Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Alonso de Aguilar came here on March 19, 1483 with 2,700 mounted men and 1,000 on foot. When he saw the hamlet of Moclinejo was deserted, he burnt it down. The Muslims, who were in the castle, saw their homes burning, devoured by flames. A shower of stones and arrows fell down on the Christian army. Hundreds of soldiers died. After these sad facts, the mountains in northern Moclinejo came to be known “the Basin of the Dead,” while the hill climbing down to them from the population centre was called “the Hill of the Slaughter.”


A look at the hills clad in olive green and the vineyards surrounding Moclinejo is enough to understand why this township is part of the Raisin Tour, cutting across six sweet wine-producing towns in Axarquía where raisins are a key culinary ingredient. All the mountains and hills, visibly dry, are peppered with olive trees, country estates, cortijos, farmer’s houses, and paseros, that is, some curious downhill rectangular fields adjacent to one another and fenced in by white walls were grapes sit to dry in the sun. I walked through the town’s entrance archway, a stone wall with a tower to the left which you need to cross if you want to get to the centre and south of the town. About 100m away there’s a children’s playground and a free parking area. Moclinejo lies on the foot of the Piedras Blancas mountain, 673m high, so I somehow knew this wouldn’t be an easy tour.

Downtown and Along the Streets

From the parking area, I walked down Rambla de las Flores towards the church, whose tower I could see and whose bells I could hear in the distance. There’re paths and flowerpots in homes, whose private gardens make streets look fresh, filling each and every corner with strong, sweet smells. You can feel a past of hard work, a living, long, eventful history. Moclinejo doesn’t make concessions: it’s pure in its narrowness, designed to shelter you in its shadows, with some dirt roads, with the quiet of a small town. It’s like a natural watchtower overlooking the Mediterranean, which can be felt everywhere and even seen from most of the streets. Manuel Cabrera Street took me to Plaza de España, the town’s nerve centre. The square is big and rectangular. Protected from the scorching sun by some awnings, I could see the belfry tiles of the Church of Nuestra Señora de Gracia. It’s a curious tower indeed, featuring a rectangular design, with three eyes under the round arches, a bell tolling in the middle arch.

Nuestra Señora de Gracia and the Procession

Heading for the Church, I stumbled upon the sounds of a salve rociera. A group of men and women wearing bright-coloured clothes surrounded a float carrying an image of the Immaculate Conception. The locals gathered there showed their devotion for Virgin Mary, accompanying the procession with their cries and hand clapping, while a choir sang religious hymns mellifluously before the Church’s door, which was entirely open. I wanted to know about all this, so I asked about it. They told me it was the procession to the river: after Mass and the chants, locals would gather by the river, carrying their picnic baskets with them and staying there until late in the afternoon. It was a popular fiesta for families, deeply-rooted in local traditions. I saw the float moving away and I heard the sound of fireworks. In the newly created silence, I went into the Parish Church of Nuestra Señora de Gracia. It’s a two-nave building with a curious interior design. The two naves are separated by three arches. First you access the main nave, and the other one looks as if added later, judging by the sloping roof. The temple is simply but charmingly decorated. Two lamps bearing geometric patterns hang from the high, beamless ceiling. Echoes from the boisterous procession can still be heard. I went back into the square and had a snack before moving on. It was too hot not to take a break.

After a Snack, Uptown

Noticing that most seniors sat under the sunshades of the Reyes restaurant, I chose this bar. Two beers and two tapas: Málaga-style salad and crab pincer salad. The necessary fuel to go on. After the snack, I decided to put my travel guide away and walk around without a fixed route. Steep streets climbing up and down, winding to reach blind alleys. Many homes have their doors open to attract draughts; mosquito nettings fluttering in the breeze. I came across a bodega showing the Ten Commandments of Wine: “You shall love your wine above all else,” “You shall consider three things in wine: smell, taste, and sight.” Walking on, I envied some of the views I imagined from the balconies and terraces: the surrounding mountains, the sea, the olive trees, the vineyards… A landscape open to be gazed at. Moclinejo is a harsh land, but it also hides some delicate winks here and there. I strolled around, said hello to residents, talked to them, found out many interesting things, enjoyed myself. Time for lunch.

Hearty Dishes against the Heat and Then Farewell

Although I’d been recommended a few other places to eat out, I went back to Reyes. When you see locals at a restaurant’s tables and bar, it usually means they serve homemade food at good prices. After being shown to a table, they turned on the air conditioning for me. I had a look at the menu –decimated by the celebrations on the previous day, but still offering a wide range of choices. There was no gazpacho or ajoblanco left, so I ordered a full salad (€3), sirloin medallions with muscatel raisins (€10), and tripe with chickpeas (€4), washed down with two bottles of water (1l each), an iced coffee, and a herb liqueur. The bill = €22. The tripe with chickpeas was strong, hearty yet subtle, and delicious. The waiter told me it was kept on the summer menu because it was very popular with patrons. As to the medallions, I ordered them because it’s impossible to be to Moclinejo and not eat raisins. The prices were really low. I ate a lot for little money. Leaving the coolness of the Reyes restaurant behind, I went back into the street and to my car down Rambla de las Flores. I saw the entrance archway again, caught a glimpse of the dazzling Mediterranean, stole a final look at the hills dressed in olive green. Gazing up, I thought I could see the Moclinejenses running way on March 19, 1483. But it was just a heat-induced mirage, I guess.

Travel Tips and Useful Links

What to do: 1. Hiking. An interesting autumn or spring hiking tour leads you to Manchón de las Minas (but bring mountain footwear!). In the past, precious metal mining was Moclinejo’s main economic activity. In the north, after climbing a steep uphill trail, you get to Manchón de las Minas, a hole dug in the land during the mining times. Ask for directions to find it. Other hiking tours: to Totalán via Piedras Blancas, to Venta de Cárdenas, or to El Borge. 2. Wine tasting. For wine lovers, Bodega Antonio Muñoz Cabrera is open to the public. Telephone number: (+34) 952 408 699.
What to wear and what to take: First and foremost, bring comfortable shoes. Moclinejo’s narrow streets are difficult to drive along. The best way to get to know the town is walking around. If you’re coming in the summer, a bottle of water in your backpack, will surely be welcomed. Sit under the awnings in Plaza de España for a delicious afternoon.
Useful links: Our usual web reference is the Costa del Sol Tourist Board’s website. The Moclinejo Town Hall website has a lot of useful information, and so do the regional websites Axarquía Costa del Sol, El Portal de la Axarquía, and Finally, there’s an interesting private website:

Comments, suggestions, and opinions from travellers/ visitors to this blog are very welcome. This is intended to be an open door, so the more things shown and said, the better. See you under the Bright Blue Sky.