The weather has chucked everything at us recently. Lots and lots of heavy rain with some electrical storms included for good measure, low temperatures causing a very early show of snow at the top of our mountain (La Maroma, 2,060 metres), and some clear sunny days in between. But the weather I dread the most is heavy wind. We know a lot about wind up here. We live at 650 metres and the mountain that is the focus of the vista from our house directs some very vicious gusts in our direction. A few weeks ago we lost a tree to the gales, and we experienced even worse blasts a few days ago. So bad that we had a battle to remain upright against the force. So bad that our porch was ripped from the house (in truth a bit of a blessing because now we have to replace it was something less ugly than the corrugated iron structure that has served to shade our entrance for the last ten years and was originally built to protect horses from the sun in the stable that was once our house).
Consequently I have not walked much over the last couple of weeks and when yesterday dawned bright and sunny and the air was still as a statue I took my chance to don the walking gear and enjoy the weather. It soon became clear that it wasn’t just us who had suffered a beating by the gales.
A couple of hundred metres from my door are olive groves and avocado plantations. I imagine that a week ago the farmers had been rubbing their hands together rejoicing that the recent long awaited rains had been plentiful and had plumped their fruit for a bumper crop this year. Olives and avocados are normally harvested hereabouts from December to February. I took some photos last week of the abundant fruit hanging from the trees, the olives black and shiny and the avocados slowly growing to a good size.
Yesterday’s walk revealed devastation along the goat track that I walk every day. There were puddles and rivers of olives lying on the track and below there were huge numbers of avocados lying on the ground under the trees. A few farmers were out and about collecting the fruit – it will ripen well but will be smaller than they would have liked. These avocados had fallen on soft ground on flat terraces and were likely to be in good condition.
But as a walked further, descending into the valley below the village the devastation was complete. Here the trees are grown on steep rocky banks and the fruit had fallen and bounced over stones and tumbled onto the rough track at the bottom of the slope, most of them damaged and scarred by their journey and much less likely to be welcomed at the local fruit dealers. A whole year’s crop ruined in just a few hours. So sad. As I climbed up the other side of the valley I looked back and noticed that farmers had arrived to survey the damage and collect the fruit.
I steadfastly resist the temptation to pluck avocados from a tree, even though there are places I walk where I have to duck so that I don’t get clonked on the head by a low hanging fruit. However, normally I consider it fair game to pick up the odd fruit from the ground. They would otherwise be left to rot or to be eaten by the wild boar that abound in these parts. But I didn’t even think about picking up any of these wind-falls which represent much needed income to the local farmers.
A small olive tree had fallen on the first track and as I continued my walk I had to negotiate a tall pine that had been uprooted and made the path impassable, but not too much other damage was apparent in the natural park.
As Roly and I continued to gain height and enjoy the familiar views we were startled when a huge and handsome Ibex bound across the path in front of us. Roly was so taken aback that he didn’t even attempt to give chase and the Ibex was soon out of sight as it launched itself from the edge of a steep drop and disappeared from sight.
We reached our favourite resting place where there are big square stones that provide a perfect place to sit and gaze out over the hillsides from under the canopy of cork oaks towards the sheep and goats that were noisily grazing the grassy hillside of the opposite side of the valley.
When I watch the news and see images of the recent devastation in California and other areas that suffer tornados and hurricanes, severe flooding and landslides, extreme temperatures and earthquakes, I appreciate how lucky we are to be living in an area where a bit of wind is the worst that we normally experience (although we did have a serious fire in the mountains a few years ago).
Today produced a beautiful evening sky – such vibrant colours