Tales of the Lecrin Valley

A personal view of life in an andalusian village.

 

 

I never fail to be amazed by the valley, especially at the changing of the seasons.  It is getting on for autumn now and the oranges are just beginning to change colour from green to a yellowy orange.  It is a little bit early for this but we are enjoying an Indian summer which has lasted for most of the month and looks set fair for another couple of weeks, albeit we had snow on the top of the mountains during a cold snap of a couple of days last week.  I have been remiss, as usual, in my writing, but the introduction of yet another business, this one offering total immersion in English (www.elvalleingles.es)  and with the summer rush of rentals, as well as having our daughter on holidays, I have had no spare time time.

My daughter has now started ‘big school’ at the International School in Almuñecar and this means a twenty-two kilometre drive down to Velez Benaudalla every morning to put her on the school bus which takes her from there to Almuñecar.  All very exciting for her and a chance for her to talk to all her friends during the journey there and back, and to chat with me during our drive down the mountain.  At the moment they have closed the motorway so my usual quiet drive down the old road has become a bit more crowded as all the diverted traffic is using it.  Once I have put her on the bus and had my cup of tea and read the local papers in one of the bars in Velez, I drive sedately back to the valley.  I say sedately as the round trip traverses 4000 feet and this has to be done twice a day.  So, 8000 feet a day, a fair old climb, but that’s what comes from living in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.  The trip down is no strain on the van  as eighteen of the twenty-two kilometres are downhill, but the drive back has the temperature gauge in my battered Kangoo rising as steadily as the road.

The views are stunning.

As I leave Velez I pass waterfalls, caves and stalagmites open to the elements on the cliffs below the town.  The cliffs are covered in all kinds of wild flowers and are stunning, some of them part of a Nazari garden which the public can visit.  As this is near sea level on the Costa Tropical, to my left are plantations of exotic fruits such as mangoes, avocadoand custard fruit, with grape vines and banana trees scattered here and there.  As I start to climb these plantations are replaced by more scrubby un-irrigated hillside with thyme, rosemary, sage and camomile growing with wild abandon, while above them are stands of wild Mediterranean pine trees, releasing a marvellously fresh smell which fills my lungs and senses with what can only be described as joie-de-vivre.  I stopped the other day to take some photos of Rules reservoir, still nearly full even after an exceptionally hot summer, and surprised a wild boar rooting about for tubers above me on the hillside.  I didn’t see him, or her, but it sounded big.  They grow to around one hundred and twenty five kilos  hereabouts and it is extremely unwise to bother them, especially the sows when they have a litter of young with them. They taste delicious.  A little higher and the Sierra Nevada comes into view, the spa town of Lanjaron and the mountainsides of the Alpujarras lit by the morning sun, which gives crystal-clear visibility allowing me to see for tens of kilometres along the southern edge of the mountains as they stretch away towards Almeria.  Our side of the mountains, the western side, means that the prevailing winds from the south west are forced to rise by the eleven thousand feet peaks and the precipitation gives the valley a verdancy which always surprised people expecting Andalucia to be parched and dry.  The eastern side of the mountains above Almeria are indeed parched and there you can still see film sets which were used to film westerns, including the famous Spaghetti Westerns starring Clint Eastwood.

Once past the Rules dam and reservoir the old road parallels the motorway and to the left are three bridges, a stone bridge from the mid 1800’s built using an existing structure, a steel bridge of which I can find no details of but which is still used to service the old main road from Granada to the coast and the new motorway viaduct was opened about five years ago.

Then I get back on to the motorway and pass the Tablate gorge, again with three old bridges next to one another, one of Moorish origin from the 16th century, one from the mid 1800’s and one built at the beginning of this century.  Tablate is now deserted but was the scene of the last big battle between the Moors and the Christians in the 16th century.

The whole drive is fascinating and full of history and fantastic scenery, from tropical orchards to mountain scrub.  The Sierra Nevada mountains are snow-covered from November to May, and during this period the ski-station is open offering great skiing, well above the tree-line and from where, on a clear day, you can see across to Africa and the Rif mountains of Morocco.  I have to remind myself sometimes not to get blasé about where I live and to appreciate anew how lucky I am to be in such a paradise.

 

 

Tablate bridges

Tablate bridges

 

Izbor bridges

Izbor bridges