At last I had the opportunity of testing my brand new Kodak Pixpro AZ525 around the Villuercas-Ibores- Jara Geopark. As I am a newcomer in photography, this kind of camera “bridge” – halfway between compact and reflex- fits perfectly with my needs because enables me to practise easily with a wide range of functions (manual, automatic and Wi-Fi connection). The best of all is its price, significantly lower than the same category you can find of Canon and Nikon.
First stop, The Ibor River. I lost count the number of photos I took by focusing and defocusing. I really loved it. Focusing allow you to obtain powerful and meaningful photos, big deal better than pics with just good composition (Pic 1). Getting good results is easier with the 52x optical zoom of my camera. However, it was disappointing when I attempted the “silk effect”, which means getting the water to look misty and smooth. (Pic 2) It was impossible. A tripod is needed among others settings. I´ll keep on trying!
The following photos were taken with the automatic functions “Black and White” (pic3), the “Image color option” which emphasizes one color of the scene (Pic 4), the “Landscape mode” (pic 5) and the function “water reflections” (Pic 6)
Finally, drinking a refreshing beer at one of the bars in Castañar, in which the time seems to stand still – both for its pieces of furniture and the regulars – was the best way to finish our photography trip. Good drink, company and the Rolling Stones sounding in the radio was a good end before falling back into monotony of our day to day in the city.
On the table: one glass of crianza red wine “Carabal” and one plate full of pieces of cheese and slices of ham. It was what I encountered going into the front-yard of my grandfather´s house during my last visit to Alía. Nothing is better than being with family.
That moment led me to write this post to explain My Geopark Villuercas-Ibores-Jara is not only an ideal place to go hiking, look for fossils and enjoy its landscapes, but it is also an area to delight a wide range of excellent local wines.
These products have been advertised very heavily by the Government of Extremadura. Both commercials ” The Ribera del Guadiana wine route” and “The cheese route” are two examples of an intensive advertising campaign quite well developed. These videos were produced by a friend of mine, the sole owner of A.S. Producciones. The wine route was largely filmed at the Carabal winery, in Alía.
Moreover, the Villuercas-Ibores-Jara Geopark is a source of inspiration. In Berzocana is located “El Brezo rojo“, a comfortable restaurant with innovative dishes created by its chef Pedro Galán. I recommend the sandwich named “El Geoparque” with one big sirloin steak seasoned with a special Ibores cheese salsa. However, if you opt for a filling meal, I would order the roast lamb with honey and couscous. Simply delicious!
Pedro Galán at El Brezo Rojo
Roast lamb with cuscus
By the way, speaking about honey, the following video filmed by my childhood friend Abel Moyano (@AMoyanoPrieto), from Alía, is well worth a minute of your time. I am sure that most of you have never seen the honey being extracted from a beehive.
Nature did a great job in the Spanish region where I live by leaving us ancestral rocks, high mountains, the deepest valleys and a wide range of minerals and fossils. The problem was that nobody had been brave enough to boost and make attractive the outstanding Villuercas-Ibores-Jara landscapes that we have always had before our eyes for thousands of years. Until now.
2011 marked a point of no return. It was when this vast area located in the province of Cáceres was declared “Geopark”. My dreams then came true because I had always been convinced that this zone needed some kind of environmental protection to have a brighter future. The Villuercas county had endured a harmful emigration by the late ´80s. Since then the increasing lack of jobs, due to many factors, has made a deep dent in the local economy. In the aftermath, my family (including myself) and all my friends had to move from Alía whose population plummeted from 5.000 inhabitants to barely 1.000 inhabitants in just one decade.
Nowadays the Villuercas Geopark is both a challenge and a chance. Tourism is predicted to become bread and butter for this area in the coming years overtaking the traditional farming sector. But at the same time, I do believe that those who will guarantee a better future for this often neglected zone in Spain are still at school. The Geopark is playing a central role at the schools of this area. I was fascinated when I visited the Cañamero local school “Fausto Maldonado” where the teachers familiarize the students with terms like “Trilobite“, “cloudina” and “cruziana“. Both students and teachers are crucial to enable this area to remain alive forever.
Without a doubt, having landscapes like “The gorge of the Ruecas river” at just a 10- minutes-walk from the school of Cañamero help the teachers succeed in their educational programs and, on the other hand, discourage the students from leaving their villages.
This place is well worth a visit, so I suggest the following route: