In early November, we headed inland to our next house sit, looking after an elderly dog in a cave house. Having experienced the cool relief of a cave house in the heat of summer, we were interested to see how they performed in early winter.
Driving east across the plains from Granada, we detoured to Gorafe where there was a cluster of over 200 prehistoric dolmens in various states of restoration. Again, there was plenty of information at the outdoor site and a modern Interpretation Centre in the town of Gorafe itself. We got an information brochure (in English) with maps and information about different sites we could access in the area. We managed a short detour to see the best preserved, but this could be worth a bit more time to explore on another occasion.
Arriving at our destination, about 10 minutes out of the village of Orce, we discovered a spacious home – all mod cons we would need, except no mobile phone coverage – but good wi-fi and a landline if needed. Our hosts have lived here for over 12 years and enjoy the consistent ambience without the need for air-conditioning in summer or constant heating in winter.
Cave homes have been around in Spain for hundreds of years and are particularly concentrated in Guadix and inland areas as far as Baza, Huescar, Orce and Galera plus other pockets around Spain. Apparently there are over 2000 cave houses being occupied in Guadix alone, and we can see why now. Some of our days here the outside temperature was in single figures, but entering the cave you were greeted with warmth – the constant temperature ranged 21-22°C (about 72° F) and although we had a fire, we used it mainly for ambience on the greyest or wettest days.
Lucy, our charge for the next 18 days (along with 3 outdoor cats) was a lovely, laid back, elderly dog. She adapted well to the transition once her parents left and kept us up to date with her expectations regarding food, treats and walks. Although our location was out in the “middle of nowhere”, all around were cave houses in various states of repair and restoration. Daily walks took us past some that were being worked on and others that seemed very new and modern in their facade, but the deep windows hinted at what lay beyond. Often the only hints were the numerous chimneys visible through the ground we were walking over.
Because the weather was changing, dog walking had its challenges – the unpaved roads were fine when the weather was dry, but after rain they became incredibly muddy, and we collected a good 2-3 cm of additional mud on the soles of our shoes as we walked. Poor Lucy also became very muddy pawed and clawed and wasn’t impressed at the pedicure we attempted each time we returned home.
There was only one road past the property from Orce through to Maria, and 6-10 km beyond that to Velez Blanco and Velez Rubio, which we had visited from the other direction in late July. It’s always nice to return to places you have some familiarity with and discover more about them. Chris found himself cycling both directions from our home base, but wished for a few more options as the winds often got up in the afternoon and he always seemed to be battling a head wind on the long straights.
Orce was a lovely village with a great fruit and vegetable market on Tuesdays, as well as a coffee shop (passable), a small supermarket, an excellent butcher and a discount petrol station. We are discovering that the tiny villages have much better petrol prices (usually 8 euro cents a litre less) than the big chains in bigger towns. Another day Chris cycled through to Huescar where I met him for a wander, and a cheap lunch. Slightly larger, this town had a lovely park filled the trees in various autumnal colours.
The plains around Orce were well cultivated – apparently they grow grains for animal feed here and the tractors were busy ploughing the land. This region is known for ancient archaeological remains – evidence of the first European settlers was discovered just a stones throw from where we are staying in Venta Micena and there is a large covered area where the digging continues.
Staying here in the middle of nowhere has been relaxing and an opportunity to catch up on blog posts, reading and some exploration of the local area. Living in a cave house has been very comfortable and enjoyable.