I’M in a land of strange noises and shapes. I can hear insects and see the dark outlines of hills through an open window. But there’s no John Humphrys or Radio 4 in the background and no familiar slamming of car doors from the street. In fact, there’s no street . . .
The sky begins to lighten at about 6.40am. By 7.10am, I am wandering down tracks that wind through groves of olives and almonds. I pause occasionally to watch the sun rise above the eastern flanks of the Sierra Nevada and flood this delightful place – the Alpujarra – with proper light.
Alpujarra is thought to stem from the Arabic al-bugsharra, which means sierra of pastures. I’ll go along with that. Sounds pretty accurate to me. There is a great deal of Moorish influence in this area. It is apparent in place names, art, architecture, agriculture and in the population and its culture.
I don’t walk far, perhaps two or three kilometres, to where I can see the Embalse de Rules reservoir, the A44 motorway, and, in the far distance, a smudge that is the sea. Apparently, you can see Africa on a good day. To the north stand the white walls of the spa town of Lanjaron.
This is a land that I know but don’t know. A few familiar landmarks stand out in the overall unfamiliarity. Most of it is strange. And as I stand here on this dusty track, I feel a bit overwhelmed by the enormity of it all – the Alpujarra, then Andalucia, and then Spain itself. That’s a lot of strangeness and unfamiliarity to get used to.