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“Stop!!!” she screamed at me. I almost got off my lane, the car’s wheel turned sharply when I jumped in the driver’s seat. “What the hell?!” “Stop, stop, please!” There was an exit from the motorway in 100 meters, I flashed and pulled over. I stopped the car, my heart still pounding. “I saw something in the valley, it looked like Petra, please, let’s go and have a look” she said in a soft voice, her eyes not meeting mine. It wasn’t the first time she almost got us killed by shouting “stop!” out of the blue. Sometimes it was a village, sometimes a bridge, sometimes a beach. This road trip in Andalusia was turning out to be more dangerous than I’d have thought. This time it was a troglodytes’ neighbourhood, some miles away from Purullena.

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There was a small dust road leading to the canyon. We parked in a field and walked up the small path, rosemary growing on its sides, buzzing with life. The sound of bees and lizards moving around the dry grass. A whole village was carved in the mountain, but looked utterly deserted. Troglodytes, the men that carved their houses in the ground, instead of building them on it. And these were big houses, with several floors, windows, stairs, outside decorations.

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The red mountain against the blue skies. We walked around the valley, feeling small.

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Someone carved a hennery next to his home. The chickens were walking in and out, not bothered by us. A man came out of the only house that was built outside the rock, a small B&B. He told us they were closed, and that we could have a look around. Not waiting for a reply, he dragged his feet back in the house; soft whispers of women chatting came out as he opened the door.

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We kept walking. There was a street in the middle of the canyon, a small stream further away. “Look” she pointed to the horizon, “there are more towers there, it looks like a palace”. “A palace made of dirt” I said. “Yet, a palace” she smiled and took my hand. The whole place looked like a prehistoric village that was well-preserved. Were there people living here? Were these really houses or some kind of storage rooms? How did they built all that, and why?

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The mystery of it all gave the place another flair. I guessed the man of the B&B could answer my questions, but it was clear I would bother him. Never mind. She was taking pictures, then she sat on a rock, staring around. She scratched her leg and tied her hair up in a ponytail. It was warm.

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“This one there has more than four floors”, she pointed. I’d love to go and have a look inside, but I knew we shouldn’t. “Let’s get back to the car”, I said.

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She followed me unwillingly. A last stop or two, a last glance or two.

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Out of all the crazy places she took me to, that was the weirdest. I kissed her head before getting in the car, cut a daisy and gave it to her. She smiled and closed the car door, slamming it hard, as always.

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