More than just tourism
Learning the land from a Master in Deltebre La Cava
The delta for the Ebro river is a region of southern Catalunya, which is of significant economic, cultural, and traditional importance to the Catalan people. The local folklore and musical traditions trace their roots back hundreds of years to many of the historical tales of the river region ranging from the north of Spain to this delta region. It is a little known region to the outside, but one with great learning potential about eco-tourism in Spain.
The delta region is famous for its rice industry that produces some of the largest quantities of rice in all Europe. This rice, is used both for export and local consumption, but is prized by some to be the jewel of life. I learned this in real-time from my stay in Deltebre.
The master who I am talking about is a man locally known as Delta Polet. He is humble and reserved, but likely the most experienced and knowledgeable person of the delta region. He has been featured in several magazines and newspapers and has also been recorded for his work in the region. I do not believe I have ever seen a more passionate person about their land.
Polet’s pride and joy is teaching people how to live sustainable off of their land by producing their own food by hand. This is evident in his words and actions. This was a true eco-tourism destination that I will never forget.
Polet picked me up the day of our trip, we began our day by visiting a few places involved in the rice producing process to teach me how rice passed from crop to an edible product. The first stop was a place where a group of volunteers live and learn about methods for growing their own food. There, we encountered the group planting some crops and working hard under the hot summer heat. At this same location there is a museum which displays information about the many species of animals and plants found in the delta region and why they are dependent on the delta for life. Much like rain forests are to the interior of continents, deltas are significantly important to eco-systems and coastal animal populations. Without the deltas, we would not have the presence of many species that call it home.
As a continuation of our tour we walked towards the back where Polet showed me a rice grater, small rice pond, and lastly a place for bird watching in the delta. The delta is home to over fifty species of birds including species of ducks and flamingos. This place was starting to remind me of home.
For my timing of visiting the delta, I was lucky that in the small village of Poble Nou there was a group of musicians and dancers learning and singing in traditional Catalan fashion. We made a stop for lunch in Poble Nou and I had the opportunity to see dances and listen to Catalan songs. It was a great experience, but one that I would have missed had my timing been different.
Another one of the interesting stops was to MónNatura Delta de L’Ebre, which is a museum and educational center for visitors to the delta. It was founded in 2012 as a preservation project and it is dedicated to educating people about the traditions, both economical and cultural, of the Ebro delta. On the site, you will be able to see how the Arabs originally made salt as it transformed from water with moderate salinity to high until virtually all the water evaporated and the salt was crystallized. Furthermore, you will have the chance to see traditional boating practices and additionally learn and observe a variety of fish, bird, and plant species in their natural habitat. In one of the buildings there is a short video clip, which teaches you about the four seasons of the delta region and beautifully illustrates the process of cropping rice.
The tour of the arrozal pond
In the afternoon is when the real tour started, the one where I actually got the opportunity to visit a rice pond and plant some rice by hand. The rice ponds, locally known as arrozals, are vast in number and can be very large. We could not start the rice planting, however, without a little good ole’ fashioned fun. I learned how to play a new game. One I have no name for and do not really know how to explain. I call it, bowling the Catalan-Delta way.
After finishing up our game, we jumped feet first into the ponds. Jumping into a rice pond is said to be a surprisingly serene experience. Locals say that it is one of their best kept secrets as the mud found at the bottom of the ponds is good for the skin and massaging to tired feet. People say that for them working in the ponds is an honor and pleasurable at the same time. The mud is extremely soft and free from objects such as sticks or rocks that would not be so pleasant.
Our next objective after enjoying a walk around the pond was to plant the rice in rows. We were each given a small bundle of rice and planted them accordingly based off of the person in front of us. It was a surprisingly easy process, but a rewarding one as well. Although we as visitors would not receive any long-term benefits of the actual rice, learning about the process is one of the most important things. This is important because as Polet puts it, one of the most important things that people need to remember is how to grow food for themselves. This is an art and needs to be maintained.
If you happen to be looking for a different off the beaten path kind of experience in Spain, then perhaps you should consider heading down to Deltebre. It is roughly 2 hours away from Barcelona and there are many other outdoor activities such as kayaking and cycling. Polet will enthusiastically teach you the different flora and fauna, traditions, foods, significance of the delta to the eco system, and most importantly about the importance of maintaining these sustainable traditional practices.
Polet’s company is called Delta Polet. Polet works with his two sons. You can contact them from their website or add them on Facebook. They are also on YouTube and others if you would like to see them in action. They are a family who loves what they do and who does what they love. This is clear in their work of preserving the tradition of planting and cultivating rice by hand.
If you need any advice on how to get to Deltebre La Cava or where to stay, then do not hesitate to contact me.
Have you ever been to Ebro river delta in Catalunya?
**Tags: Deltebre La Cava Spain, Spanish ecotourism**