This beautiful typically Spanish town is set in the hillside of one of the highest areas in Northwest Murcia. The main industry is fruit farming – apricot, almond and olive being the main crops. There is always something to do in the ‘huerta’ and the higher-than-normal rainfall in the area makes this ideal for the fruit trees, although the crops have suffered over the last couple of years with unexpected storms at the end of May, causing untold damage to the apricot crops. The farmers rely on rain at the right time of the year to keep the trees healthy, but there is also a water course system that is regulated by the town hall, that enables the areas to be flooded with water at certain times. This agricultural water is charged for separately from the normal ‘agua potable’ which is the mains water piped into each house. They are introducing piped agricultural water into the area, which will hopefully stop the amazing wastage of water through the concrete channels throughout the ‘huerta’. Most of the farmers belong to a cooperative which sets the price of the crops, but it also enables the farmers to claim compensation if the crops are ruined due to inclement weather. It is amazing to see the teams of workers picking the crops by hand and the fruit is picked within hours of it ripening. There are machines attached to tractors to shake the almonds and olives off the trees, but these are very expensive to hire and often whole families are roped in to collect the crops and men and boys can be seen high up in the trees knocking the fruit down with long bamboo poles.
Like all Spanish towns, there are numerous fiestas during the year. It is quite often not known until the actual day that there is anything going on – the first sign is probably that the shops are closed! We do try in the Costa Cálida Chronicle to print any fiestas in the region, but quite often even the ayuntamiento doesn’t know what the dates will be and programmes for events are often not circulated until the actual week. One of the annual events in Moratalla is the Bull Running in July. There are various events going on during the week of 11-17th July, with the Bull Running alternated between 9.30am one day and 6pm on the next. This is when local farms show off their young bulls by herding them through the streets and eventually choosing one to be taunted by the crowds. The local men take it upon themselves to run up to the bull, waving various items of clothing. The area is fenced off in the town and the general public is not allowed up in the little narrow streets of the town. The whole proceedings are filmed by the local and sometimes national television companies and the whole event can be seen on the televisions in the bars. This can sometimes be the best place to view the strange events of Bull Running!
There is a lot more to Moratalla than the Bull Running and the fruit trees. There are beautiful ancient buildings, both religious and residential and the Arte Rupestre up at Casa de Cristo, which is set up on the highest point of the region above Moratalla, is well worth a visit. This building dates back to 1493 and was once a Monastery.
There is now a lovely restaurant here, which is well supported by the Spanish at fiesta time and at weekends. There is a wonderful camp site set in the pine forests just outside the town of Moratalla where campers can either site their own caravans, or rent one of the beautiful wooden chalets. There is a large swimming pool for the use of residents and also a good restaurant. The walks around the area are well worth investigating and the views from the mountains are spectacular. There are various Churches and a theatre in the town and some of the architecture is second to none. Many of the fine buildings are being renovated and there are also a number of new blocks of flats to accommodate the growing population. There are numerous bars, most of which do ‘tapas’ and ‘menu del dias’. The weekly market is on Saturdays.