Niguelas VI Valle de Lecrin (cont)
Lecrin turned out to be three villages in one, the outskirts of each having merged. Combined they were still less in size than my local suburb in Brisbane. Before we knew it we had passed through and were headed for Restubal as we descended into the valley. Distances were deceiving. One minute drive later we were at a fork in the road giving us a choice of a high or a low road.
As it happened I had been doing a bit of ‘follow your nose’ research on the internet in preparation for our trip and somehow found myself on a blog written by a woman living in Andalucía. Her blog contained a story of horse riding in the high country above Niguelas with a local heavy drinking bachelor as her guide. She, like many others in these small villages, was one of the British who had relocated to this calm, isolated and comparatively low cost area of Spain. Sadly many of these expats wished for nothing more than a transplanted version of the old country but those who chose village life, as opposed to Mediterranean enclaves, were much more interested in becoming part of their adopted country and culture. They learnt to speak Spanish for a start. My blog contact had also written a piece extolling the virtues of a local bric a brac shop run by another English speaking woman in the small village of Chite.
Now the lower road was signed Chite, so without consultation with my passengers I veered left, stayed on the right and headed for the ‘Camel Stop’ shop. Despite our experience of Spanish roads and village lanes in Seville and Zephyr and Ronda and Niguelas we ignored the warning signs and proceeded to follow the road into the village and continued to ignore further warning signs as we found ourselves in ever narrower laneways until we reached what looked like an impossible intersection. The laneway required that we fold both side mirrors back to be able to squeeze between the vertical walls; we were then faced with a dog leg T junction of the same width. This required us to not turn left, not right nor straight but navigate a passage that demanded that our car have the qualities of a banana bus. We needed to turn left and right at the same time. The prospect of backing up 400metres of laneway where you couldn’t even get your head out the window was not attractive. So Mick got out to direct me. The girls held their breath and closed their eyes and we navigated this ravine via a series of intricate manouvres, each time bumping the wall in front or behind.
A walk beyond our temporarily abandoned car took us to a pathway which tracked the edge of the village and the edge of a precipice giving an uninterrupted view over the valley and back towards Lecin. Orchards were spread before us and amongst these pathways wove into the distance. The ladies had disappeared. Mick and I found them a few minutes later following the tooting horn of a car which was revealed as a local fruit and vegetable merchant selling from the back of his tiny Renault panel van. Chite, it turned out had no shops whatsoever and was serviced by a series of mobile services. As we explored villages throughout the area we came upon mobile bakers, hardware merchants, fishmongers and grocery suppliers. The valley was crawling with them.
At this point the girls declined to join us in the car. Mick and I were tasked with figuring out the exit strategy alone and we finally emerged unscathed to collect our passengers along with their bags full of fresh produce.
Notwithstanding our shaken egos we continued with our Valle de Lecrin adventure but the Chite experience taught us a lesson. At the next village there was a chorus from the back seat warning of a mutiny unless we agreed to park at the first parking opportunity within sight of the everpresent church tower. At each subsequent village this led to some unnecessarily long walks along bitumen roads under a burning midday sun invariably revealing a perfect parking spot in the shade in the lee of the said church.
The Lecrin Valley turned out to be quite small. Villages were no more than a few kilometers apart and the next always visible in the near distance as a tight cluster of white buildings teetering on the cliffside of a gorge or nestling beside a stream in a deep and verdant valley.
Our forty year old map turned out to be an up to date guide to the local roads and while we travelled less than 30 kilometres in total we were five hours in travelling them.