Chemtrails – a traveller’s bone of contention

CHEM versus CON in The Sky Above

It is rare for us to see vapour trails from aircraft in the mostly clear skies above Perth, Western Australia. Yet, even though we can’t see them, we often hear a jet’s guttural roar as it passes way up high overhead on its way to or from the African or Asian continent.

When we do see a trail, it disperses briefly as a widening arrow only to disappear without trace perhaps a kilometre behind the aircraft. The brevity of the trail’s existence testifies to the fact that the aircraft are leaving behind them nothing more than water vapour from the moist exhaust of the plane’s engines where it meets the extreme cold of the lower stratosphere. Granted we don’t get as much high-altitude traffic as they do in European or USA continental skies, but we are under commercial air traffic lanes.

Jet aircraft

We are heading back to Europe shortly. One of the past, clear memories of our previous summer travel was of thickly layered and criss-crossed aircraft trails dominating what should have been the clear blue summer skies above. Is it a cause for concern? Well, if you are not used to seeing it, it is a mystifying phenomenon to say the least – yet there is an apparent acceptance of this lineal aerial pollution over USA and Europe’s skies.

This could possibly be attributed to a combination of factors: the public’s awareness of constant military and commercial air traffic above those lands: a feeling of helplessness about affecting any change in the situation and: the majority’s assumption that what is trailing behind those aircraft is harmless water vapour – condensation.

Chem Trails

But is it?

Many of you will be aware that there is another school of thought about the source of those trails. Many think that what is seen high above leaving the aircraft is, in fact, a chemical spray. Thus we have a raging (online, mostly) controversy pitting the Chemtrails (chemical trails) protagonists against the Contrails (condensation trails) deriders.

Chem Trails Sunset

A couple of summers ago we spent quite a bit of time in Spain’s Extremadura region; an area where ancient cities have remained largely intact for centuries, uncontaminated by sky-scraper-mania and the region, as a whole, largely un-industrialised.

Caceres Extremadura

From these cities and on our long walks in the surrounding countryside, at that time of the year we should have had, from dawn to dusk, clear, unclouded (as in weather-produced cloud) blue sky.

It was hot; Extremadura is named for its seasonally extreme weather. Each day on our wanderings we would frequently scan the expanse of blue above – as one does – perhaps idly hoping for cooling rain clouds.

What we would see each and every day, however, was a steady tracery of trails being formed in the lower stratosphere. Some, clearly condensation trails, would disappear quite quickly. The majority, though, lingered . . . and lingered. In fact they did not disappear at all, but would slowly spread across the sky to merge with the other questionable trails. In what was a true, cloudless sky, these trails were daily occluding the sun.

We didn’t know whether to be grateful for the shade provided by this occlusion, or to be deeply concerned. I leant towards the latter.

Chem Trails Con Trails

Chemtrail believers (disparagingly labelled Conspiracy theorists) are claiming there is a deliberate spray-dispersal of chemicals from aircraft in the lower stratosphere and many assert there is evidence of this.

Is some ‘interest group’ really playing with the weather or, alternately, chemically tinkering with us mere mortals at ground level? Or is it simply a result of the warm, moist exhaust of the plane’s engines meeting the extremely cold temperatures of the upper atmosphere.

Do nano-particles from these trails slowly fall to earth? Is a mist of chemicals drifting down upon the land, its people and into their waterways? Those trails we were seeing over Extremadura, whatever their source, seemed to merge and drift all day and the way they merged from different levels seemed to indicate some gradual falling. If nothing else, it was gross visual pollution.

The debate rages. Search the internet for Contrails versus Chemtrails and you’ll see what I mean. The jury is out – and likely to remain so if we may judge by the ongoing controversy.

At the heart of the Chemtrail adherents’ argument is suspicion, fear, and a genuine concern for our health, while there seems to be such fervent rebuttal of their case by those who claim it is all harmless condensation that it raises suspicion and amounts, in itself, to a cause for concern.

I don’t anticipate seeing clear, un-streaked skies over Europe’s land masses during our coming travel, but it certainly would be a welcome improvement.


1st July 2015
Fast and Loose

Zaragoza to Cáceres (Extremadura) by Train
Fast? The train from Zaragosa to Madrid – 300km/hr. With wings we may have taken to the air.

Here we go, here we go, here we go-o-o-o-o-o . . .
We’re back in the land of Storks perched up high in nests in improbable places (old chimney stacks, bell towers, power pylons etc.) and Vultures circling high over their prospective dinners.

Strorks in Caceres Spain

Olde, dun-coloured villages nestle neatly against hillsides as we race by. Topped by crumbling castles, each village is overseen by its inevitable church – that medieval connection between elevation (altitude and attitude?), power and defence. The vast and sprawling landscape is broken by tidy hectares of horticulture, the distant mountains sprinkled with slow-turning windfarms: they would have driven Don Quixote insane – wait a minute, he was, wasn’t he?

Hey, but I don’t want to write a travelogue, the day is young and I may yet fall on my face somewhere or spill red wine over some fair Spanish maiden or get food poisoning again.

Having arrived at Madrid’s sprawling and cavernous Atocha central Rail Station we have a two hour wait in its stultifying atmosphere – the whole country is battling a heat-wave. Our anticipated three and a half hour ride is to be at a much more respectable pace, and we are predicted to stop at many small towns en route for Cáceres. This train, too, is the bullet-nosed type so visually evocative of their capabilities. They have comfortable seats with fold-down tables and very effective air conditioning. Ah, joyous, speedy travel.

Who would have thought it . . .
Our train stopped in the small rural station of Villaluenga Yuncler – and stayed there. Two hours later we were off-loaded onto a bus. There was a bushfire somewhere along the line and that was it – the main (and only) line from Madrid was out of action. I told you it was hot, and out here in the plains there was a strong and very hot wind: perfect bushfire conditions. Fortunately, our West Australian arsonists haven’t discovered this place yet or the whole, dry land with all its crops would be up in smoke. Unlike Australia, most of the land is given over to producing food.

Train to Caceres delayed

The bus took us to a station on the other side of the trouble, Torrijos (a pleasant little station), where we boarded yet another train while we waited for the other passengers to be bused over. The carriages were, however, air conditioned and very modern.

There was an unexpected visit from a couple of characters from the Guardia Civil, one looking like a dangerous hoodlum or ‘cyber cop’, as Rachel suggested, with wrap-around sunnies (standard issue), bullet-proof vest and tats around his wrists, but they weren’t after us. However, not long after that bit of excitement we were under way again; this train carefully only hitting speeds of up to 150km/hr.

But we were stopped again, this time to be kept in the dark, so to speak, while we waited-out the delay with much speculation amongst the frustrated passengers, and many mobile calls being made to pre-booked accommodation and awaiting families. The result was that we arrived in Cáceres just after midnight, exactly four hours later than planned – not bad. Before night fell, however, as we glided along we were treated to nature’s low, late-afternoon sun painting the landscape with a gorgeous palette: golden acres of top-harvested grain stalks; broad silver-green swathes of olive groves; purple lavender fields; and the red, tilled soil of this land – what a spectacle. We saw only a little of the distant bush fires’ smoke and flames. The next day, at the rail station in Cáceres when we filled out a reclamation form (for our fares), we learned that the train’s stoppages were due to the firefighters’ instructions – to do with allowing them clear access to the fires. The delay bothered us little, with us finding our hotel in the dark after a long walk, and we were confident the bars would still be open in order for us to assuage our thirst and hunger. Spain is good like that.

Wonder of Wonders
Cherries are being harvested here by the ton, also. Rachel bought a kilo today for the outrageous price of 1.50 Euros/kg, as a ‘room snack’.

Loose? Our travel plans. We seem barely able to plan beyond three days – we live very much ‘in the moment’. It keeps us on our toes and, hopefully, will stave off Alzheimer’s disease.

Now, where was I?

. . . Ah, yes. Our room is very good and good value at 33 Euros per night, but after a quick assessment of the small and ancient city (approx 90,000 pop.) we have extended it already for an additional three nights at 30 Euros per night.

During an initial drink in a suitable-looking bar offering a 10 Euro Menu Del Dia (to ‘test the waters’ you understand) in the Casco Viejo (olde town), we quickly elected to dine there on the results of their free tapa; it was clear we were in gourmet territory – as advertised about this city. This was not an error, the food was superb and their generosity included another appetiser (threatening our appetites) and a post-three-course-meal liquor made from acorns – yes, the acorns that make those black-footed pigs (pata negra) taste so delicious. A full bottle of local wine went with the meal – just like in the old days. Oh dear oh dear – this kind of feasting requires a lot of walking afterwards, but it is so damned hot we will have to leave that till later – if we can last the distance (we are often in bed before the Spanish hit the streets of an evening).

Lunch - Caceres Extremadura

We returned the next day (you see what a little bit of generosity can inspire, given quality product?) and discovered that the vintner of the local wine was the bar’s owner. Having expressed an interest in our enjoying his wine (yes, in Spanish, nobody there spoke English anyway – we’re getting better at it ;)) he explained his wine’s composition and answered my query about the lack of evidence of sulphides therein – he uses absolutely minimal, claiming (amongst other things) that they can cause headaches. Oh yes indeedy, tell me about it! The gentleman grows sixty hectares of Verdello, Palomino Fino, Airen, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes. The food was again delicious and the staff were generous – but to top it off, the owner gave us a bottle each of his house red (tinto) and white. Both are excellent, smooth drinking wines and he was much impressed by Rachel’s claim to find a residual flavour of almonds in the white. Err, I showed some restraint this time, and we didn’t quite finish the bottle of wine that came with the meal.

A typical free tapa

Photogenic olde Cáceres

Below: This church’s whole retablo is carved from cedar wood
Carved retablo - Caceres Spain

And a day trip to Medieval Trujillo

Neolithic Menhirs by the castle
Neolithic Menhirs - Trujillo

Ah, but these are just a tantalising taste from the photos we took – this olde Europe with all its invasions, battles, transplanting of different religions, laws, horticulture and cultures is just incredible to witness, and here in Extremadura , south eastern Spain that history is still palpable, still visible, still tangible. Not a bad trip so far.