September can be a great month here, with the rain coming back and bringing new growth and life. Canillas de Albaida’s Fabrica de la Luz is one of the best places to enjoy this, and river and trees are beautiful. It’s a great place to start and end a walk.
This celebration, held on the weekend nearest the 21st June, is just before or just after the end of the summer term so is a marker for the start of the long hot summer.
San Juan takes a turn around the village on the Saturday and is given a mass. As always there rockets are set off to explode over head with ear-drum shattering force. But on the Sunday more than half the village puts on their glad-rags – flamenco dresses, riding clothes, what you will – and either climb into flower and fan
be-decked vans and trucks, motos, carts and traps and beautifully groomed horses, or set out by foot to head out of town. A romería can be translated as a pilgrimage (in which case this is a very short one) so the villages make their procession in the wake of San Juan, who leads in an mule-drawn flower-filled cart. They may be helped on their way by the passing around of a jug or two of … something … among the adults.
At the Fábrica San Juan is carefully parked up in a corner and the party begins. Many of the children and some of the adults cool down by paddling at the ford or on the rocks beside the stream. There is a giant picnic. The Women’s Association or one of the town’s restaurants or the Townhall sets up a bar and cooks up an immense paella, served to all comers with bread and sometimes meaty side-dishes. This is a tremendous amount of work: this year, around 6pm I asked one of the women at the bar when they had started and was amazed to be told at 8:30. “Er … how are your feet?” I asked. “Put it this way,” she answered, “I’m not walking on the way back!”
There is the splendid Corrida de Cintas, the horse-riders running under a wire and trying to spike the tag on the reeled ribbons that hang from it: very tricky, demanding luck and skill. These 3 pictures are from this year’s event via the Canillas de Albaida facebook page:
Then there is music and dancing, both performances by adults and children and spontaneous dancing among the crowd. And members of the town’s band perform, though not this time in their rather hot uniforms!
As with many Spanish fiestas it is relaxed, casual, a little disorganised, with lots of standing around and gossiping and not a huge amount of action but a great atmosphere. Bearing in mind that most of the ‘pilgrims’ have known each other all their lives it is like a very big outdoor family party, with a bit of horse-riding thrown in!
Two years ago, by happen stance, I could not go. That was the year strong winds swept a terrible fire towards Cómpeta. The fire brigade and the forestry workers reached the Fábrica just, I am told, as the paella was finished, and told the assembled crowd to eat up and leave. The wind could change direction anytime and the last thing the authorities wanted was 600 pilgrims in the middle of the forest with only one road out, a lot of nervous horses and no phone cover!
This year, thank God! no such disasters: much more typically Sunday’s San Juan was a lovely event in a very lovely place.
Were you there? What is your favourite part of this … or another … summer fiesta?
Two options: a longer circular walk, starting with a road walk into the natural park then the track walk OR a taxi drop in the natural park then the track walk
Difficulty: Medium. Two thirds of the walk is on tracks with the final third on paths zigzagging down and then up on steeper ground.
Good Walk for: Views. Almost any time of year. Avoid very hot or really windy days.
Distance: Full walk 9.75 Km (about 3hrs 20m). Shorter walk 5.45 Km (about 2 hrs)
Ascent/Descent: 15-20 mins zigzag down followed by 15-20 mins zigzagging up. Steep but not very.
For the short walk take a taxi to Canillas de Albaida’s Fábrica de la Luz, a recreation zone and picnic site.
The longer Walk starts in Canillas de Albaida’s main car park, between the primary school and “polideportivo” (sports ground). Having parked, walk up the hill opposite the mini roundabout and at the T-junction turn left. Follow this road up towards the chapel of Santa Ana, passing it on your left to find a cross roads. Don’t go right and up, don’t go left and down: go almost straight, on the level, heading away from the town. Follow the road for about 20 minutes – you pass a sign welcoming you to the Sierras just before a junction to the right (stay left), then you pass a road off to the left just before you pass the quarry on your right. After that you pass a ruined building on your left and reach a parking area near the river, picnic tables and the building of La Fabrica de la Luz.
For both walks from the Fabrica do not take the steps up to the building (except to have a look or visit the toilets) but walk forward on the track towards the ford. You get over the stream wherever is easiest (there are several good crossing points to your right) and then follow the track running straight on. It leads you gently north then, after crossing another stream that trickles, usually toe deep across the path, it begins to zigzag slowly uphill.
As you get higher, look around. Behind you will see a distant tiny white building – the shepherd’s cortijo, an old bothy in this obscure location, after which the walk is named. You may see sheep and goats grazing or hear their bells.
Further on you will pass stands of cork oaks: beautiful trees. Their bark was harvested in 2013 and will take about 7 years to grow back. You will also be able to see (looking essentially back and down) the Fábrica, which you started from. It will seem a long way below!
Eventually the zigzag track joins a main track on the top of the ridge. Turn left and walk south, on this ridge top: on either side there is farmed land, mainly olives and almonds, with some rough ground in between. When you see a little rocky rise on the right you might scramble go up it to look at the views: to the north the Sierras, to the east the town of Cómpeta, to the west Malaga and, on a clear day you might see Gibraltar and even the peaks of the Riff mountains in Morocco far to the south. Now go back to the track and continue until you come to a big pylon, next to an old, rather overgrown firebreak.
Go to the pylon and head to the right hand side of the firebreak in front of you, in the same general direction of travel as before. After 150m or so, before the ground starts to really climb, find a path on the right that runs along the level. Follow this path; there are glimpses into the Cájula valley on your right. You will shortly arrive at another track. Cross it and pick up the path again, following this as it leads you gently down through open pine woods ‘til you come to another firebreak. You cross this too and again pick up the path on the other side. This leads you down to a tarmac road.
Cross the road and find the path yet again zigzagging down among open pine woods. This is a little steep in places so take it steadily. It brings you to the valley bottom and meets another path; turn left and you’ll find a bridge over the Rio Turvilla. Of course, having come down into the valley you now have to get up to the town, sticking to the main path as it zigzag uphill. You arrive by the white walls of the village cemetery and can get onto the road by heading up the concrete slope just before it. You are now back in Canillas.
To get to the car park turn right and follow the road down and round. When you come to a side street on your right that runs uphill take it. You pass a beautiful lemon tree hung with gourds! Go on to the plazoleta behind the church and head diagonally across it to go, on the level, into the plaza. Continue through the plaza, past the town hall and on through narrow level streets until you come to a broad opening with a road uphill on your left and the main road just below. Go up the hill, turning right past a fountain and you have reached the carpark again. Well done!
What did you think of this walk? Add your comments below or send your pictures (low res jpegs only, please) to firstname.lastname@example.org