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I made plans several weeks ago to go to Cordoba; a city I still haven’t seen despite being so close to where I live, but when another friend proposed a trip to see some waterfalls I packed a bag and grabbed my map marked with our destination. [GPS batteries will inevitably fail].

Accompanying me was my friend, Vanessa, who I met climbing at the Triana bridge  about 5 months ago but hadn’t hung out with much until the last few weeks. We walked out of Sevilla with Vanessa chanting periodic, alternating mix of “getting to know you” and “On the road again” at 430 and started trying to catch rides from an access road behind a gas station that was under construction but the few people passing would just honk and wave. I’m not sure they get the concept anymore but thankfully there a few awesome people in the world. Our first ride, a young guy heading to Alcala de Gaudaira, took us up the road to a gas station that was actually operational.

We go a drink and waited at the entrance to the station and shortly later a Mauritanian [Northwest Africa] guy picked us up. He had never hitched but when his car broke down a few years back he was grateful for the blanket and sandwich that a trucker stopped to give him, changing his attitude about drivers and people in general. He took us into Carmona, where we were heading, and told me to get out and ask  the attendant where to go. I was sketched out with Vanessa still in the front seat and our bags in the back seat. She saw my worry and gave me a sign it was OK. She unbuckled opened the door and sat with one foot out in case she had to make a quick escape.

Luckily nothing of the sort happened and he continued out of his way taking us in towards Lora del Rio, even closer to our destination. unfortunately where he left us wasn’t ideal. wheat fields and farmland  in every direction. I was doubtful about being able to catch a ride but I distracted myself taking photos and video while Vanessa waved down cars.

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About an hour later a car rolled to a stop kicking up a puff of dust. The young Spanish guy said he knew it wasn’t gonna be easy in that spot so he looped around to get us after passing by the first time. He had hitched when he was studying in Scotland. He dropped us just north of Lora del Rio on the edge of town. It was starting to get dark and we still had about half of the 120 km trip ahead of us. getting to the falls at dark would not work so we new it was time to start looking for a place to camp for the night. we kept walking out of town oping for one last car. I saw a guy outside his one room micro farmhouse. I asked him if we could camp in his yard but said it would be complicated but that we should ask at the building across the street.

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Vanessa earlier suggested that we climb the fence and sleep there without permission but after seeing a light on in one of the rooms I was scared. we walked up and just opened the gate, no need to climb. we shouted around to see if the Romanian couple was there or anyone else but there was no one. It was creepy ax murder setting, a semi abandoned, half finished construction site. The neighbor came in behind us a few minutes later and started hollering a name. Evetually a round man with no shirt on came out and greeted us. we simply wanted a place to put up the tarp and roll out our sleeping bags. the guy was not gonna let us do that; he had something better in store. he led us into a padlocked doorway, down a dark hallway. eventually clicking on a light to reveal a living room with couch, a bathroom, a bedroom, not a palace but nice enough, I could make due spending a night for sure. We even had a fridge to get the beer cold.

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We sat down to eat and a few minutes into grubbing a woman walked in and asked us to come join them in their room so we grabbed a few snacks and the bottle of wine. The place was and I guess still is a place for immigrant farm workers to live. It was rundown but it was their place for the time being;ours too. We sat with them sharing wine and conversation. one of the guys, 35, was not schooled for many years and instead opted to work. When things were good, no problems but now Romania is not doing well and nor is Spain so he is planning to leave for London to be with his girlfriend. they had some green tobacco, their neighbors grow the plants and they dry it before the plant is mature. I don’t smoke but they offered it to Vanessa who thought it was pretty strong. though they seemed to have very little they offered us all they could, even a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice. We were exhausted from traveling so we left them be. The temperature was so nice and there were so many stars outside I couldn’t stay indoors; plus we planned a camping trip. So we drug a mattress outside and threw it in the grass and sprawled out in our sleeping bags just in time to catch a shooting star. There were so many stars in the unpolluted sky that it was hard to make out even the most recognizable constellations.

My first use of my sleeping bag proved its warmth though Vanessas borrowed one didn’t. The crowing roosters and rising sun made it hard to stay asleep so we got up to a beautiful rural view and two cups of coffee; this is more than I have got at some hostels. After breakfast and packing we climbed up on the roof for an even better view of our surroundings.

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We wished them well and they us and we crunched our way down the chalky, white, gravel road where we were let out. Vanessa made a sign for Constantina and we set off thumbing. I expected it was going to take us another 3 cars, but Vanessa seemed more optimistic. 10 minutes later a hatchback with three alternative looking guys pulled over. They popped the trunk and Vanessa saw their backpack. “Are you all going to climb?” They said yeah, which got us really excited but we didn’t have our climbing shoes. We were hoping to get to Constantina but when they told us they were heading to Cerro del Hierro we got a huge mood boost. They said we could go with them all the way to their destination, which was a 7 km walk to our destination.

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We hopped out of the car and got to walking, only to stop and fill up our water  and buy some cured meat to take with us. This area is an abandoned iron mining town filled with rundown buildings and rusty structures. A rail company began construction of a line that would run through the town but the company ran out of funds in the 60s and recently the lines were paved over to make a bike/walking path.

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The whole point of the trip was to get away from people and the city but the huge family in front of us on the trail and their yelling kids made it hard to enjoy but eventually we walked past them and found a boy about 7 years old walking alone. He wasn’t scared; he was smart and talkative. Vanessa asked him if he knew English and she started telling us the colors and then asked us about animals in the United States. He was such a well behaved and awesome kid. If I have one can they be like him? in the middle of the kid singing a song in french one of the people in his group interrupted him and they split off in the other direction of the trail.

We, soon after, cut right off, of the solid trail and towards the sound of people having a good time and rushing water.  It felt so nice to first of all set our bags down and second of all have accomplished our goal of making it to the falls. We changed and swam, climbing around on the rocky river to make it to the precipice of a 20 meter cascade, where we watched people below picnic and egg us on [unsuccessfully] to dive. after swimming we sat down to eat and we played a game; think of anything and the other person can ask yes or no questions until they guess it. I chose Lock and she chose Cold.

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There is an official, legal campground but we again wanted nature so we went around exploring areas where we could set up the tarp and camp but everywhere was knee high grass full of prickly plants, really rocky or too angled. Back down by the river I spotted a place that looked like it might work. it wasn’t fluffy grass but it was flat and had two trees just where we needed them so we set our things down and chilled out until it got close enough to dark for people to start clearing out.

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We stayed up talking until we could see each other no more. then i strung a line between some trees to hang the flashlight and we stayed up even longer. eventually we crawled up under our tarp and called it a night taking no time to fall asleep, guarded by the crashing sound of water coming from only a 30 meters away.

We work up to kids playing but we just laid there for a while. before emerging from our cocoons to eat breakfast and pack our bags so we could explore the river and  swim some more. I didn’t actually plan to get in the water again seeing that it had to be about 12 degrees Celsius [50F]  so I was in my normal clothes walking from stone to stone in the shallow parts when I found a cool swimming hole. I hung my shorts and shirt from a tree and jumped in.

Though we could have stayed another day with little food we figured we would start the hike back in case we didn’t make it back to Sevilla  by dark. We trucked our bags up the hill into San Nicolas a speck of a village to realize everything besides one bar, down the other side of the town was closed for the Romeria.

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We got lunch and filled water and made it back to the main road where a young Spanish couple picked us up after a long walk relearning the lyrics to Mercedes Benz again and then singing them over and over.   They had some cool Spanish hip hop on and rarely spoke to one another I tried talking but they really didn’t seem to into conversation  which was OK with us and better that I let the driver pay full attention anyhow. He was flying around the windy roads in the little hatch back, dropping gears and then revving out the engine before up-shifting. He drove like a rally racer, navigating each curve with muscle memory; he had driven the road everyday for the past not sure how many months or years but it showed.  they had to go a different way than us but at least we made it to the half way mark, Lora del Rio.

Back in the city where we spent our first night a mumbly old woman, who saw our sign, pointed us in the direction counter to what the road signs were saying so we just kept heading the signs, making it to the edge of the city where a bridge crossed over the Guadalquiver. At this point we had some shade and could have waited much longer but a silver Mercedez Benz came zooming up. When we opened the door I was blown away by the wrinkly-old -bald-man in-gold-trimmed-aviator’s music choice; Metalica’s Master of Puppets. We had great conversation despite a continuation of the heavy music that to him must not have seemed too loud. It turned out that he was heading back into Sevilla so we made it back to Sevilla in only two cars on Sunday before people were even waking up from their siesta.

After he pulled away Vanessa and I looked at each other with the biggest smiles on our faces i pulled back my hand and we high-fived and had a big hug. I think we both felt on top of the world I know I did all weekend. I think this goes down as my all time favorite trip, but that’s not to say I haven’t had great experiences with all the people  have met along my way. It was just a combination of being spontaneous, cheap [in three days we spent only 20 euros each]  an escape from the city, great company a bit of the unknown, and a bit of illegal activity.

The 110km path we took to get there and back