A mere 40 minute drive from Granada: Moorish ruins, beguiling panoramas, cabras montesas and scrambling galore.
How does one describe the woods ? In Spanish, several expressions come to mind: ’emboscarse’, ‘echarse a la Sierra’, which approximately translate in English as ‘take to the woods’. And this is pretty much what the moriscos did, after being chased out of Granada and Andalusia. Well, some of them converted. Some crossed over into Morocco, willingly or not so much. And others took refuge into the Sierra Nevada mountains. More presently, I take to the woods as often as I can – I’m still to figure what or who is chasing me. But I digress.
It was a Sunday afternoon and with little time on my hands I itched to get out into the nature. Gratefully, the village where I live lies in a valley edging on the forest. So I jumped in the 4×4, crossed the bridge over the pantano and breasted the slope to pull over shortly after. After a cursory hike, I reached the first ledge and already panting, I stopped for a moment to catch my breath and take in the panorama. The gurgle of the source felt nearer this time around – was it the snow melting off the distant peaks that had swelled the flow ?
Bent on unexplored tracts, I took left or rather full east and soon took on the slope. In no time, a glade opened up where human intention was evident. A flat surface ( a threshing floor ?) laid in the middle. Makeshift walls made of piled stones were lined by rafters stitched together. I followed on, treading carefully, so as not to miss the fainting track. Acorn shucks littered the ground mixed in with the soil, rubble and goat droppings. Later, the bluffs came closer and the track disappeared.
I cast about to no avail, only to spot up a wild goat aloft, on a pinnacle beetling above the valley.
Despite of the distance, I could make out it had been trolling me for a while, its sculpted horns motionless in the dimming sunshine. Having given up on the actual track, I braved the almost sheer ravine. Grottoes were dug in, gall oaks and their rank crowns sprouting whence. Yanking me above, I almost reached the cave, but the slate tattered too easy to get a good grip.
A fallow patch banded the bank from one electricity pole to the next: it was the best way forward, since no path was in site. A pair of partridges rifled past out of nowhere, startling me out of my reverie. Eventually, I made it all the way to the top of the plateau where I was greeted by a picnic area with stunning views all around. Water tanks, lofty wood cabins and the tarmac snake donned the leafy slope below – definitely some changes since the viajeros romanticos came this way. A wooden board let me know that the likes of Alexandre Dumas or Theophile de Gauthier had promenaded around these parts, the former having been inspired to write his Bandido de Sierra Nevada. Soon it was time to descend and what a sight to behold. Down on the bottom, the greenest pastures greeted the eye, conveniently split by a swelled stream and its rapids. Heaped boulders made up the ruined walls of a – fortress ? Tower ? A shepherd’s den ?
The downslope was steep – on the horizon, the bull effigy stood still against the dusk – a ubiquitous Spanish symbol. Birds trilled as I entered yet another thicket of pines. The shade sieved the sunshine as I strode and loped over the runnel of water, gushing over the path. If felt odd and yet familiar, that fragrance wafting upon the air – the same one of the forests of my childhood at much northerner latitudes. A sign said ‘Private hunting reserve’ and I plodded past it, hoping that the culling season was over.
The gorge opened up yonder: the white village loomed, perched on the secano bank, destitute of trees, while the ruins of the Arab castle commanded the valley on the left.
The castle recalls the adobe techniques of Morocco’s kasbahs, having been built in the 8th century by the Moors, centuries before the village of Canales, now sitting on the bottom of the pantano ( dam lake). Back on the trail, a gap had been hacked into the massive fell trunk that had hitherto checked the access, there by the spring where the icy water smarts your gums, come summer or winter. Soon after, I was completing my loop, the path shaded by trees, laden with fruits, not quite yet ripe. All the more reason to return soon…
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