Sunday, January 22, 2012

A 14 mile hike, a stranger's dog, & a year's fill of Semana Santa

What do all those have in common? They were all part of the most content, yet strangest, day I've had in a long time.

My day started off at 6:50am, as I grudgingly got out of bed. At 6:50am. On a SATURDAY. Yeah. Big news. After deciding the night before at 11pm that I wanted to go for a 6 hour hike the next day, I was now facing the reality of my decision. The sun doesn't even come up until 8 o'clock here!
My motto since coming to Spain has been "just say yes". Kinda like the Nike 'just do it' logo. Which means that if someone asks me if I want to say...go for a 6 hour hike the next morning at 8am, I don't question it, I just say yes. Which luckily, turned out to be a great decision!

After coming to terms with the fact that I couldn't just burrow back under the covers and call it a day, I scrambled out of the house bleary-eyed, but excited.
I met Eli, Larken and Larken's co-worker's sister (yeah, strange connection) and we headed out for a Spanish "breakfast", aka coffee, to start our day off right. (Luckily I'd had a real breakfast before this. Because coffee and toast with olive oil just doesn't quite cut it for me...)

We met 3 other of the woman's friends, and then we headed off to the drop off point for the hike. Which leads me to the second part of my title, 'a stranger's dog'. At the start of the hiking trail was a little coffee shop, and the owner was running in and out, trailed by 2 dogs. Just before we left for our hike, the owner drove off in a van, leaving the dogs behind. Who then decided to follow us along on our hike.One of the dogs turned back after a couple miles, but the other one followed us for the entire 14 miles!

When we sat down for lunch after 3 hours of hiking, I was sure he would get bored and turn around, but instead he sat down in the middle of the group and kept on eye on things. He drank from puddles along the trail and amused himself by looking out over the Mediterannean.

The trail followed the coast line from just outside Algeciras, straight into Tarifa. It was 13 miles one way, (we went on a little detour first which made it 14 miles) and followed a twisy-turny-rocky-hilly path. It wasn't difficult though, you just had to make sure to watch your step. We took a couple lunch breaks along the way, and of course, plenty of photo stops. The trail was mostly deserted, we only passed 1 or 2 people the entire time. It wound through country side, woods, eucalyptus groves, down through the beach, and through some more country side. It was b.e.a.utiful!

Between the dogs and all the cows/horses/donkeys in the field that I stopped to take pictures of, everyone had definitely noticed my affinity for animals. They started making fun of me: "Emma, hay un burro allí, si quieres sacar una foto", o "de que estás sacando una foto?? Esta vaca??" Yes, I am taking another picture of a cow. Leave me alone.

We chose the perfect day to hike. The sky was a sunny cloudless blue and we could see individual buildings across the straight in Ceuta and port of Tangier. Along the sides of the trail were old ruins of houses, nothing as cool as Roman ruins, but ruins are cool regardless. There was also a section that was used in World War II by the military to defend Gibraltar and Spain. 

The entire hike took 6 hours, and so 6 HOURS LATER, when we walked into Tarifa, our dog was still trotting along behind us! Instead of turning and heading for home, he ambled along behind us through town, lay down in the middle of the sidewalk to wait while we went to a pastelería, and then took a nap in the middle of the outdoor seating section when we got coffee. Finally when we went back to the car to leave, he walked out into the road to follow us as we drove away! I felt terrible leaving him behind knowing that he would have to walk back the 14 miles he had just followed us for! (Everyone else assured me that he would be fine and that he doesn't it all the time....but still. I felt terrible.) 

All in all, between the sun, animals, and new found pet dog, I was in a very good mood when we reached Tarifa. And then I topped that off by buying a chocolate-covered waffle dish filled with whipped cream and topped with a strawberry.
Oh. My. God. 

Here's our hike in pictures:

One of the many vacas I saw.

The dog up in the front was our 'guide' for the day. The second one was a giant of a dog with a lame back foot that still insisted on walking with us about a mile up hill.

Lunch break on the beach, with a faithful dog by our side :)

You can't get pictures like this back in Wisconsin!

That's Africa in the background.

Windy windmill ridge.


Me :)

Lunch break #2

Rickety fence line

There's Africa again!

The most loyal dog ever.

Goooooorgeous :)
Stopping to smell the roses.

Then, a couple hours later when I was back at home, I heard what sounded like a marching band procession in the streets, just a couple blocks from my apartment. For a second, I forgot that I was in Spain, where it is completely normal (apparently) to have Semana Santa processions at any time of the year, not just during Semana Santa (Holy Week).  

I ran out of the house, determined to see this parade. Not that I had needed to run though, Semana Santa processions aren't known for their speediness...but this is what I came across! You know you are in a unique place when people voluntarily spend their Saturday nights doing this!

My own personal procession complete with a float and full marching band. The only thing missing where the crazy KKK outfits. (Which I was a-okay with. Those still creep me out.)

Top of the float.

Slow durge music. Near the end of the video watch as the float turns the corner. It's like turning corners in marching band only abazillionmillion times worse.

So cool.

I'm not religious at all, but there is something about these processions that gets me. Everyone is so serious and the music is so loud and intense, that you can't help but get in the spirit. It is definitely a unique experience. 

However, as intriguing as they are, seeing one a year just about meets my quota. I missed Semana Santa when I was studying in Granada and only saw the end of one on the last Sunday. But from hearing other people talk about watching them all week, they are all basically the same
So now I can be happy, since I will be missing Semana Santa in Spain again this year, but now I've seen my procession to last me through the year.


  1. "But from hearing other people talk about watching them all week, they are all basically the same." SACRILEGE. No, seriously, you are excommunicated. ;)

    I have to restrain myself from saying this to every Spaniard in Mario's family ... they would probably tell Mario we can't get married now.

    1. Haha so glad I'm not the only one who thinks that! They really are cool...once.