The Catholics are coming to town

The first night’s sleep in the rear of my over packed Toyota MPV was far more comfortable than I expected, however I had somewhat of an unexpected awakening  when a large contingent of Spain’s Guardia Civil ( Spain’s main law enforcement boys and girls, distinguishable by the green uniform, and in former times very dodgy looking hats, (I will post a picture when I find one online) roared into the carpark of the Los Pinos hotel car park where I had decided spend the night aboard an assortment of hefty BMW motorcycles and 4×4’s, and proceeded to surround my vehicle at 6am and bugger off for coffee in the hotel.

About 20 1200 cc bikes and a dozen 4X4’S make a lot of noise, especially in the tranquility of the countryside at 6am, most left there engines running , for god knows what reasons, so I decided crawl out of the sleeping bag,  because if you can’t beat them you may as well join them. The reason for their presence en masse is the annual Romeria or Pilgrimage at the Santuario De La Virgin De La Cabeza, a large opulent Catholic pile, located on top of a hill with commanding views over the National Park. This holy shindig is attended by 600,000 devout worshippers, of which a fair few see it as a great excuse for a seriously large picnic and consuming event by both young and old. Judging by the amount of trucks, camper vans, caravans, heavily decorated farm tractors pulling traditional gypsy like wagons decorated from wheels to roof with all manner of cloth and kitsch hangings, religious artifacts and flowers, including amps and  speakers the WHO would be proud to use at their concerts, this was going to be a fiesta, the Guardia civil were going to have their hands full.

Spain, like many european countries at present is on a high state of alert, for reasons you are already aware of. So while breakfasting with the dozens who rudely woke me from my much needed slumber, I asked about their concerns for an event like this, where over half a million people were gathered for a religious event, and if they had any concerns about a terrorist attack. They did, and they were  doing more than just thinking about it as I found out late yesterday afternoon as I went for a drive to the Jandula river to scout filming locations.

One has to cross the bridge across the Jandula river before heading up the winding road to the Virgin de la Cabeza, and at the roundabout before the bridge the Guardia and the National police had set up a road block, with the largest toughest looking officers i have ever seen, and all armed to the teeth with an assortment of firearms your average gun nut would get an erection over. I passed with flying colours, but some were not so lucky and were made to empty the entire contents of their vehicles. I later found out their is rampant illegal hunting here due to the high population of wild boar and red deer in the region, so how they missed the stag with 16 point Antlers sticking out of my sunroof and the big wild boar with his seat belt on in the passenger seat of my Toyota mpv, ONLY GOD KNOWS, and if I ever get up to the Santuario de la Virgin De La Cabeza, I won’t forget to ask him.

Stories and Footage From The Natural World