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Trip Report Walking over olives- a few months in Andalucia

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I was going to use Driving over Lemons as a title but that has apparently already been taken, plus we haven't seen any lemons here so far, but more olives than Pizza Hut would use worldwide in 10 years!

Fortunate enough to be offered the use of a house in a village in Andalucia by Carolyn's Great   Aunt and Uncle, we jumped at the chance and, shortly afterwards, we were on a plane to Malaga. Forty kilometres north of Malaga and 40 minutes later we arrived in Villanueva del Trabuco, a small town/large village set in the mountains of Andalucia. Having only visited Madrid and Barcelona before we weren't exactly sure what to expect, but we're very pleasantly surprised.

The purpose of this trip is twofold. Firstly, to discover more about the area and it's potential as a permanent home for Carolyn and I and, secondly to re-learn the Spanish we studied so hard for in Peru and lost so quickly upon our return to the U.K., before we return to that amazing continent of South America next year.,

We were extremely lucky to arrive in town a couple of days before the start of the fiesta for Santa Delores, which, is the biggest celebration of the year and continues for around 5 days. I have no idea who Delores was, but I am sure I will find out before too long as images of her are everywhere. The main plaza has been covered over and has been decked out with lights and decorations and is full of tables and chairs for the party which begins in earnest on Wednesday.

The party kicks off each day with music on a couple of stages set up in the square. Musicians of all types and ages play a wide variety of music from tradition Spanish folk and Flamenco to jazz and pop and salsa. Everyone from nine to ninety is up on their feet dancing or, at least they are when they are not eating and drinking! These people really know how to have a good time.

The music goes on until 3 or 4 each following morning and I really don't know where the people get their energy from. By about 4.00 am we get off to sleep only to be woken again about 7.00 am when the music starts again, presumably the cleaners enjoy some music while they work?

Throughout each day, the rocket man as we have dubbed him, wanders around the village, firing off crow-scarer rockets to let people know when each new event is starting. The first time we experienced this we were sitting on the roof terrace as a rocket exploded in the sky above us. Disconcerting enough in the middle of the afternoon but really heart stopping when you are not expecting it at one in the morning!    We eventually get used to it. Well sort of..

One of the things we immediately notice here is the food. It is relatively inexpensive to eat out hear if sticking to the "Menu del Dia" which costs anywhere between €7 and €11 for primero and segundo courses plus desert and a drink and represents excellent value for money and, with four or five choices for each course, quite a lot of variety.

Shopping in the local shops, markets and supermarkets is equally rewarding as the quality of the vegetables, fruit and fish is amazing and cheap, at least by comparison with the UK. The fish particularly is incredibly good value when compared with back home, possibly because we export most of our fish here? The varieties on offer in the market seem to change daily. So far we have sampled Tuna, Swordfish, Eel, giant prawns all purchased in the local market. Our Sunday lunch at a local restaurant consisted of salad, the ubiquitous Paella and the most amazing platter of fried fish I have ever tasted which included salmon, prawns, squid, octopus, clams, all cooked to perfection.

On Saturday the fiesta reaches its climax with a fancy dress parade in which the whole town seems to be participating. There is certainly a very strong feeling of community here. Entrants, in the parade range from sweet little girls and boys in what I presume to be national costume, to some very convincing, cross dressing, middle aged men, to the cast of Grease, Snow White and her dwarves and even some, very current, Angry Birds and Hello Kitty's .  The entire parade take about an hour to go by and then they just go around again, and again...

Sunday sees the final day of the parade and the more religious side of the fiesta takes over, starting with everyone heading off to church in their Sunday best in the morning. Early evening sees the main parade of the fiesta where the statue of Santa Delores is  carried from the church right around the town by around thirty of Trabuco's fittest men. The palanquin on which it is carried, seemed incredibly heavy an observation borne out by the number of rest stops the men have to make along the way! The rest stops, I am sure are well deserved considering they will be doing this for several hours. I imagine that their discomfort will be more than matched by the young women of the town who are following them in their Sunday finery an essential part of which appears to be a minimum of 4 inch heels. A lot of people are going to need foot and shoulder rubs in the morning.. The parade is accompanied by a brass band playing some up tempo music which makes it all a little reminiscent of one of those jazz funerals in  New Orleans. All in all a fitting end to the fiesta, or so we thought...

We go to bed around 11.30 only to be awakened at midnight by a series of explosions. We climb up to the roof terrace to watch a spectacular display of fireworks above the town. A fitting end to a great fiesta. It has been a great first week in Spain and we are so glad that we arrived in time for the biggest celebration of the year. We hadn't seen so much singing dancing and partying since we arrived in Arequipa, Peru for their annual fiesta.

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    Keep it coming!

    Speaking of lemons, I very much recommend Michael Jacobs' brilliantly funny and insightful "The Factory of Light: Tales from My Andalucian Village". About his adventures in Frailes - a little east of you - where he bought a house in 1999 and eventually almost singlehandedly got into both national and international media attention: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Factory-Light-Andalucian-Village/dp/0719561736

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    Not Santa Delores, but the Virgen de los Dolores, (Nuestra Señora de los Dolores, Our Lady of the Pains, roughly translated). And Spain does not need to import any fish from the UK, having a very important fish industry that serves our markets daily with fresh fish.

    The town has been extremely damaged by torrential rains yesterday, I hope you´re fine.

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    Many thanks for the correction and explanation of the Virgen de Los Delores mikelg. We are fine thanks . Just finished the next installment which is mostly about the floods.

    We have taken many long walks since arriving here and one of the nicest is from Trabuco to the neighbouring town of Rosario. Still not having learnt the lesson of starting out in the early morning to avoid the heat of the day we start out at 11.00 but immediately notice that it is a bit grey and overcast and not as hot as it has been. Perhaps the weather is about to change? Exactly how much it will change we will find out later!

    The walk is probably about 8 or 9 kms in total and, for the most part, winds it's way along a dirt track through the hills and the olive groves. The first thing we notice is, of course, the sheer number of olive trees stretching all along the valley as far as the eye can see. At first sight, it seems that scarcely a square metre is not covered by olive trees, but upon closer inspection as we walk, we notice, the sheer variety of fruit and other produce growing along the way, some cultivated and some seemingly wild. We see hundreds of almond trees all full of almonds already dropping much many of which will find their way into "Ajo Blanco" the white gazpacho soup which is a speciality of the region. Also along the track are many what seem to be furry apple trees but which turn out to be Quince trees, the fruit of which is used to make Membrillo, a quince jelly, eaten as an accompaniment to cheese. Along the way we see melons, blackberries and figs. Definitely a place where it would be relatively easy to forage food from the land.

    Eventually we come to the end of the dirt track and a short walk along the road and we are in the centre of Rosario, a smaller town than Trabuco, with even less going on. It is market day, but rather than food, as is the case in markets in most parts of the world, around here, the focus is very much on cheap clothes and shoes. Nothing really of interest in the market so we head back, through the olive groves, back to Trabuco. Along the way the clear blue skies we have become accustomed to, give way to some pretty serious looking grey clouds, the first we have seen since arrival. We make it back to the house in the dry but a few hours later it starts to rain gently, the first the region has seen since March apparently.

    We go to bed around midnight and it is still raining, lightly but steadily. In the early hours we are woken by the sound of the rain on the roof and a rushing noise in the street outside the bedroom window. We open the shutters and blinds and have a look out to see a small river running down the street! The house is at the top of a small, steep, cobbled street and just above us is a flight of steps leading to the other streets above us. These steps have now turned into a mini cascade! The layout of the house is such that we have a small open courtyard at the rear of of the kitchen. Suddenly realising that this could easily become flooded, we rush down stairs to find that the drain cannot cope with the flow of the water and is now beginning to flood into the kitchen. I venture out into the courtyard naked with broom in hand to try and unblock the drain, much to the amusement of my wife who is busy mopping up the kitchen. Fortunately, I am able to unblock the drain and the water begins to flow away down the drain and, somewhat damp, we head back to bed. The rain continues to fall very heavily until dawn.

    When I venture out to the bakers to get some bread for breakfast, I notice some debris on the main road into the town but don't really think too much about it. Later on that day we head off into the main Plaza in the centre of town only to find it inches deep in mud and debris with the council workers and fire brigade using diggers and hoses to try and clear it away. Some of the bars, banks and shops around the plaza are completely flooded out. On the other side of the square the devastation is even worse. The main bridge across the river is badly damaged, with both parapets virtually gone and the foundations seem all but washed away. The railings alongside the river have been completely destroyed, presumably by the large trees piled up by the side of the bridge which must have been swept down the river. Next to the bridge is what I think was a garage, which has obviously borne the brunt of the floodwaters as the rear wall has been virtually completely demolished. Inside we can see it is still full of water as it is below the level of the road and we see cars upended against the wall.

    As we walk through the town, we can see that we have been very lucky due to the location of the house but many others, closer to the river have not escaped so lightly. The water has now subsided but it is evident that many houses and vehicles were several feet deep in water. Worse still, is the layer of mud, several inches thick, left behind which has entered many homes and business premises. The damage is devastating and the authorities have declared a state of emergency. The fire services and now the army have been quick off the mark in starting the clean up and repair and everyone seems intent on getting on with the clearing up and getting back to normal ASAP.

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