Sounds rather a mouthful doesn’t it? We meandered down from Vejer, the hill town where we are staying, and drove east, to Tarifa. As we neared Tarifa we saw flocks of kites dancing against the blue sky, always exciting for us as our middle son has been a kiter from about the age of ten. He designs kite board graphics now, as well as getting in the water for example kiting from Moruya Heads to our beach now and then … when he appears through the trees all smiles and comes in for a snack.
Tarifa is a kite boarding centre, with excellent conditions for kiters. We saw about sixty people on the water today, and the wind was still picking up when we left.
We parked near the harbour, where a big ferry was coming in, and another going out, carefully picking their way through the narrow channels. Ferries go directly to Tangiers. Stuart said it was the first time he had actually seen Africa, gazing across the straights of Gibraltar to the mountains on the African shore.
Here is the harbour, and below a ferry going out …. you can see it only takes 35 minutes to Tangiers!
The old walls of Tarifa date from about 900AD …. here are people looking out to sea, and an old canon which with the city walls must have formed part of the defenses once upon a time. It is possible the word tariff derives from Tarifa which was the first port in history to charge merchants for the use of its docks.
After a leisurely stroll, a rooibos tea, and some sketching we moved on to find a bird observatory back along the road. It gave us a chance to look at flowers and the general terrain, as well as gaining a good overview of the coastline.
El Bujao the bird observatory was a small display and shelter overlooking the coast. Stone pines and fabulous rocky hills rose up above the road, so we trekked up for a while, enjoying being out of a town and back on unpaved ground!
Our next stop (not counting wildflower stops) was the old Roman town of Baelo Claudia. Much to our astonishment a fairly complete town still remains on the shore, where it was for 500 years a thriving fishing port. Excavations have revealed extensive structures, beautiful artifacts, and the story of a life beginning about the second century BC.
Tuna were caught using nets, and a fish salting industry grew up, which included a very valuable fish sauce, no doubt only used by the wealthy throughout the Empire. Baelo gained the status of a city in the second century AD, being in a strategic position on the Straits of Gibraltar. See the fish salting vats above.
Baelo had everything required of a Roman city, including a lavish theatre, with nine different entries used according to wealth and status of the visitors. It really is quite level, making use of the natural slope of the ground … not tilting as I obviously was!
Moving away from the sea there were the fish handling areas, then the forum, then an area of shops, and right at the top,of the slope, in line with the theatre, were the temples. This view is looking down slope over the temple site. We were hungry by now, being almost 3pm, so we drove on to Barbate for a tuna meal.
There is an obvious pride in their local tuna, still caught in traditional ways that have been passed on for a few thousand years at least.
Along with an old watchtower, Barbate boasts a giant tuna sculpture on the foreshore. Can you see how strong the wind is? I am sure those kite surfers were having a really great day!