A Day Out In The Country

Several years ago I came across a language exchange website through which I made contact with two people giving me the opportunity to work on improving my Spanish in a real communication context. One lives in Peru, the other, Isabel, in Sevilla. Isabel also has a village house in the Contraviesa de Granada, a range of mountains between the Mediterranean and Las Alpujarras. I knew Gualchos, the village where she has her house, from visiting there briefly many years ago when we thought prices in Frigiliana might escalate beyond our reach. So we were delighted to accept Isabel's invitation to drive over to Gualchos and finally meet up face to face, instead of communicating solely by email.
It was a drive of about an hour. Or rather it would have been had not my satnav been convinced that the autovia is open all the way through to Motril. It isn't. It should have been, but delays are endemic in road-building and so the misplaced optimism results in a major glitch in the database. Not to bore you with the details, I eventually got fed up with following one narrow, pot-holed road after another through hectare after hectare of plastic hothouses, and seeing a sign back to the coast, switched off the satnav and followed the longer, coastal route that I was familiar with via the town of Castell del Ferro.
From the coast the road then climbs steeply up the mountain for some 6km to reach Gualchos at about 400m above sea level. It's not the best of roads at the best of times, but yesterday was quite alarming as we encountered the aftermath of the winter rains. Great chunks of tarmac had simply split off from the main carriageway and headed off down the mountain, to such an extent that at one point the bare mountain had been bulldozed above the road to provide a way through. Fortunately my car has raised suspension and a sump guard, but I was down in first gear and still pitching and tossing like a small boat in choppy seas, while my wife turned an appropriate shade of sea green; partly motion sickness and partly rank fear! It made me realise just how lightly we had got off in Frigiliana, despite our moans about the volume of rain. We suffered hardly any damage to the road system by comparison.
In the village, we met up with Isabel and her friend, Paqui,who gave us a conducted tour, pointing out on the way a couple of houses which had collapsed under the volume of rain.
Gualchos is a much more 'Spanish' village than Frigiliana. It is sufficiently far from either Málaga or Almería airports to be protected from the mass influx of expats (Yes, including me!) that has changed the character of so many towns and villages along the Costas of Spain. There is, finally, some new development on the edge of the village, and a few of the old village houses have been bought and done up by Brits and Germans, but in essence it remains an arab village of the muslim era in Spain. The village church seems very large for the size of the population. That is because back in the days of Al-Andalus - like so many churches in these villages - it was the mosque for what was then a much larger community farming the sierras.
After a rare opportunity to spend several hours immersing myself in Spanish chat and conversation, most of which my wife could follow although she is not yet able to speak as well as she understands, we drove back to Motril by the old road along the high ground of the Contraviesa with wonderful views of the sierras and the sea, the slope of the land hiding the appalling sea of plastic from our view.

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