This area of the Spanish Algarve is where huge, mineral laden rivers meet the Atlantic in broad estuaries, bordered by white, sandy beaches.
Grassy dunes and aging pines define the coast in both directions. I was impressed by the infrastructure; with coastal boardwalks, and cycle lanes throughout the coastal park area, so one could spot flamingoes or turtles with minimal impact.
Yet is it sadly just a relatively small stretch of maybe 30km before one hits the awesome, industrialised estuary of Huelva capital. Now this is far from minimal impact – we’re talking about something like Teesside or Grangemouth in the UK. Mining has always been a great source of wealth on the Costa de la Luz and here in Huelva it combines with ship building, petrol chemical units, nuclear power & reprocessing plants and more. Each belching out smoke & pollution into the air or leaching contaminants into the beleaguered Rio Tinto.
It’s remarkable how extraordinarily beautiful and pristine the Doñana National Park to the east of Huelva capital and the beaches to the west still remain; especially when one considers the enormous pressure of this industrial area and the intensive agriculture inland has on the province. For obvious reasons few foreigners make the trip into the industrial city, but I wanted to visit the Monasterio de Rábida – integral in the history of the discovery of the America. Sweeping, elevated motorway lanes whisk you across the flat, wetlands into the city, famous for its
role in Christopher Columbus` voyage. Even if CC may have been Italian or Portuguese, or whatever, and even if he wasn’t truly the first to sail across the Atlantic and discover America, it doesn’t really matter here. The Spanish have well-and-truly got the monopoly on his fame and are realising the value this has in re-positioning Huelva as a tourist destination.
To be honest the only thing I recall about CC is the date 1492, and I wasn’t in the mood to brush up on my “O” level history, but I did find out that this Huelva Monastery is where the Spanish Catholic Kings, in their eagerness to further their political influence, funded Christopher Columbus´ voyage to the Americas (after the Portuguese failed to come up with the cash).This 15th Century Spanish National Monument was built on a peninsula, now framed by industrial units and mining rail tracks. From the window of the ancient salon where the historic, world-changing voyage was planned, one can clearly see the changed view from 500 years ago, as one catches sight of the industrial smokes stacks of Huelva in the distance, across the water. I have to say, I not a great one for museum tours or attentive reading of plaques beside glass cases – more of a general overview type of person. So I spent most of my time in the Monastery enjoying the aesthetics of the sun-dappled courtyards, taking a few photos.