Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Spring on the Alpujarra

Whilst walking this week it was a great surprise to see my first spring flower of the year. The actual species of this flower, a type of purple orchid was difficult to identify as it was only just emerging however it was a great sign of spring. The walk I was on was above Guajar Fondon in the Guajares valley which lies about 10 kilometres inland of Salobrena on Costa Tropical. Looking north from where I spotted the flower I could also see the high peaks of the Sierra Nevada still covered in snow where more alpine conditions were still in place. This early sign of spring is most pleasing as only the week before this sighting I was dealing with frozen pipes and snow on the ground at my finca above Lanjaron. We do get orchids on the hill side near us though I would not expect to see them until late May. This early sighting highlights the variation in the arrival of ‘’spring’’ here in southern Spain. Within our village it is easy to see by watching as the opening of the almond blossom advances up the mountainside. Lanjaron is at about 700m above sea level whilst my finca is 300m higher. Two weeks ago (early Feb,) the first blossom was opening in the village and it will take about another week to arrive at out height. Whilst it certainly doesn’t necessarily mean the total end of the cold none the less it’s a sign that warmer weather is on the way. As I write this we are once again in cloud and rain and I’m huddled over a gas fire. This variety in habitat and conditions is due in part to the relatively short distance from the sea to the summits of the mountain ranges. For example from Mulhacen, which at 3482 is the highest point in the Sierra Nevada and also the highest point in mainland Spain it is only 35km to the beaches of the Mediterranean. So you can travel from the Costa Tropical, were you can grow bananas, to an arctic tundra of ice and snow in a couple of hours drive (if you go to the ski village above Granada). The proximity of the mountains to the sea is perhaps most dramatic in the area around Nerja and Almunecar where the foothills rise almost from the waters edge. This variety, as well as giving us a massive range in habitats and conditions also means that for most of the year the choice for walking is equally vast, from dry desert valleys to alpine summits via pine forests, rolling pastoral hillsides and orchards, you can have it all.

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