The plateau of the Giara di Gesturi stands 500 metres above the surrounding Sardinian farmland: a startling, rocky ecosystem of twisted cork oaks, scrubland and shallow lakes.
A thunderstorm was building one September evening when we first encountered the surreal terrain and we were so spooked by its sharp contrast to the rest of the island we left almost immediately.
The following morning, feeling braver in the sunshine, we returned and hired mountain bikes to explore.
We’d been warned of the feral pigs who can be rather curious of visitors, but the highlight was undoubtedly the scores of miniature wild horses we encountered – another oddity in this curious landscape.
The eastern Alpujarras is much less visited by tourists than the Granada end of these Sierra Nevada foothills and as such can give the feel of stumbling across ‘undiscovered’ hamlets.
After making our way from Almeria, our hire car laboured into the village of Fondon early one Sunday afternoon, the engine fan a high-pitched wheeze as it battled the Andalucian heat.
A bar in the main square was packed with what seemed like the entire population of the settlement with a huge 1970’s TV set placed high on a corner shelf blaring out a weekend football match.
Hungry after the journey, it was then time to put our rudimentary Spanish to the test, ordering tapas from the counter.
From the hilltop village of Vejer de la Frontera I got my first glimpse of Africa: the brown crust of the Moroccan Rif misty on the horizon but surprisingly near.
Having travelled on a bus from nearby Cadiz I set out on foot to wander the tight web of streets.
Then, coming to the edge of town, looked down to a field where a donkey stood obstinately braying.
At lunchtime I entered from the sunshine into the gloom of a bar where three – what I thought to be local – men stood chatting and laughing.
I ordered a bottle of San Miguel at two-thirds the price of more touristy places and sat at a table to write postcards undisturbed.
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