We were all met at Malaga airport in brilliant sunshine by David & Emma (the owners of Las Chineneas) and driven for approximately 3 hours to our destination, Mairena, high in the Alpujarras. We passed through interesting countryside with olives and almonds growing. After leaving the motorway we drove over the Puerto de la Ragua pass at 2000 metres giving spectacular views before we arrived in the village square in Mairena. During the early evening we met for a briefing on the week’s walking from Ursula, our guide for the week, and had enough time for a drink and tapas in the local bar before enjoying a delicious three course meal!
Opening our bedroom shutters revealed a gloriously sunny day and we all met to walk with David and the family dogs, Molly and Mia, up through the village to an interesting church at Jubar. On the way we stopped to look at the mulberry trees alongside the road which provided food for the silk worms which were such an important part of this area at one time. We also saw some oak trees Quercus pyrannean which is prone to galls and these contain a high quantity of tannin from which the Romans made an unfadeable ink, because of this quality even the American Constitution is signed in this gall ink !
The church, which had been a mosque and mujhadin church at one time, had some beautiful restored frescos inside. We then walked alongside the water channel through the chestnut woods to enjoy our picnic lunch beside some falls high above the village of Laroles. As we made our way down we came across a large herd of goats and sheep going up the hill with the shepherd and dogs. Because of the late spring we were still able to see a wonderful selection of wild flowers as we walked back down the track to Laroles for a refreshment stop before being collected by Emma.
More wonderful sunshine! Today we walked from Mairena to Valor via Nechita through almond and olive terraces. There were wonderful views and we enjoyed cooling our feet during a river crossing and arrived in Valor for coffee in a bar with a shady terrace and afterwards picnicked in the local park before making our way to La Casa de los Telares to meet Lola a local weaver. The ground floor of her house is a small museum with family looms including the one given to her for her 18th birthday! A couple of people in the group had a go at weaving, including my husband Bob, with various amounts of success, Lola made it look very easy! She showed us the wools that she had dyed herself.
Following a siesta we all met to walk just over a mile to David and Emma’s finca. This was down a windy track to a small cortijo with a shady verandah. They grow olives, almonds, Morello and Galician White cherries. Paco was working on the vegetable patch which contained potatoes, peppers, aubergines and beef tomatoes. The grass and wild flowers are left to grow between the trees and then goats are brought in to eat the grass and flowers and their manure fertilises the ground and their hooves help to break up the ground to allow the water to be absorbed more readily when let down from the acqueifas high above the finca. The finca reservoir was greatly enjoyed by the dogs, Molly and Mia, who spent the time jumping in and getting out and shaking over us !
As the weather was starting to heat up we went by minibus to the Puerta de la Ragua rest place at 2000m to walk. The weather is usually 7 or 8 degrees cooler here. We enjoyed a short walk through the pine forest to the mirador and were lucky enough to spot ibex, they are very shy and rushed off down a virtually vertical rocky slope, they remain in family groups of about 20 so if one is spotted there are usually others in the vicinity.
We returned and set off on the other side of the road up to the saddle of the hill, we crossed a stream with lots of wildflowers growing alongside and then wound our way up through the pine forest to the open sierra. We saw a shepherd on horseback rounding up his cows and bringing them down the mountain side. David found a superb rocky picnic spot on top looking out over the snowy tops of the Sierra Nevada. Near to the café there was a fox that was very tame, we had seen it by the side of the road on our first day when we were travelling from the airport to Mairena
In the early evening we reconvened to travel to a local Bodega, the Dominio Buenquista, for wine tasting. We were shown around the winery by the owner Juan who described how he returned to his family lands in 1992 and started the vineyard with vines brought over from America. He, assisted by Rosa, described the process of making the wine, unusually all the picking is still done by hand leading to a better quality of wine which requires only a minimum amount of sulphites.We went in to the tasting room where we tasted a selection of red, white, rose, champagne and a port like wine, all accompanied by tapas.
After supper, several of the group, accompanied by Ursula, walked up the mirador in Mairena and looked out over the valley as darkness fell.
Travel by mini bus to La Calahorra to visit the 6th-century castle, it sits atop of the hill with the Sierra Nevada providing its backdrop giving an excellent lookout point to protect the pass in days gone by when this was required. The castle looks Moorish from the outside but the inside is in a renaissance style with lots of marble. David gave an interesting tour of the castle and explained the history of the area a little. The castle has been used for a variety of film sets including El Cid.
We went on to the Roman town of Guadix and several people visited the grand cathedral. We drove out of the town through the area where the troglodyte cave homes are that have been occupied for hundreds of years, many now have modern facades and are a very sought after type of eco home maintaining roughly the same temperature all year.
We met at the Las Chimeaneas restaurant to watch and help Sole to cook the local garlic and almond soup and also to make a delicious rabbit stew. Andrew made an orange and date dish, all of these dishes we then had for supper – delicious!
Today we set off walking down the village of Ugijar accompanied by Emma and the dogs and Jorge a naturalist guide. We were also accompanied by a little dog from the village, Linda, who always tried to come with us on our walks. Jorge was able to point out many interesting sights, different wild flowers, butterflies, geology, birds and we saw a booted eagle directly overhead and heard a Sardinian Warbler. When we arrived in Ugijar we enjoyed a lovely tapas lunch with many tasty dishes. We went back to Mairena in the minibuses and had to take Linda back to the village after her adventure !
We walked up through the village in the evening to the olive oil plant, owned by Adolfo the local taxi driver, this is where the local people bring their olives in January and February for pressing. It is run as a cooperative, all the olives are weighed on arrival and one then receives a corresponding amount of oil in return. On our way back down through the village to Las Chimeneas we saw the old olive stone which would once have been pulled round by donkeys to crush the olives and obtain the oil.
As we made our way back down to the village square we passed houses with wonderful, colourful flower displays.
As the weather was hotter than ever (over 30º) we had a change of plan and drove to the high pass Puerto de la Ragua to enjoy a walk in the forest where it was cooler. We walked to the water fountain that is supplied by the snow melt, the water is cold and delicious. On the way up to the pass we saw an Ibex and a golden eagle. We travelled in the mini buses along a forest track to a pretty picnic spot but abandoned another short walk as the pine trees were covered in the cocoons of the Processionary Caterpillar which has irritating hairs that can cause on a nasty rash. We drove down the unmade road in the direction of Mairena and stopped near to a Booted Eagles nest, we all walked quietly down to the nest and were able to just see the chick above the top of the nest. A few of us decided to continue walking back to Mairena down the track and were rewarded with far reaching views to the snow covered peaks and the sea. We had a particularly good view of the church at Jubar which we had visited earlier in the week.
We enjoyed another of Sole and Conchi’s cookery demonstrations where we learnt how to make both tortilla and paella. Both were delicious and we enjoyed them for our last supper at Las Chimeneas.
We were not departing for the airport until after lunch so had a short walk and met with everyone for a farewell tapas lunch at the local bar. From our terrace we spotted David and Emma busy tending their vegetable patch.
We had all enjoyed a super week in Mairena with walking, varied visits and cookery demonstrations. A big thank you to all the staff involved