The following is an extract of the book “A Walk in the Clouds” by Kev Reynolds.
Kev Reynolds is as well known travel writer, author and mountain man and was visiting Quatretondeta on a press trip sponsored by Waymark Holidays and MountainWALKS Spain in 2004.
THE FRAGRANCE OF SPAIN
An invitation to join a Press Trip to a mountain region of which I knew next to nothing, was squeezed between a hectic summer in the Alps and another Himalayan trek. For a few days in the autumn of 2004 I was introduced to a surprisingly remote and seemingly deserted land of sun-baked hills, which captured my imagination and brought many rewards.
At midnight I sat naked to the waist on the balcony outside my room plucking grapes from an overhanging vine as the warmth and fragrance of Spain drifted through the valley. The rest of the old village of white walls and broken terracotta roofs lay huddled on a slope of sand coloured hills. Behind them the outline of mountains folded like sleeping dinosaurs against a backdrop of stars, their individual features lost in the darkness. In that darkness a dog barked somewhere far off. Then silence settled once more, for the cicadas were resting.
By day I’d walked past Moorish ruins that gave the landscape both identity and history. Among those ruins snails clung to stones once fashioned into doorways, while lizards zipped in staccato motion from shadow to light and back again. Stirring the air black redstarts rushed in a frenzy across the ruins and were gone, leaving only the echoing beat of their feathers. As the sun burned from a cloudless sky, I’d scuffed the dust of a track through abandoned olive groves, and passing tiny-leaved holly oak, withered pine and gorse, took a trail that climbed towards a ridge of limestone where a welcome breeze carried a potpourri of scents – curry plant, rosemary, mountain sage and boxwood.
Up there, among sand-blasted spires and turrets, holes, some as big as a man, had been punched through the rock by thousands of years of erosion. Erosion spelt decay, and it was this, along with drought and desolation, that had driven men from the land that once had thrived not just with olive groves, but with almond, vine, fig and orange trees. Now the land was dry. There had been no rain since the spring, and the long weeks of summer had scorched or singed every plant. Down there, it was said, wild boar had been seen. Up on the ridge, I was told, a pair of Bonelli’s eagle had been sighted, and golden eagle and griffon vultures sometimes worked the thermals. The land may be impoverished, so far as Man was concerned, but Nature contrived a brave reclamation.
Through one of the man-sized holes I’d made a steep descent on loose rock into a pit of spiky plants and brambles, then out to baked screes and a faint contouring path beneath a row of rocky fingers, before climbing once more through a gully, followed by a scramble to reach a summit overlooking the remains of an old Moorish watchtower where swifts gathered in preparation for their flight to Africa. The Moors knew what they were doing, for as a vantage point it was unbeatable. Though the mountain was modest in altitude, all the world, it seemed, was laid out below. In one direction dry shadowed barrancos were loud with the sound of crickets instead of waterfalls and mountain torrents. And in another the sun dazzled on one of the far distant tower blocks of the Costa Blanca. Those buildings were another world away, another lifetime. An involuntary shudder expressed my feelings.
Down in the village, with night holding those alien worlds at bay, I plucked another grape from the vine crawling over my balcony, and yet again caught a drift of fragrance from the cooling hills. My days here among the aromatic Valls de la Marina were filled with sensory experience. In a week’s time I would be in the Himalaya trekking among lush foothills to the highest mountains on Earth, but for now, I could bask in the fragrance of Spain and the gentle warmth of contentment. And that was more than enough for me.
This story appears in A Walk in the Clouds by Kev Reynolds, published by Cicerone Press in 2013 © Kev Reynolds www.kevreynolds.co.uk