From the time my two daughters went home, it hasn’t been the best of times. They flew out at the beginning of the month to help me celebrate my birthday. No sooner had they gone than the weather went down hill, finally ending with Storm Gloria. The east coast suffered much worse than the southern shore, but we certainly had our share of rain. Malaga City also had a hail storm which left the streets buried for a short time under a 12 inch depth of ice. In our area the period of poor weather culminated in thirty hours of continuously heavy rain with periods of thunder. But by Sunday morning, it was all over and the skies were blue again.
But bad news came on the same day. Our long-time friend Bob, had been taken into hospital on the Friday. Sadly, they weren’t able to save him.
Bob was a motor caravanner who was about twelve years into retirement. He used to pack up his van and leave the UK at the end of September and slowly make his way southwards, arriving at El Pino in October. He stayed until April, then made his way home again. He did that for several years before making the decision to stay here semi-permanently. He flew back to the UK periodically to attend his medical appointments. Last year, he told me he had just completed his residency application.
I first met him when he stopped at my awning, attracted by the aroma from my oven. A cake I’d been baking was almost finished.. We got chatting and it transpired that he had been a chef before retirement. He offered to demonstrate one of his specialties – a cheese cake. So the following week we set up our kitchen in Graham’s awning, and he gave a demonstration with a tasting the following day. This is Bob in happier times.
With the return of the good weather, on some afternoons I’ve been able to get out on the bike again. One of my favourite rides is along the valley road. It’s a road which leads nowhere but runs for a couple of miles up into the hills, before abruptly becoming dirt roads which follow the contours around the hill sides. The road was built fifteen or so years ago as part of a plan for new housing – but the financial crisis put a stop to it. In Spain, when a new development is planned, the first thing they build is the access roads – which here includes the pavements, street lighting, planting of the verges, parking lay-bys, roundabouts, road markings and even pedestrian crossings. But not a house has ever been built, however it makes a nice ride.
This is the view as I set off down the road.
The field in the valley bottom is planted with potatoes grown under plastic. Soon they will be ready for harvesting. Above, on the tiered slopes, olive trees are growing. The attractive yellow plants growing in the verges are self-sown weeds. The white building on the left with the stark windows is the remains of an 18th Century sugar factory, one of several used to process the sugar cane which was once grown in the low lying areas close to the sea. Across the middle of the picture is the viaduct carrying the A7 motorway from one tunnel to the next. By the time I cycle under the motorway, the altitude has climbed another 300 feet.
At the weekend I thought it was time to have another day out. But where to go? Somewhere new! I looked at my maps and my eye was drawn eastwards towards the Alpujarras – the area on the southern slopes of Sierra Nevada. The village of Trevélez is reputed to be the highest village in Spain. I’ve often thought about going, but never have. I decided to give it a go.
The Alpujarra region consists of fifty-odd villages which around five hundred years ago became the last stronghold of the Spanish Muslims. After King Ferdinand captured Granada in 1492, the Muslims in southern Spain were forced to convert to Christianity. Those who refused took to the hills, settling in this remote and inaccessible area . But even then, they were hounded and eventually driven out of the country. King Phillip II induced 12000 Christian families to move from other parts of Spain to repopulate the villages. Two Muslim families in each village were allowed to stay. Their function being to educate the newcomers in the methods of living a mountain existence.
But back to my journey. The first part was the easy bit. Just a quick sprint along the motorway to Motril. There, I took the old road through the winding Guadalfeo Gorge. After a few miles I’d reached the new Dam & Reservoir. I stopped and got out of the car and went across to stand in roughly the spot where my late wife and I stood more than twenty years ago. At the time we looked far down into the ravine where dozens of ant-like workmen were busily pouring concrete.
Further up the valley we could see roads, orchards, plantations and farmsteads still being worked, and lived in. I remember thinking how sad that in just a couple of years time, several rivers and streams were going to carry the melted snow from the sierras, down to the valley and flood their homes and wash away what was probably their life's work. This is the scene today.
And here is a picture taken around 20 years ago.
From this point I left the comparatively straight roads and took to the twists and turns. As I drove, the dashboard altimeter increased and the temperature began to fall. Finally as I drove into Trevélez, the dashboard showed that I’d reached 4760 feet at a chilly 7C – but lovely and sunny.
The town is built on the side of Mount Mulhacén and is part of the Sierra Nevada Nature Reserve. The main industry in the town is the production of jamón serrano – mountain ham. Fresh hams, having been trimmed and cleaned, are stacked and covered with salt for a couple of weeks to dry and preserve the meat. The salt is then washed off and the hams are hung up to dry for 6 to 18 months. The cold, dry atmosphere of the mountains provide ideal conditions. All along the main street are carniceros, delicatessens and bars offering ham products.
After a while, wandering the main street, looking in the shops, taking pictures and having lunch, it was time to think about the drive home. Several coaches were parked having brought visitors from Granada and Malaga. Since I hadn’t seen any coaches on my drive in, I presumed that the other road was perhaps better. I decided to take it. It was indeed wider but with some fearsome hair-pin bends.
But eventually, I reached a point where I looked down on the Rules Reservoir again and knew that I’d almost reached the motorway.
This blog may be seen with several more pictures HERE