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Archive for March, 2008

Sorry for the delay in posting the second part, my internet connection has been playing the Okey Kokey with me and only tonight, with it blowing a TORNADO OUT THERE is it working !………..

So here is the rest of the story :

Arriving at the top of the world, which is what it felt like, we first went into the tourist shop.

I have lived here long enough to know that they all shut at 2pm and I didn’t want to be sitting around AFTER our trip into the cave for an extra hour waiting for it to possibly not re-open that afternoon being as it was a Saturday ….So we went in and tiddled about a bit, the boys buying revolting slimey snakes and lizards; me buying some great maps of the Sierra Subbética for our Guest House (http://www.casa-la-celada.com/), and killing a bit of time on a “this is what it’s like to see like a bat” simulator.

And then we walked the last stretch up the hill with views stretching far and wide, and finally went in ….

Part of a group of 40, we were guided by Carmen who told us right from the outset that the microclimate of the caves was considered to be the most important thing to preserve, and as such we would be turning lights ‘off’ behind us as we descended, and ‘on’ in front of us – so anyone who thought they may have an attack of claustrophobia etc should definitely LEAVE NOW! We all agreed we would carry on. And from here on, this blog gets a bit educational …

The cave has been well visited by international and Spanish archaeologists. They have stated now that it was certainly inhabited as a home dating back 6,500 years to Neolithic man and the Stone Age. They have even discovered the skeleton of a woman, whom they named Marie Pili after the Spanish Saint Pilar, who was found far down in the darkest profundity of the cave, in a position that indicated that she had gone down there by choice and had died there, rather than had fallen and become stuck. It’s hard to believe, as once you got past the first cave ‘room’, the entirety of this intricate and complicated interconnection of systems would have been absolutely pitch black, as we are talking about times long before the discovery of fire. Archaeologists did think to excavate Marie Pili from her silent and dark grave, petrified as she was after so many years, but it was soon realised that to even begin to attempt to cut her remains out of the rocks into which she had now become a part would more than certainly destroy her. So instead they took photographs of her, and have chosen, rightly in my opinion, to leave her where she chose to die. It was quite humbling to realise that all the while, this woman, in her forties they think, had been rummaging around in the depths of this cave – her feet must have known and felt every crevice and cranny to have felt able to traverse what was a very dangerous passage.

We were shown the “larder” – again an extraordinary journey to get to it – however it turned out that this particular cave “room” which is not open to the public had an access point at the top from above land. In fact, so large was the “hole”, that Neolithic man covered the hole in order to create a natural trap for unsuspecting animals passing by. They are sure that this was its purpose having discovered an immense quantity of bones there that were all fractured, indicating an unexpected fall rather than a deliberate entry into the cave …. Fascinating!

We saw very feint cave paintings of what they suggest could be a type of Ibix or similar long horned goat or deer; and we had the joy of seeing the stalagtites and stalagmites of immense proportions – one of the “mites” growing up to a height exceeding 4 metres! And considering that their estimation is that a “tite” grows down by 1cm per 100 years, and a “mite” grows up by a slower but not dissimilar rate, we calculated (to the amazement of wide eyed children) that it was possibly a million years old …. Older than Granny and Great Granny for sure!

The archaeologists, having spent so much time down there, had found bones – a femur for one, and a jaw of a human child which they estimated had died around the age of 6. On examination and testing, they found the bone absolutely riddled with parasites and bacteria – sufficient to have killed a small child. They also were amazed at the number of human skulls found – more than 70% in total, that had been trepanned – a hole of at least 1-2 inches hacked out at the back of the head after feeding the “recipient” a mixture of anaesthesia-producing leaves – their crude method of “surgery” used to deal with all problems that didn’t go away. What was most fascinating was that the majority of the skulls found showed that the persons who had undergone trepanning continued to live a good few years after – indicated by the bone’s attempts to regrow over the hole. But of the skulls where the bone had not overgrown and was considerably larger? Well it was considered that these were the skulls of the super intelligent people in the caves – and if they died – well, Neolithic man apparently thought that to eat the brains of the intelligent would pass their cleverness on…… ! And the analogy was not lost on the group that now, “we” (not me) eat the brains of sheep and pigs instead …. Doh !!

I loved the shapes within the caves – the way the rock formations have created horse shapes, wild boar, hippopotamii, dwarves …. There was the entire nativity scene in one part of the cave complete with the wise men (los Reyes) and a few cavorting sheep. We saw Caspar the ghost, a dog, and at the very end of the journey the most fabulously ugly witch!

It was well worth the journey – even though it had taken me half an hour longer than I imagined possible – and both children were firing questions at Carmen our guide to clarify issues over Marie Pili particularly! Having returned to the car, we headed back down the craggy mountain to Zuheros town itself for lunch, where I had to send my salad back as the lettuce tasted SO bitter – turned out it was this season´s olive oil which was causing my top lip to curl – and they were kind and gave me a replacement that was “undressed”.

And I found myself talking to a lovely young woman called Kelly – mother of 4 (bowing down at her feet in utter admiration) who moved out here from London 3.5 years ago and settled in Zuheros …. And I think we will stay friends actually, as she was tremendous fun, a great free spirit, and the kind of person that I would enjoy having a laugh with!

And as we felt the need to leave (it now being nearly 6pm and Adrian’s Mum expecting us back here by at the latest 5pm), I decided to “try” a different route back. We were home in 50 minutes!!! It was a fantastic road – Zuheros to Cabra, Cabra to Lucena, and Lucena straight back here! Easy to give anyone directions – especially people staying here who don’t speak the language and are nervous of getting to where they want to get to – so that was a super huge bonus all round.So in Summary ?

A Huge recommendation from me – and we will definitely be going back – either with friends, guests, or just us to enjoy it all over again!

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About living your Dream – you can read it by clicking on the above link …

What do you think?

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I can only say WOW ….

WHAT a fiesta – for a very small village, and I mean SMALL, they really do know how to party …..

Streets lined with the “village girls” all dressed to kill as they did everything they could to stay Too Cool To Move – while secretly drooling over their “macho” who was in the motorbike race …

Children on their bikes doing the same race, but at a fraction of the speed ….

Dancing and Partying til WAY past dawn …

And the Procession – well – that’s a blog in itself ….

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Today, Zack and I are feeling very proud – the SUNDAY MIRROR has written about Casa La Celada – and about Amanda Hamilton’s Art Work !! Does it get any better?

As a result of this wonderful publicity, we are offering a 10% discount to those of you who might be considering a holiday in Andalucia this year …

Bring the Article with you and for a stay of 2 nights or more, 10% stays in your pocket!

Hurry Hurry Hurry !!

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Los Cuevos de Los Murciélagos – Zuheros – Córdoba

WOW!

What a day ….

Saturday saw Zack, myself, and his six year old Spanish friend Adrian packing a picnic and heading off to see the famous Caves of the Bats in Zuheros, Córdoba ……. and being a military family girl, we left the house at 12 noon allowing just under two hours to get there, because I know what these mountain roads can be like and I didn´t want vomiting children yowling in the back seat after the first five minutes …

So I checked the map and chose the most direct route (…..when will I learn…) and set off winding our way from La Celada to Priego de Córdoba, one of the most isolated yet central to the Sierra Subbética mountains villages. After trying to remember how I would direct someone through Priego de Córdoba (duly noting down “turn left at the palm tree, right at the second set of lights” at the same time as driving – for which I would probably get banned but here in Spain the worst that will happen is I get tooted at by the drivers behind me for not accelerating at break neck speed through a heavily peopled village) we found ourselves at the road turning that the map suggested ….. and headed straight over the edge of a cliff … !

By which I mean that the tarmac had been SO Badly joined to the main Priego to Alcaudete road that it had created a “ridge” that was several inches higher than the road we needed to take – I honestly thought I was going to lose the undercarriage … !! Yipes!

Still, not deterred, we carried on – turned right – carried on through amazing scenery, winding around this way and around that way then rounding another bend the sign for Luque – the next village we had to go through – pointed up the mountain track!!! And said 10km beside it!! OH MY GOD!

Smiling to myself while thinking “I HAVE DONE WORSE” and making reassuring Hearty Mother Has Done This Before off we set winding up the dirt road. I was practically kissing the sky for the fact that we have had no rain for several days because the road was clear and dry – if rather lumpy and bumpy – so I started to feel super confident … and then

….Bleugh .

Adrian vomited in the back seat !!

Poor little mite – 6 years old, but managed to find a plastic bag (thank god empty) and yakked up into it! And when I said come on, hop out and walk about a bit, he looked at me as if I was mad !! He was clearly NOT used to anyone giving a monkeys about a bit of sick …. !

So we swapped seats around, put him in the front to take his mind of the lumps and bumps, and soldiered on, getting a bit lost in Luque before finally coming across a sign saying Cuevas de Los Murciélagos! YAY!

So wound our way up the mountain path that clings onto the side of the Zuheros precipice, with breathtaking views, and crows circling with vultures …. and there was the entrance to the Bat Cave …

And this post is TO BE CONTINUED !!!

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