Yesterday we went to explore the eastern Alpujarra. We know the main part of this lovely area very well from our years spent living in the province of Granada. The eastern part of the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, La Alpujarra Almeriense, which extends into the Province of Almeria, is much less visited and new to us.
The first town we stopped at was Alhama de Almeria. The town has a pleasant feel about it and seems relatively prosperous. We just had time to walk along the main street and explore a few squares. A lot of the architecture here is modern but there are some interesting corners and the countryside around seemed fertile.
Leaving Alhama de Almeria, we dropped down to the green valley of the Rio Andarax and passed several pretty little villages overlooking the valley floor and fincas with fruit and olive trees. We stopped next at the town of Canjáyar which is built on a ridge overlooking farmland. Here again, fruit and olive trees are in abundance and there are many vineyards although some of these seem neglected.
Strolling around the town we were surprised how quiet is was. At the communal laundry sinks, a solitary women had just finished her washing.
Unlike Alhama, most of the town centre has retained its original buildings and traditional architecture. There are some interesting squares to explore.
Many streets were devoid of people. Just the odd cat to speak to. There were only few shops open and most of the bars were closed. We wondered where we could get a drink and tapas, so we asked a couple of old men who directed us to the Hogar de Pensionistas which was run by two friendly women. We asked why the town was so quiet. They explained that there was no work and the people here had no money to go out and eat and drink. We asked about the juicy, Almerian table grapes that were once popular in Britain and must have come from around here. Margaret’s father used to sell them in his greengrocer’s shop in Falmouth in the 1960s and they were extremely popular. The older woman said that she remembered them but most of the vineyards are now abandoned and they are no longer commercially produced. Property is very cheap in Canjayar. Reasonable houses and small farms can be bought for little more than 50,000 euros.
On the walls of civic buildings and public spaces ceramic tiles illustrate the history of the town. Here are a couple showing the once prosperous fruit industry and its associate craft of making wooden barrels. The grapes were packed into the barrels for export.
Returning from Canjáyar, we crossed to the other side of the valley and stopped at the little village of Terque to have a look around. Around the centre were a few small squares with fine old buildings but some were in a bad state of repair.
In the hillside above, clusters of cave dwellings were embedded into the mountains and it appeared some of them had been recently renovated. The hillside next to it, though, was covered with a huge apartment complex which was totally out of keeping. Two giant cranes stood by and there was no sign of work or occupation. Obviously another mad project from the property boom years and now paralysed through lack of money and buyers.
This was only a brief visit to the Alpujarra Almeriense but we will definitely explore the area further.