Possibly the most surprising sight this week was the many square miles of rice paddies which exist on the Delta de L’Ebre in Southern Catalonia.
Driving towards the estuary port the roads are flanked by them as far as the eye can see, it almost feels as if you have been somehow transported to South-East Asia. It is a major crop of the region however and along wtih the locally produced oysters, mussels, razorfish, eels and other fish can be found in many of the restaurants.
The wetlands of the delta are one of the most important in western Mediterranean and second only to the Camargue in France in size. The 320 square kilometres are also recognised internationally as an important eco-system. A large area of the delta is now a National Park which hosts over 300 birds many of which are migrating between Africa and Northern Europe. Apart from a number of varieties of gulls there are ibis, egrets, grebes and herons which attract keen birdwatchers from all over the globe.
A unique experience is learning the tradtional skills which have been used here for years. Fishing with nets and traps, punting in wooden ‘canoes’ and of course picking the rice in the fields. None of which are easy but there is something strangely therapeutic about getting some squelchy mud between the toes while removing the all important shoots.
A good time to visit is probably early June when a festival is held as the rice is being harvested, spend a day or two ankle deep in the slime and it’s likely that an invite to attend may follow!
More from Catalonia – Touring Barcelona on the Catalan Job