Tuesday 11 June 2013
Our host, José, kindly agreed to look after a bag full of our winter clothes and non-essential accessories until we returned to Madrid in July. This allowed us to lighten our packs a little. We then caught a fast train from Madrid via Guadelajara to Zaragoza, which is the capital of the state of Aragon. We sped along a flat plain with a rim of distant mountains, past low scrub growing in orange-brown soil. It looked like limestone country whose bones were gradually being exposed under that pale blue sky (so different to the deep blue we see in Australia). It was 25°C when we left Madrid, but this rose to 29°C on the outskirts of Zaragoza.
At 300 km/h we took in only the basic facts of the landscape: wind farms; towns full of low buildings with orange terracotta roofs; undulating hills with low-lying areas under cultivation; ruined farmhouses with crumbling walls and collapsed roofs; stunning vistas that burst suddenly into view, revealing layers of stony country rimmed by low, eroded mountains and pocked with ruined fortresses, where the view is uninterrupted for hundreds of kilometres and the horizontal levels of the limestone deposits are visible like a grid that anchors the landscape to the earth’s magnetic field; winding roads of pale gravel; orchards of twisted fruit trees; fields of long grass that shine like velvet where the wind ripples through them; shadows of the clouds on the hillsides; rocky outcrops with pine forests; villages nestled into the elbow of a winding row of hills; ancient sea floors tilted by techtonic forces of unimaginably slow and relentless momentum, and a hundred kilometres of a mountain range that has been eroded down to something that looks from a distance like a table top draped in bone-coloured cloth.