Thursday, 22 September 2011

The meadows in front of me. And in the background, shrouded in the mist, the Lovers’ Rock, Peñón de los Enamorados. Closer, the pinnacles of Antequera’s churches, convents, palaces, and walls, trying to burst the clouds in the bright blue sky. Even closer, the bright green of the pine ocean. At hand’s reach, the grass rocked by the breeze. All this in front of me. At the back, the Hacho Tower, holding its breath at the breathtaking beauty I’m looking at. Welcome to Pinar del Hacho Suburban Park, Antequera’s natural viewpoint. Welcome to this privileged area.

Zooming in

My car runs past the olive trees, leaving a volatile cloud of white dust in its wake. A hiker has showed me the way to the edge of the pine woods, past a huge olive grove, the first formations at El Torcal (right), and a watchtower playing hide-and-seek with the younger pines. I drive through an open gate and park there, for I cannot drive ahead. I get out and get caught in a fresh and powerful smell with a touch of dawn. I can feel it in my car, my backpack, my journal, my camera. The second thing I become aware of is the colour: bright green for young pines, lending the park a surreal air in the lights and shadows of the early morning. Third element: the majestic Hacho Tower, showing above the treetops like a royal guardian. I start walking with a clear goal in mind.

Pinar del Hacho Suburban Park

The park borders on southern Antequera like a natural protection system. I spans the highest part of the village and part of a small mountain that shows a steep side to Antequera and milder faces to El Torcal and the olive groves leading to Valle de Abdalajís. This protected natural area is 85ha, and it’s been afforested with stone and maritime pines which are now some 40 year old. It is a young wood, as shown in the tree trunks. A cattle trail runs across the park: the Cordel Málaga-Antequera (37.5m wide), also used by hikers and hunters. (In fact, I will hear some shooting and barking in the background in my tour, and I will see a few mountain bikes. The park is dominated by Torre del Hacho, a watchtower overlooking the areas of Antequera that can be accessed from El Torcal and Valle de Abdalajís, and affording panoramic views of the meadows, the Peñón, and the town itself. The tower is about 12m high and features a gate and two portholes, which is why it is considered to be a watchtower rather than a defence tower. From its battlements you could gesture at someone in town and be seen by them. Although it is not known when exactly it was built, it seems to date back to the thirteenth century. It was designated as an Asset of Cultural Interest in 1985. 59 bird species, 14 mammals, 8 reptiles, and 2 amphibians have been found to live in the park. All the species are typically Mediterranean, in line with their environment. As to plants and trees, they include the above-mentioned stone pines, shrubs, rosemary, bushes, and grass. The most interesting feature of Pinar del Hacho, however, is the views: Antequera and the meadows, the northern area of El Torcal, Sierra de Cabras… Let’s see for ourselves.

The Tour

A wide dirt road (dirt from the mountains, rock pulverised by heat and rain, by abrupt changes in temperature) brings me to the ocean of low pines, their needles pointing in all directions, as if they wanted to take in all the fresh air I am breathing. By footprints (the marks of heavy boots) get mixed with subtler, more graceful traces. It could be birds, or dogs, or foxes. The garden of forking paths: here they break apart and vanish; there they reunite, courtesy of the travellers and other mammals who have been here before. I take in the fresh air of the early morning, and with it the essence of the pine woods and the sand fill my lungs. It is so easy to associate the mix to the Mediterranean Sea, only 50km away (faraway, so close!). It is really charming, for the body and the soul too. Maybe it is the maritime pines; maybe it is the sand that reminds me of the beach. The sand gives way to the bushes, peppered with a few rocks. The Hacho Tower acts like a lighthouse for visitors; you can see it everywhere, no matter where you are standing –a vestige of times past above the treetops or behind trees. As I walk, I can hear the singing birds and the sound of cicadas waking up. I touch the grass; it feels so smooth. I get to a clearing in the woods that affords a full view of the tower. Bare rock in the sun. Simple. Austere. Robust. A guardian. A lighthouse for sailors. Its door-mouth is open –a black hole inviting you in. But there is nothing to be seen inside. The tower is so powerful that I only realise there is another gem when I get out. It is the horizon, stretching beyond Antequera, the meadows, and the Peñón. The morning mist has vanished, leaving only fragile shreds behind. The views are amazing. I sit down in front of the tower and looked at the tree-framed landscape. They branch out to reveal a unique skyline, with pinnacles and belfry towers reaching up for the sky in an attempt to tickly its bright blue belly, plus clusters of whitewashed houses with ochre roofs. I can tell where the Menga and Viera dolmens should be. The stone nose of the Peñón tears the horizon. The farming fields in the meadows look like marquetry work, painting the earth in brown and orange and yellow. But of course, the main colour is green. The emerald green of the stone pines. Sitting by the mouth of the tower, I drink some water as I enjoyed this great natural setting overlooking Antequera. After a break, I search for a path to go down. I want to reach the lower area to get a different view of the town and the surrounding area. And meanwhile, take a stroll amidst the generous pines. As I move on, the smell of the bushes becomes stronger. The early morning fragrances give way to the aromas of the land: earth, rosemary, and the like. I reach another “mountain beach” (they are everywhere in the park) and then go down a trail flanked by rocks. A new sandy area. More views of the meadows. Overwhelmed and silent, I take a few pictures. I spot the edge of another trail leading to the tower from Antequera (via Torre de la Legión). It is steeper and more exacting, but it can be negotiated. I retrace my steps to find my footprints crossed with those of another being. A bird perhaps? It is all so quiet here. And yet everything moves in the park without my realising it. I can hear voices in the distance: men talking about machines and olives in a nearby estate. I move up, back to the tower and my car. I turn around and take a last breath to fill my lungs with the ever-changing aromas of the pine woods. I see the Peñón and a tangle of aerials in the area. I make out the movements in the living meadows. I wave my hand at Antequera. See you next time!


A first image. An accurate painting, as if made by Antonio López. Quietness and movement. The last morning mist and its surreal atmosphere. A living canvas where time seems to have frozen. A picture where nothing seems to move. A frame of pines and old Antequera down there, as in a dream.

Travel Tips and Useful Links

Useful links: To read more about Pinar del Hacho, visit the websites of Costa del Sol Tourist Board and Government of Andalusia, A Visitor’s Window Into Natural Areas. Also, the websites of Villanueva de la Concepción and Antequera Town Halls contain useful information to plan your visit.

Images: Here you can see all the photos of this blog entry.

Geolocation: Find the exact location of this Suburban Park on the Google map below.

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