Clothes, both clean and dirty alike were shoved into sail bags as we packed with anticipation for our two-week adventure to Spain. After a delicious last lunch from our beloved cook Lily, we boarded our coach ready for our new adventure. After a few hours, we stopped to gorge ourselves on a mixture of delicious Spanish foods and good old-fashioned road trip snacks. As the sun set, we started to head up the mountainside, our huge bus lurching from side to side as we snaked our way up the winding roads. At 10 pm, a mere nine hours after we left, we finally made it to the UNEDCO Pavilion, our new home. That first night all we saw was our pillows, but the next morning we awoke to the stunning beauty of the Spanish country side. Our first breakfast was still in darkness but as we gathered for our daily morning muster, the sun started to peak its head over the mountainside, smiling down upon our drowsy faces. Our dorm is located on the top of the hill overlooking the beautiful valley of Algodonales Spain, and the nearby town of La Muela. A large area located just north of the Strait of Gibraltar, Algodonales is of the southern most points of Europe, and a breeding ground for a vulture community that roams the sky day and night. Along with the vultures, paragliders roam the skies every evening taking advantage of the ever present warm air.
This unexpected pit stop marks the first step in our journey towards the equator and into the southern hemispheres hot summers. Since school is located on the side of the mountain and not in our beautiful tall ship, one thing is for sure, a lot of time on our hands. All this extra free time gives us time to explore the beautiful landscape that surrounds us. On the second day David, the local guide, took us on an informative hike teaching us about the fascinating history of the mountains. He told us about the literal cave people who survived here for thousands of years and showed us fossilized rocks of the critters who lived here in the Jurassic age. At one point during the hike he looked down and picked up what seemed like an innocent rock at first but turned out to be a fossil of some thousand-year-old vertebrate. Besides hiking there is a wide range of activities for us to choose from like swimming, sunbathing, coloring and everyone’s favorite, napping.
Students walk down the path from the dorms to the classrooms on a beautiful morning at the UNEDCO center.
After our first few days in the mountains we got the opportunity to go canyoneering, something truly unique to the area. A short drive through the cresting hills and we arrived at the top of an exhilarating cliff face. Our first step was harnessing up. Then we started our trek down the cliff side and into the dried river-bed below. In this area of Spain many of the rivers dry up in the summer and fall leaving behind silky smooth rocks worn down by the endless pressure of the winter streams. After a short trek that consisted of a few repels down the sides of rock faces, we arrived at a truly gargantuan cave where we stopped to admire the view and of course snack on our Nutella sandwiches and fresh apples. After our lunch we continued through the canyon until we reached the beginning of a bubbling brook. There we refilled our water bottles with fresh spring water and soaked our tired feet. The rest of our journey consisted of wading through water, chin deep at some points, with our backpacks balanced over our heads. We finished the day wet and exhausted but truly happy, exuberant smiles plastered on each of our faces.
The next morning, we rose and tumbled into another bus, this time headed for the beautiful city of Sevilla. We arrived with no idea what to expect or what to do. After our port speech from our fearless leader Drew, we split into groups of four to explore the town. Many of us headed for the downtown walking district and discovered a variety of beautiful parks and historical sights, most notably the Plaza de Espana. A courtyard surrounded by murals to commemorate each of Spain’s cities, the plaza is a stunning example of the mixture of history and beauty that the city has to offer. After our day roaming the city we grouped together again to experience another facet of Spanish culture, Flamenco dancing. We were treated to balcony seats and a delicious four-course dinner as the performers shook and tapped in the way only Flamenco dancers can.
The Plaza de Espana in downtown Sevilla.
As our engine continued to be fixed in Lisbon, our adventure here at the UNEDCO center continued. Another five days of classes passed before we were blessed with another day of port programming, this time it being caving and exploring the city of La Ronda. After another bus ride, yes you heard that right we all piled into a bus again, we stopped at what first glance seemed like a dusty parking lot. However, a brief stroll down that road led us to an overlook of the beautiful canyon face and our destination, the cave. After our walk down the steep face we stopped for a relaxing lunch in the pleasant darkness. Our meal concluded and we headed to the “Cueva del Gato” which translates to the cave of the cat. Instead of entering the cave, this time we just swam in the crystal clear lake near its entrance. Believe it or not our day was not over as we headed to the cliff side town of La Ronda. There, our trustee guide David gave us a tour of the breathtaking views and historical landmarks. As the sun began to set we boarded our coach and headed back to our mountain home. Just another day in the south of Spain for the Class Afloat crew.
The crew ventures down the canyon side trail.
- written by Klaus, an English 12 student