Andalucas first parque natural is moderately unknown, hitherto Sierra de Grazalema is a stupefying wild home of crests, canyons, hilltop villages and vultures
A goat farmer told me no one swims in the reservoir at Zahara de la Sierra because it’s full of fish with crocodile managers. Is that why I’m the only being in 128 sq km of cool liquid on a very hot epoch? I later learn that this manmade reservoir ( embalse ), the mountain ranges to the south of it, and the cliffs, gorges, bloom grasslands, forests and caves all around are simply, for the most character, empty. Spain has a surplus of staggeringly beautiful wild seats, but this one- nearly 54,000 hectares north-east of Cadiz, overflowing into the province of Malaga- grew the country’s first Unesco biosphere reserve in 1977. And Sierra de Grazalema grew Andalucia’s firstly parque natural in 1984.
Most foreign visitors, myself included, detect the ballpark by collision while driving from Ronda to Seville, do a double take on spotting the reservoir and the fairytale hamlet of Zahara, wrap around its crag like a wonky wedding cake, slam on the brakes, make a detour, and finish up staying- sometimes for a lifetime.
I check into a casa urban at an old-fashioned olive mill on the leading edge of village representatives announced Molino el Vinculo, eat jamon and goat’s cheese at a neighbourhood saloon, suppose living here and, next morning, wake to the seem of cockerels, lumber birds … and puffing.