One week into our ‘retreat’ and, somehow, we find ourselves in the Lake District of the South, but without the lakes. The same rounded mountains, sparsely covered with straggly vegetation, separated by lush valleys (only these ones have citrus groves in them) with distant views of a succcession of hills. The same endless paths criss crossing the terrain, with signposts almost non existant. Even the same lowering mist, appearing out of nowhere, although thankfully this is restricted to the higher ground.
We’ve managed to get lost every time we’ve ventured out and we’re continually finding ourselves backtracking. Once we walked a mile in what we thought was the right direction, returned the way we had come when we realised it wasn’t, and then went back agan when it turned out we had been right after all.
So far the weather has been perfect, with glorious sunny days that are never too hot and cool nights that are never too cold. We have a fireplace but there’s been no need to light a fire, yet.
This afternoon, hurrying down a snaking path past a ruined Cortijo with a staved in roof, wafting the Dog Dazer at a insistent hound, we were accosted by a toothless worthy who insisted we were going the wrong way. He wrenched the map from my hands, and perused it upside down with a frown, before ushering us into his lair with much sucking in of air through his gums.
The interior of his abode was fetid to a degree, but politeness prevented us rushing away, particularly as he might have been right about our faulty sense of direction, and we needed to know where to go, as there was only one bus back down the valley, which went in less than an hour..
His inner sanctum, into which we were shepharded, was bizarre. It had a wildly sloping concrete floor, so to stay standing was hard work. Perhaps this was deliberate, as he kept gesturing for me to sit, as Mama had already done, on one of the twenty four variously sized wickerwork chairs that lined three of the walls. The fourth wall, where our friend had ensconsed himself, in a coner seat, with, I noticed, a huge flagon of rose and a half empty glass, was covered with a mosaic of photos of ‘walkers’ in various attitudes of innebriation or merriment, all of which showed our ‘host’ in the forefront, his single yellow fang gleaming prominnatly.
Alongside these photos were some hand printed notices alluding to the necesssity to make a donation to this brigand in grateful acknowledgment of his hospitality. Looking from his mottled face, past his stained jerkin and his open flies, to the dirty wine glasses he was about to bring forth, I was put in mind of Evelyn Waugh’s story of the man in South America who befriended a traveller and became so enamoured of his manner of reading Dickens to him at night he refused to let him go. That was, the visitor was free to go, but didn’t know the way, and every time he tried to escape, locals brought him back, believing they were helping him.
If this toothles rascal had had an oubliette under his sloping concrete floor in which to whisk those hapless victims sitting on his wickerwork chairs, I wouldn’t have been at all surpised. As it was, he accepted our departure without too much complaint
Our bikes are essentially even more useless than they would be in the Lakes, given the hair raising ascents and descents, both by road and track. I’ve unpacked them, but we’ve yet to venture anywhere beyond our access road. I even managed to get a puncture going that far – every other plant seems to have a thorn attached. Added to which, the front wheel of the Rudge appears to have got buckled in transit and the derailleur is playing up. If it doesn’t pull itself together, I’m thinking of removing the good bits and jettisoning the carcass here.
For me, the highlight of our days has got to be the prevalance of pomegranate trees bordering the fields, with their lush fruit hanging at just the right height for a long arm to snake out and twist off. For some reason, these fruit are considered commercially worthless, and most of them crack open on the trees, dropping their scarlet seeds on the ground; so we don’t feel too bad about helpng ourselves.
The cave is okay, as two room hovels go.