Monday, May 12, 2014

La Calahorra

Day 7: Sunday 13th April 2013

Got off to an early start in the cool of the morning, about 7.40. We were lucky that our track uphill was in the shade for most of the morning, keeping us cool. We travelled high up above a spectacular gorge, quite a scary drop off if you got close to the edge.

Deb on the track to Puerta de la Ragua
We had to climb 800 meters to Puerto de la Ragua at 2000 meters and it took us 4 hours 15 minutes, exactly the stated track time. The track was excellent most of the way apart from a few muddy patches and brambles, which got us both but not too badly. We had a few streams to cross, but managed them all without getting our feet wet. We had a couple of water stops en route, badly needed with all the climbing even though for the most part the grade was gentle. There was some nice pine forest to walk through, and at the top a pleasant flat grassy stretch before we found our way in to a cafe for a good coffee and a potato tortilla sandwich, very good and substantial, carbohydrate overload but we needed it.

Rob found our track down okay, passing 3 cyclists coming up before we left the road. Never saw a soul on the track, even though it was Saturday. We were now in Almeria, and the track markings virtually disappeared on us, and we had quite a struggle at one or two points to find the track, losing a half hour or so. But mostly the trail was good, and the descent was very gentle all the way. We got into a bit of a tangle of brambles down by the stream, but fortunately found our way through it.

We seemed to lose height very quickly, and were soon on the road into Ferreira, a beautiful village with wonderful orange tile rooftops and ancient buildings. 

From there it was just a few more km to La Calahorra. Just as we got into town we saw a hostel, La Bella, and we got a room for 40 euro, own bathroom, soap and shampoo, yay - those little luxuries are wonderful when you are travelling ultra-light. 
We have our own little balcony with a wonderful view of the remarkable Moorish hilltop fort, and of Mulhacen covered in snow. We have walked virtually right around the mountain, the highest in Spain.

Moorish Fort, La Calahorra

We arrived in La Calahorra about 4.30pm, so it was a 9 hour day, about 28 km.

This is the end of 7 days of absolutely fantastic walking through the Alpujarras, every day sunny, every night we managed to find a place to stay. The landscape has been stunning, the walking enjoyable and we never got bored for a minute. Brilliant.

Had a red wine and olives in our place, then wandered around the town and came back to the first bar we saw. Had another wine and excellent tapas there, and a delicious tortilla and tomatoes for tea. Lovely barman/chef. There are fireworks going off in town, and we think we saw a funeral procession!! Interesting place, but other than our hostel and two bars, there does not seem to be a lot else going on. Hope the fireworks stop soon, we are tired, but looking forward to a relaxing day tomorrow exploring the town before catching a bus to Seville.


Day 6: Friday 12th April 2013

The huge bed last night with soft pillows was luxurious, but the duvet too hot for us. Those darn church bells went all night too. Some people are never satisfied. 

David served us a generous breakfast of muesli, fruit, yoghurt, fresh croissants, bread and other pastries, as well as orange juice and coffee. Fantastic, but we couldn't do it justice. We took some bread and pastries for our lunch, and a few sweets for the tough days ahead. Set off about 9.30, got money on the debit card, posted cards home and headed straight up - as usual - on a nice track to Nechite, then along the river which we waded across with shoes and socks off; it was only ankle deep, but cold water! 

On to Mairena through some lovely herb fields, and across another river but this time on a little wooden bridge. No problems getting through Mairena, and on a little track to Jubar, just a short distance away.

Then it was a long haul to Laroles, which looked very close but was on the other side of a valley, and our track took us away up the valley for ages. The descent down to the river was on a pleasant track, and I saw a huge lizard. Rob had seen one earlier, and we were pretty sure a snake slithered off. We had lunch at the bottom and then crossed on a pole bridge and headed up the other side, some of the track a bit dodgy but it improved quickly and we were soon in Laroles. At some point along the way the track was littered with spent cartridge cases, hope they were not shooting birds.

Laroles is quite a big town, and we went into a bar for an orange juice and directions. Didn't really get the latter, but we managed to find the right track after a short false start. Only, ha ha, another 4.5 km to Bayarcal. The track went down into another river valley, and again we had to take socks and shoes off and wade across, but again only ankle deep. On the way down we saw quite a few mountain goats perched on a steep slope opposite. I also discovered my camera shutter stuck, and a dent on the lens, probably happened when I had my fall.

The final haul of the day was a hot climb up to Bayarcal which we could see way above us. So far we have not found a place to lay weary heads, but we are enjoying a cold beer and good cheese in the bar. A young man showed Rob where a hostel was, but could not rouse anyone. Hmmmmm. At least as we wandered around the place looking for a hostel we found tomorrow's track. A huge day tomorrow, we are at 1225 meters and have to climb to a pass at 1990 meters, and it is about 28km to La Calahorra. But where will we sleep tonight?

We got here a bit after 4.00 and had to click our heels for ages. The bar owner made a call and explained in Spanish that the owner of the hostel would be here at 7 and give us a room. But in the meantime Rob had gone off to the supermarket to buy supplies for dinner, thinking that we would have to camp somewhere. We decided to wait, had a wine and cheese and bread, but still the hostellier did not arrive. We were regretting our decision to wait, and getting hungry, no food available at the pub, so we went outside to eat what Rob thought were tacos. Hilarious, turned out to be very smelly but tasty squid. Had only just opened the oily mess when the hostellier arrived! She was very nice and showed us next door to a very nice room with bathroom for 30 euro. We were very glad to have a place, and were soon tucking into squid and more bread. Rob had also bought sardines and diced ham, rather strange collection of items but we managed to eat ok. Each have a wide bed but we are a long way apart.

Time for bed, we have that big day tomorrow, day 7 of our walk in the Alpujarras.


Day 5: Thursday 11th April 2013

The climb to Alcutar

Desayuno in our hotel was a generous tostado and coffee. Set off about 8 into a very hot day, I was sweating in no time. 

We walked up the river and saw a dipper, bypassed Nerila, then climbed steeply up to Alcutar. 

 From there it was a short hop to Berchules along the road. Bought bread and tomatoes. Found our way through the town then down into a valley, and the climb out was very long but lovely, over an ancient rocky path.


We saw Capra de Montane or wild mountain goats, and later our first squirrel. 

We topped out into a nice birdie area where we saw an eagle, and wandered along a road through forest and onto a bit of a rough track which eventually took us into Mecina Bombaron. We had done good time till then, but it was a nightmare trying to navigate our way through the town with no way markers, and it lost us about 40 minutes. Rob finally sussed it and we stopped along the track to Golco for lunch in the shade. Golco arrived soon after, then it was down to a river and Rob was about to cross a very rickety bridge when I spotted a way marker that led us to a very good bridge! Up we went to Montenegro. Well, we kind of missed it, a lovely church there apparently and not much else, but it was off the track a bit. 

We then found ourselves in an amazing landscape, red eroded pinnacle-like territory, it reminded us of Bryce Canyon in the States. 

Of course there was another long hot climb all the way to Yegen, where I took us off briefly down the wrong track. Three girls tried to tell us in Spanish how to find the fuente, we were right out of water. Somehow we did find it, filled our bottles with relief, and found our way into a bar for orange juice. Asked in there for directions to Valor, and we ended up with about 3 different opinions, all in Spanish of course. An English bloke sitting outside must have heard the debate, and popped in for a chat. He was really helpful, and pointed us in the right direction, and told us there was a very good B&B near the church in Valor.

Rob at Los ARcos, Valor
About 3 we set off for our last 6 kilometers of the day. A signpost was missing from what we assumed was the track, but to be safe we walked down the road until eventually getting back on track. Just before the town we discovered the bridge we were headed for was damaged and barricaded, so we had to head back up to the road bridge. We asked how much the B&B was, and thought 60 euro a bit much for our budget. We asked around for other places, but a lady told us to definitely go there “as you are a long time dead”, and a cafe owner also said it was very good, and the best place. So we swallowed our pride and headed back to it and it is fabulous. Run by David and Jill, Los Arcos is fantastic. Lovely people, a stunning room, good bathroom with soap, shampoo, facecloths; a clothesline and pegs, a pot of tea brought up to us on the sunny deck, free drinks in the fridge and breakfast at 8.30. What more could we want, and who cares about 60 euros!

We went to Azorhar for the best tapas ever. Grilled eggplant in batter, fish in a sauce, lasagna and finally a potato cake, all delicious. Paco the owner is a sweetie, and when a man came in with a big bunch of mint he gave me a piece. The bar lady was nice too, and could speak a little English. The place was full of guys playing dominoes or chatting noisily at the bar. We heard scops owl on the way home.

My eyelid is still red from my face plant, looks like I have red eye shadow on.

At least Rob might stop doing black pudding farts now our diet has changed!!


Day 4: Wednesday 10th April 2013

This was a day of mistakes. The biggest blunder was by me, misreading 50 mtrs in our notes as 50 mins, so we missed our track completely, and ended up walking by road all the way to Juvilles. Thank god for the gps on Rob’s phone which got us out of our difficulty when we realized my mistake. At least the countryside we walked through was interesting and pretty, including an intriguing artisan cheese making setup with kilometers of white pipes.  Weird. Also saw a booted eagle and lots of other birds, and Rob didn't even get mad at me. Such a dumb mistake.

We arrived in Juvilles a bit later than planned, about 11. Not quite such an attractive town, and we had an inferior coffee and bocadillo. The next section back on track we were very glad not to miss, as it took us through an incredible gorge. There was a helofa drop off the side and I did get that horrible sweaty palm thing. Rob had to take care not to feel dizzy looking through his binoculars. Fantastic example of geological layering on the other side of the gorge.
We dropped down to a tiny village, Timar, and then went past an abandoned mercury mine and a roman stone circle or era. Down through fields and then a very arid landscape to a river valley. There we made the second mistake of the day, and missed our marker. We ended up scrambling with difficulty up a steep gravelly slope before getting back on the track. Minutes later, though, we were in the pretty town of Lobras. 

Straight through, then down on to mule track where we met a lovely friendly old man leading his pony with a load of firewood. We had a strange conversation, him speaking Spanish, and us English, but we seemed to understand each other.

Down at the river I had to rush to the bushes, but luckily was okay after that!! Lunch at the river side, then a pleasant climb on which we met a couple of German folk out for a walk. From the ridge de san Agustin we dropped gently down through scrubby terrain to the Rio Guadalfeo, which we followed along through huertas of almonds, olives and grapes all the way into Cadiar. We could see Berchules much higher up, and that convinced us to stay in Cadiar! An early stop for us, we got to Hostal Nuevo Cadi not long after 3. We needed to wash some clothes and the fronts of my ankles had bothered me all day, so, it was good to stop.
We were lucky to get directions from an English lady to Joes bar for Wi-Fi, never would have found it ourselves. Had a couple of beers and did emails and looked up buses etc. Headed back to our hotel for dinner, a huge plate of black pudding for Rob and a huge platter of grilled pork for me. No veges except chips and a bit of coleslaw.

Have I mentioned church bells? The damn things rang all night, hard to believe Rob didn't hear them, whereas I heard every single one except midnight. Grrrrrr.

Also forgot to mention that Rob saw a snake yesterday! And he nobly stepped between me and an overeager Dalmatian I was sure was going to rip my leg open. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Bubion to Trevelez

Day 3: Tuesday 9th April 2013

Our friend had warned us we were in for a long hard day and he was pretty much right.

We had a good start with coffee and toast and the proprietor gave us oranges to take with us. Got away a bit late, 8.45, but an enjoyable morning in nice weather. 

Penonz De Angel
A stiff climb to start the day out of Bubion, up to Penonz De Angel, a craggy peak at 1550 m. Then on good track to Capilerilla and on to Pitres. We made good time, crossed the Rio Bermejo, brown with iron, and on to the small village of Atalbeiter along a road, and then a climb up to Portugos. 

Not long after that we were in Busquistar, where a kind lady ran up a hill to open a supermarket for us. It was well stocked with nice looking cuts of meat under the glass counter, and almost anything else you might want. We only wanted extra water for our hot afternoon, and ice-creams! We left about midday, a big climb up through huertas or fields, and into scrubby oak and pine. Good track all the way. Lunch in the shade of the forest, and then we carried on enjoying a meandering path, the gentle clanging of cow bells in the distance.

Where we were supposed to head down a big descent to avoid a slip, Rob decided to investigate and see if we could cross the slip. He reported back that we could, so he saved us a lot of hard work. Meantime I met 3 German climbers coming up the track, they were heading on up to Bubion and the mountain for climbing. Nice friendly folk.

We got safely over the slip and were then on good track all the way in to Trevelez, a big town for these parts. It took us ages to wander down through the town, asking several times for directions. But here we are at last in the Hostal Regina, 38 euro for a big room and bathroom. Not bad. Time for tapas! 
We ended up having a drink in our hostel, then another one with dinner in a nearby bar. For 5 euros each we had a generous platter of good food, including Potatoes Alpujarras, yummy. A quiet night, good stars above.

Lanjaron to Bubion

Day 2:  Monday 8 April 2013

Another wonderful day in the Alpujarras, although it did have its moments!

It took a while to walk right through Lanjaron, so it must have been about 8.30 before we really got going on a lovely sunny morning. We climbed up for about 40 minutes and found ourselves in a sort of field, with lovely views all around. 


Delightful walking for quite a while, especially through herb fields of wild thyme, borage, sage, rosemary, mint and lavender; but then on the other side of a deep valley we could see our trail taking us up onto a very scary looking track, part of which seemed to cross a slip at a great height above the valley below, and nothing but rock. We wondered if there was any way around it, but nothing looked easy, so we approached with great trepidation. Somehow we made it across the worst bit and after that the track got easier, all the way to the very pretty village of Canar. 


We were very glad to stop in the bar where we had a cafe con leche and tostado with tomato and cheese. Excellent. It was a bit tricky finding our way through the village, very few markers, but at least there always seems to be a fuente with good water.

Rio Chico
Another very pleasant stretch of track took us around the head of the Rio Chico where there was an impressive man-made waterfall, and a good tree-trunk bridge with handrails across the river. Just beyond this, an insect flew into my mouth and made me cough, at which point I fell over landing on my head, very hard. I made a hellofa noise and Rob rushed back to help me up. Both knees took a clobbering, both hands, but mainly my head. I was lucky I didn't break my glasses or camera. So now I have a cut on my nose, a grazed forehead and a big bruise. A good black eye in the making.

On the way to Soportujar
It was good to reach Soportujar where we eventually found a nice spot for a small lunch, and a rest. The morning seemed quite long and hard, with a lot of climbing and we had another 11 km to go. We set off about 2, mostly good track but plenty of climbing. We turned into the Poqueira Valley and saw ahead the white villages of Pampaneira and our destination, Bubion, with the highest mountain in Spain Mulhacen looming above, splendid with snow.

It took a while to reach Pampaneira, we needed a rest along the way. It is a gorgeous town, and must be famous for woven rugs, there were many on display. Lots of people around, rather touristy.  

It was a long climb up through the narrow streets, then on to an ancient track between the 2 pueblos. Boy, were we glad to reach the town at 5, but we still had to climb up narrow streets and stairs before we found a lovely place to stay, Las Terrazas de las Alpujarras. 36 euro for a double room and our own bathroom, and for a couple more euro we can have a simple brekkie. Nice. Our room has a view over a terrace, trees, and down into the valley beyond. We met the friendly owner and another guy who gave us much good advice about the GR7. They recommended Tiede for dinner, and we headed there for delicious red wine and a beer, with interesting tapas of fish and chippies and bread. We had spotted an older woman back at the hotel, and she was seated in the restaurant on her own. Rob asked if she would mind our company, and there ensued a very nice evening chatting to Elaine, from Exeter. I had a wonderful dish of aubergines, and Rob had rabbit, followed by good hot chocolate. Managed to stay up really late, it was about 10 when we got to bed, a very peaceful night. 

Rob spotted a lot of birds today, including a small eagle, possibly a Hobby.

Durcal to Lanjaron


After our long flight to Spain from New Zealand via London with no layover, we were glad of a couple of days being tourists in Malaga and Granada. Then we discovered that on Sundays buses did not go to our planned walking departure point, Jayena. Luckily Rob figured out that we could instead go to Durcal and start from there. So that's what we did. Here is a brief account of walking a small section of the GR7. With thanks to those who have gone before and written up accounts.

Day 1: Sunday 7 April 2013

Today was a cracker. We were out just after 7.00 am, and had only a few minutes to wait for a bus to the station. No one could understand the word Durcal, goodness knows how it is supposed to be pronounced. But we eventually managed to get tickets for the 8.30 bus. Got a bit of a shock when we tried to get money on our debit card. It spat out a notice saying insufficient funds. Well, that is what we think it said in Spanish. Luckily the eftpos card worked. We were soon on our way to Durcal, a bit of a tiki-tour through other areas of Granada. 50 minutes later we were dropped in Durcal, right next to a good and busy cafe. Lots of cyclists, seemed to be a race on. We had an excellent coffee and some fried rolls called torros. We couldn't eat them all.

Hoisted packs and managed to find the right road to Niguelas, setting off about 10. No one spoke enough English to show us where to go but it all worked out. Once on the GR7 it was mostly well signposted, but they have a funny system of putting a post on the track you should not take. If you look closely you see a cross which means don’t go that way.

It was a joy to be walking again. Rob had his binoculars out in no time and had a good bird spotting day. The weather was great, cold at first and in the light breeze, but hot when the sun broke out. 

Niguelas was pretty but so quiet, and we found the few people we saw a tad unfriendly. We took a steep route out of town, a variation on the GR7. It was hot work, and meant we missed seeing Acequios but it was ok. We saw a cyclist and 3 walkers, and later one other bloke. A couple of cars and then nothing. It was blissful and peaceful and we loved the walk. We were mainly on dirt track and easy going apart from the climbing.

Lunch in the sun and a few bird watching stops and rests. Part of the day we wandered through almond fields, at other times scrubby veg and pines. The air smelt beautiful and clean away from the pollution of towns and cars. A final 7km descent into Lanjaron was rather pretty, but we were both feeling tired and sore by the time we reached the charming town.

A bit upmarket, we had trouble finding a hotel, and after wandering a long way through town, we back tracked and off the main road found Hotel Manolette. Funny old woman reluctantly got off her chair and found a young man who checked us in for 35 euro. Good room with bathroom and a sunny window. We have hardly moved since we got here, so tired are we. But what a great day.

Agreed to go to the first place we saw to eat, and so we did. A little bar with delicious vino tinto (Riojas?) and the best pork we have ever eaten. And chips, no other veg. Spanish do not seem to be big on veg.

Found a wonderful jamon shop, and bought slices of ham, cheese and an interesting looking chorizo. The proprietor got me to stand with the knife in my hand and a huge ham for a photo! Got a couple of pastries for dessert across the road, then headed back for the best night's sleep we have had. Yay. Somewhere we saw bats.