Sunday, July 24, 2011

Of Brush-Covered Hills and Markets

Yesterday I went walking through a farm just north of ours, a mostly low mountain (brush) area that is mainly used for hunting. It’s called El Marañal, which I suppose you would translate as thicket, which about describes the place. It has a few small arable areas, and some old water courses which are also sown, but not harvested. I imagine this is something to do with the CAP. The grain is poor and sparse.

Despite the dense undergrowth, I don’t have to hack my through with a machete, as you might be imagining. The truth is much simpler. The gamekeeper and the farm workers have to move around it somehow, and so there is, as on all such farms, a network of usable paths. I do sometimes go through the brush, for the fun of it or as an intended shortcut, but I find a stick is quite sufficient. It isn’t the Amazon out there.

Probably the best thing about walking there is that at a couple of points you climb to spots that have views over the whole of the surrounding area. From the windows of an old lodge you can see three towns, and towns are a long way apart here, and four houses, which are also well spread. The sense of being a small part of something big and powerful, and dry and dangerous, is very strong up there.

The rest of the path goes through woody hills, mainly holm oaks, and the gaps are filled in with rosemary and sage and thyme and wormwood. You can smell them as you pass, and the rabbits taste of them because that’s what they eat. The track comes out at the road to the village, which I took because it was market day and I wanted to have a look.

The market occupies a few streets in the lower part of the village by the river, and is always busy in the summer. There is colour and life and the girls looking for cheap t-shirts, the housewives buying fresh fruit and veg, the older women afraid of missing something, and the observers of humanity documenting it all, give it a feel of being the place to be. The swimming pool doesn’t become busy until midday on Fridays, such is the pull of the market.

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