Madrid bakes in the summer. The afternoon heat stifles and oppresses – shutters close on businesses, and pedestrians are reduced to a shuffle. Even in the shade it can feel like there is no escape from the relentless blast of the sun.
Yet for those in the know, there is a place to escape the oven of the city. High up in the mountains north of Madrid, water gently finds it way to the surface amid the scree and tussocks – the source of the Río Manzanares. As it winds it’s way downhill the flow gathers strength, carving out hundreds of pools amongst granite rocks, beneath the shade of oak, ash and pine. The clear mountain water is sharp and bracing.
If you wander into the valley of La Pedriza at the height of summer, you’ll soon start to glimpse people between the shimmering leaves, tucked away and lulled to sleep by the chatter of the river’s babble. The vague scent of weed might drift through the shrubs from a group of teenage boys. Around a corner, you may find the peacefulness broken by the vibrant natter of a Latino family, drinking rum, beer and sangria from plastic cups and throwing each other into their chosen pool.
‘El Río’ is a journey through this quietly egalitarian tumble of cliffs and boulders, where the line is blurred between private and public.