Wildfires in Spain: What you should do

Competa fire June 29th 2014

Those of you who follow my Facebook page will already know about the devastating wildfire which spread throughout the Cómpeta countryside last Sunday.

At the height of the blaze there were more than 200 fire-fighters on the ground, assisted by up to 19 fire-fighting aircraft, including helicopters, water-carrying planes, and spotter aircraft.  Personnel were drafted in from the whole of Málaga province and beyond, to the blaze which started around 1pm, but quickly spread over an area of 100 hectares (250 acres) into the Sierras de Tejeda, Alhama and Almijara Natural Park.

Five houses were damaged and the local football pitch destroyed during the day, as well as 500 people being required to evacuate their homes overnight.  

Fortunately there were no injuries reported.

Competa fire June 29th 2014

Rumours are rife that the fire was started either maliciously or as a result of “bad agricultural practices”, but whatever the truth, it was a frightening experience for many local residents and visitors, alike.

You can read Maggie’s account of being caught up with the evacuation HERE or see Adrian’s photos of the aftermath of the fire around Cruz del Monte area, where residents were evacuated, HERE. 

Below is a collage of some of the photographs I took throughout the day.

If you live in a forest in Spain or within 500 metres of one, you are required by law to have a fire prevention and self protection plan in place, just in case a fire should occur.

It’s a sad fact of life, that only around one quarter of all forest fires are started by natural causes, such as lightning.  The rest are as a result of negligent practices or intent.   So, it makes perfect sense that if you are visiting or living in the Andalucían countryside, you should be in a position to consider your options, if you are caught near a wildfire.

Many of the local people have been aware of fires in the countryside all of their lives, but wildfires are not something that many visitors or expats have ever had to deal with, coming as many of us do, from wet, northern European countries.  We are unprepared. 

So what should we do?

Helicopter fighting the Competa fire, 29th June 2014 Fire prevention: 

  •  Have a safe zone around your house, where there is less vegetation.  Keep that area free of dried grass, weeds or other flammable materials.
  • Cut back any branches of trees that overhang your house.
  • Pay particular attention to discarded garden prunings and wood stores, making sure they are a safe distance from the house.
  • Keep gas bottles either within the house or in a safe place some distance away.
  • Don’t allow dead leaves to accumulate on your roof or gutters.
  • When outside,  ensure that all lit cigarettes are completely extinguished before you leave them.
  • Never BBQ near to trees or flammable materials, and always have the garden hose nearby.

Self protection:

BE PREPARED!   Prepare an advance plan with your family, considering what you will each do in the event of fire and how you will communicate with each other.  Also think about how your pets fit into your plans.

  • Review all your possible emergency escape routes, making sure they are never blocked.
  • Always have at least one quarter of a tank of fuel in your vehicle.
  • Prepare a list of items to be taken in an Evacuation Pack.

Competa fire June 29th 2014

In the event of FIRE:

  • Call the TOLL-FREE Emergency telephone number 112.  DO NOT ASSUME THAT SOMEONE ELSE HAS ALREADY CALLED.  They may be thinking the same thing.
  • Close all doors and windows in your house.
  • Bring all flammable outdoor chair cushions inside the house.
  • Make safe any exterior gas bottles.
  • STAY CALM and follow your escape plan (if necessary), taking with you your Evacuation Pack.

 What should be in an Evacuation Pack?

Everyone’s will be different, but here are some items you might consider important enough to include:

  • Personal papers – such as passports, birth and marriage certificates, house deeds or rental contract, medical cards, insurance policies.
  • Photographs – either in albums, on flash drives, external hard drives or portable computers.  Also take any charging cables you may require.
  • Medication - paper prescriptions (if you have them), pills, or items kept in the refrigerator such as insulin.
  • Money – enough to tide you over until you can visit an ATM.
  • Emergency food, water and clothing – including snacks, pet food, baby formula, nappies, sanitary items, bottled water.
  • Battery-powered radio – to listen to emergency bulletins on local radio station.
  • Mobile telephone (and charging cable) – complete with contact telephone numbers and addresses.
  • Irreplaceable precious items – but only small ones that will not hinder your escape.

Fire in the campo, Competa

If you live in Málaga province, you might also consider joining the excellent Local Fire and Weather watch group on Facebookcovering the Costa del Sol and inland areas.  

I do not hold myself out as an expert on fire prevention and consider many of the above points to be common sense.  If you can think of anything I have missed that you consider important enough to be included on this list, please let me know in the comment section.

Please follow East of Malaga on Facebook – there are many more photos and posts on there each day that never appear on this blog.  Look in the footer at the bottom of this page to “Like”.

 

Game of Thrones, Series 5 WILL BE filmed in Andalucía, Spain

Alcazar, Seville, Spain

IT’S OFFICIAL!

The eagerly anticipated announcement that Game of Thrones fans have been awaiting has been made.  The United States Ambassador to Spain, James Costos, has confirmed that Series 5 of the popular TV series will be filmed in Andalucía, Spain.

The Royal Alcázars in Seville (Reales Alcázares de Sevilla), which is the oldest Royal palace in Europe, has been chosen as the main venue for the filming of Series 5 of the Game of Thrones.  The Alcázar, originally a Moorish fortress, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, and the palace is one of the best remaining examples of mudéjar architecture.  (Filming will take place from 14th – 22nd October 2014).

Mercury's Pool in the Alcazar gardens, Seville

Mercury’s Pool in the Alcazar gardens, Seville.

 

Gold ceiling of the Ambassador's Hall, Seville Alcazar

Gold ceiling of the Ambassador’s Hall, inside the Alcazar of Seville.

It has also been confirmed that filming will take place within the historic town of Osuna, in Seville province – the origins of which date back three thousand years.

Whilst the exact locations of all filming within Andalucía for the Water Gardens of Dorne is still being kept secret, it’s understood that the Alcázar of Córdoba, the Alhambra Palace in Granada and the Alcázar of Málaga have yet to be completely ruled out.

This is good news for Andalucía with a boost to the economy in the region of €80 million euros, creating around 900 permanent and 5000 temporary jobs, as well as a growth in tourism to the area.

EDITED TO ADD: The Spanish producer chosen by US TV network, HBO, for the filming of ‘Game of Thrones’, has just issued a casting call for Series 5.   Interested persons should register with the following email address:

castingjuegodetronos@gmail.com

At this stage, specific characteristics for actors have not been announced – but hey – GO FOR IT! 

Which location would be your choice?  Would you like to be an extra in Game of Thrones?

 

CBBH Photo Challenge: FLOWERS

Stephanotis - waxy flowers and delicate perfume I was surprised to see that I had never used the flower theme for the CBBH Photo Challenge before, because I take so many photos of plants, trees and flowers.  So, I thought I would remedy that situation by sharing with you some of the flowers that grow here in my garden in southern Spain, at different times of the year.

The first photo (above) is a waxy-flowered stephanotis, which creeps along my fence and gives off a delicate fragrance.

I sometimes find it difficult to photograph the purple agapanthus, as they flower at the end of long stems, so I got in close for these shots.  I like the effect of the first photo, in particular, but what do you think? First almond blossom in Andalucia, 2014 Here is a photo of the first delicate blossom on one of our 47 almond trees, in January this year. wild orchid….and these beautiful wild Butterfly Orchids also make their appearance each year, heralding the arrival of Springtime in Andalucía.  Raindrops on purple flower I’m a huge fan of the colour purple, so this plant is a favourite of mine, and it was only thanks to some of my readers that I finally found out its name.  Hardenbergia comptoniana, a native of Australia, is a vigorous climbing plant and the arching flowers look so beautiful after the rain.

So, I’ve shown you mine – now it’s YOUR turn to show me YOURS!

Don’t forget that the CBBH Photo Challenge is a little different from some other challenges, in two ways. First, it’s only once a month – giving you lots of time to consider your entry before the end of the calendar month. Second, and most important, this is a BLOG HOP (after all, it is the CBBH – Conejo Blanco Blog Hop, conejo blanco means white rabbit in Spanish), so DON’T FORGET that in your post you need to add links to two blogs that you have visited and commented on during the past month.

That way, when we visit each other, we can HOP OVER to your links, connect with others and share a little blog love around!

CBBH Blog Hop

My Featured Blog Links for this month:

*** Travel writer Annie Bennett spends most of her time Mooching around Spain, researching articles for national newspapers and magazines, but often just sitting in cafés, reading the paper and drinking wine.  Not only does Annie love writing about her travels, she also loves writing about food.  So, if you want to know where in Lanzarote you can buy the best cheeseor exactly where you can find a traditional shop in Menorca that sells everything horse-related, then Annie is your woman!

*** Another blogger I always enjoy visiting is Tamara at A Foot in Two Campos who, two years ago, bought a beautiful old house in the village of Colmenar, in Málaga province.  She had me worried for a while when she admitted in one of her blog posts to stalking me – but fortunately, what she meant was that she was inspired to visit three places that I had blogged about!  Tamara has thrown herself into village life in Colmenar and also into learning Spanish.  Indeed, at the end of each of her blog posts she discusses a particular language point, which always proves helpful.

Please HOP over and say HELLO to both of these ladies, and tell them Marianne sent you!

So that´s the CBBH Photo Challenge for July, everyone.

Remember, all you have to do is post your entry by the end of the month, tag your entry ‘CBBH Photo Challenge’, link back to this blog and, most importantly, don´t forget to add links to any two blogs that you´ve commented on during the past month, so that we can all HOP OVER and have a look.

Make sure you follow this blog so you don´t miss next month’s exciting challenge!

For more information on how the CBBH Photo Challenge works click here.

I hope everyone taking part enjoys the exposure the CBBH Photo Challenge offers to featured blogs and, who knows, you may end up finding a new favourite!

I´m looking forward to seeing your interpretations.

 

[CBBH logo Image credit: (cc) Mostly Dans]

 

River Walk up the Rio Chillar, Nerja


Chilling at the River Chillar, Nerja
One of the best ways to cool down on a hot summer´s day is to take a walk along the Rio Chillar from Nerja.  Unusually for Andalucía, this route is most suitable for walking during June, July and August, as there is plenty of shade, plus the river to keep you cool.

The scenery is spectacular and there are birds, butterflies, dragonflies, wild flowers, grasses and even sugar canes to be spotted along the way.  If you’re really lucky, you might even catch sight of a mountain goat.

This is a very popular walk for visitors and locals alike, and can get quite busy, especially at weekends.

As you progress, you will criss-cross the river many times until eventually you have no option but to wade through the water.  The riverbed is very stony, sometimes with pebbles and often with boulders, which can make your feet sore after a couple of hours walking – so don’t wear flip-flops or they will float away in the water.

As you walk, the current is flowing towards you from the mountains, so at times you will need to take care not to slip on the wet (and sometimes mossy) river boulders.  This is where a walking stick might prove handy.

Eventually you will reach a very narrow section of the gorge where you can touch both sides at the same time.  Here is where you will encounter the first set of rapids (cahorras), which are easily negotiated with care, and where there are knee-deep pools in places.  You will become aware of the roaring sound of the river.

A little further on, the gorge widens out again, and there are plenty of places to eat a picnic and take a cool swim in one of the natural pools, filled with crystal clear water.

The river walk up the Rio Chillar is suitable for families as children love splashing in and out of the water.   Click here to read the account of a family who negotiated this walk with three young children.

Don’t worry about getting lost on the river walk, as you just follow the river bed and, because you return the way you came, you can make the walk shorter if you want to.  We walked up at a strolling pace, past the narrow gorges, had a swim in the pool, stopping a couple of times along the way and returned to the cement factory in under 4 hours.  

The river walk continues on past where we stopped, until eventually you reach a dam, where there is a series of refreshing waterfalls for you to bathe beneath.

MY TIP: Go earlier in the morning and take a picnic lunch to enjoy by one of the pools.

Word of warning

DO NOT attempt this walk if there is a forecast of rain or there have been recent storms.  The narrow gorges (barely six feet wide in places) roar with flash floods during bad weather.  Take a mobile telephone, though I’m not sure how strong a signal would be, and tell someone where you are going and when you expect to get back.

What to wear

It’s best to wear shorts or, at the very least, something you don’t mind getting wet.

You should wear strong, comfortable walking shoes or trainers to protect your feet and ankles as often you will be wading somewhere between ankle and knee-deep in water, particularly when negotiating the gorges.

What to take

Sunscreen, a hat and plenty of water.   A stout walking stick will prove useful, too.   You might also like to take a towel, swimwear, camera and a picnic.

How to get there

On foot: You can walk down to the river bed from just behind the bus station on Avenida de Pescia in Nerja.  At the roundabout near the bus station, walk to the end of Calle de Joaquín Herrera and follow the path down to the river.  Google map here. 

You will then need to walk up towards the cement factory, always keeping the river on your left, past gardens, avocado groves, builder’s yards, caves and fincas.  Eventually the valley begins to narrow and you can begin to really enjoy the beauty of the pine trees on the steep slopes of the Sierra Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama National Park.  

By car:  If you want to save a couple of kilometres by taking your car to the start of the river walk, drive east along Avenida de Pescia from the bus station, towards Maro.  At the roundabout go straight ahead – you will see Iranzo supermarket on your right and, a little further on, Nerja Health centre (Centro de Salud) on your left.  At the next roundabout (which is signed to Burriana beach to the right), turn left (inland) onto Calle Julio Romero.   After two hundred metres or so, bear right onto Avenida la Constitución and follow this road as it climbs uphill.   A little further along, where the road forks, stay on Avenida la Constritución which is to the right.  

Look out for two large electricity pylons on top of concrete blocks on your left, and you should turn left here, between the pylons onto Calle Mirto.

 On your right there a large, free car park where you can leave your car whilst you do the river walk.

You can drive closer to the start of the river walk (though parking is more restricted and there is a danger of being towed away and fined if you park in the wrong place).  If you want to park closer to the river  – drive past the row of houses on your left and continue until you see a fork in the road.  Take the right fork towards the mountains, and follow the newly concreted road which slopes downwards and underneath the motorway bridge.   Google map here

Motorway bridge over Rio Chillar, Nerja

Soon after you drive underneath the motorway bridge, there is a large lay-by on your right with parking for 6-8 cars.  After this, the track becomes narrower and more stony, but you can keep driving until you reach the end of this track, just before the old, abandoned cement factory on your right.  

Official car park at Rio Chillar, Nerja

Can you see the abandoned trainers hanging from the wire, above the gates?

This is also where the official car park is, with parking for 63 cars (at a cost of €1).  As you can see, when we visited yesterday (27th June 2014) the car park was locked, and judging by the weeds around the gate, hasn’t been used for some time.   Perhaps this car park is only open in August – I don’t know.  There is another large lay-by (with parking for 10 cars) just outside these gates, where we parked our car.  

I wouldn’t recommend you abandoning your vehicle just anywhere at the side of the track down here (other than the two lay-bys I have mentioned) as they are likely to be towed away at a cost to you of between €100 and €600 euros.  You have been warned!

This is one of my favourite walks in the Axarquía.  Where do YOU love to walk?