The chestnut leaf

I wasn’t born in Losar de La Vera.

Not through of any decision of my own, of course, but because my father happened to be working in Madrid at the time, as a general practitioner.

At the age of 15 days, however, I was already fussing and crying up a storm in Aldeanueva de La Vera. So, I was not in La Vera on the very day of my birth, but as a tiny baby I started my love affair with this region.

Popular wisdom says you are not from the place you were born but rather the place you want to die. The truth is I don’t want to die, so I have something of a conflict when it comes to deciding where I am from.

What I do know for certain is how good I feel when I start to see the farmlands of Tiétar, where tobacco is grown, with the mountains of Losar in the background.

For some time now, when I travel to Losar from Madrid, I do not take the motorway all the way to Navalmoral de la Mata. Instead, in Oropesa, I turn towards Las Ventas de San Julián, heading to the roundabout that points the way to Madrigal, where the Almanzor peak becomes clearly visible. At this point I turn left to enter Extremadura through Pueblo Nuevo de Miramontes. I enter the province of Cáceres travelling parallel to the southern slopes of the Gredos Mountains, with tobacco fields all around me as I drive. The next villages I go through are Barquilla de Pinares and Tiétar, after which I turn right to cross the Tiétar River and reach El Robledo, which means we have reached the municipality of Losar. This is the centre of tobacco cultivation in the area.

post_1_2I continue down a narrow road that rises and falls in accordance with the orography of this stretch, whose scenery features lovely white flowers called “jara” and a blacktop similar to those of the 1970s, until I reach the crossroads with the better-maintained highway running between Alcorcón and Plasencia. I turn and travel in the direction of Plasencia until I cross the bridge known as Puente Cuartos, an integral part of my childhood memories thanks to the large swimming hole located under it, excellent for summer swims.

Upon entering Losar de La Vera, the gardens bordering the highway since the mid 1970s jump into view. They have become one of the town’s most beloved characteristics, much appreciated by locals and visitors alike.

For personal reasons I did not visit Losar between the early 1970s and the mid 1980s, so these lovely gardens do not form part of my childhood memories.

In my memories there is a dirt road (it took quite a while for asphalt to reach the area), an inn named La Estrella (almost the only accommodations in the town), the La Verata bus (which went to and from Plasencia) and the lane to “el pocito” (a nearby swimming hole where we often walked for a dip). The lane, which was really more of a gully, descended to the Garganta de Vadillo and we often took it with Father on our way to a piece of land we had in the country, El Salobral.

This uneven gully full of stones was practically impassable in winter due to the water rushing down it during most of the rainy season. Goatherds and cowherds often wore rubber boots to be able to walk along the mountain tracks and paths without difficulty.

In my case, at the age of 10, the water was no difficulty but rather a source of delight.

The gullies gradually dried out when spring came and become easier to traverse as the heat settled in. What never stopped flowing was the water in the streams and creeks, generating natural springs in unexpected places. One of these unique springs became a fountain created by Father on the lane to the pocito, with a chestnut leaf as a spout, placed between and held fast by two rocks on a wall that separated a meadow from the track.

I remember Father stopping to drink each time we went there, bending his body parallel to the ground, grateful for the support of the wall from which the spring flowed.

The image of this handmade and ephemeral fountain created by Father came to me in a dream, with surprising clarity, while I was travelling through Europe with my R-80, on the way to Dubrovnik.

When I returned to the town after years spent exploring the world, I went to the place to remember the fountain.

I did not manage to conjure up such a clear image of it as in the dream but, when I closed my eyes, the place took me right back to my childhood.

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Discover the places of the unique legends from Comarca de la Vera, located in Sierra de Gredos (Spain). Link in Conyegar

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