Out here in the Parque Natural de Calares del Río Mundo y de la Sima , you don't walk far without being reminded what a fecund and fertile country Spain is. It is mid-August and there are dark and succulent berries among the unripe blackberries on their bramble bushes at the side of every dirt track. Lift your eyes to the the trees and you are struck by the elderberries lording it over the humble brambles. Elevate yourself by climbing a few yards along the steepish path and the figs look almost ripe. Locals have been saying it has been a dry summer and the early ripening of the fruits proves it I suppose.
Just as it does further south, the climate allows squashes and gourds to grow in dirt or even concrete. A discarded tomato seed can produce a plant in a scant year. Here in the southerly part of Castilla/La Mancha the red dirt doesn't look promising but market gardens dot the landscape as far as the eye can see. A goatherd raised his stick in salute and farewell as I passed him by.
This part of Spain is as far from the beery, saucy postcard image of Benidorm and Benalmadena as you might get. The vans in the fields may be thirty or forty years old and it's not just this that makes you think that the simple act of turning off a motorway and onto a rural road has thrust you into that other country, the past.
The past; they do things differently there. In Peñascosa, at the Cafe Bar Isabel, they talk of the past and sometimes it is sanitised. The population of the village is aging, old grievances have to be hidden in back rooms of dark, huddling houses. Old men talk about who will run the Café when Isabel, who no longer looks like the elegant figure depicted on the back of the packets of sugar, finally leaves. They talk about who has died and never about the young who move away.
A different Spain, and thank goodness for that.
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