Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Jubrique, Rotillas, Monarda, and Benameda. Jubrique, riotous and rebellious. Chestnuts like green oceans. Twisting streets, impossible labyrinths, oneiric architecture. Countryside and country trails. Hikers. Golden autumns, cool summers, harsh winters, blooming springs. Vines and bougainvilleas. Slow walks. Peace.


A thick golden carpet covers the banks of the road. The first chestnuts, still green, hang from the trees, hinting at an undiscovered Garden of Eden. Even in the summer heat of August, the Genal Valley shows its shiniest side –leafy, green, shadowy, and cool. A natural paradise forged out of cork oak and chestnut clusters, as well as plentiful hills. Also forged out of peace and silence. You can only hear stray birds and early-rising cicadas. Light breaks into a kaleidoscope of stunning blues and greens. The only soundtrack is that of trees rustling and stirring their branches. No wonder that the Moriscos living here in the sixteenth century rebelled to defend their lifestyle amidst vines, fruit trees, and bottomless sources of water, that they took arms against the Christian army from Castile that expelled their parents and brothers, and then imposed stifling laws that were impossible to abide by. And so they rose up in arms in Genal, in Jubrique, becoming the fiercest defenders of the land. Vanquished by the Christian troops, they went into exile to Africa and Galicia. But they came back later as the forerunners of the Romantic bandits of the nineteenth century. “The Moors who lived in these mountains were brave, more belligerent, and less patients than other Muslims dominated by Castile. Soon after being defeated by Ferdinand the Catholic, they rioted again in Sierra Bermeja. When Alonso Aguilar and his troops climbed up (1494), they were vanquished and lost their lives –there were 500 cavalrymen. Only Aguilar’s son, the Count of Conde Ureña, and a bunch of soldiers managed to escape the wrath of the Moriscos in the sierras, enraged at the usual insult from and treaty breaches by the Christian rulers” (source: information board).


I parked on Algatocín Street, which is in fact the road to Estepona but fits in the Jubrique environment. I left my car near the bus stop, opposite a supermarket (The Shop). The town leaned over a natural balcony overlooking a hill covered with chestnuts and peppered with a few white constructions –tool sheds, cortijos, villas… I plunged in and spotted the Quiosco de la Crítica, a kiosk with a bench where you can sit and watch locals come and go in an endless flow.

Maze, Square, Church

Soon enough Jubrique showed: a tight cluster of homes, a bunch of steep, narrow, winding roads, a few alleyways brief as a sigh. The Town Hall website contains a downloadable street map which you can use to find your way around, but the best thing to do is put it away and let your instinct guide you: get lost, find your way, get lost again, and so on. I followed the route on the street map to Plaza de Andalucía, a curious place where all the centres of power in Jubrique are to be found: the church, the town hall, a bar (La Plaza), a bank, a chemist’s… The Church of San Francisco de Asís seems to have been squeezed into the hamlet to be part of the labyrinth’s skin. It features an imposing front belfry tower. It was early in the morning. A horn announced the arrival of the fishmonger. The streets created a beautiful yet impossible maze for out-of-towners. The Church of San Francisco de Asís was built in the sixteenth century on the ruins of an old mosque. Since then, it’s been renovated once and again, both inside and outside. A crossing with side chapels was added in the nineteenth century. The two-structure belfry tower was erected in the eighteenth century. On one of the sides of the entrance arches there’s an image of Virgin Mary.

Into the Maze

On the square, where up to five different streets converge, there is a bar where you can have breakfast or tapas. Its large window affords views of the mountains. Between the bar and a small archway, there is a colourful fountain dedicated to Jubrique’s women: “For decades, this fountain has been a witness to life in town, to people’s joys and sorrows. It’s dedicated to Jubrique’s women, who in their daily chores play a noble role in society.” The dedication was dated March 8, 2004. I climbed the street on the left of the bank and plunged into the maze of unusual constructions: houses connected by wooden bridges or pointed arches and so forth. Jubrique rose up against the bright blue sky in its steep climbs and twisting alleyways. Ánimas, Palacios, Picasso, Altillo… The streets create a never-ending labyrinth, feeding on its own twists and turns. I could smell rosemary, mint, thyme, apple mint… Being so high up, I could almost touch the roofs. I strolled down the cosy 28 de Febrero Street, brimming with flower beds, vines, cobblestones, hanging bougainvilleas and their purple explosions down below. I was always surrounded by the chestnut-covered mountains. All the streets looked nice and clean. The vines living in most patios and flower beds hint at the importance of the wine-making industry in Jubrique. “It was in the mid nineteenth century that Jubrique achieved its greatest splendour as a result of the wealth produced by its vineyards, the industry based on them, and the mining industry in the sierras. The wine-making industry continued until the twentieth century. Even today, the only wineries in the region, which can be found in Ronda, belong to a family from Jubrique.” On Séneca Street, neighbours were painting their house façades in white. Down Fuente Street, a plate next to a small chapel told the story of El Melchi, a Christianised Muslim up in arms who chroniclers described as the devil himself. “There was among the Moors a wicked, riotous one they called ‘El Melchi,’ who’d been in jail for being a heretic. He made his ignorant people change their minds when they were ready to surrender.” This marked the origin of the Moorish rebellion in the Genal Valley. More bridges and archways. Cobertizo Street brought me to the back of the church and Plaza de Andalusia and my car.


I sat in the shade of the vine leaves, ready for the first grapes (still green yet tender), taking in the purple explosion of the bougainvilleas and feeling the mountain breeze brush past me. I looked at the chestnut ocean and plunged into it, moved by the smells emanating from the wet earth, the fresh flowers, the twisting branches. I breathed in the scents of the Genal Valley and felt them fill me in. I let go. I got carried away into the heart of Genal.

Travel Tips and Useful Links

What to do:
Jubrique is the Mecca of hiking and nature travel in the Genal Valley. Lots of trails and roads start here, connecting this town with most locations in the valley in an open network. They come in various lengths, degrees of difficulties, and landscapes, ensuring there’ll be one for each type of hiker and fitness level. The Town Hall website includes data on nine official hiking trails, linking Jubrique to Benaluría, Charco Picao, Faraján, Benajarón, Genalguacil, La Solana, Pujerra, Charco Azul, and Charco Esteban. Each road is described in a downloadable PDF file containing all the relevant information (gradient, length, difficulty, etc.).
Useful links: To read more about Jubrique, visit the websites of Costa del Sol Tourist Board and Jubrique Town Hall. For videos of fairs, processions, trips, and mask festivals, check, where you’re going to find an interesting collection.

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