Alpujarras…’ll never want to leave……………

Ok! we’ve done the A380 and Table Mountain thing, we’ve done the one year commemoration of the World Cup, so its back to the original program. Do not pass go do not collect 200 :-). If you’ve just joined us, and interested in finding out where exactly the original program was and is headed to, just hack in Lanjaron into your Google Earth browser and let cyberspace transport you to where we paused for a few days, while we dealt with some significant issues back here in South Africa.

Lanjaron is a little town on route to the villages in an area called Alpujarras in Southern Spain, sort of east of Granada on the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The thing about travelling in Europe over our summer holidays is that its always winter there!! I suppose one doesnt really register that until the plane touches down. I dont remember what sort of weather I was expecting to find in the mountains, but it certainly was alot better than whatever I was expecting. The road from Lanjaron to Pampaneira, was much of the same as I described previously, carved into the contours of the slopes with hairpin bends aplenty. Typical of this area is the use of terraces, that are formed on the slopes by carving out shelves to cultivate crops on. The sight of sevaral terraces covering the hillside is one of the most characteristic views of the Alpujarras. The Architecture which looks like it has a Moroccan influence, interested me as it was very sustainable, utilising materails that were available in the vicinity. Stone, chestnut beams, slate, “launa” ( a type of clay found in the area). One of the characteristic architectural features area the “terraos”, which are flat roofs built consisting of a layer of “launa” packed on flat stones that are laid on beams of chestnut, ash or pine. These become the roof of the house below and the terrace of the house above, all facilitated by the steep slopes. Most of these “terraos” are crowned off with cylindrical chimney pots, each with four “eyes” something unique to this area. There seems to be uniformity of colour from the stone used to build the buildings, though nowadays whitewash is also used.

I was heading to Pampaneira, one of the three villages clinging to the side of the Barranco de Poqueira ravine. They are reputed to be the prettiest, most dramatically sited, and probably most frequently visited in the region. Here the stone houses seem to climbing onto as well as holding onto one another to prevent sliding into the gorge below. The first sneak views of these villages from the winding road confirms everything that the area is reputed to be. Interestingly when you get there, what becomes obvious is how the Church and the town square around it are accentuated amongst the cluster of buildings, in colour and height, with everything else unified in scale and tone around it. Winter, whilst the weather was good, turned out to be an incredible time to visit the region, hardly any tourists around, accommodation available easily, and lots of opportunities to explore this timeless area on foot. The tranquility, steep slopes, deep ravines, and remoteness just absorbs you completely, making you one with everything around you, where else could you hike between two villages and not see a single soul along the way? If rural living is what appeals to you, once you get here, you’ll never want to leave!! 

Nevertheless, contradictions or I suppose you could call them contrasts are all over the place, with newer buidings being built with masonry and concrete, while the modern world are moving towards more sustainable bulding, donkey sheds are placed comfortably alongside car garages, plastic chairs and tables are placed on public squares, and tv aerials fixed to the traditional chimney pots 🙂 yet the public laundry from yesteryear is still functional.

Todays images are from the region, look out for the image of an elderly woman that just walked the steep streets with wood for the fireplace on her back, framed by the concrete mixer and steel ladder, I guess some older traditions just live on………………..The journey continues …………………………..