorrow to Faro for our workaway but we’re going to have to delay. We can always make up lost time by taking a train. Daz has just completed another consolidation jump and is just about to go up for another. This one requires exiting in an unstable position! It’s 1pm and Daz is on the manifest for the next load. That done there’ll only be 3 to do. There was a huge delay before Daz took off for his 3rd jump. I thought it might be a weather problem but actually the pilot was feeling poorly and they had to wait for a replacement. Once back on the ground Daz quickly dumps all his gear, changes and we cycle into Bollulos. One of the guys on the DZ has said we can leave our bike in his restaurant and then we’re on the bus to Seville. We were a bit concerned about the Semana Santa bus timetable but there’s no problem. In Seville we pick up our bullfighting tickets and go to find a late lunch.
It’s 6pm and we head to the bullring which is absolutely packed. Everyone is dressed up; suits, pretty dresses, high heels – obviously this is an important occasion to the Spanish. We find our seats and look down into the arena, where the sand is being watered. In the seats in front of us are a group of ‘trendy’, young men drinking G&T as if it’s going out of fashion whilst constantly snacking on sunflower seeds. There is the constant cracking as they break the shells, and the floor at their feet is covered in sunflower husks. Remarkably the sound of the 6 of them snacking serenades us through the show. The stands are packed and with that comes clouds of cigar smoke and the ever constant cigarette smoke.
We grab a couple of beers from a man selling them out of an ice bucket he is humping around the stands and settle down. At around 6.30pm the first bull comes out and the show begins. The audience are hugely demonstrative during the evening our main misfortune is we can’t understand what their reaction means. During the first bullfight, there are loud strident voices in the stand to our right. This is constantly shushed until the fight is over and then there’s a full scale argument between 2 men but with a huge section of the audience joining in. I just love the Spanish – they’re loud and don’t care who hears them. During the evening we have the slow hand clap, we think this was when the fight was ‘boring’ and the Matador unexciting. But alternatively there was the standing ovation with the crowd waving white hankies; this denotes audience approval.
We went to witness a Spanish spectacle and we certainly got one. The high points for us was when a bull ‘bested’ aPicador, managed to unseat the rider and get under the armour of the horse and the horse was subsequently pushed to the ground. The horse regained its feet and was unhurt. Later one of the ‘assistant’ matadors didn’t leave the arena quick enough and the bull caught up with him. He had to be carried off! Equally there were some low points; the fight appears ‘hugely loaded’ in the favour of the matador. He has 3 or 4 people assisting to weaken and tire the bull. In one fight we saw the Picador was too effective and delivered a potentially fatal wound. The fight ended prematurely and a herd of 6 cows was sent into the ring to coax the bull out. The most unpleasant moment was when the matador failed to delive an estocada. Then there followed numerous ‘stabbing’ efforts which still didn’t bring the bull down. Finally the matador walked away . And the cows were sent in. We thought perhaps the bull might be saved but the bull ignored the cows. Finally the matador’s assistant managed to gain sufficient access to the bull, to deliver the ‘fatal cut’ with the dagger which is used at the end of each fight to dispatch the bull once it collapses to the ground. Then the bull is dragged from the arena. The audience were clearly unimpressed with the failure of the matador to deal with the bull and he received a slow handclap and some jeering catcalls. One matador that received audience approval (white hanky waving) also had flowers and a carton of cigarettes thrown into the arena as he walked around to take his acclaim. Certainly an interesting event and spectacle but possibly not one that requires repetition!
Bull fighting in Spain
Bull fighting is very closely associated with Spain and can trace its origins back to 711 A.D. This is when the first bullfight took place in celebration for the crowning of King Alfonso VIII. It is very popular in Spain with several thousand Spaniards flocking to their local bull-ring each week. It is said that the total number of people watching bullfights in Spain reaches one million every year.
Bullfighting was originally a sport for the aristocracy and took place on horseback. King Felipe V took exception to the sport however and banned the aristocracy from taking part, believing it to be a bad example to the public. After the ban commoners accepted the sport as their own and, since they could not afford horses, developed the practice of dodging the bulls on foot, unarmed. This transformation occurred around 1724.
The modern corrida is highly ritualized, with three distinct stages or tercios (“thirds”); the start of each being announced by a bugle sound. The participants enter the arena in a parade, called the paseíllo, to salute the presiding dignitary, accompanied by band music. Torero costumes are inspired by 17th-century Andalusian clothing, and matadores are easily distinguished by the gold of their traje de luces (“suit of lights”), as opposed to the lesser banderilleros, who are also known as toreros de plata (“bullfighters of silver”).
The bull is released into the ring, where he is tested for ferocity by the matador and banderilleros with the magenta and gold capote (“cape”). This is the first stage, the tercio de varas (“the lancing third”). The matador confronts the bull with the capote, performing a series of passes and observing the behavior and quirks of the bull.
Next, a picador enters the arena on horseback armed with a vara (lance). To protect the horse from the bull’s horns, the animal wears a protective, padded covering called peto. Prior to 1930, the horses did not wear any protection. Often the bull would disembowel the horse during this stage. Until the use of protection was instituted, the number of horses killed during a fiesta generally exceeded the number of bulls killed.
At this point, the picador stabs just behind the morrillo, a mound of muscle on the fighting bull’s neck, weakening the neck muscles and leading to the animal’s first loss of blood. The manner in which the bull charges the horse provides important clues to the matador about which side the bull favors. If the picador is successful, the bull will hold its head and horns slightly lower during the following stages of the fight. This ultimately enables the matador to perform the killing thrust later in the performance. The encounter with the picador often fundamentally changes the behaviour of a bull; distracted and unengaging bulls will become more focused and stay on a single target instead of charging at everything that moves.
Tercio de Banderillas
In the next stage, the tercio de banderillas (“the third of banderillas”), each of the three banderilleros attempts to plant two banderillas, sharp barbed sticks, into the bull’s shoulders.
These anger and agitate, but further weaken, the bull. He tires from his attacks on the horse and the damage he has taken from the lance. Sometimes a matador will place his own banderillas. If so, he usually embellishes this part of his performance and employs more varied manoeuvres than the standard al cuarteo method commonly used by banderilleros.
In the final stage, the tercio de muerte (“the third of death”), the matador re-enters the ring alone with a small red cape, or muleta, and a sword. It is a common misconception that the color red is supposed to anger the bull; the animals are colorblind. The cape is thought to be red to mask the bull’s blood, although the color is now a matter of tradition. The matador uses his cape to attract the bull in a series of passes, which serve the dual purpose of wearing the animal down for the kill and creating an interesting display, or faena. He may also demonstrate his domination of the bull by caping and bringing it especially close to his body. The faena refers to the entire performance with the cape (muleta).
It is usually broken down into tandas, or “series”, of passes. The series (tanda) ends with a final series of passes in which the matador, using the cape, tries to maneuver the bull into a position to stab it between the shoulder blades and through the aorta or heart. The sword is called estoque, and the act of thrusting the sword is called an estocada. During the initial series, while the matador in part is performing for the crowd, he uses a fake sword (estoque simulado). This is made of wood or aluminum, making it lighter and much easier to handle. The estoque de verdad (real sword) is made out of steel. At the end of the tercio de muerte, when the matador has finished his faena, he will change swords to take up the steel one. He performs the estocada and kills the bull with a pierce through the heart, if all goes according to plan. Many times the bull does not get pierced through the heart during the estocada initially, and repeated efforts must be made to bring the bull down and end his life.
If the matador has performed particularly well, the crowd may petition the president by waving white handkerchiefs to award the matador an ear of the bull. If his performance was exceptional, the president will award two ears. In certain more rural rings, the practice includes award of the bull’s tail. Very rarely, if the public or the matador believe that the bull has fought extremely bravely, the event’s president may be petitioned to grant the bull a pardon (indulto). If the indulto is granted, the bull’s life is spared; it leaves the ring alive and is returned to its home ranch. There the bull becomes a stud for the rest of his life.
Another trumpet is sounded and the Matador now removes his black winged hat and dedicates the death of the bull to the president or the crowd before beginning his faena.
Monday 28th March. Julianna aerodrome to Huelva
Max speed 36.3kmph
Average speed 16.9kmph
Daz is up nice and early for his refresher training but by 10am by the time I drag my sorry arse out of bed there hasn’t been one load up. What the delay is, I have no idea. Hopefully he’ll get his 3 jumps in today. I need to decide – to pack or not to pack.
At the very least I need to dry out the tent and bags. There’s so much condensation in the tent these last few nights that even the sleeping bags are wet.
Last night we came home to find we have acquired 2 camping neighbours. I’ve been packing and hanging things out to dry and most things are ready. Daz has just done his 3rd jump, so he’s qualified. We just need to sort out his paperwork, finish packing and get on the road. This week we’ve made some changes to the bike. Added a horn for me to go with the bell, put in new back brake discs and adjusted the position of my seat so it’s more upright (hopefully this will reduce how much I slip down into the seat).
Finally we get on the road. We only cycle to Benacazon and then get the train to Huelva. We’re contentedly sat on the train when the train conductor tells us that the bike/wheel chair door won’t be opening at Huelva. Nor at the preceding station. Of course we don’t really know why and have to make do with sign language but we’re going to have to get the bike from the large bike parking area where it’s at now, with the large doors and ramp for exiting and push it along the next carriage, down the narrow passage, to the other door… with the steps down to the platform and a very tight turn to negotiate!
Fortunately we manage with some lifting and shunting and make it onto the platform, phew! Our plan is to grab some food in Huelva and then cycle over the river and find a wild camping site, but like all good plans it fails at first contact and as we sit eating a poor menu del dia we are overcome with tiredness. Daz is feeling soft and after 8 nights of camping on the dismal airfield with an ineffective shower he breaks and books a hotel at 34 euros ( including breakfast!) but boy is that shower great!
Tuesday 29th March. Huelva to Quelfes
Distance 82.9 km
Max speed 52.7 kmph
Average speed 18.1 kmph
Total 3413.91 km
After breakfast in our hostal we set off, out of Huelva via the Cathedral and the bullring.
As we leave town we find a bike path that handrails the river and then the main road.
The weather is glorious and we’re cycling along a wooded area so it’s very pleasant. Unfortunately my seat adjustments are having a dire effect on my cycling and I’m slipping so far forward my legs are all cramped up and my knees start to hurt. We leave the cycle path and cycle on a road but there’s light traffic and it’s pleasant. Then a map reading error (because I’d packed away the Notepad) results in us cycling all the way out to an autovia that we didn’t need and after a couple of junctions coming back to a more direct, and more pleasant cycling on an A road. Finally we arrive in Ayamonte. We’ve done 70km not the 51km we were expecting. This is the last Spanish town before Portugal. We need to find the ferry to cross to Vila Real de Santa Antonio. We’re trying to find our way to the ferry and some Brits stop and tell us it goes every hour. We’ve got 6 minutes. We don’t think we’re going to make it but with 2 minutes to go we cycle down the ferry ramp but then the ‘ferryman’ asks for our tickets because out here you ‘don’t pay the ferryman’, you have to buy tickets from the office. Daz runs off to buy them but I don’t think anyone’s that time conscious here that they’ll go without him!
On the other side of the Río Guadiana, the second longest river in Europe, we’re in Portugal.
As we leave the ferry and climb the ramp we see two cycle tourists waiting to get on and cross to Spain. We immediately say hi and ask each other where we are going. The couple are from Poland and are just now leaving Portugal and heading for Spain. They tell us Portugal is wonderful and we are very pleased to hear this. We swap emails and Daz takes some photos of them to send later. Good travels guys.
We cycle into the main square, discovering that the Portuguese seem to like cobbled roads rather than tarmac. In town we find a cafe to have a quick snack. There are 2 British ladies in the cafe and they start telling us how beautiful Portugal is and how cheap. This is the first visit for both of us in Portugal. After lunch we head to the train station. We’re catching a train to Olhao. There’s a compartment for our bike but there’s no ramp. It’s not as plush as the Spanish trains.
In Olhao we have to pass everything down from the train. We cycle into the centre of Olhao and then to the harbour.
Olhão is a major port and actually the largest fishing port in the Algarve. It is full of character with Moorish-style houses,an influence from the commercial links with Africa. Although Olhão only really became a town of note in the 19th century, it was first mentioned in 1378. At this time it would have been a very small fishing settlement of a handful of people, living in huts made of wood, reeds and straw on the beach. By 1679 it was important enough to need the building of the fortress of São Lorenço to defend it from pirates.
Olhão is a town of many ‘faces’ – if you approach from the fishing port side it looks, and is, very industrial and, unless you are particularly interested in fishing boats and warehousing it doesn’t look very attractive. However, around the corner from the dock the road runs along the water front and there is a long, very pleasant, paved promenade with cool gardens (Jardim Pescador do Olhanense) to escape the heat of the sun.
We have a wander round the city and Daz wants more food and we’re finally tempted by an Indian restaurant – we haven’t had a curry in 5 months and it’s a real treat and very tasty. Finally we head off to find our new workaway hosts in Quelfres unfortunately we didn’t make a note of their directions and initially head off in the wrong direction. But we have marked the church in Quelfres so we think this is the place to search for the green rural guesthouse sign. We find it and then it’s a kilometre (???) down a gravel track in the dark. Finally we arrive. Marc greets us and shows us our apartment and that’s us for the day, shower and bed.