After a while it became clear that we were going in the wrong direction so after consulting the map we turned around and took a road that we had previously missed and suddenly we had found the Embalse de Almendra, a huge cobalt blue reservoir with the waters held back by an enormous concrete dam.
The reservoir behind the dam covers eighty six square kilometres and contains two and a half billion cubic metres of water. The dam itself is more than half a kilometre wide and as a height of two hundred metres and was one of General Franco’s major engineering projects. It was strangely quiet and felt almost abandoned and it clearly had not been working for quite some time because the water levels were so low so I suppose that on account of this there was no real need to have any staff on duty.
I had begun to suspect that this was not the glacial lake that we had been seeking, firstly because we were still in the Province of Salamanca when we should have been in Zamora and then because the lake we were looking for was a natural feature and this one clearly wasn’t. This didn’t really matter because it was serene and beautiful, the sun was shining and the big white clouds reflected in the lake made the sky look the starting line of a sailing boat regatta and the beauty of this place confirmed that behind the ugly concrete coastal strip Spain is a remarkably diverse and stunning country.
The time was getting on now and we were hungry and thirsty so we started on the way back to Ciudad Rodrigo via Trabanca, Vitigudino and Lumbrales but there was nowhere to stop and this was the first time that I can remember that I have driven three hundred kilometres in one day without finding a single shop, café or bar that was open along the way. Just south of Lumrbrales we stopped at the little village of San Felices de Los Gallegos where there was a castle that predictably wasn’t open but there were some nice views across the open fields and a pleasant walk around the sleepy streets and then we returned directly to Ciudad Rodrigo.
We arrived back at about four o’clock and went straight to the bar Arcos and sat at a pavement table with the first beer of the day and a couple of dishes of tapas and then we walked for a while around those parts of the wall we hadn’t seen two days previously and there was a good finish to the day when the wind dropped away completely, the clouds stopped coming in and the sky turned a luxurious late afternoon blue. That night we ate at the Hotel Conde Rodrigo again and enjoyed another fine meal and when we returned to the hotel the sky was clear and punctuated with stars and we were confident of more sun in the morning.
World Heritage Sites (posted June 2009)