My previous post (downstream) dealt, briefly, with the horrors of the trip from South Africa to Spain via the cattle truck route of modern, economy class air travel – even when treated kindly by the Air France staff. From Malaga, or port of arrival, to the Andalucian village of Almachar via Google Earth Direct is a mere 20 km or so, but by the 10 seater Mercedes bus and the intricate freeway network followed by a narrow, twisty mountain road – well it took about an hour.
Almachar, thankfully, is not a tourist village. The tourist office, modestly labelled, nominally opened an hour a day. But that was highly optimistic; I cannot once remember seeing it open on our numerous trips from our villa, Casa de Luz, to where the bus was parked. Finding our Casa in the first instance, even with a detailed description from our hosts, Judy and John, was not a simple matter, and not helped by the fact that none of our party spoke a functional Spanish and absence of English-speaking villagers.
Almachar – a cascade of white villas with red roofs spilling down a steep ravine, broad at the top and narrower at the bottom, in a tangled web of narrow streets, lanes, alleys and steps. No linear anglo-teutonic-nordic efficiency here, but connecting links, designed for pedestrians, donkeys, and the ubiquitous noisy scooter or 100 cc. motorbike driven almost entirely by the youth, finding their own way between the tangled residences. Cars, mostly smallish, do find their way less than halfway down the village to the cramped plaza outside the church and to the small commercial establishments interposed between the houses. The Mercedes 10 seater wisely stayed well clear of such entanglements; our entry had been sufficient to give notice to the entire Almachar community that tourists had arrived.
The people of Almachar were surprisingly similar in height and general appearance. Almost all were conservatively dressed; older people were prominent, slowly and deliberately wending their way up and down the steep, twisted lanes. The women varied between 1.58 – 1.70 m and the men between 1.70 and 1.8, and this possibly exaggerates the variation. Most had brown, unsmiling but not unfriendly faces, and generally seemed to come from the working and small trader class. Although an occasional villa was more decrepit or more modern and kempt than the average, conspicuous wealth or poverty seemed to be largely absent. Men walked mainly with men and women with women. The village retained a sense of organic community, and the church with its regular chimes was a significant part of the communal life.
But, despite its smallness and lack of modern sophistication, the village boasted an art gallery/cultural centre at which various classes were conducted. Many, by no means all, made a real attempt to beautify the exterior of their homes with flowers or with Moorish tiles. This aesthetic sensibility co-existed with ubiquitous dog excrement and the occasional perpetrator, generally a thin quiet mongrel, would be seen loitering in the vicinity of his crime. Unfortunately, the language barrier and domestic circumstances of our short visit, barred deeper integration into the life of the village.
But the soft light on the folded Andalucian mountains and the glow of sunset on the peaks, remain vivid memories. In seven days we had one good downpour, the remainder being balmy and ideal for relaxation and travel. A place to visit again, especially for time to relax and work.
See right-hand column for new Flikr pictures