There are times when you’re confronted by savage and untamed landscapes that make you question whether the God that made them was still practising, or if this is the finished article.
I’m talking now of the huge and empty mountains that rip into the skies above Mairena, or the cruel and desolate cliffs that brawl with the seas at Cabo de Gata, the little –known promontory where we spent the last two days. This forms part of a sub – desert, the driest part of Europe, and boy, did it rain. Blew too, white havoc on the water, with even the gulls forced to hunker down in the cracks between the slabs of rock
I loved it. Through the chaos of the wind you could see for miles down the coast and up and along the twisted black backs of the twin volcanoes lay the path we had chosen. A tiny, heroic path stitched to the flanks, seemingly leading nowhere; in the gales this was not a route for the faint-hearted or for the owners of poodles or other lightweight dogs.
If ever you want to be reminded of your own insignificance, spend a day alone in the mountains or on the shore of a storm torn sea. The prodigious land and seascapes of Andalucia are plenty vast enough to dwarf the biggest of egos. Try it: worries are sloughed, you can weigh the things of substance and appreciate the business of being.
I find this revitalising, in the truest sense. It’s kind of refreshing to remember that we’re not after all the masters of our world, that we cannot comb the unruly curls of creation.
Ultimately this I suppose is part of why I love the alpujarra. It is untamed, mostly, but in a tame kind of way, on the edge of the sierras, but not edgy as in could-be-lethal. A walk at 10 000 feet here is a controlled adventure, somewhere between a stroll in the Cotswolds and a trek up the scary bits of Everest. Danger lurks everywhere, of course. I remember one terrible occasion, for example, when the dogs – Labradors inevitably – stole the picnic from our rucksack, including the only Melton Mowbray pork pie in the kingdom, so it always pays to be watchful.
It’s so different here. Not always better, but always different. This time last week I was in London and I loved it. I discovered by chance the Japanese gardens in Holland Park, and was blown away. Not blown away like the poodles on the cliff walk, but amazed by the detail and symmetry of these exquisite ponds and lilies. Now that is the finished product, no question. Whether I’d want to live there permanently though, rather than in the capricious, eye-popping, awe- inspiring mountain wilderness of Mairena, is not, at least for this writer, a particularly difficult question.