Walking on water

I’ve done and seen some wonderful things down the years, but I never had any thought that I could walk on water!  For one thing, I’ve never worn a halo.  Water wings would be more useful.  Nevertheless, last Saturday I found myself joining a queue to walk across the River Guadiana- a distance of approximately 720 metres- from Alcoutim, on the Portuguese side, to Sanlucar de Guadiana, in Spain.

Alcoutim is normally a sleepy little place and, over on the far shore, the enticing white village of Sanlucar is even quieter. If you have any desire to cross the river, you first have to summon a ferryman, who may or may not be located somewhere near his craft, but will always greet you with a friendly smile.  Not so on this occasion.  The ‘Festival do Contrabando’ was in full swing and, even as I walked down towards the river, I could hear the hubbub of the crowd.

Entertainment was in full swing, with a feisty matador swinging his cape at a ‘burro’ as the band played on, and the crowd cheered as clay pots were hurled through the air and skilfully caught.

This was not the Alcoutim I knew!  I eased through the crowd to the ‘ticket office’, where I purchased the mandatory bandana, for my admission fee of 1 euro.  I joined the queue to cross the river, wondering at what rakish angle I should wear it, and why some were wearing red ones when the vast majority were blue, like mine.  Just then the washer ladies arrived, and I was scolded gently and treated to a rub with scented soap.  I obviously wasn’t clean enough to join the party.

Slowly the queue shuffled forward, controlled by customs officers, of course.  The red bandana folk caught the ferry.  Maybe they had a pressing engagement in Spain.  I followed the washerwomen, laughing and calling out to each other as they flounced ahead.  The moment finally arrived and I stepped out onto the pontoon, trying not to look concerned as it wobbled.  What a bizarre sensation!  The river lapped gently all around me and I rolled slowly with its motion.  Gasps and giggles came from my partners in crime, as we staggered towards the middle of the river, not quite believing in what was happening.

Fortunately it was a calm day.  I think I might have felt a little seasick otherwise.  As it was I had assumed the rolling gait of the mariner by the time I reached dry land.  And a huge smile split my face.  I had walked on water!

Over in Sanlucar de Guadiana the antics continued.  Flamenco, involving the crowd and a very attractive ram.  A good time for all was guaranteed.  I wended my way past wondrous craft stalls to a quiet corner where I could survey the scene.

A mooch among the stalls and it was time to join the ever growing queue to return to the other side.  A few clouds had rolled in and there was talk of storms brewing, but fortunately the weather stayed clear and dry all weekend.  One last look back, and I’m home.

For a fuller account, including the story of the ‘last smuggler’, all of 97 years old, read Becky’s An unusual walk into Spain.  That’s it from me, as my son arrives tonight.  I’ll be back with a walk on Monday, 15th April.  Take good care till then!

97 comments

  1. Really enjoyed this festive fun, Jo, with the washerwomen, the matador, the crazy pontoon ride, and the lively scenes of Spain. Thanks so much, and have fun with your son.

    1. The weather is pretty mixed unfortunately. The long awaited rain ☔ but it’s lovely to be together. Footie on the beach yesterday. Lego today 😍🍸🌷💕

  2. What an experience beautifully written and photographed. I love that first shot, and the rocky one near the beginning particularly. However, where’s a photo of you bandannaed? A curious convention of washerwomen. No surprise that you can walk on water!

    1. You’re not supposed to be here! After Easter you said 🙂 🙂 I’m just recuperating from football on the beach and a late supper. He is an adorable child, and is snoring in a tent on our landing, while Mum and James cavort about town 🙂 Me? Not the done thing! Mick wore his boy scout style 🙂 Hugs, sweetheart!

      1. Sounds as if you’re having great fun. I know it’s not after Easter, but for once internet at Joe’s is OK. We’re just clearing the decks to go out – bushwalk, swim, shop (him) and gallery (me)

  3. When I read your title, I was curious about how one walks on water. That was quite the experience. I know the feeling, as many “floating docks” exist in marinas throughout the world. During the eight years we were sailing, we often had to step on them when leaving our dinghy and reaching land. It was the “middle step” between our floating car and sturdy land. Yet, a longer walk would certainly have me seasick!

    Enjoy your son’s visit. It will be fun to show them around and enjoy familiar faces. I like it that you live so close to Spain as well!

    1. Yes, of course, Liesbet, you would be familiar with the sensation. Us landlubbers, not so much 🙂 🙂 The weather hasn’t been very kind but they need a break from their stressful UK life, and it’s so good to see them.

    1. I can’t answer that in technical terms, Gilly, but deep enough to let quite big boats through, and well over your head! 🙂 🙂 The river is tidal but this far up stream you don’t notice a lot of difference. You’d have loved it, lass! And thank you- they’re here 🙂 🙂 🙂

  4. I love the costumes, Jo, and in particular, the hats! Once again I’m taken with the wonderful opportunity you have to blend with another beautiful culture. How exciting! And for your heart and soul, a wonderful visit with your son. Enjoy! Of course you WILL!

    1. Ah, thanks for spotting my deliberate error, Alison! I shall nip back and change it. I finished this in a bit of a hurry because yesterday was hectic, and didn’t pay enough attention. 🙂 🙂 It was a great day!

  5. As I said to Becky, the idea of simply walking from one country to another is so amazing. We have to fly at least three hours to reach another country. This day looks like so much fun for everyone. I would probably enjoy visiting both villages when they were quiet too though. Have a wonderful time with your son and his family.

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