From Ottawa to Orce - pt 3

The past few sketches I’ve worked on have tried to capture a little more of the vistas around here, which often include mountains in the background. One day I hike into the hills on the other side of the valley and sketch back towards the village and house where I’m staying. It’s quiet, save for the flies buzzing around. Nearby a chimney spins in the wind, squeaking rhythmically, reminding me of the introduction to a Western film I can’t put my finger on. 

Another afternoon I hike up around one of the “cave districts” in Orce, which winds up around the hills. I find a view that captures the central part of the village and the recognizable mountain range in the background and begin sketching. It’s going to be a long one, luckily it’s hot out. I’m sitting right in the sun and I'm cooking. I’m on a narrow street with cave houses behind me. The local dogs are - as always suspicious and begin barking. I tell them it’s nothing to worry about, but their owners come out to check things out. An elderly man from the house right behind me comes out. I give him the usual broken Spanish phrases. <Oh, you’re painting the village> he says as he returns inside, satisfied. I draw for almost 3 hours, getting up every once in a while to step into some shade. The dogs are used to me now. The worst thing about this sketching experience is the flies get worse and worse. They seem to be at their peak in the late afternoon heat, and they’ve all discovered there is a single stupid human outside in it. I suffer through it in effort to finish the sketch. 

I wander through the cave distract which is on increasing narrow roads climbing the hills around the town. The dogs seemingly have adapted to the siesta schedule of the Spaniards, expecting no one to be out and about during the afternoon hours, so every few minutes I encounter another who starts barking, echoing through the hills and sparking another dog across the way to bark. Eventually I make my way back down into the centre and go for a beer at the local spot. I walk in and Warren & Betsy are there with a group of people “You’ve just met the only Canadian in Orce” they announce. They were celebrating a birthday and I’m invited to finish some of the dessert plate. 

The following day began quite sad. As I started my morning walk from the house to the small village where the cats got food I saw one lying on the road - sleeping, I thought, but then quickly discover she had been hit by a car. I believe she is one of the two smaller cats who would dance around my feet as I walked and this makes me very sad. One of the kittens starts tugging on her, and I have to scare the cats away, quickly feed them, and return to get shovels to bury her. I didn’t sleep well the previous night and I decide I’m not going to sketch at this point, so I at least decide to be productive and do a gas and grocery run. I’m home early and end up sketching in the courtyard behind the house with a beer. The cats are all watching me, waiting for food. “It’s too early, you just had lunch a few hours ago” I keep telling them, but end up giving one of the kittens who plays with my shoes some chips. The sky is getting beautiful so I decide to quickly feed the cats and then go for a walk down the dirt road that leads from the house. I bring another beer and the sky gets even more beautiful and turns into a fantastic sunset, the best I’ve seen since arriving. I return home and pour the rest of my beer on the grave. 

The following day I go to the town of Velez Blanco, which is the opposite direction of Orce, and through the mountains I look at each night. The drive is beautiful, the first fifteen minutes is farmland, with crumbling farmhouses - they look abandoned but are still filled with sheep. It’s another world here. I drive into the mountains, the roads winding and lined with coniferous trees. I descend into the next town on, Maria, where Police are standing beside the road pulling cars over. I’m selected and the young officer says something to me <I speak very little Spanish> I say, but assume he wants to seem my license, so I hand it over. “Holiday?” he says in English. “Si, holiday, Canada” I reply. He looks at my card “Ontario” he mutters. I then tell him <I’m an artist, I’m going to Velez Blanco to sketch the castle and mountains> I give him a business card and he looks at it interested. <Ok, go ahead> he says. I tell him he can keep the card. 

Velez Blanco is very picturesque, with a castle built on the top of a hill overlooking a huge flat topped mountain. The town is built down the hill into the valley below. The highway snakes around the mountains behind the castle. I make three sketches here, working quickly on them. The first is from behind the castle, capturing it, the mountain and part of the village. The sun is hot on my back and there is no one around, but I can hear people in their homes. I wander down into the town, the streets are empty, but the dog cacophony begins. I make another sketch of the streets overlooking the mountain, and a final sketch by climbing up the escarpment towards the highway. The sun is going behind the mountains and I’m getting chilly so I pack up and head home. The drive home is beautiful, I stop once to try to take pictures of the crumbling farms but the sun is backlighting them too much so I give up. 

Sunday I decide not to drive anywhere, so I clean the house, do chores, and be lazy, which is always important to do while in the travel mindset. I still go for a long way down the dirt road, further than I’ve gone before. I discover more abandoned farm equipment - it looks like a water tanker. 

Monday I travel to another pueblo nearby, Cullar. It’s the first day of really poor weather, rain, grey skies and wind, but it’s still 15 out. I’m not able to do any sketches, I wander around the hilly town, marvelling at the mix of unfinished buildings, rubble, historic buildings, cave homes and more classical Spanish buildings. The rain continues, and overnight picks up, raining for 24 hours straight “The most rain in 2 years” as David texts me when I ask him how to go about feeding the cats under this situation. The mountains in the distance get snow, perhaps in an attempt to keep up with Ottawa.