Ortiz: the last shepherd of Caroig V

Ortiz: the last shepherd of Caroig V

January 10, 2010. Caroig.

Very cold morning (-4ºC). The entire Caroig Massif dawns under a thick blanket of snow. I am in the town of Ayora, it is 8:30 am. I have stayed with JV. In his house is his mother Vicenta, who sitting in the corral next to the old stable door, we see her skillfully working esparto grass, making baskets, baskets, vases, trays, etc., which she later sells in the traditional markets of the towns. We said goodbye, but not before staying with her for another day so that she could prepare for us in the middle of the mountain the typical porridge that the shepherds used to make in the past when they spent many days with their herds in the mountains away from the town.

We got into the Nissan Patrol and leaving Ayora we headed for Teresa de Cofrentes, in the middle of the mountains we crossed the bridge over the Cantabán river. In front of us rises majestically the Alcola peak and its mountain chain. We pass through the Cañada de Abajo also called Cañada de Jarafuel, an immense valley with the Muela de Cortes in the background.

After many kilometers along mountain paths and surrounded by snow, we arrive at the milestone of three terms, Cortes de Pallás, Bicorp and Teresa de Cofrentes. There, in the area of ​​La Solana (Bicorp) is the herd that we accompany for several hours through places of great beauty.

In front of us and looking to the west we see the Caroig peak, right at the point where the goats pass near the Mellao farm-house. From there you can also see the enormous valley carved out by the Cazuma and Cantabán rivers, which from Teresa de Cofrentes and Jarafuel reach beyond the Caroig peak.

On the way back we see some lagging goats, JV tells me that there is no problem and that they will soon reach the bulk of the herd. But what catches our attention is a little kid walking alone. JV skillfully picks it up and leaves it in the Mellao corral to spend the night, for the next day when it returns to the herd. He tells me that his brother should have gone with him but that he was surely caught by an eagle or a fox.

On the way back, we went through the Cura’s house-corral to give feed (oats, alfalfa and corn) and straw to the males who now remain separated from the herd.

We set out late in the afternoon to reach the corral of the shepherd Casimiro Lafuente (2-4-1950), whom we ran into along the way with his goats. This shepherd from Jarafuel has his corral a few meters from the Cantabán River, in a beautiful spot with a multitude of poplars with their leaves bare, since we are in the middle of winter. On the other part of the road we see fields of almond trees and olive groves. We talked for a long time with this good man, and while his goats graze peacefully on a hill in the mountains, he explains the properties of four herbs that grow by the side of the road:

  1. Berceo: very similar to esparto grass
  2. Cañamillo: it blooms later than rosemary and is very good for honey.
  3. Salao: woody grass that goats eat very well. From its branches Casimiro makes sheaves to light the fire.
  4. Boja (Albaida).

The afternoon definitely begins to fall and the cold begins to become unbearable, an icy north wind blows. It’s time to go back.

Published by

Leave a comment