We set off high above the town, then dropped down on the north to join a marked walk to the junction of two rivers. It was supposed to take four hours, but with stops for drawing, taking photos, resting, cooling off, eating lunch, it took us closer to six hours.
Ruins of houses and several threshing circles or eras marked the early part of the walk … evidence that people had once lived on the steep sides of the river valley. One house is still in good repair and used in summer, so we called Hola to the man who greeted us as we passed.
Before long we began to follow a section of the aquacia, the old irrigation channel where I found so many butterflies! This very large green frog was also watching butterflies, with a different purpose no doubt … he jumped into the water where I managed to get this shot. Later we saw lots of green frogs, and several other water dwelling creatures.
Views were fabulous, all around us, sharp slatey hillsides, distance mountains, fresh aromas.
Quite an impressive ruin awaited us at the junction of the rivers … a Moorish silk factory! Long ago there was thriving silk industry in the valley, where people farmed silk worms on mulberry trees (which still exist), made silk, and took it out to Granada where the Zouk was an amazing huge silk market.
At the end of the track we climbed a very steep high slope, sharing the one walking pole we had borrowed. Then we turned back, to take a different route back to the village.
Looking down at the old silk factory, back at the walking track and the acequia … time to go back! We wondered how old the irrigation system is, and how it was constructed. In places it is many metres above ground level, and eighty metres above the river, built against a vertical cliff face. I found this on Wikipedia ..”The terracing and the irrigation of the hillsides (the “Alta Alpujarra”) was the work of Berbers, who inhabited this area after the Moorish invasion of 711 AD. They also created villages on the hillsides in the style to which they were accustomed in the mountains of North Africa: narrow, winding streets and small flat-roofed houses.”
In this highest section of the walk I found lavender ….
and down lower near the water this lily …
Although our notes warned us there could be a bit of scrambling and a few vertiginous moments where the path along the acequia had been damaged in recent flooding rains, we chose the pretty route home. See the track running along beside the irrigation channel.
Can you imagine walking on the narrow track beside the water, flowing smoothly and slowly downhill? We were awestruck at the genius of the Moorish engineers, and we could see evidence where people today had patched things up in a very haphazard manner … it seems those skills (and maybe those slaves?) are just not available today … but still Bérchules depends on the water in these channels to irrigate all the agriculture and supply water to the town.
When we had to scramble, or walk along a narrow wall with a big drop into the valley below, we rose to the challenge …although once S said to me “Is that really the path?” He has problems with heights, but the walking pole made it all possible …. a slender connection with the stone of the acequia which is suspended here about thirty metres above ground level.
The town was a welcome sight, with shaded tables outside a bar where we could sit and drink a beer with free tapa of sheeps cheese, bread and olives, hmmm, delicious!
Our abode, Hotel Los Bérchules is the most wonderful place to stay! Wendy and her son Alejandro are so hospitable you feel like a guest in a private home, with sumptuous meals, and all the guidance and help needed for choosing walks. I cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone contemplating a holiday in Las Alpujarras.