Friday, August 22, 2008

Down time

It's been a long and tiring week, but it's the weekend now, and tomorrow I get to LIE IN. So that's ok. I had planned to go back to Parque de Peñalara tomorrow, and walk to the Laguna de los Pájaros and back, about 4.5km each way, compared with last week's 5km round trip. But not this weekend. Even though I think it's going to be perfect weather. Uh uh. Pooped, cream crackered, and more than a little sorry for myself.

Nope. Tomorrow morning will be devoted to waking up, turning over, and going back to sleep again, just as often as I can manage it. Then I've got geraniums to re-pot, and a garden to re-visit. As long as the weather holds.

The forecast is for moderate temperatures and maybe some cloud, but tonight, up here on the 7th floor, the canopy's showing nautical ambitions, and may have me in mid-Atlantic by morning - oh - and that was lightning. Forked, horizontal, and slightly closer to my right elbow than I'd like. I hope it doesn't rain.

Inspired by an Iranian friend's nostalgic memories of summer nights in Shiraz, when the whole family used to sleep up on the roof under the stars, I've been sleeping on the terrace since the middle of June. (Actually, on a sofabed on the terrace. Intrepid I ain't.) (..............and that was more lightning. No thunder though.) I love it. Of course, living above one of Madrid's most happening plazas can make it a little difficult to get to sleep,

especially when some really good buskers show up at 1.30 a.m. But if they're that good, you might as well get up and hang over the wall (This also goes for firework displays.). And if they aren't, well that's why we have earplugs.

And in the meantime, you can enjoy the cool nights, the wild moons,

even the occasional eclipse (last Saturday, but no batteries left for the camera).

At night, there are little black bats and big white moths. In the morning, there's a sky full of squeaking swallows (or there used to be, for months - not anymore, at least since mid-July).

And who needs an alarm clock, when you've got the sun rise?

Climbing back into bed with a cup of tea was never so satisfying.

I hope it doesn't rain tonight.

I think it might rain tonight.

I could be wrong.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Parque de Peñalara

The city of Madrid sits in the middle of Madrid province, and the north of the province climbs into the Guadarrama mountains. Habibi's in the UK right now, so I went off for a small solo adventure yesterday, returning to Cercedilla to see what we missed in February.

From Cercedilla to Cotos takes about 40 minutes by train, and I'd been told that the walk back down takes about six hours, so I caught the first train out of Madrid, apiedrand was in Puerto de Cotos, booted & backpacked, by 11.30.

Only you can't walk down from there: the walk starts at Navacerrada. In February we got off the little Cotos train too early. This time I'd stayed on too long. Which is how I came to spend the day walking more up than down, under the bluest sky, following paths through a landscape carved out aeons ago by glaciers, and now protected - and offered to José Public - as the Parque Natural de Peñalara. I saw lots of butterflies and lizards, and heard crickets fizzing & buzzing in all directions, although it was mid-afternoon before I actually saw one. And two big birds of prey. I don't know what anything was, but I was out for hours and loved it. And I took some pictures.

The blur in the picture above is a hummingbird moth, one of two I saw in the lavender planted outside the Casa de Cotos information centre.

Mirado del Gitano, Gypsy's View, with the arrow pointing at Cabeza de Hermano Mayor (Hermano Menor to the right) ............Big Brother & Little Brother.

Laguna de los Pájaros in the distance from Ruta 2. It was actually a full-on, no-kidding, to-die-for cerulean blue, but everything I photograph comes out washed out, and has to be warmed up in Picasa before it even comes close to the original. So frustrating. Anyway, next Saturday, I shall be back in the mountains for another glacier-theme day out, walking along Ruta 4 to the Lake of the Birds, 2,175m. above sea level. The starting point, Casa de Cotos, is at something like 1,910, so it's not as much of a climb as it sounds!

You have to try and imagine this lichen in 70s Retro lime green.

Peaty brown water and green, green mosses.

This isn't fog. It's cloud. The dot on the path is a walker, and the nipple on the mound on the right is the Refugio de Zabalo. From this southerly direction, to a townie on a day out, the refuge merely gives scale to the mountain behind, but if you were up here in rough weather, you would be deeply grateful to the people who built it.
This was a warm day, some 26-30C but by early afternoon, the breeze had an edge to it. (The railway station cafe at Cercedilla had a snowy photograph of the Cotos train on the wall, and a collection of sleds and snowshoes.) It says something about the weather here that a building this size has buttresses...
This cairn is on the south side of the refuge (on the right of the picture), and an encouraging touch.
I don't think these scrapes are man-made.

Looking down from the refuge. This is a wetland area, with streams, peatbogs and frogs.

Laguna de Peñalara, 2,020m up. I thought that the blue, blue Laguna de los Pájaros was the Laguna de Peñalara - it's infinitely more impressive! This rather sad green pool has always been very popular with weekend escapees from Madrid, and has taken a battering over the years. Now it's being restored for wildlife. There's a ski slope a little way south east of the park, and in fact part of the park itself used to be a ski resort. It has been a conservation area since the late nineties, and they're working to restore the ecological balance of the area, without closing it to visitors.
On the other side, the cairns were the only markers for the descent.
Going down.
Looking back.

When I heard bells (and the sound carries a long way up there) I assumed that there were goats roaming. Madrid is so dry, it didn't occur to me that there could be wetlands so close, and I was surprised at the number of cows I saw from the train on the way to Cercedilla. I rather assumed that dairy farming was more or less exclusive to Galicia and Asturias, backing onto the Atlantic in the north.
The trees are healthy, but mostly naked on one side. Hmm, winter must be interesting up here.

The retama - a kind of broom or gorse - on the higher slopes still has a lot of sunny yellow flowers left, but lower down it has handsome fat pods covered in a purple-grey velvet - and usually a few surprise pinecones, dropped from the canopy of branches overhead.
It seems to me that most European wildflowers are yellow, blue or purple, which suggests that the so-called English cottage garden owes a great deal to the plant-hunters of previous centuries.