Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Villanueva, new village. Villanueva del Trabuco. A town up in arms, at least in its belligerent coat of arms. Over 100 spouts squirting crystal-clear water. The birthplace of the Guadalhorce river, sustaining and nurturing it. Sierras –Gorda, San Jorge– mitigating the summer heat. Confluence and border: Granada and Axarquía, Antequera and Nororma… Lots of olives. New village up in arms: Villanueva del Trabuco.

Villanueva del Trabuco and Northeastern Málaga, or Nororma

Mildly rolling hills like waves laden with olive trees –the foam on top of flat cereal sheets in a tempestuous sea of earth. The landscape is bounded by grey-peaked sierras. It looks deceptively kind. As I get closer, I can see that the hills aren’t that mild and reach considerable heights in their “delicate” ups and downs. Sheltered by the undulating geography in yellow, green, and ochre depending on the season, Villanueva del Trabuco stands out like a sort of white spot. The land –and the people living in it– has a curious history. Men are likely to have lived in this area since prehistoric times, as shown by the archaeological remains found in the neighbouring sites. However, the environs remained uninhabited for centuries, thus being the den of all kinds of dangerous animals. They were virgin, unploughed lands. It was Charles III who encouraged people to settle in. Neighbours were afraid of the wild animals and they thought the lands to be far from their homes. So the King chose to invite foreign tenant farmers, and this was the origin of a Flemish and German community that grew into a new village: Villanueva del Trabuco.

Arrival and Plaza de España

I’ve come to Villanueva del Trabuco along the road from Villanueva del Rosario –neighbouring towns with a shared history. I reach the town centre through the main street and easily find a parking space on the detour to the left, leading to the church. Fetching my notepad and camera, I get off and walk towards the Church of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores along a series of narrow streets, unwittingly following the Stations of the Cross. Suddenly, I stumble upon Plaza de España, dominated by a modern monument to the town. This square has a long history, from marketplace to Easter stage to Corpus Christi celebration venue to stop in the parade of the Magi. The monument was made by Brazilian-Spanish sculptor Bernardo Caro Sánchez as a tribute to his parents, who were born in Villanueva del Trabuco.

The Church and its Courtyard

The balconies overlooking most streets in towns are brimming with colourful flowers: discreet green, explosive red, sky blue… The church square is spacious and quiet. It’s flanked by the street, two homes, and the façade of the church, adjoining the seat of a local fraternity. The façade is amazing, rising up against the bright blue sky as if wanting to tickle it with its pinnacle. The existence of a church in Villanueva del Trabuco is recorded as early as in 1700, but it was only in 1760 that it became a parish church and was granted the right to have a side chapel and baptismal font. Also in 1760, the church was dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrow; before it had been a temple for Our Lady of Egypt. I walk in. The interior stands in sharp contrast to the amazing façade, for it features an austere single nave. But it affords shade, coolness, and shelter. I go out and walk further up the street, some 20 metres. Then I turn left and find my way across Plaza del Prado.

Plaza del Prado and the Chapel of Virgen del Puente

Plaza del Prado is the heart of town. Many streets start or end in this square, and you have to come to it to go to most places. There’s a beautiful fountain in it, and the coat of arms in cobblestones, showing the blunderbuss (trabuco) that lends its name to the town. Legend has it that there used to be an inn close to the village whose owner used to go to Archidona for supplies. In his trips he was usually robbed of his goods, so he bought a blunderbuss and never parted ways with it. When they saw him in Archidona, they used to say, “There’s the guy with the blunderbuss.” This could’ve been the origin of the town’s name (source: Town Hall website). They’re funny, both the story and the fact that the coat or arms includes a blunderbuss. The square is full of restaurants and coffee houses. The Town Hall lies in one of the corners, opposite a multi-purpose building housing a home for the elderly, the town fitness centre, an exhibition room, and the food market. I walk across the building towards the river Guadalhorce, finding it impossible not to cool myself in a three-spout fountain. On the bank of the river there’s a small park, a bridge, and a chapel. It’s a small yet beautiful building, and it seems to be venerated by locals. In only 10 minutes, three women come and cross themselves before the image of Virgin Mary.

Pinar de los Villares and its Viewpoints

From the town centre I come back to my car and drive to Pinar de los Villares, above the district of Los Villares, next to the town swimming pool and on the way to the cemetery. Signs indicate the road to “Mirador de los Villares.” You can’t get lost. Sierras in the background, the hamlet in front; between the sierras and the hamlet, olives and corn fields. The white houses stand in stark contrast to the yellow fields. I can almost touch the pinnacle of the church if I stretch the tips of my fingers in my imagination. I can smell the pines, and wet earth, the Mediterranean cool… The thick pine forest overlooks Villanueva del Trabuco as if it were a balcony. Skirting the town swimming pool, I go back to town to see the Hundred-Spout Fountain. But I need a break first.

Stop and Lunch

On my way to the fountain, I spot Venta Asador El Cortijuelo. A local man had recommended it for its traditional food: porra, charcoal-grilled kid or lamb, homemade black pudding, pipirranas… There’re lots of dishes on the menu. The prices are good (I’d even say affordable) and the service, fine. Choosing a table on the terrace, I order hot porrilla with mushrooms (€3.90), meat in almond sauce (€5), charcoal-grilled lamb (€7.90), 2 beers, a 1.5l bottle of water, and an iced coffee. The bill = €22.20. The porrilla tastes like porra antequerana, but the vegetables lend it a darker colour. It includes sautéed mushrooms. You must use a spoon for it. A deliciously curious dish.

The Hundred-Spout Fountain

From El Cortijuelo, I have to drive 10 minutes to get to the fountain. I do so amidst the hills and the olives, by the early flow of the Guadalhorce. There’s an inn or two around: Marrillo, Los Lobos… The road goes up and down under the powerful sierras on the right. Each bend brings me closer to the foothills of the mountains. Crossing the river, a sign points to the right, where the fountain is. The road morphs into a trail in good condition. It can easily be negotiated by car. Surprisingly, there’re a lot of people at the fountain. It’s a curious attraction. Several rows of spouts stick out from the rock. The murmur of water is never-ending; in fact, it’s more than a murmur: it’s an endless drone. The bubbling water sprays the air with zillions of white particles. One, two, three, four, five… I can count 100 spouts.


Flowing into the fountain, the Guadalhorce gives rise to a small meadow affording great views of the surrounding hills and the sierras. Bring your mat, lie down, take a look at the bright blue sky, and let the river music –created with a 100-pipe natural organ– lull you to sleep.

Travel Tips and Useful Links

What to do: Hiking: There’s a lot of information on hiking tours, MTB routes, and city walks on the Town Hall website. You can even download them in PDF files: Route of the River Source, Route of the Threshing Floor, Route of the Spouts, Route of Gardens, and many more.
When to come: On August 24 and 25, Villanueva del Trabuco plays host to the leading Cattle Fair in Málaga Province, which is also August Fair. The fiesta of the Patroness, Our Lady of Sorrow, is on September 15 and 16. In Easter, popular celebrations are interesting too; in particular, the Meeting of Mary and Jesus on Maundy Thursday.
Useful links: To learn more about Villanueva del Trabuco and Nororma, check the websites of Costa del Sol Tourist Board, Villanueva del Trabuco Town Hall, and Association for the Rural Development of Northeastern Málaga.

Comments, suggestions, and opinions from travellers/ visitors to this blog are very welcome. See you under the Bright Blue Sky.