If you fancy stretching your legs but don’t want to do a major walk from Órgiva – especially in the summer heat – Bayacas is a good place to head for. Just don’t expect an ice-cold water or beer when you get there – there are no bars or shops. It’s a 20 to 30 minutes’ walk each way and, with two different routes, it’s almost a circular walk.
We left at the 16th century Ermita de San Sebastian in the north of Órgiva. We scuttled along acequias, picking out familiar houses in the Río Chico valley below. Even at 10am – despite a cloak of shadows – the temperature was on the rise. Water roaring from outlets led us to the dried up riverbed. Dust, eucalyptus trees and houses perched on outcrops that look like they’re about to tumble down.
At times, huge cliffs of ochre rock tower above you. You pause at a large, white painted cross on the rock face. A suicide spot? A grotto?
Bayacas village is tiny, with St Sebastian church (c.1550, the oldest in Las Alpujarras) next to a simple square with babbling fountain and village hall. An information board told us that we had ascended to 650m (Órgiva is at 450m).
A beautiful ceramic work of art – the Tree of Life – adorns the square on the side of the village school (which is also the community centre). It was organised for the village by a local artist and officially unveiled on July 4, 2009. Residents contributed their own ‘leaf’.
We guess the same artist also made the handsome ceramic street names. Street is a bit of an exaggeration – alley might be more accurate – a few, amazingly steep (forget driving through it).
You imagine being back a hundred years, with little being different. We meet Francisco – in his 80s – who’s spent his whole life here. What stories he could tell. Our poor Spanish accent left him thinking S was from Finland..or maybe Holland (but not Ireland).
Original houses still remain but many have been rebuilt. In 1860, a flood tore the heart out of the region. It demolished Bayacas’ flour mills and killed many people (as well as in other parts of the valley).
Spain’s famous poet Lorca, whose poems adorn the fountains in nearby Lanjarón, stayed in a cortijo in the area in 1926. Following dinner one evening he heard a local man sing. The words caught the imagination of Lorca and his friends. He was challenged to write something based on the words the man sang. Lorca wrote La Casada Infiel (The unfaithful wife). It makes reference to the Río Chico and nearby caves where gypsies lived.
Lorca loved this area and it’s not hard to see why. Take a walk and be taken back in time.
The acequia route from the Ermita
Make your way up to Ermita de San Sebastian in Órgiva (a four minute walk from the main square). Take the steps down directly behind it, leading to a grassy path straight ahead. It follows an acequia with an open field on your left. After 150m you join a gravely road. Turn left and after a few minutes’ walk, with a house directly ahead, bear right for a few metres by a water pumping station and a sharp left to rejoin the acequia. There are great views of the valley. After 15 minutes walking alongside the acequia – careful not to fall in! – you have to cross a wall to join a wide track. Turn right and follow the track with the Río Chico (dried up in the summer) on your left. Bayacas comes into view about 10 minutes later.
The route from the BP garage in Órgiva
An easier but less interesting way to get to Bayacas is from the western edge of town by the BP garage. Take the road immediately to the right of the garage, past a car mechanics and building merchants. Stick to this road/track for 10 minutes. As it opens up near the Río Chico the track swings to the right. Stick to the track with the river to your left and in another 10 minutes, Bayacas comes into view.
Here’s the first verse of Lorca’s La Casada Infiel (you can read the rest on Spanish Poems)
So I took her to the river
believing she was a maiden,
but she already had a husband.
It was on St. James night
and almost as if I was obliged to.
The lanterns went out
and the crickets lighted up.
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© con jamón spain