And so to part one of our main reason for being in Spain on this trip. To be fair, we were probably just looking for an excuse to come back and sample some Spanish late summer weather. When we learned that two Dutch friends, former colleagues of Francine, that we hadn’t seen in years had rented a villa inland from Benidorm, about an hour’s drive from us, our excuse was found and we booked our trip.Today, armed with directions from Niek, we set off to find their villa and have lunch with them.
The final instruction was to turn left at kilometre 28 on our target road – Spanish roads are handily marked with yellow kilometre boards, like our old but now seldom seen mileposts. We’d see a sign to “Los Almendros”, Niek had said. We found kilometre 28 on a bend in the road but saw no other immediately there, so we assumed in must be a few yards further on. Wrong! Now I was in to finding somewhere to turn round. The somewhere to turn round turned out to be kilometre 29 on some rough ground.
We retraced our wheel rotations to km 28. There was a rough, unmade track heading off from it and, sure enough, there was a sign to Los Almendros but a much smaller sign than we had been looking for. It’s 800m, said Niek. We bumped and rattled our Fiat rental car along the longest 800m I’ve driven but sure enough, we eventually found a short stretch of concrete (designed to stop the steep part of the rough track washing away in rain) leading to Niek’s black car. [BTW, never buy a black car in a hot, dusty country – it shows dust horrendously and soaks up the heat something horrible. Our rental is dark grey so almost as bad.]
Reunion hugs ensued. t was good to see each other again. We had visited them at their home in the Netherlands to watch their Queens’s Day celebrations. The Dutch love their royal family and the whole country turns orange. Still being August, we’d told them of our alcohol avoidance programme. Bless them, they’d found some alcohol free Cava and had supplies of rather more readily available alcohol-free beer. They were within easy reach (apart from their 800m of rough dirt track) of the huge Carrefour in Benidorm, which is where they’d found the Cava.
With limited rental cooking facilities, our friends put on a splendidly Spanish-style feast. By Spanish-style, I mean that we wandered our way through several modestly sized plates of very varied food: jamon, cheese, prawns, lamb chops, cake, strawberries – sort of tapas like. We spent a very convivial afternoon stone-cold sober.
A couple of wildlife moments interrupted proceedings. Firstly, we heard the distinctive “twang” of Bee-eaters calling over our friends’ off-road valley. It’s amazing how many people are surprised when one recognizes a bird just from its sound. These delightfully colourful but almost impossible to photograph birds are beginning to gather to return to Africa for the winter.
Secondly, a couple of butterflies made Francine rush for my camera (still in the boot of our car) because they looked unusual. They were, indeed, unusual but their behaviour was even more unusual. Two sat on the stone slabs facing each other. If you look at the photograph, one seems to be slightly beneath the front legs of the other. These are Striped Graylings (Hipparchia fidia) and the one on the left kept dipping forwards and down, such that its wings tapped into the those of the other.
I confirmed my identification with a butterfly fan at home and asked about this curious dipping behaviour. His ideas included a territorial dispute, though these are normally aerial fights between butterflies, or a female warding off the advances of an amorous male. Interesting idea, that second one.