There’s a question I dread people asking me. It follows the where do you live bit and takes about nine hours for both of us to get right. ¿Machara-qué? ¿Cómo se deletrea? How do you spell that? How indeed. Macharaviaiya – pronounced Ma-cha-ra-bee-YAI-ya, and almost impossible to say without sounding drunk – is a modestly-sized village in the Axarquía, 15 minutes from the coast. The village was founded in 1572 on the remains of an old Arabic hamlet called Machar Ibn Yahya, which means ‘farm belonging to the son of Yahaya’. Old Yahaya, whoever he was, has a lot to answer for. We cannot blame him, however, for the rather bizarre name given to those of us who live here. Sevillanos are from Sevilla, Alicantinos are from Alicante, Madrileños are from Madrid – and Macharatungas (!!!) are from Macharaviaiya.
Suitably fitting for a hard-to-say kind of place, Machara-qué? is also a hard-to-get-in,hard-to-get-out-of kind of place. Or at least it used to be. There’s still only one windy road in and the same windy road back out, but at least they’ve filled in the moon-sized craters with a smoother than smooth scalextric surface. They’ve even erected crash barriers to stop us hurtling down the hillside. Even so, first-time visitors are visibly shaken on arrival. “How can you drive up and down that road every day? And what about at night?” they ask, full of concern. We just shrug. “Oh, you know, us Macharatungas are used to it.”