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Saga Pearl II blog - Captains' blogs

11th May, 2018

Well, when is our seemingly endless string of exotic port visits due to end? Certainly not today at least, as we find ourselves approaching a port that’s new to me and many others on board, located in the extreme south-west corner of Spain on the river Odiel.

About 5 miles upstream of the river we located our berth which, being a rare port for cruise ships to call into, is normally a parking spot for a ferry. It served us perfectly though and we snuggled into it at 09:00, whilst the locals had erected a nice marquee on the quayside to act as a cruise terminal. The sun shone brightly as our passengers finished their breakfasts before wandering off to explore. Immediately ahead of the ship on the river banks lay a few miles of golden sandy beach with not a single person on it, and at the end a very pleasant looking marina.

If Huelva didn’t appeal, then tours today offered a range of other experiences – including a day trip to the fabulous city of Seville. If you weren’t a city person, then what about a trip to UNESCO listed Donana National Park – famed for its European & African bird life, as well as housing El Rocio village, a popular pilgrimage destination. There was also a wine-tasting trip, a train ride along the Rio Tinto mines, and a journey back in time through the Columbus Route – a trip through the many of spots he apparently visited before setting off out west in 1492.

I did not have enough time to embark on any of the above unfortunately due to some Captainey tasks taking priority, however I did find an hour or so to set off on a bicycle after my lunch. I followed the route out of the port and onto a main road hoping to find Huelva, before meeting the ship’s baker coming back on a bicycle from the other direction. A brief discussion led to the conclusion that I was actually heading in the opposite direction to Huelva, but instead to a nice village called Mazagon – which was apparently worth a visit. After about 5 miles I arrived in Mazagon, which was indeed a pleasant, sleepy seaside village.

Heading on to the coast from the village I found the golden sandy beach and locked my bicycle against a post before heading for a wade in the sea. It was at about this time I remembered that I had neglected to put on any sun cream before departing on my excursion. I therefore decided to take a short cut back towards the ship, before any semblance of a cooked lobster came about from the colour of my face, by cutting through an estate of holiday homes & apartments on the waterfront.

This was a bizarre experience and my first true encounter of Spain’s sufferance of the recession some 10 years ago. The first part of the estate I came across was fully completed, with many of the villas and apartments looking lived-in, or at least completed. Then I moved onto partly completed houses, or fully completed but since deserted properties, before finally coming across hundreds of overgrown plots where work had never begun. There lay miles of perfectly-paved roads to nowhere. Bus stops, parking spaces, street lamps, tourist maps and street signs…but nothing at all built around them, just overgrown shrubbery and weeds growing wherever they could on the paved surfaces. It was a strange sight indeed.

I wound my way along cycle tracks back to the ship just before my face suffered too much sun, and before long we were sailing back down the river, leaving Spain for the final time this cruise. Next stop: Portugal…

Captain Kim Tanner

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