17 Feb The road to Lubrin
We drove on up beyond the village this morning towards Lubrin, another small town high up on the sierra where olives are pressed into oil and rendered into smoothly sublime soap at the Almazara Fabrica on the edge of the pueblo. Lubrin is where the utterly raucous annual Fiesta de Pan takes place, ostensibly celebrating (if that’s the right word) St Sebastian (twice slain, poor chap), but actually an excuse to throw a lot of bread around, eat, drink and be exceedingly merry. We went a couple of years ago and a post about the fiesta is in the Spain archive (Posted: 21 Jan 2016).
The roads in this area are popular with cyclists who use the severe climbs, steep descents and narrow hairpins as training for the rigours of the Tour. Groups of them in their team livery are out this morning pounding the hell out of their thighs and calves, keeping up an astonishing rate uphill and coming down at speeds that are simply terrifying. Mostly they’re young and, as yet, know no fear. Probably they’re too focused on the road surface, keeping tabs on heart and pulse rate, hydration, saddle sores and the posterior of the rider in front to pay much attention to the glories of this 12km stretch of mountain road.
It winds, steeply in sections, through countryside that, apart from the road itself, has probably not changed for generations. Almonds and olives are the main crops, lined up at angles where the lay of the land or a bit of stone terracing allows. The stony soil, looking inhospitable to eyes brought up on the deep earthy browns of Britain, is paler than sand, darker than flesh, indefinable. Out of sight a few kilometres behind is the coastal plain with its broad border of sea and long strips of buildings along the shore; it could be a hundred miles away. This feels like back country. In the far distance in the brilliant morning sun the sierras are pleated against one another, disappearing in subtly dappled shades of blue-grey to an infinite horizon.
You pass through two ‘pueblos’, El Campico and its bigger neighbour El Marchal. You have a sense of remoteness here, not just physically but also temporally. In the back country, back in time by several centuries. A large dog lies snoozing at the edge of the road, its coat glistens the colour of ginger snaps, its long limbs are languorous. It raises its head, gives us a look of complete disinterest, then settles back down nonchalantly to continue its morning nap. My eye catches a row of deep purple irises, my favourite flower. A dozen or so standing above a low wall, elegant and a little blousy at their peak of perfection, reminding me of springtime at home.
The villages of whitewashed houses roofed with richly weathered terracotta, cluster around a tiny church. In El Marchal, the bread van has arrived. In the past these villages would have used a communal bread oven, the horno, made of clay and fuelled by olive wood. You still see them but they are relics now, vestiges of a village life long gone. Some things have changed with the times.