In the Spanish side of the border, hidden amongst soft hills and holm oaks, lies the little village of Paymogo, which is the place where some of my ancestors saw the first light. We stop in this improvable corner of the world and spend a couple of days with an aunt of mine.
The village is small, so one could think that distractions are few, but we are in luck, since it´s mushroom season, so we spend quite some hours walking in the fields, equipped with a long screw driver, searching for the precious goodies that grow under the ground. We proudly get back home with the bounty in the basket. I reckon it´s about a kilo, but the amount increases as my aunt shares the good news with the neighbours. By the way that the whole town seems to be curious of who arrived in the big camper van, so they drop by the house, like a rosary of friendly souls to greet us and tattoo our cheeks with amounts of kisses. Some of them announce themselves as relatives, close or distant, some of them as acquaintances of relatives and some others acknowledge that they are just curious.
This is also the area of the famed black pigs and the true Ibérico ham and we are able to visit one of the little farms where the piggies seem to live happy roaming around.
Mérida traps our imagination with its many remainders of the Roman Empire. Stones that defy time or have built a coalition to get its mercy in exchange of a memory of beauty. The silent stones of the theatre and amphitheater magically evoke the cruel gladiator fights and epic dramatic plays that took place there some couple of thousands years ago.
One can also marvel at the great mosaic and frescos at the digging site of the Mitreo house and many of the other sites.
For the rest, the town peacefully lies next to the Guadiana river, that one can crossed through the impressive Roman bridge.
As the road continues, we get to the town of Caceres, which is a pleasant surprise, as it has a very well preserved 16th century old city. The only clues that times has passed since that century are the modern clothes of the people passing by and the annoying tourist tuk-tuk that crosses our way now and then, for the rest it´s just splendorous friendly stones with the colour of honey.
Our stroll by the city concludes by attending an unexpected street concert, which seems to be a context between two school bands, one local, one from the US.
Also unexpected, but quite spectacular is our visit to the Monfragüe National Park, where we stop almost by chance because we read somewhere that it´s home to the biggest amount of vultures in Western Europe.
Our expectations are low, since we know by experience how tough it is to spot these birds that tend to fly high and far. Not here. We are astonish to contemplate literally a couple of hundreds of vultures flying above our heads. Many of them, very close by. So close that they don´t fit in the frame of our cameras. It´s quite amazing.
Apparently the best preserved area of Mediterranean forest in the world, it´s located between the valleys of the Tajo and Tietar. It has plenty of rock formations, forests and bush areas, next to lakes and streams, that are ideal for the life of not only vultures, but also eagles, owls, black storks that build their nests on the trees or the cliffs. We are only able to spot the vultures and, according to a small group of British bird watchers, an imperial eagle, that flies high and far, and for us is no more than a dot in the sky.