In the book “South of Granada” the author, Gerald Brenan writes about the troglodytes of Guadix, a murderous community of bandits found in the desert around Guadix, preying on the hapless traveller. Ever since I read the book I’ve been meaning to check the area out – after all he was in Andalusia in the 1920’s, so I figured the risk from bandits would be pretty minimal. This is what brought me to the cave dwellings of Benalua, a small town in the desert about 15 miles from Guadix.
Guadix is about 90 minutes drive from our house in Orgiva, we headed past Granada and then followed the motorway towards Almeira, after about 50 km Guadix is clearly signposted and you can drive good roads all the way to Benalua de Gaudix.
We drove beyond Benalua into the desert where the landscapes are amazing. The road follows the path of a river, winding its way along a strip of verdant green in an otherwise blasted landscape. Small farms huddle close to the river, eking a living out of a few hayfields and a proliferation of wood, used for building.
The desert itself is inhospitable, baking hot and inhabited only by scorpions and snakes. This is not a place to run out of petrol, we saw only two cars in the entire day and most of the farms by the river appeared to be uninhabited. Inevitably, my iPhone ran out of battery, but there was only one turning in this road, that led us to a spa resort – naturally the spa was closed.
Eventually we decided to turn back and investigate the town. We hadn’t seen any caves and I was certain there would be more to see in the small semi deserted town of Benalua.
The first thing you see on approaching Benalua is unexpected – a vast semi derelict ceramics factory. The earth around here is a soft clay – idea for digging into and perfect for making pottery. But we were here to see Cave dwellings and I made my way up to the highest point of the town so that I could spy out the landscape. Once there, I made my way to the end of a six foot high chain link fence and out towards the edge of a cliff and found in front of me a panoramic view of the cave dwellings of Benalua.
The makeshift shelters in the image at the top of the article are at the entrance to caves dug into the clay and are used to house goats. There are hundreds of these caves, some boasting driveways and gated enclosures, others housing less fortunate people, presumably dependant on the ceramics industry for survival. The caves are all clustered around one area and it is an eye opening sight.
I mean to go back to Benalua and the desert beyond, it is one of the strangest places I’ve seen in Andalusia and I’d like to go back when the sun is lower in the sky, there are some amazing landscapes out there and it is well worth the trouble to go prepared.