A Spring Tour of IAT Spain
On March 29, the day after participating in the official launch of IAT Portugal at Naturtejo Geopark, IAT Chairperson Paul Wylezol and IAT Spain President Ruth Hernandez crossed the Ebro River into Extremadura to take a three day tour of IAT Spain.
From there they traveled a short distance to Alcántara, where the world's largest Roman bridge at 194m long and 71m high, crosses the Tagus River
at the eastern end of the 25,088 hectare Tagus International Nature Park.
Alcántara is derived from the Arabic word al-QanTarah, meaning "the bridge". It was conquered by the North Africa Moors in the 8th century and ruled until their expulsion five centuries later. Other sites include the 16th century San Benito Monastery,
who did an excellent job showing us the local sights along the IAT, including the man-made Alcántara Reservoir
and nearby rock quarry swimming pool.
Leaving Alcántara, the IAT meanders across a pastoral landscape
until it reaches the small town of Guadalupe, nestled in a valley on the eastern side of the Sierra de las Villuercas.
The town's claim to fame is the Royal Monastery of Santa Maria de Guadalupe, a Roman Catholic monastery established in the 13th century after a local shepherd discovered a statue of the Virgin Mary reputedly hidden by Christian inhabitants during the Moorish invasion of 714.
The monastery and statue played an important role in the discovery of America, as it was here in 1492 that Queen Isabelle of Castille prayed for guidance and signed documents financing Christopher Columbus' first voyage of discovery, and here that Columbus returned to give thanks to the Virgin Mary, namesake of his ship the Santa Maria.
Travel writer María Ángeles Fernández joined Paul and Ruth on a tour of the monastery
(l-r) María Ángeles Fernández, Ruth Hernandez and Paul Wylezol
before meeting Spanish geologist Con Elisa Bravo, an early supporter of the IAT in Las Villuecas
and visiting nearby Alba Taruta Hostel, an official IAT Spain accommodation.
(l-r) Ruth Hernandez, Alba Taruta owner/operator Maria Isabel Jorge Sánchez and Paul Wylezol
It is here that IAT hikers can rest after a trek across the Sierra de las Villuercas, Spain's Appalachian Mountains.
This region is also an important part of Villuercas-Ibores-Jara Geopark
and Geovilluercas Association President Jose Antonio Montero, his wife Marisé and daughter Jara provided an easier jeep ride view from the top of Risco de la Villuerca.
(left to right, on top of Risco de la Villuerca) IAT Spain Vice-President Rocío Sánchez, Marisé and Jara Montero, Ruth Hernandez, Jose Antonio Montero and Paul Wylezol
From Guadalupe, the next Geopark stop was Cueva Chiquita o de Álvarez, a pre-historic cave painting site at Cañamero, Cáceres.
The cave is located in an idyllic tree-lined valley often traveled by Queen Isabella on her pilgrimage to Guadalupe.
From there the tour continued across pastoral spring landscapes in bloom
to the final destination of Logrosán Mines.
(l-r) María Ángeles Fernández, Annie Wentzell and Ruth Hernandez at Minas de Logrosán
The nearly 300 year-old phosphorus mine was closed for 60 years before being restored and opened as one of 44 geosites of Villuercas-Ibores-Jara GeoPark.
Paul with Logrosán Mines Guide María Paz Dorado
It is on the route of IAT Spain and provides an interesting opportunity for hikers and tourists to learn about the geological heritage of Extremadura.
And there you have it, from Alcántara to Cáceres, Logrosán and Guadalupe,