Pretty Casares and Griffon Vultures

After our few days in Estepona we planned to visit one of the Pueblos Blancos (white villages) and headed up towards Casares – which is only nine miles from the coast but feels like a different world.

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The road from Manilva to Casares (A-377) has got to be the worst road we have ever driven. We have been on dirt tracks in better condition. They have even erected signs to say how bad the road surface is. “La Carretera es en mal estado”. Now if you know any Spanish, note the use of the verb “es” rather than “está”, which denotes a temporary situation. This road aint getting fixed any time soon! We have since found out that it is better to take the MA8300 road from the coast and circumnavigate the village to the parking spot. We thought we had been clever choosing the “A” road – but here the “A” simply stands for Andalucia (or perhaps awful!).

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A rainy day on a bad road with Casares in the distance

To make matters worse, we ended up behind a fully laden quarry lorry going up the steep hill. With the traffic building up behind, he slowed down to a crawl and indictaed for us to overtake him! WHAT!!! We are in a 7.5 tonne 34-year-old straight diesel vehicle with no turbo. Negotiating a smooth overtaking manoeuvre on a steep incline is as likely as Mike Tyson winning the next spelling competition! But we had no choice and as we crawled past the lorry and back into our own lane, a coach came racing past us blaring his horn!

We parked just outside the town on the aire at the Tourist Information office car park.  There are services – black and grey dump and fresh water and best of all it’s free!

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Casares visitor centre. Can you spot Kelpie in the car park?

The town looks very close to our parking spot but lies on the opposite side of a chasm. It looked like a bit of a hike to the town around the main road but the lady in the tourist office was able to show us an off-road track which shortened the hike a bit.

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The sun setting on Casares

We walked up to the viewing point to get our bearings and were amazed at the sight of huge Griffon Vultures soaring above the mountain peaks and white sugar-cube houses. I’ve never seen such huge birds flying in large numbers before.

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Panorama fom the viewing point over the village, then over the mountains

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On the ground, Grifon vultures are not the Miss World of the bird kingdom. With a hairy looking cape around their neck and their huge wings hunched in like a cloak on their back. But in the air with their necks pulled in, their huge wing span with their wing feathers splayed soaring on the thermals they take on a new graceful appearance. I couldn’t get any close up shots – so these library pictures will have to do.

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Griffon vulture on the ground and in the air (library pictures)

We also realised that we’d been at this same viewing point eight years ago with my mum and dad and had a photograph taken from almost the exact spot we were standing on. On that occasion we didn’t go into the village so it will be nice to walk around it this time.

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The weather was better when we last visited in 2008

The next day we decided to tackle the dirt-track to the village.  Setting off it was all downhill – so far so good- but what goes down must come up again, so the hill back up to the village shouldn’t have been the shock that it was.  I struggled up the almost vertical hill which was thankfully tarmaced.  It’s definitely not a walk for the frail or infirm but we managed to make it to a coffee shop in the square.

The village streets are narrow and two way, for any drivers brave enough to attempt to negotiate them.  We sat in the cafe watching the traffic circumnavigate the fountain on the mini roundabout at the centre of the square for a good hour.  Marvelling as a gas delivery lorry managed to navigate his way round without actually hitting anything.

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Narrow streets off the plaza and Michelle standing in the middle of the now empty roundabout

At one point the traffic came to a complete standstill with the junction full of vehicles and no-one able to enter or leave the tiny roundabout. After a short standoff, the locals came to the rescue, inching cars, vans and 4×4’s back and forward into a position where they could get off the roundabout and ease the congestion.

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Typical steep narrow streets of Casares

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As in all good spanish towns, there was a castle – unfortunately every street exited the main square at a 90 degree angle so it ws time to get the grappling hooks out.  After a couple of wrong turns (whats new) we arrived at the arched gated entrance of the castle.

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View over the rooftops from the castle
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Views over the mountains

The views from the walled village are spectacular although the castle itself isn’t accessible. We got some great photos from the viewing point.

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Some of the old castle ruins

Strange to see that life still goes on up on this high point of the town. It was obviously wash day and clothes had been hung out to dry in the castle ruins!

The village cemetery is also located up at the castle, unfortunately we arrived on the one day in the week that it was closed (nothing new there either). The original village church has now been renovated and converted into an arts centre. The weather vane at the top of the bell tower is a profile of a griffon vulture.

The village church (now arts centre) and Michelle taking a peek in the cemetery

We’d been told that the quickest way back to the town was through the steep narrow stepped streets at the back of the castle.  So we set off between the houses down some very dodgy steps.  We were met by an elderly lady who came out of her house on crutches and proceeded to make her way down the steps towards the village.  Obviously she does this every day but I wondered just how she managed to get back up to her house again.  My bad hip was screaming at me so I can imagine how she felt – no mobility scooters in this town.

The deep chasm at Casares

We walked back to the motorhome along the same dirt-track. It had been cool and cloudy all day and the vultures were nowhere to be seen. But as we started back along the dirt track, the sun came out and the vultures re-appeared, soaring above us in the thermals. Alan told me to stop limping as they were starting to circle overhead :-D. When we got back to the motorhome we were thankful for a cup of strong tea and of course the usual ration of biscuits.

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The old town of Casares perched on a cliff top with vultures soaring overhead

 

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Quick Michelle, they’re circling!

Later that day we had new neighbours arrive – John, Sarah and their Samoyed dog Rudi. They are from Cornwall, and like us they are on an open ended tour in their motorhome around Europe. John is an old punk (and that is meant in the kindest way). John is a huge fan of The Clash and their van has many decals of lyrics from their songs. We share a similar outlook on life and chatted about our visits as they had travelled though Portugal first, and we were headed that way.

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Dusk falling on the village

Next morning we had intended to move on but Alan was feeling a bit rough due to a chest infection so we mooched around the motorhome for another day before heading down towards Gibraltar. John and Sarah cam over to find out how Alan was feeling and we had another fun chat. A lovely couple, we wish them happy travels.

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We are Alan and Michelle - Going Nomad. A 52 year old couple from Northern Ireland who have simplified their lives and have hit the road in their motorhome. We are sharing our travels in the hope to inspire others to find their own travel adventure.

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