Yesterday a few of us headed up into hills to a little town called El Colmenar. It turns out that at this time of year that sex-crazed deer, loaded with hormones, descend from the surrounding woods and start rutting. Pretty recently they were even seen walking about the town and there were X rated scenes involving these beasts witnessed by the outdoor swimming pool of the Hotel Rural Buitrera.

The deer were part of the reason that Alex Shapiama, a friend and work colleague organised this little expedition. Unfortunately we were a little late for the best of the rutting and the deer are now only active at night when we couldn´t be there to see or hear them.

It was by no means a wasted trip however. The scenery was beautiful and I had the best of company. There were five of us from the school: Carlos, Alastair, Alex, Julio and myself and at the Bar España we were joined by a couple of Alex´s friends who live nearby, Isidro and Antonio.

So we got to drinking beer (well, what did you expect?) and the conversation turned towards literature. Isidro is a retired teacher and has several books to his name. There is not a whole lot of local customs and natural history and folklore that he doesn´t know about (and hasn´t written about) and he is the kind of guy I could just listen to all day. He is one of those people who will capture, on our behalf, much of the local knowledge and custom which could quite easily drift away unrecorded.

He told us about a journey he made a little over a year ago with his donkey, Molinera which took him from Ronda all the way to Salamanca, a journey of some 600km. He didn´t ride the donkey but walked alongside her.  The two of them braved heat waves, high winds and numerous close calls with speeding traffic on a journey that lasted seven weeks. No doubt a strong bond developed between the two of them as they trudged their way up through Extremadura and beyond.

Poor old Molinera has since passed on and is now grazing in pastures up in the sky. The newspaper account I read today says she died of old age but she can´t have been older than about six when she kicked the bucket, which to me seems like a hell of of a young age to die of old age. Short as it may have been, at least Molinera´s life was not short on adventure and she must have gotten quite a kick out her long traipse to Salamanca with Isidro by her side.

This journey was a lifelong ambition for Isidro and it was made along the “Ruta de La Plata” to commemorate the 400th anniversary of a similar journey by the author and musician, Vincente Espinel. I must admit I knew nothing about Espinel before yesterday. Carlos told me that Espinel´s poetry is standard fare for Spanish schoolchildren. Of course, outside of Spain, it is Cervantes who we all know about and it turns out that both Espinel and Cervantes knew each other back in the day.

So what´s next for Isidro? It turns out that he has another donkey lined up to take the place of Molinera, her own grand daughter, as it happens. So hopefully there are further adventures in the pipeline. As for me, I loved the stories he told and the easy company of himself, Antonio and my friends from work. I hope to return to El Colmenar, ideally at the height of the rutting season next year. The boys tell me they loved the place too and so when I book in at Hotel Buitrera next year with my good lady we will hopefully be joined by some of the others.

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Journey´s end: here are Molinera (left!) and Isidro when they arrived in Salamanca after their 600km journey. I pinched this photo from a local paper, DiarioRonda.


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Here Isidro was telling us about his adventures with Milonera, among many other things. The other people in the picture are Julio on the near side of the table and, from right to left, Carlos, Alastair, Alex and Antonio.