When you first see the hills of Southern Spain, especially after a long, very hot summer, you may be forgiven if you thinks they are nothing but scrub bushes, rocky soil, and dry trees. However, take a closer look and you soon discover an absolute wealth of treasures.
For one thing, each mountain, from bottom to almost the tippy top is ringed with terraces. Imagine the generations of work that has gone into building those! Generation after generation, century after century, millennium after millennium, Roman, Moors, and Spanish, have all contributed to the terraces. It looks as though the countryside has been trimmed by giant pinking sheers.
The birds of Southern Spain are abundant and varied. They are quiet during the heat of the day but fill the air with song in the morning and evenings. In the morning there is one that I swear sounds just like a phaser blast from the original Star Trek!
Then, when you hike through these orchards, the wonders appear before your eyes. Many old favourites are there: apples, oranges, rosemary, squashes, and grapes. Then there are the products we are used to seeing on grocery shelves but Canadians never see growing at home. Things like almonds, olives, avocado, cashews, and pomegranate.
The real surprises are the trees it took me a lot of Google searching to identify. One being what we sometimes call “custard apple” and sometimes “cherimoya.” These trees have a lovely pattern of alternating leaves along long branches.
The one that took the longest to identify was a tree that looks a lot like the avocado but the leaves are a darker green and greyer underneath. The fruit is obviously very prized here because huge orchards of them are often encased in vast greenhouse-like swathes of reinforced plastic. These turned out to be nispero or loquat and are indeed very important here. The season is much earlier than September so there was no fruit left to give me hints.
Can you imagine the feeling of discovery as you wind your way up through the ancient orchard covered hillsides on an early morning hike? The actual plots of each type of plant are small so every turn greets you with new scents as you brush by basel and fennel, rosemary and mint.
There was a lot of climbing involved in our hike but that brought a wealth of vistas. Itrabo, all gleaming white and clean, is a real delight from above when seen sparkling in the morning sun.
It takes time, but hiking though the terrain of Southern Spain can be a real treat to all the senses!