The International Appalachian Trail is growing in Europe. The newest addition is a chapter in Spain, Sendero Internacional de los Apalaches – SIA, to be established formally next month.
IAT Maine Chapter members Don Hudson, Thomas Urquhart and Robert Marvinney traveled to the Iberian Peninsula between March 16th and 26th to meet with our Spanish counterparts in this endeavor. At the same time they took the opportunity to meet with geologists in Portugal (Lisbon) and Morocco (Rabat).
IAT Spain’s coordinator, Ruth Hernandez Paredes, has identified the mountainous province of Extremadura as the place for SIA to begin. Working with colleagues from the Geopark Villuercas – Ibores – Jara, Ruth organized two days of meetings in Castanar de Ibor and Guadalupe. These villages are in the heart of Extremadura and are among the many villages through which the proposed Spanish link of the IAT will pass.
On Friday, March 18th, a host of dignitaries greeted the Maine delegation at a Geopark information center in Castanar de Ibor. As well as the president of the Association GeoVilluercas, Jose Antonio Montero Garcia, they included Ana Maria Parralejo Sanchez, Director of Tourism for Extremadura, the Member of Parliament for the region, the Mayors of Castanar de Ibor, and two neighboring villages. Also present were a number of men and women involved in the region’s eco-tourism.
The official program included a brief presentation on the IAT by Don Hudson, speeches by Association president Jose Antonio Montero Garcia, the Mayor of Castanar de Ibor Ana Irala Vidal, and Tourism Director Parralejo. After a tour of the center and lunch, the group traveled to the tallest mountain in the region, Pico Villuerca, to view the landscape and mark the coming of the IAT to Spain with a photograph at the summit. Nestled in a valley below us was Mirabel Palace, from which it is said Queen Isabella sent Columbus on his voyage of discovery, a fitting juxtaposition.