I spent a day sketching in Galera, which is a town built upwards around a couple small mountains. There are many cave houses in the town and narrow streets running up the hills providing views of the town creeping up the hillsides. I walked around the streets and made 4 sketches over 2 hours - quick, loose and slightly abstracted. During this time it was very quiet, I am usually sketching during the warmer part of the day (early/mid afternoon) which is also siesta hour. I received more attention from cats than people.
I made my way down to the Hotel Galera for food and drink at the end of the day where I was greeted by my new friends Johnno and Jack. I asked Jack if he has survived (the Trump election) and he replied “yes I just finished an afternoon of Yoga” - “That’s a good way to do it”
The day previous to this was not a productive day. I slept terribly due to staying up until 4am watching election stuff (10pm east coast time) and then waking up at 8, stupidly checking my phone (now 2am east coast time) to see the news of the Trump election. Needless to say, it was a restless sleep, and I spent the day drinking coffee in a cafe and reading. No sketching was done.
My drive home from Orce always happen the hour before sundown, as I need to be back to feed the outdoor cats before it’s too dark. The light hitting the surrounding mountains is often beautiful, causing me to stop multiple times to step out and enjoy or take photos (which do not do it justice).
The outdoor cats have gotten used to my schedule, they are waiting anxiously in the morning for me to appear, and as soon as the car arrives in the evening they are ready to go. They jump around and crash into my legs as we walk to town for food, though they keep their distance for the most part. A few of the kittens have taken to walking between my feet which is very unnerving and one of the older cats (who has a severe limp) is the most affectionate, she will rub into my leg multiple times during the feeding period. One afternoon I decided to sketch the house, and the cats all thought this was most curious behaviour. Some expected more food, despite being fed recently.
On Saturday I was sketching one of the main commercial street’s in Orce, sitting with my back against the castle in the middle of the town. It’s a perfect day and people are out and about in numbers on Saturday. I have a few encounters with people.
The first happens as I sit down. A man waits in the passenger seat of a car nearby, BLARING techno pop. Minutes later a woman arrives with shopping, gets in, and drives away. A little while later they pass by, music still blaring, and the guy leaning out the window says something like <Oh, I see, you’re making a sketch are you?>
Next is a Dad with his daughter, about 10 years old. I explain to them in terribly broken Spanish that I am an artist, and house-sitting nearby, they understand and are quite interested in all my sketches. The girl seems particularly amused by my communication skills.
Finally, a woman with her son. The son is bored and does not want to stop and talk, but his Mom - who speaks better English than my Spanish - is curious as she is an interior designer in a large city a few hours away. We have a longer conversation revolving around art and design and running a business until finally her son’s boredom pulls her away.
That evening I’m home early and go for a walk in the hills across the valley from where I am staying. I say hello to the sheep herder on my way across, and spend a lot of time looking at the cave houses, most of which are uninhabited except in summer, and others of which are completely vacant. There are not a lot of people around, but eventually a car passes slowly. I tip my hat and say ‘Hola’ and a little while later (as I’m investigating what seems like a a pre-world war 2 piece of farm equipment) they return and park the car at a cave nearby. An elderly man and woman get out of the car and the man comes over to me and says to me something like <That’s an antique piece of farm equipment.> I assume this because I recognize the word “antiqua.”
We get into a conversation, purely using my broken basic Spanish. He takes me on a tour of two cave houses (he is renovating them himself, it’s taking a long time, they were built pre WW2.) I learn the dogs name (Lisa) and try and explain what the hell I am doing here. They seem to understand, especially once I give them a business card. They invite me in and we chat a little more, I use my phone once or twice to explain a few things, then tell them <Mucho gusto> and that I need to go and feed <los gatos> before it is too dark.
On Sunday I stick around the house, sketching the back of the house and in the small village nearby, again the feral cats wonder why I am not constantly bringing them food. Towards the end of the afternoon I go for another walk, further up the valley, again exploring the cave houses. I pass by one which has a wonderful yard and garden, and a dog barking from inside the house, but no car outside. As I crest the hill beyond it, I see a woman walking a dog, and so as not to startle them I say Hola, but still startle them… people are not common around these parts.
I ask <How are you> and don’t get a reply. By now we’re beside each other and I say <Hola Perro> (dog) and ask <Que Nombre de la Perro?> She still doesn’t respond, and by now I’m just saying in English “Hi dog” while patting him. I realize she does not speak Spanish, so I say “Hi I’m Colin” and she replied “Oh, you’re house-sitting for David & Simon.” It suddenly all makes sense to her, and it makes sense to me why she didn’t reply to my Spanish.
She’s another British ex-pat in the area, alone now as her husband passed away a year and a half ago. Her car also broke down a month ago and is still not fixed, so she has been relying on neighbours nearby to help out. I give her my card and offer to help if I can as well. We chat for a while, and then again, I must be off to the cats. I’m amazed that after six year here she seems to speak less Spanish than I do after only a few weeks (and months using Duolingo). It’s all about the effort I guess.
Monday I also stay close to home by hiking in the other direction towards the cave village of Fuente Nueva, which winds around hillsides filled with cave houses. There are a few people living here this time of year but I don’t actually talk to anyone. I spend a while making a sketch of the winding road and mountains in the distance. Then it gets crazy windy and I start walking, again exploring farm equipment that has been lying around for decades, before making my way back home.
Today I hiked a nearby mountain. The first section was easy, making my way through rows of trees which have wide paths in them where trucks can clearly pass. Then, further upwards the hill is a dirt road, which leads to a huge cistern - an outdoor pool of water coming from deep underground which supplies the surrounding farmhand. Beyond this is rougher terrain, with large tufts of grass, rocks, but many easy paths to walk through. The ground is dry dirt and small rocks, and it’s easy to see the best path. My primary concern is actually encountering a wild boar (which Simon warned me about) so every once in a while I clap and loudly proclaim “No Boars!” which seems to work. Eventually I reach the mountain top and have a great view of the entire countryside. At the top is a bizarre concrete monument (a square at the bottom, and a cylinder on top) there is a sign which Google translates to: “Geographical Institute - National geodesic vertex - The destruction of this signal - This punishment for the law” Duly noted.
I sit on the signal, back to the wind, face to the sun and make a sketch, wording quickly. The wind is crazy and I’m getting cold fast, so the sketch does not turn out very nice. I give up and head downwards to home and warmth.