When we lived in Portland, Oregon we joined the Circuit Gyms. They were great bouldering gyms with planned routes that varied in difficulty and were constantly updated. In Ny it was just too costly to join any gym and there weren’t any close enough to home to make the cost worth it. But here in Madrid we can go bouldering for free at many of the city parks. Here they have built Rocodromos, man-made concrete climbing walls out in the open air. There are no set routes and some don’t seem to be planned out too well but that makes it all the more interesting because really that is how it would be in nature. Some rocodromos are even set up for those who do belaying if you bring your own equipment.
I want to bring this concept back to the states. I think every town, city, park should have a rocodromo. It is great exercise, keeps teens active and teaches little ones some key development skills. I am going to miss this luxury when I go back to the states. Madrid, you don’t know how good you have it; take care of what you got.
La Pedriza is an incredible place. I was lucky enough to go their twice with my school on a class trip. It is located on the Guadarrama mountains in Parque Regional de la Cuenca Alta del Manzanares and is one of the coolest granitic ranges I’ve seen so close to Madrid. There are a bunch of hiking trails and rock climbing routes within the park and if you get hot on the trail there are some wading pools to cool off in.
It was a wonderful trip for the first group, the weather was gorgeous and we hiked more trails than we should have because by the end the kids were exhausted but we had a great time. I even enjoyed my Spanish lesson listening to all the stories that go along with different rocks or areas in the park, like La Cueva de La Mora, a Romeo and Juliet-like ghost story of love and loss. The second group didn’t have as much luck with the weather and it was a downpour but the foggy mist surrounding the huge rock formations was other worldly and we hung tough and survived the rain and mud.
A rough draft of our end of the season northern beach tour.
Playa Del Silencio
This beach is accessible by bus or car but either way it is a bit of a walk from both stops. At this time of year it was almost deserted except for a couple snorkelers and local couples and others on El Camino. Explore the beach because further away from the stairway is an amazing mescla of rock formations; slate, marble, limestone etc. It is absolutely beautiful and like nothing I have ever seen before.
The water temperature was still swimmable if you’re not sensitive. It was like a crisp dip in a cool spring, healing and refreshing.
Playa Cuevas Del Mar
An incredible beach. We arrived with almost 2 hours til high tide and the waters were tranquil and low. It was one of the warmer beaches at this time of year and so beautiful. If you need to work your way up to a dip in the cool ocean then take a 30 min-1hr walk above the beach and along the cliffs towards the hermitage. Follow the cow paths to the right of the water archway. There seems to be no entrance but search and you will find a path. Some hotels provide a map but you can follow any trail around there and have a great time. The best path to take is to follow the path leading toward the hermitage (you can see a church-like building in the distance but not from the beach) it is on a hill. Sneak past the bull and his entourage of ladies and their clanging/chiming alpine cow bells. Make your way along the rocky cliffs above the ocean drop and look for a path leading to another hidden nude beach toward your right. This beach is more secluded and maybe less accessible during high tide but worth the investigation. Then head back toward cuevas del mar for a cool dip after the sunny hike, you may really need it if you get lost and have to hike down from a no path zone. I suggest heading back in the same general direction but there are other ways.
Playa de Gulpiyuri
Unfortunately, it was our biggest disappointment. From all the areal pictures it looks like a beautiful cove to bathe in but it is impossible to swim in unless you want to be knocked out by boulders. The cove is filled with jagged rocks and the tide is always pulling you out toward the rocks. It is mostly just a spot where people pose for photo shoots and other sun bathe on the neighboring farmer’s lawn with the smell of fertilizer wafting along with the breeze. If you climb above the cove there are some nice views but a scary drop to the ocean below.
Playa San Antolín
Further along the coast is the Playa San Antolín where the river Bedón meets the ocean. It is a rocky beach toward the river but has a sandy side toward the left of the river. This was by far the coldest part of our ocean trip.
If you explore further on there are many more coves to explore. We stopped off at one near Barro. It was a not so claustrophobic cove, there was enough space for everyone at least during the low season. The waters were calm and not so freezing but there was limited parking available which often is the case when you are searching for secluded beaches. Every beach was beautiful and some reminded me of the Oregon Coast; I wish I had more time to explore every bit of this coast because it is absolutely incredible.
I have no words for our time spent in Trentino; the food, the wine, the company, the language… I could go on for pages and pages on what a wonderful time we had.
So when in Italy you must visit Trentino. It is a province full of quaint little mountain villages and of course Trento, amazing hikes and vistas, history, tradition, the incredible Dolomites and much more. We headed towards Pedazzo and Bellamonte to spend the heart of the holiday with family.
Here are a couple must do’s:
-Go hiking or skiing amongst the Dolomites. Or even sledding under the moonlight (or lack thereof) like us on Christmas night.
-Visit the Geology Museum in Predazzo (if you are into that sort of thing). It is super cool and great for the kids.
-If there from December 8-January 13th you MUST go to the village of Tesero and follow the display of nativities through the town. Even if you are not there during the winter you MUST visit Tesero, it is magical and as if you have stepped through a time warp.
The qiwiña tree or polyepis can be found all over the Ecuador highlands. From far away it looks like a gnarly shedding tree but when you look close up you will notice that its bark is paper thin! To the touch it feels like tissue paper and flakes apart just like puff pastry.
You will find these ruins in the Cañar Province of Ecuador, about 2 hours from Cuenca. Ingapirca is the largest known Incan ruins found in Ecuador; I’m sure not as impressive as Machu Picchu but interesting nonetheless. The guides at Ingapirca are very knowledgeable but if you are a Spanish beginner you may want to bring someone who can translate.
The Incans were not the only inhabitants of this place, there were also the Cañari people. So the history and construction of the site is quite interesting and varies depending on who built it or who lived or worked in each building. For instance, the walls surrounding where the market would be, the cracks of these walls are filled with mud and dung. But the Temple del Sol, which was built for Huayna Capac was built with large stones and nothing was used to fill the cracks, in fact there are no cracks because they assembled them perfectly (like our guide said it is a rompecabezas). This stone also has traces of copper in it so it gives off a different color; these stones may have even been brought all the way from Quito. I would get more into details but I’ll leave that to your guide!
For foreigners it costs $6.00, otherwise it is $2. There is also a museum which displays many different artifacts found on site. And if you are up for a short hike you can see some interesting natural formations like this one.
Family was visiting so we hired a taxi for a day trip to El Chorro de Girón. I was happy the driver didn’t speak any English because it gave us a chance to practice our Spanish. The trip cost $80 there and back for 4 people. We only went to the first waterfall but you can go on a 2-4 hour hike up the mountain and there are 2 more waterfalls to see but I hear the hike is not for newbs.
If you haven’t made plans for the weekend and its sunny outside then make the 30 min drive outside of Cuenca to Cajas. It is beautiful and great for the soul and lungs to get away from the city for the day. Don’t wander off too too far from the road unless you are prepared to get lost; once you get going it is easy to get lost as every hill looks like the next. Also, bring a raincoat and wear some warmer clothes because it can get pretty cold up there. This time we got there around 4pm, we didn’t have to pay a park fee but we weren’t allowed to walk the trails by the lake since it was after hours.
Climb Chimborazo. It is the highest volcano in Ecuador. It is very rare that it is not surrounded in fog but if you are lucky or climb high enough you will see the summit. I also heard that in August there is less chance of fog. I felt like I was on the moon.