Tales of the Lecrin Valley

A personal view of life in an andalusian village.

It really is a labour of love, or at least devotion, to get up to the hermitage, El Cristo del Zapato, above Pinos del Valle, here in the Lecrin Valley. But needs must and my rapidly expanding waistline won Carmen´s argument so a decision was made. We had heard of the lightning/thunderbolt strike a few weeks earlier (hear it we certainly did and what´s more it put all communications in the valley out of action for three days,) so we packed water and camera and set off. At the start of the track we met Isabella who gave us yet another story about the legend of the “Christ of the Shoe” to add to the three we had already heard, so bemused we set off.

Isabella giving Ron intructions

Isabella giving Ron intructions

The full title of the hermitage

Full title of the hermitage

It is a steep climb up to the hermitage, through pine trees and with ever increasing views across the valley to the Beznar reservoir and the Sierra Nevada. The track is a series of hairpin bends and when we were there there were flowers in abundance.
It is a fairly stiff climb but eventually we came in sight of the hermitage and were able to see the damage.

I´m too old and fat for this

I´m too old and fat for this

Carmen showing her youth

Carmen showing her youth

Unfortunately the camera ran out of juice just as we approached so I can´t show you any photos, but I have linked to some on the Internet. But take my word for it, I have seen less damage from a missile strike. The concrete staircase had been blown away, the iron railings lying below, twisted and charred. At one stage there was a hole in the concrete where the stairs had been and as we clambered up past this we saw that the whole roof had been blown off and that the metal steeple was lying on the floor behind the chapel, the centre section blown apart. It was sobering to see nature´s force at work and we sat a while, contemplating, before we set off back down to Pinos del Valle. I hate walking downhill, my poor old knees play up terribly these days, but we were soon on the terrace of the Bar Venecia enjoying a shandy or two before setting off home for lunch.

I have been told that there is a fund to restore the hermitage and the people of Pinos seem keen to get the work done. They are thanking their lucky stars that the chapel and not Pinos that was struck and take this as an omen.

I have also picked up a sequence from YouTube if anyone is too lazy to climb up and see for themselves.

How is it that with the supposed crisis there are still optimists who are opening businesses? I am glad they are as we had a great night out last week in a newly opened restaurant, Cortijo la Matanza, in the fields between La Zubia and Granada.

The menu was a welcome change from the normal rustic fare offered by most restaurants and the balmy night made the four-hour meal a real pleasure. With my nephew in from UK and the numerous members of Carmen´s family down from Asturias the whole evening/night (we left at two in the morning) was a delight with hoots of laughter rending the darkness. I hope many more businesses start up in the near future as this is exactly what people need to cheer them up at the moment.

It has been a weird week in the Lecrin Valley, the weather alternating between cloudy and rainy and blistering heat. Yesterday was over 40ºC when we got into the car and yet it was raining on Monday. It is the normal type of rain, full of sand carried across from the African deserts and specially designed to make your car and your washing on the line filthy. But it does mean that summer is here. After all the rain we had over the winter, the reservoir is full to the brim and the snow-melt is still allowing the rivers to run with some force, particularly in the Rio Durcal. It has been a bad year for hayfever sufferers as the rains have produced a massive flowering on the olive trees. I am still taking pills as this year I have suffered for the first time. It is not unusual to see people in Granada city walking around with face masks on to protect themselves.

A view across the valley from one of our houses

A view across the valley from one of our houses

After a hectic eleven days driving around the desert towns of Morocco we are back in the oh-so-verdant Lecrin Valley. It is easy to see why the Moors so loved Andalucia and called the Lecrin Valley the Valley of Happiness.

If I had been born and bred in the desert I too would think I had arrived in Paradise if I landed up here. The water is still gushing along the Rio Durcal with the final snow-melt from the Sierra Nevada and the lake is fuller than I have ever seen it, almost to Restabal.

Looking for fossils we found Berber children

Looking for fossils we found Berber children

The larger lake on the way to the coast is filling up rapidly too, and the motorway from the valley to the coast has finally opened, making it an easy twenty minute drive down to the sea for sundowners of an evening.

The orange blossom has now gone to be replaced by small green globes which will ripen into a vibrant orange in November, ready for the picking season from January to April. But at the moment they fall into the pool, alter the ph level and clog up the automatic pool cleaner that we have. We are getting cherries from the Alpujarras in the shops at the moment and they are deep red and juicy.

So, all in all, we are glad to be back but thoroughly enjoyed our time away, especially seeing how similar Morocco and this part of Andalucia are, except for the desert, or course.

Camel pool waiting for customers

Camel pool waiting for customers

In fact, it was hard to politely keep quiet when someone was explaining what an acequia was or how the walls of the houses were made of mud, when I have fallen in more acequias than I care to remember and remember Antoñita taking fifteen hours to clean my house after we had a door put in my two-feet thick lounge wall, filling the house with dust from the original mud which over the centuries had dried like stone.

We started our Moroccan holiday in Marrakesh in a lovely riad, then Idriss Alaoui our driver/guide arrived to take us off into the hinterland. We crossed the Middle Atlas and headed for Ouzazarte where we passed a very pleasant evening, and the next day headed off to Erfud which was Idriss’  home town and from there into the dunes near Zagora. We rode camels into the dunes and stayed the night in an arab tent (khaima), getting up at sparrers to see the sun rise.

Idris trying to sell Carmen someone else´s rug

Idris trying to sell Carmen someone else´s rug

Dawn at our camp in the desert

Dawn at our camp in the desert

From there we followed the Draa Valley to the end of the tarmac, where a sign gave the instructions, Timbuctoo 52 days.

We saw just about every kasbah in the country and ate tajine at every possible opportunity, delighting in the taste of the vegetables which had been grown without the assistance of chemicals and tasted just like I remember in my youth.

Then it was back to Marrakesh for three nights in the same riad as before, La Maison Arabe, very relaxing and with Carmen only demanding the mornings in the souq and allowing the afternoons to visit the hotel´s garden and orchards in a walled enclosure in the countryside outside the city. It had a pool and bar and classrooms for learning how to cook authentic Moroccan dishes. Now Carmen wants a garden like it, albeit it must have half a dozen gardeners to maintain it, and my back is beginning to twinge already.