IT’S the season of office Christmas parties. Finding a more sustainable and sociable alternative to a boozy knees-up in a bar, the Olive Press team converged on the beautiful mountain village of Montejaque, in the Serrania of Ronda, inland from Malaga.

Part of the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park, which also borders the province of Cadiz, Montejaque takes its name from “Monte-Xaquez”, meaning “lost mountain” – of Arab origin.

The Berber-style town has about 1,000 inhabitants. It’s known for its winding alleyways, where visitors can get pleasantly lost, and a fascinating history of bandits who fought the French during the 1810 war of independence, and won.

Fortunately, none of the Olive Pressers, headed by publisher and editor, Jon Clarke, could get lost on a guided four-kilometer tour of a “hidden paradise” nestling above the town. This was an impressive 80-hectare private estate belonging to the family of Umberto Rodriguez Calle. The affable host explained about the natural environment that boasts panoramic vistas, a tranquil lake, and cork forests. 

The team learnt how cork is harvested from the trees – a labour-intensive process – and how it eventually makes its way into the tops of our wine and champagne bottles.

Further strolling through beautiful terrain, we finally reached our destination – a finca owned by Rodriguez that plays home to various animals. These include several large Mastiff dogs, chickens, goats, and two deer – a male and female pair.

A hilarious moment occurred when team member, Charles Bamber, approached a stag nicknamed “Bambi”. Unknown to Charles, stags like to guard their lady friends. Lowering his horns, “Bambi” chased Charles over the lawn and through a gate, to where our lunch was awaiting us – safely behind a picket fence.

The female stag, Celine, proved friendlier, popping her head over the fence to survey the food.

With the hike fuelling everyone’s appetites, we tucked into traditional dishes of the area, including the owner’s home-produced olive oil, goat’s cheese, and paella, which proved delicious.

It was certainly a day to remember, and one we recommend.

The Olive Press team wishes our readers a Happy Christmas!

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