In search of Don Quixote (Catilla – La Mancha, Spain)

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Mum has been wanting to see the La Mancha windmills of Don Quixote since she was in Spain with my dad in the 1970s. She’s not necessarily a fan of the story of Don Quixote but in the days before internet, she and Dad did try to find the windmills but went to the wrong town. So now we have the internet and Mum downloaded a route that will take us through some cute Don Quixote-related towns.

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Our first stop is Orgaz. It’s our first white Moorish town of the trip. It’s interesting that the Spanish retained this style after the Moors were pushed out in in the late 15th century. I can see why though – it’s pretty.

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Orgaz is guarded by a castle and four entry gates, two of which are still standing. Perhaps Don Quixote came through these gates too (though he might not have been a real person). The gates were probably here during the crusader years so they could tell quite some stories.

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The large church looks almost too big for the size of the village today, indicating that this might have been a more important town in centuries gone past.

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We continue our search in Mora. Mora is more industrial than Orgaz. There are many olive oil factories here and you can see why when you look around: nothing but olive trees. It’s the weekend and the air is filled with the sights and sounds of people relaxing. A man on a tricycle rides in circles around the main square where we sit eating our lunch (Spain is great for cheap eating – just buy some bread, fruit, vegetables and meat anywhere). Across the road boys play soccer; their game looks fairly serious because they even have appointed someone referee.

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Leaving Mora I get us sidetracked because I see a castle on a hill. Actually, I’ve been eyeing off this castle for some kilometers now since it became obvious we were going to drive towards it. A quick right flick of the steering wheel and we’re off the route of Don Quixote and driving towards the castle. There’s a car park near the base of the hill and rabbit trails leading upwards.

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We hike up the hill past rock climbers scaling bolted sport routes. A little further along there’s a window situated about 2m off the ground. We find a route up some rocks and then across a wide gap into the window. A flight of steps leads upwards to a narrow flattish area. There’s more wall so we look inside and find ourselves at the bottom of a deep well. No entry here.

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We scramble a little farther along the castle’s exterior wall until we can go no further. All that’s left to do now is find a way to scramble back down. The drop is actually higher and steeper than it looks in the photos … and the altitude above the plains below adds to the challenge.

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It’s all a bit of adventure really. Something Mum and I tend to find ourselves having when we are someplace together.

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Adventure with a touch of silliness thrown in for good measure.

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We spend at least an hour exploring the castle and its surrounds. It’s a near total ruin but that doesn’t stop me … I am a little castle crazy. It’s easy to see why they built the castle here. It’s a great defensive location with views across the olive grove-clad plains. Naturally, these plains wouldn’t have been olive groves like this in Don Quixote’s day but today mass food production is a reality everywhere.

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Not far from Mora there are two windmills on top of a hill. They are small and quite obviously not the real windmills that Don Quixote fought. But we’re excited to see them because we don’t yet know that these are fakes. Besides, they are cute to see.

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Consuegra calls. It’s late afternoon and we are still only about half an hour drive from Toledo where we started our trek. It’s been that entertaining to take this quest of our own. And then … on top of the hill outside Consuegra … there they are … the windmills Mum has dreamed about for over half her life.

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We drive up the mountain to the lookout and take in the glory of the location. Consuegra sits on one side of the hill and farmland on the other. There’s a castle up here too but it pales to insignificance when compared with the structure and silhouettes of the windmills. One is open to the public for the modest fee of two Euros, for which you also get a bag of flour and either a bottle of water or a chocolate bon bon. I choose the water. We watch as flour is milled in the old way (hence the free bag of flour). The views from the top of the windmill are also interesting. I can imagine that in the days of knights and battle the field behind the ridge would have been the scene of many bloody battle.

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Naturally we need to pose with the Man from La Mancha who we’ve been pursuing all day. We’re finally able to come face-to-face with him and take a modern day selfie.

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With the sun sinking steadily into the west we drive for about two hours to the farm house where we will be staying tonight all the way down in Cazorla. It’s been a wonderful day and I’m starting to see a different side of Spain than I did in Madrid.

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