JOHN WELLER | PHOTOGRAPHY

Río Tajo

The crystalline waters of the Río Tajo call to us as we arrive at Camping Serradora, a couple of Spanish kms from Peralejos de las Truchas. 

Excitedly, we follow the tiny path upstream away from the campsite. Chameleon-like, the river constantly changes shape and form. Here she is shallow, rocky and energetic.

Now full of rushes, narrowing and widening until at sunset, we find our spot.  Deep, calm, green and magical, edged by reeds, surrounded by tall poplars. Pairs of metallic-blue, black-winged dragon-flies flitter and hover above the water.

This place is set apart from the world, a doorway into another, more beautiful dimension. Insects buzz and time is frozen.

No one in sight, cares, woes and clothes are flung on to the riverbank. We dive hastily into the cold pool. Gasping and shrieking, we surface, endorphins exploding through our brains and bodies. Estamos vivos. We are alive. Every nerve buzzing and tingling, electrically charged. We swim to the opposite bank and back, our strokes quickening as the cold water nibbles at our limbs.

Breathless and ungraceful, we clamber back on to the riverbank to tingle as we warm ourselves under the last rays of the compassionate sun. As addicts must chase the ecstasy of their first thrill, we dive in to the river again and again until the light finally fades. Grinning with almost post-coital bliss, we trail back to the campsite.

Later that evening in the bar, I chat to some intrepid-looking campers. They give me a tip-off about another natural river pool with a cave and a huge rock to jump from, balm to the ears of my wild at heart son. I guess that’s what we’re doing tomorrow.

We turn yet another corner of the steep, narrow mountain track. Between the trees and dark undergrowth, we glimpse the enchanted cave. The Tajo, deep and green, meanders through the stone corridor. Our up-too-early-in-the-morning mood melts as quickly as a spring mist.

We spend a happy morning jumping and diving (ever more daringly) into the pool beneath the yawning mouth of the cave. In all the time we are here not a single car drives past.

The Río Tajo is where my love of wild swimming in Spain first began. Visiting my mum’s tiny rural village in the middle of Guadalajara during the fiestas one hot summer, we hear mention of a watering hole called El Puente de San Pedro. We drive up and down, up and down, crazy narrow country tracks and terrifying winding mountain roads, our hearts firmly in our mouths.

Our efforts are rewarded with a refreshing swim in the deep, crystal-clear pool at a bend in the Río Tajo. We picnic on bread, olives and chorizo. Our once ravenous bellies now full, we snooze on huge flat boulders, shaded from the intense afternoon sun by tall pine trees.

Here, as in hundreds of Spanish rivers, creative locals have built a low weir across the river, producing a magnificent piscina natural. No charge, no rules, no whistling lifeguards.

Take back control and responsibility for your own life. Indulge in some heavy petting. Relax and play in wonderful surroundings with like-minded people. Walk up or downstream a few hundred metres and do it alone. Fantastic.


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