Early evening day one. A man leading a donkey passes by the bathroom window. The donkey is fully kitted out for work. He has a frame of leather and timber across his back and secured by rope under his flanks. It’s designed to carry heavy loads.
My brother and his wife decide to go for a wander towards the centre of the village and the church. It’s partly to get acquainted with the village and partly looking for assurance. When they return they report on an empty landscape of deserted streets save for a few mangy cats and another man with a donkey. The church is locked up tight. All the cars sit idle. The breeze gently moves the heavy cotton curtains which cover every doorway. It’s 6pm, a little early for the Spanish to be out and about.
Our landlords arrive to walk us through the practicalities of hot water systems, stove, washing machine, gas meter and remote control handsets (we discover that Australia has held Ghana to a 1-1 draw in their world Cup match – far better than the 4-0 thrashing that the Germans inflicted on the Socceroos four days earlier).
Adam and Hermy are lovely. I discover later that he is a blacksmith/artist. The heavy duty gate and security grills on the windows are exquisite pieces of modern design. He has taken bulls horns and a serpents head and body as his inspiration. Spain is full of beautiful artisans’ work in the form of carved doors, tiled walls, wrought iron work and inlaid surfaces. It makes for a rich visual tapestry.
Andrea and I cook while Mick and Mally promenade. I manage to get the charcoal barbecue fired up and then succeed in charring capsicum and zucchini beyond recognition. The local pork sausages fare much better. Andrea works her magic and manages to rescue the meal and we sit down at 9pm. We’ve discovered a surprisingly nice cheap bottle of local red vino which helps us all to relax at the end of day one. We are feasting under a brilliant blue sky. The sun won’t set for another hour and the locals are beginning to take to the streets before their evening meal. We’re a little out of step with the local village rhythm.
We retire for the night to the sound of a running stream. The whole village has water flowing beneath it through a system of channels – snow melt from the Sierra Nevada above. Over the next fortnight I discover that this water is directed to every possible village and orchard in the valleys below by a system of six hundred year old man made waterways. The Moors have left a fantastic legacy.