Mountains and hills. Gaining perspective for another year.

dsc_0782Last year, I spent New Year’s Day climbing to the top of a snowy mountain in Scotland. I stood in the cold, wrapped in as many layers as I could find that morning, and stared out over the horizon, taking in the view as far as the eye could see.

A part of me was very quickly fed up with the cold and wanted to go back down to hug a radiator and gulp down plenty of hot tea, but the other part of me wanted to stay on that mountain.

Looking into the distance, we were surrounded by white peaks, sugar-coated in snow, the loch gently nestled between them, a watery carpet stretched out at our feet. The trees ran steeply up the mountainside from where we’d come a while earlier and far below, the village with tiny toy-sized houses reminded us just how far we had hiked.

To this day I can’t think of a better way to have started the year. One feels quite small on the mountain, everything else paling in comparison. The silence of the climb gave us plenty of time to think over the past year and wonder about the next.

I’d begun the year with adventure on my heart and I wanted more of it.

As I stood on that mountain, I could never have guessed all that would happen in 2016. Looking back, I’m not sure adventure would be the best way to describe it, really. There has been a lot of “adulting” going on, getting a job, paying bills, keeping my house tidy-ish, trying to figure out what is next… It’s not been a bad year, it’s just been a different sort of adventure than perhaps I’d first pictured.

A year later, here I am, back in Seville, back in the sun and thinking about the mountain where the year began.

So as 2016 came to a close, I wanted to get out of the city, explore somewhere different, enjoy the sights and sounds and smells of nature. I needed some campo time.

Since it was a beautiful sunny day, we did just that. Having walked quite a lot this week, we decided against a hike, which would have been an ideal way to end the year, had we had the energy for it. Instead, we jumped in the car and went on a bit of a New Year’s Eve village and castle crawl, exploring some of the rural towns in the Huelva and Seville provinces.

Our first stop was Santa Olalla del Cala, just off the motorway in the province of Huelva. As soon as we parked we were greeted by some friendly faces heading straight towards us.

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We were in the campo, alright! A full herd of sheep ran past the car and up the hill behind us. We followed, as they seemed to be heading to the same place we were.

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Nothing says ‘adventure’ like exploring a Medieval castle!

As we wandered around the castle walls, the sheep happily munched on the grass.

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The views were very different from the ones Scotland had offered, but beautiful nonetheless.

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Storks on the bell tower seem not to have migrated this year.
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Green hills, blue skies, what more could we ask for?
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The church was closed but that didn’t stop us exploring the surrounding area.

Heading back into the province of Seville, our next stop was El Real de la Jara and castle number two.

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As we read on several information signs, the area is full of castles and fortifications. Some of these date back to the Arabs and were later re-built or fortified to defend against the neighbouring Portuguese. It’s an area full of history, but a lot of it is forgotten or ignored. Entrance to both castles is free yet neither of them seem to receive many visitors.

After exploring here a bit too, we walked back down to the village and bought some bread for our sandwiches, then drove on to the next village on the map, Almadén de la Plata, and looked for a picnic spot.

We pulled up just off the road on a particularly empty stretch with nice views. The sun coming in through the windscreen was warm and we opened the doors wide, happily munching on our lunch. Just as content were the pigs that suddenly appeared from behind the bushes, surprising us slightly, as we didn’t know if they’d escaped or if they usually wandered that close to the road.

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Soon after, we decided we needed coffee and so drove on to the next town, Castilblanco de los Arroyos.

Here we wandered around the quiet streets a bit, stumbling upon a church tower covered in storks. They were quite a sight to watch, gliding down to land on the roof, flapping slightly to push each other out of the way, and “making gazpacho“, as they say here about the distinct sound they make.

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We enjoyed coffee in the plaza, along with quite a few locals who seemed to be out enjoying the sun, and then decided we’d done enough exploring for the day and should head back to Seville. We opted for the rural roads, rather than taking the motorway back into the city, taking the route via Burguillos and Alcalá del Río before finally arriving home. It had been a lovely day and great end to the year.

As 2017 begins, I have no way of really knowing what adventures await this year, but I look forward to finding out.

What are your hopes for the New Year?

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