Almost three years ago, we spent a week parked up outside Estrellarte, a circus space just South of Granada. We made nice connections with some of the people at the time, so we are curious as to whether the space still exists and would love to reconnect with some of its members, especially Irene, who at the time was also in the beginning stages of an education project on her own land.
I don’t find any indication online that Circus Estrellarte is still going, so we are happily surprised to see that it is still open and thriving with young people, albeit an almost completely different set of people to a few years ago. The big murals have been painted over white and indoors everything looks cleaner, more orderly, open and welcoming.
We ask if we can stay for a night or two and after a couple of FB enquiries, are given the go-ahead.
That evening, Irene drops by. We share some tea in our van and catch up with what she’s been up to in the last few years. She looks very different, rounder, more grounded, happier. She has found a good man to help her with her project and they have worked hard to restore the old barn on the land, to clear and maintain the trees, to grow vegetables and to start teaching various groups.
We don’t have that much time to chat as Irene is on her way to a birthday party, but we agree to come and see her place the following day. We go to the party together, but it turns out to be a women-only event, so Frank walks back to the van…
Chela has invited a group of women to celebrate not only her birthday but also the fact that she has just become a grandmother for the second time. She is a lovely smiley and energetic woman whose favourite word seems to be to say yes. It’s a lovely group of women of all ages and I enjoy sharing an evening in such diverse company. I chat for a long time with a first-time pregnant woman as we both reflect on the ritual nature of our state of being, her entering motherhood and me entering menopause. We share how we both sense the opening of a door, the widening of horizons and how we feel excited about beginning a new stage in life.
I enjoy watching Chela celebrate her life and celebrate her friends, moving from one woman to another, smiling and embracing them. She asks for a dance in her honour and everyone joins in. She brings out a huge ham and everyone practices their way of cutting fine slices off it. She digs up 58 balloons from behind the sofa, one for each year of her life, and invites everyone to help popping them. There is a childlike grace about her when she unwraps some presents and it looks like every present is just right for her, a handknitted wollen hat, a scarf, Argan oil, some earrings…
I wonder what it would be like to dance Tango with her, with that vibrant energy. She doesn’t know Tango yet, so I offer to teach her some the next day. She happily accepts and invites Frank and I to come round for lunch. Irene will come too.
When we arrive around 11am the next morning, she has only just got up – the party had continued until 5am! So we start with a leisurely breakfast on the terrace of her beautiful house before heading into a luscious Tango session. When Irene arrives, we make some lunch from the leftovers of the party and then decide to all go to a hot spring near Santa Fe.
We’d heard about that hot spring three years ago, but we’d been advised against going because of a big rave happening there at the time. Now we all pile into Irene’s car and head off towards Santa Fe.
Unless you are with someone who knows how to get there, you’d have a hard time finding it. Somewhere, Irene turns off the main road onto a smallish road which soon turns into a dirt track which we follow for a number of kilometres, turning right here and left there. Eventually, we turn off the track into an olive grove and Irene wends here way up the hill amongst the olive trees. I can’t believe what I am seeing: it looks like hundreds of cars have gone up this hill in between the trees – everywhere I look the earth is compacted! There are some mobile homes parked at the top and all around you can spot them amongst the trees. But not of the plastic fantastic type, more like converted lorries and military vehicles. Ours would look very run of the mill amongst them, although there is no way we would venture up here with Emma anyway!
Everything looks pretty grungy and a cloud of dope-scented smoke hangs over the pond that is the hottest spring, according to Irene. Don’t look or think too hard about what is around you or in the water, just jump in and enjoy the warmth and hope you don’t fall ill afterwards!
I did enjoy the heat of the sulphurous pool, the tumbling power of the water coming out of a pipe, the company of two fantastic women and of course my precious husband, but the hot spring itself is not something I would want to return to or could recommend. It is too run down…The spring and nature around it felt abused. What a shame! However, it did do us good because when we got home, I fell into bed and slept a deep and untroubled 12 hours!
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