From the Gorge near Madrid we headed South towards a place called Orce to meet up with a fellow Syncro owner and Campervan Culture subscriber Dave, we nickname him Dave the Cave, makes perfect sense as he lives in a cave but more on that later.
The journey was smooth and interesting, passing through many beautiful and mountainous regions as we knocked mile upon mile off of the journey.
We finally arrived in Orce in the early evening just after dark. Dave had said it would be difficult to find his house (no surprise there really) but he had previously sent us his address which Alan had put into his Sat Nav. Unsure as to whether the Sat Nav would actually manage to get us to Dave’s actual address we decided it would be worth a go, so we set off into the hills from Orce.
Twenty minutes later we had arrived where the Sat Nav suggested Dave’s house was, but it didn’t look much like a cave. We gave him a quick phone call and found that we weren’t in the right place, we were close but not close enough. Now that Dave knew we we’re nearby he said he’d keep an eye out for us on the road and after about 5 minutes a man leapt from the darkness out into the beams of our headlights wearing a Campervan Culture Difflock T-shirt!
We did some quick hello’s on the road and set off for Dave’s cave. One dusty dirt track later we pulled up outside and were warmly welcomed into Dave and Carole’s gorgeous dwelling. The houses in and around Orce were originally ancient farm workers homes carved into the hillside. But when the water dried up in the valley everyone left in search of better working and living conditions. Since then the cave houses have been gradually bought up by people wanting something a little bit different from the norm for a home or holiday accommodation.
The idea of someone living in a cave conjures up all manner of images in your minds eye, but none of which would probably be close to the reality of these houses. From the outside they have an almost ‘Hobbit’ house feel to them in that they are a fairly normal looking house frontage, however all the rest of the property disappears into the hillside. Inside they are cosy, warm and very welcoming. Barely a straight line is to be found with the render on the walls gently smoothed into arched ceilings, original features such as a large bread oven carved into wall of what is now the bathroom (originally the kitchen in times gone by).
Carole had prepared us a delicious feast of chicken and chorizo paella ready for when we arrived so we all sat down for the meal and swapped stories of the local area for our account of the ferry crossing over to spain. Amongst these stories was talk of a place nearby called Castril and a spectacular walk that follows a deep gorge along the path of the river that formed it.
With full stomachs and after probably a few too many Rioja’s we all left for our respective beds with thoughts of what the next day would bring.
The next morning, once the sun was up it was possible to see everything in the area surrounding us. Once again whatever it was that we might have imagined wouldn’t have come close to the reality of it. There are literally hundreds of cave style dwellings in the area, all blending subtly into the landscape with only the chimneys giving away their locations.
The town of Orce is also a stunning place with it’s large and very impressive church, well kept castle ruins and unspoiled streets with people going about their daily business. We happened to arrive on market day which provided a good mornings worth of meandering and perusing of all the produce on offer, later we headed to Galera to have a look around the most densely populated area of cave houses. There’s barely a piece of hillside without some form of house built into it, every inch of the rock faces seem to have a house frontage.
Castril is positioned just on the edge of the Parque Natural Serras de Carzorla and was our place to visit. Dave took us to a walk along a gorge that he had been to many times, he asked if we were all good with heights before we set off so we wondered what was in store for us when we arrived.
The heights weren’t too bad, but we could still see why he asked. An elevated boardwalk along the cliff walls of the first half a kilometer or so of the trail, providing a stunning aspect to the steep sided gorge carved from the rock by the river below.
Further along a small suspension bridge has been built and tunnels have been carved through the rock face to enable the path to continue following the river as it winds it’s way along the valley floor.
After a good wander around we made our way back to Orce to get some dinner on, sort out a few maintenance niggles with the vans and hide away from the cold night by Dave’s toasty wood burner.