Last Friday I attended a small conference in the beautiful mountain village of Laroya. At the conference were a number of companies working towards sustainable tourism and the idea of the conference was to discuss common ground between us all and how to move forwards, combining strategies and ideas. Although it was a fairly informal affair, the objective was clear.
The day started with a delicious working breakfast followed by presentations of the various companies. Nervously I tried to deliver mine entirely in Spanish but some of the ideas discussed were unfortunately way beyond my knowledge and understanding of the Spanish language and this together with my nervousness, led me to speak in my very own special mix of Spanglish and Gibberish. Fortunately, there were a few bilingual people there and with a little help from my friends, I got by and it all came together in the end.
Lunch was next followed then by a number of discussions about common issues we are all experiencing and then some brainstorming sessions (all in Spanish!) out of which will shortly come some new ideas, so watch this space!
A lot of interesting points came out of this conference and two things were clear and almost stood out as a theme,
- We need to change the way people think if we want them to become more involved in sustainable tourism.
- We need to give people something they can identify with to make our activities more attractive to them.
What then sprung to my tiny little mind was the Geology Museum in London; for a long time this was a place where pieces of rock were being displayed in wooden & glass cabinets under harsh light and even for someone interested in geology, it was a very dull and dry place to go, academia at its worse! These days, the museum features an earthquake simulator, interactive displays and combines the education process with entertainment. For me this stands a good example of how a seemingly dull subject can be made interesting and exciting, the information and subject has not changed, only the way it is presented and therefore perceived. I personally don’t think geology is dull nor do I think our activities here in Almería are dull either, but there is a challenge of how to make a photography experience seem more exciting than say a Wetbike trip to the average holiday maker. So going back to our themes, you can see the mission ahead of us.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept of Sustainable Tourism, there is a good definition on Wikipedia which you can read by clicking here.
The province of Almería is a beautiful place with a unique landscape and the most fantastic light I have ever seen, it is no coincidence that there are many films (movies) made here. There is actually so much for the visitor to see and do but first we have to get them to spend less time on the beaches and stop them throwing beer cans and plastic bags everywhere! This video was made earlier this year and perfectly shows the diversity of the province of Almería.
Laroya is a small municipality in the province of Almería and is situated at an altitude of nearly 1,000 metres. It is made up of a main town and a few scattered dwellings and is located in the Sierra de los Filabres, about 75 kilometers north-ish of the provincial capital, Almería.
A strange event happened in Laroya in 1945. In the summer of that year there were many wildfires that spontaneously combusted and caused a stir in Almería and generally in Spanish society. To date nobody has been able to find a reasonable explanation for the “Fires of Laroya” though of course there have been many theories. On 30 June 1945 experts in different fields filed a report stating:
“The events have not been caused by volcanic activity nor by geological upheavals which led to the release of materials to be ignited by flammable gases. The origin of fire is not in the internal manifestations or ground surface. The cause of these fires cannot be attributed to electrical phenomena or the ionization of the atmosphere, or thermal effects of solar radiation. In short, there is a definite cause to which all the events can be attributed and should be discarded from the outset, that suspicion was caused by human hands.”
Laroya is a beautiful place and well worth a visit, there are some fantastic walks around the town and particularly down into the gorge.
The town and surrounding areas are dotted with olive, pomegranate & apricot trees and the steep hills are speckled with rocky out crops which even I would dare attempt to walk!
If you want to enjoy nature and visit a very traditional Andalucian “white-town” where time stands still, then Laroya is a must. Laroya also claims to have the shortest street in Spain (though this is not it)!
Our host for the weekend was Casas Rurales Picachico, very high quality standard of accommodation with some amazing views of the valley.