In early December we were very fortunate to have the opportunity to stay in the Le Gebilra area of Andalucia in between housesits. Even though we were looking forward to a new area to explore, we did arrive somewhat jaded.
Why you may ask?
The reason “Cortijos Haza Tortas.”
It’s a name of a road. Looks somewhat like a simple Spanish name for a road, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. This one is from the depths of somewhere most unpleasant. A road designed for goats, on a one-way wander.
Loosely translated by us to mean “Contorted Hazard Torturous”.
Surely I am joking? Right? Was I maybe being somewhat over dramatic? Well, no I am not!
The road was ripped up, no doubt due to heavy rain, that made the back tires spin as one part of the car was on the road while the other two tires had to wait a few more seconds before landing on terra firma. Moving on further, came the potholes, significant enough, to be classed as bathing holes for a small elephant, with sheer drops with no fencing or trees, to enjoy as we rolled around. There was even more delightful surprises to come, the introduction of 360-degree hairpins, one after another which made us feel like we were going round in circles, this was undoubtedly the beginning of what seemed a hell of a roadtrip. Passing a local casa where the front door meets the road, stood people whom we smiled and waved at gingerly as we moved slowly past, I knew what was coming. The look was returned to us, which confirmed what they were thinking, we were just another couple of turistas locos that had taken the wrong road. As far we were concerned we had not, we had only been at the mercy of one annoying GPS that was taking us on a shortcut!
What had we got ourselves into? How long was this journey going to take? Both questions that were muttered under our breaths more than a few times.
It was time for a breather, and luckily we found a driveway to pull into to let pass a motorcyclist who was at the rear of us driving like he was the cartoon character Roadrunner with a good measure of Evil Kevil style.
Who do we blame for this hair-raising drive? Our GPS, for taking on what was supposed to be the best route possible. Did this contraption receive a more descriptive name after that trip?. Yes, it did.
Which brings me back to our arrival at our new abode. Where we decided we didn’t want to move out of if we had to return on that road once again. Unlucky for us we had taken a route many do not venture over, who would have guessed that reply! Not I. Politely we were not told by the neighbour that we were complete idiots instead we were shown on our map a more pleasant route back to the Costa Tropical for when we wanted a day out and our departure.
After a deep breath, a conversation with the informative neighbour, we had a cuppa to revive our composure. It was now time for a walk.
The afternoon we arrived, it was busy in this small section of the valley. It was olive harvesting time. With the sounds of chugging engines, the olives were going through the process, the voices of chattering men could be heard over the loud engines. If the men were not in the shed, then they could be found waiting patiently outside the Olive Press. The women held a more dignified place inside their vehicles reading or knitting from what I could see as I passed on from my walk down the road.
Approximately seven vehicles were parked outside the Olive press. As we approached plastic containers or bags heavy with olives were being carried into the storage shed or laid in the sun. All very exciting and the anticipation of liquid gold that was going to be produced. Though I would say, most growers would have a fair knowledge of what amount they would get. The place we stayed at had already picked their olives and the beautiful gold coloured oil was waiting in large glass vessels waiting to be poured into smaller user-friendly bottles, once they have had that resting time, for the sediment to settle at the bottom of the container.
You see we were staying just up the road from the Olive Press.
After a good night’s sleep, we relaxed around the Casa as indeed it was all here that we needed, such as food, a sample of local wine, gardening to do, scenic views, country walks and of course WIFI! Sometimes it is the simple things in life, watching the sun go down or pottering around a garden to having a walk. All assist the absorption of a new culture and what we have already explored. We felt like hibernating for a short while, well it was winter time. It was time to charge those travelling batteries, those batteries being our enthusiasm to do more exploring. Hibernation time here included some planning as in booking flights to Istanbul for when we leave Spain late February. Then our return to the UK from Turkey in April. We also have plans to explore places before departing Spain, all this takes time and planning. Not forgetting catching up on some blogging!
With all of this mental work, I find a need for physical labour to balance my equilibrium or is that another word for “sanity“. We had swapped dog sitting Fudge for a garden in the hills. It was fun to get my fingers dirty and to use muscles I haven’t exercised in a while as I chopped a few branches off trees. Lucky for us some still had fruit on, such as pomegranates and oranges.
To have a break from organising and gardening, I acted like a mountain goat and went up and down the hills, stepping on what smelt like a wild lavender and other scented wildflowers, amongst the arid dry ploughed up ground. For both of us to tackle a walk, we will have to wait until we get back to civilisation and flat terrain, hills are not suitable for the Squire.
On my walks, the people you meet are more likely than not to be locals which is a hint that the primary concern around here is not the foreign tourist market. They seem to have left all that to the Costa del Sol, an hour or so west. Which is why we love being up in the hills, for a change of scenery. We would like it even more if they had better roads!
Not far from our temporary abode I can be wandering around the hills within minutes, during a recent stroll, I found plastic crates full of olives, open to the elements.
Even worse were the olives that are placed in plastic bags left in the sun. As one local said to us, they have been doing the same practices for many years, the quality of oil is not questioned. If you do the same methods, taste the same oil, all is well. People who treat the olives with more care will have more chance of having a higher quality olive oil. Many of the oils that are branded as Olive Oil are very questionable. The one oil we have tasted in the area is the one grown in the backyard where we are staying it’s by far the best experience of Spanish olive oil we have tasted in Spain.