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Monday, 23 June 2008

The Lover's Leap

A long time ago, a young goatherd in Puntallana fell in love. Nothing unusual about that of course, especially since the girl was very beautiful.

The trouble was that she didn't feel the same way. He was tall, handsome and athletic, but she hoped to marry someone richer. After all, a goatherd's wife worked fourteen hours a day and went hungry in the bad years.

But he wouldn't take "No," for an answer.

In the end she got so tired of his pestering that she said she'd marry him if he performed an impossible task.

Because the Palmeran Terrain is so steep and rough, the goatherds followed their flocks with the help of a long wooden pole. In fact, the pre-hispanic Awara used much the same technique and some shepherds and goatherds still do, although it's more often a local sport these days. Some of the leaps they make are spectacular.

So the girl told the goatherd that she'd marry him if he made three semi-circular leaps out over the edge of the cliff at La Galga. This was a very difficult technique, in a very dangerous place.

To her astonishment and dismay, he agreed!

The agreed day arrived, and of course at least half the village went along to watch.

"In the name of Jesus!" cried the young man, and swung out over the void.

Amazingly, he landed safely on firm ground, to everyone's relief.

"In the name of the Virgin!" he cried, and swung out again.

Again he landed safely.

"And in the name of my beloved!" he cried, and swung out for the third time.

Some say he was simply tired after the first two leaps. Some say that Heaven was offended that he put a rather vain young woman on the same standing as Jesus and the Blessed Virgin. Regardless, as he swung back towards safety, he missed his footing and dropped to his death on the rocks far below.

They also say that the girl went mad with grief and never married at all.

Today a statue marks the site of the tragedy. Take the road north from Santa Cruz, towards Los Sauces, and turn off at the village of La Galga, following the sign for San Bartolome. There are two viewpoints. The lower one, beside the church, has a fantastic view of a bridge over a ravine. But if you carry on the top of the mountain, you get a view of all Puntallana, plus the statue.

And here's a short video of the technique for getting down a steep hill, using the pole.

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