There have been many times on this trip where I would really have liked to have pushed David off a cliff or mountain, but this week wasn’t one of them, so he did it voluntarily himself on Tuesday, making his first ever tandem paragliding trip, jumping from some 1,050 metre (3,400 feet).
Algodonales- paragliding mecca
The beautiful village of Algodonales, set on the edge of Sierra de Grazalema is paragliding mecca and the small but very individual campsite we are currently homed on hosts many of the pilots who base themselves here. CIVA is one of the many paragliding businesses based in the area. However,although they run outings for experienced pilots and/or teach paragliding, they do not do fun tandem jumps in general. So, to facilitate this tandem jump a call was made to a nearby experienced tandem jumper, who had the correct size sails or canopies, call them what you will. Obviously for two people they have to be much bigger. Plus, the wind had to be right for any jumps that day and so we sat around on the Tuesday morning, trying to occupy ourselves before we got the thumbs up. By that time, it was 2ish and a substantial breakfast had been had and an even more substantial second breakfast, by David. Oh dear, we thought as they told us to get ready, perhaps that wasn’t the best idea.
As we both made the drive up the mountain to the jump point, both of us were quite nervous, as the road up got higher, higher, more and more twisty, with lots of lovely views coupled with stunning drops to the edge. It was nearly getting to the point where I was about to say, embarrassingly, “stop, I need to be sick!” when we got to the jump point, already busy with experienced jumpers. No instruction had been given on the way up and my worries that morning heightened. “Supposing David breaks something. Who would come and get his body? How would I get Buster back on my own? Perhaps my brother David would come and drive? Where are the wills… am I rich? What songs did he want in the ceremony? Well, at least he made it to 60!“
Relief at the landing bar
These concerns certainly did not fade when David was strapped into the harness and given a brief 5 minutes of instructions before the two of them then made themselves ready and off they went. The basic principle is run towards the edge and away you go, and so it was with my words “Run Fat Boy, Run!” that David took his leap of faith and jumped.
Off they soared from the edge and within seconds they were floating just like a fluttering feather, along with the griffin vultures who showed them the way to the thermals that they then all share. David, of course, absolutely loved it and the pictures of before, during and after bear this out, as did the whoops of enthusiasm and amazement. When I joined him at the landing spot and the mobile bar - always readily in place for the pilots - the deal was completely sealed for David, who was found grinning ear to ear with a beer and a Mars bar in hand!
Not much could top that for David for the rest of the week. We had already done a super-duper cycle on the Monday, where our electric bikes and our legs were really put to the test, cycling to another Bonita Pueblo – Grazalema. Wednesday was spent as a day of ease, before Thursday, which became another stunning and sky fall hike day. Monday saw us do a 52km round trip cycle, climbing over 600 meters, and the hike on Thursday saw a 16km circular walk with again a 600-meter climb on the mountain, opposite where David had made his jump. The path up to the white cross was, although hard, not scary, but the descent down really tested me with very narrow paths, long drops and scrambling over sheer drop scree before we got back to the village for our liquid reward coupled with much deserved tapas.
Grazalema, a hard cycle even with electric bikes
Our Thursday hike
The lake that dominates the landscape in this Sierra
Oops, one slip and a long slide down
So, it was with a sad heart that we left Algodonales on Friday and headed to Jerez, sherry capital of Spain and of course mecca for me. We had been here before on our 2016 Elddis tour, but there wasn’t anywhere for us to park back then and so, when we did the Tio Pepe tour and subsequent bar hop, it was by train from Seville. Now though there is a camper stop just outside the city centre and it was here we made for Friday afternoon, being welcomed by our new hosts with a lovely glass of Oloroso, followed by another glass of Oloroso mixed with Pedro Ximenez before we got Buster and us settled in the secure parking area behind the office and motorhome sales shop.
Buster after his welcome sherry at La Morada del Sur, Camping Club, Jerez
Assuming that we might indulge in more than a couple of sherries on our trip into old Jerez on Saturday, we opted to walk, as it was a simple straight road in. At the moment the orange trees are in blossom and the smell is pervasive - to the point of overwhelming - but nonetheless just stunning.
Everywhere, given it was a Saturday, seemed very quiet and as we got nearer to the town, lovely hotels started to appear and signs for bodegas, but unfortunately, they were all closed, giving a very sad atmosphere to the town that is built on its sherry industry. The centre of Jerez is not cute, more a mix of new and old buildings that do not always sit comfortably with each other, but thankfully the bars and restaurants were open, with locals sitting and enjoying a glass of sherry along with the usual assortment of tapas. With a glass of the amber nectar at only €1, we quickly sat our bums down and made like the locals.
Oh for a glass, Jerez
Over time we have learnt the different words for tripe and of course have avoided it at all costs, but these cunning locals tricked us on Saturday by throwing the chewy delight into the tapa of the day. It could not be disguised by any amount of lovely sherry-based sauce, even coupled with chickpeas and so, after cherry-picking the chickpeas and the sauce, the grisly mess was left. At €3 it wasn’t too expensive a mistake. So many of the dishes around this area involve sherry and it’s usually the sweeter ones making lovely sticky sauces for meat to stew in. David’s other tapa of pork cheek was no exception which along with my boquerones saved the tripe disaster.
The tripe has gone, thankfully
Today, Sunday, we made another forage into town and with some of my birthday money I invested in a slighter dearer, more unusual bottle of sherry to have when we get back to the UK, only some 5 weeks away from today. We cycled in today, but still managed to have a few sherries before heading back. Plu,s we found the true sherry bars called tabancos, originally a fusion of words “estanco” (small shops where goods such as wine were sold) and “tabaco” (tobacco in Spanish). These places still have and maintain a rustic charm and, especially at the moment, where there are no tourists to taint the full-on Spanish atmosphere, and it was in one of these today that we found and enjoyed flamenco, complete with a lovely, aged, toothless Spanish old boy shouting and tapping in time to the music and dancing. It was a lovely afternoon, the tapa and sherry from the barrel were delightful, with our tab being chalked on the counter. Of course, the accountant part of me had to keep a continual eye on the running total… old habits die hard!
Tabancos el Pasaje, Jerez
Artichokes drizzled with Pedro Ximenez sauce
Traditional flamenco at Tabanco el Pasaje
For the remainder of the five weeks, we will continue to concentrate on this delightfully stunning south-west corner of Andalusia, which for the moment is still the only area we can move around in, due to the dreaded Coronavirus, and like so many places the signs of its destruction become more and more evident.
For a sherry lover like me, I do so hope that Jerez makes a comeback, for sherry is a drink on the decline in the popularity stakes, the young here drinking their G&Ts, with whisky and coke also being very popular. So, folks when you’re doing your weekly shop online, think of Jerez and add a bottle of lovely dry Fino to your list. Afterall, sherry isn’t just for Christmas (or the trifle)!