In San Sebastian, I was impressed by the unperturbed runners, walkers, bikers and even swimmers who all just went on in the pouring rain. My Spanish teacher said: ‘We always carry an umbrella and our bathing suit. If we would mind the rain we would never get out. It always rains here.’
But Basque Country was so far the only part of Spain where it rained. Large parts of Spain enjoyed unusual snow two weeks ago. The TV networks forgot about politics in Cataluña and only broadcasted ‘snow news’ all evening: children, not going to school, mavericks skiing in a street, some car accidents and traffic jams and an old farmer stuck in his house high up in the mountains.
After the Pyrenees, in Rioja, Castilla Y Leon and the Extremadura, water was the biggest issue.
I was obviously aware of the water scarcity in the south of Spain before my trip. In fact it determined my destination. It was not only the SAI Platform project in Huelva. A few years back, I visited a potato grower in the south of the Netherlands, who had started to irrigate his potatoes. In the Netherlands, of all places! During a few months in the summer, his sandy soils could no longer count on the rain nor absorb it when it came. Lack of water, due to climate change, is a very big constraint for farming. Everywhere.
The last few days I have cycled along lakes and reservoirs with no water. Bridges that cross nothing but land. The river Tagus that goes to Portugal had 15-20 meters less water. And it is winter still. You might expect this in July or August.
The sandy, stony and rocky landscape has little capacity to absorb and contain any water and level out temperatures. The land climate cools the land down rapidly and heats it quickly. I started my rides often when it was freezing and during the day it sometimes became 18 C or more. I am not an expert at this, but imagined that a 'water-body' like a lake, living high carbon containing soils, forests or other perennial plants would do good to places like this. I think it would stabilise and make the environment less harsh in winter, and less hot in summer. But as soon as it is gone, reversing is difficult. (Although not impossible as some recent experiences in China and in Spain prove.)
Coming down south in the region called Extremadura, which to me sounds like ‘extreme hard’, it is actually more liveable and friendly with an abundancy of trees, the river Guadiana and vivid villages. I saw a diversity in agricultural activities, from fruit trees, to grasslands, to cattle, and to wheat, vineyards and olives.
And just now, while I am writing in a small village 'Villafranca de los Barros', the weather is catching up on me: rain, storm, thunder & lightning -like I sometimes had in France- has now reached the south of Spain.
They love it, after the dry autumn and winter! I must admit that I have mixed feelings….(and more so now my whatsapp is swamped with messages from The Netherlands about skating!)