More valleys and mountains

View to the north-west from the mirador at Alto de Hondonero
View to the north-west from the mirador at Alto de Hondonero (Chris Feare)

Towards the end of our stay in Andalucia, and after a delightful lunch at Venta Las Delicias in Villanueva del Rosario, we drove through the village along a paved but rough road, followed by a gravelly track, for about 6 km up into the hills to a parking area and viewing point (mirador) called Alto de Hondonero. Closer to the village the gravel track passes through cultivated land, especially olive groves, before giving way (apparently reluctantly as some high altitude land appears to be been recently cleared, presumably for more olives) to indigenous conifer and broad-leaved woodland. The rich green of most of the conifers contrasted with the red and orange of broadleaved trees festooned with red and orange berries and the reddening leaves of some of the broadleaved trees in preparation for their autumnal leaf shedding. The greens, reds and oranges contrasted further with the increasingly bare pale grey limestone backdrop of mountains, themselves backed by a clear blue sky. Just below the mirador, noticeboards at a bird observatory proclaimed the presence of several montane birds in this area, but Choughs, Griffon Vultures and Alpine Swifts were nowhere to be seen but we did not spend long enough there to really investigate. From the mirador mountain walks are signposted – adventures for us still to come! In addition, overlooking the mirador is a massive jumble of rocks lining a rocky valley. There seems to be some dispute about its origins, one possibility being tectonic activity. However, the rock formations elsewhere in this part of Spain, especially at El Torcal, where some rocks are finely balanced on top of others, suggest that earthquakes have not occurred in this region in recent geological history.

Autumnal reds and oranges dominate the higher bushes in the sierras (Chris Feare)
Autumnal reds and oranges dominate the higher bushes in the sierras (Chris Feare)
A massive rock fall above Alto de Hondonero suggests a mountain collapse, but its cause is unknown (Chris Feare)
A massive rock fall above Alto de Hondonero suggests a mountain collapse, but its cause is unknown (Chris Feare)

After descending the track we drove through Rosario and its sister village of Villanueva del Trabúco on our way towards Alfarnate. Most of this journey through valley bottoms was intensively cultivated and land that was not devoted to olives had been recently ploughed and harrowed ready for next year’s crops. All of the farmland appeared well cared for and tidy but perhaps this was a result of recent farmer activity combined with the dryness of the land. As we approached the Alfarnate region the cliff of the Sierra del Jobo towered above us, more examples of the amazing limestone mountains, highly uplifted by tectonic activity from their origins as the bed of an ancient sea!

An isolated peak provided soaring conditions for Griffon Vultures (Chris Feare)
An isolated peak provided soaring conditions for Griffon Vultures (Chris Feare)

We by-passed the village of Alfarnate, instead remaining on the twisting road towards Colmenar. The craggy limestone landscape continued to impress, especially to the south of our road where a huge pinnacle of rock seemed to have detached itself from the limestone ridge and stood in glorious isolation, towering over the valleys below. Griffon Vultures circled this pinnacle lazily, doubtless taking advantage of the rising air masses and possibly using it to seek animal carcases that would provide their next meal.

Our views of some of the landscapes of southern Andalucía represent snapshots, isolated moments when sunlight and cloud produced images that are difficult to capture photographically and must remain in our memories. However, visits to the same places at different times of day, in different seasons, different weather conditions and in different moods of our appreciation, will implant new images.  Exploration of these parts of Spain will always produce something new to enthral.

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