Donana, El Rocio and Huelva

We drove 2.5 hours from our overnight stop at Sanlucar de Barrameda to end up just a few miles down the coast from where we’d started. That’s the trouble sometimes with National/Natural Parks – no convenient roads! This was the Donana Natural Park….

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We spent a night parked up by the beach at Matalascanas. We went to the visitor centre at Acebuche with the intention of doing the boardwalk trails and seeing what there was to see. Unfortunately the lagoons were well and truly dried up.

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The stork’s nest on the top of the visitor centre was impressive though…

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Whilst in the area, we went to El Rocio and spent a night parked up there. Mark has declared it to be one of the strangest places he’s ever been. Someone he’d been speaking to earlier on our travels had described it as a Wild West Town, but Mark hadn’t known exactly what they’d meant until we got there – sand streets, places to tie up horses outside every house, and so on.

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The place is famous for some mass pilgrimage that happens once a year to visit Our Lady of Rocio, which is a statue of the Virgin Mary in the church supposedly found in a tree trunk in the fifteenth century. I’d kind of expected a miracle or two (or at least a bit of a tear trickling down its face every now and then) to justify a million people showing up annually, but no…. I wonder how it first caught on…. Anyway, we thought we’d better check it out in the church.

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We were in El Rocio on 06 January, which is a Bank Holiday in Spain. At around 6pm, a procession started up so we headed towards the church to check it out. There were about 7 floats pulled by tractors. There was sort of a theme of the 3 kings, with king-like figures throwing footballs and sweets from some of the floats. Having said that, there was also a Spongebob Squarepants float. Presumably he has some sort of modern-day significance in the Catholic Church?

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From El Rocio we continued on to Huelva and parked up for a night by the statue to Christopher Columbus. Mark’s schoolboy sense of humour is slowly coming to terms with the Spanish version of his name – Cristobal Colon.

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We finally crossed into Portugal on Wednesday afternoon and headed to a camp site at Tavira that we actualy have to pay for. Shock Horror! There are washing machines here though, so I’ve emptied the contents of the van into the machines and Mark has set up our 3 miles of washing line. We know how to lower the tone!

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