Great walk today: high road from Canillas to Cómpeta, low road back. Perfect day, pleasant and bright with just enough cloud to keep off the dazzle and sunburn.
I went out with a friend, Jill, who knows her flowers and is almost as mad as me for walking and wildlife. Coming up through Canillas we headed towards the big mast above the town and cut onto a path that leads to a track heading right of the firebreak and east. This brought us above 600m into the rock and sand tracks and hills; dry land with lack of water and hot summers the key elements the plants are adapting to. Now is the time for most to flower, before the summer heat.
The height gives you great views over the valley, from Canillas to the coast. I am forever taking views of long views and frustrated by the camera’s tendency to flatten out a landscape I see of multiple ridges and great depth. You need to be an artist to capture it.
As we walked Jill told me the names of dozens of flowers (all of which I promptly forgot). She is better on the Latin and on some of the Spanish names; I am better on English common names but these are so variable that is almost a liability. But we agreed that the variety there to be seen is mind-boggling.
We came into the fire-zone. The hills above Cómpeta are still recovering from the fire that raged up a valley between Canillas and Cómpeta and swept across the tops in June 2014. It was terrible to see and I am still shocked both by the damage and how slowly the flora, in particular, has recovered. It still looks terribly barren.
But, as Jill pointed out, the track edge was absurdly rich with wildflowers, perhaps as a result of the extra nutrients from the ash, while parts of the stony dry gullies looked like a gardener’s rockery dreams come true.
In among all this foliage I did see some active wildlife: goldfinches, serins, butterflies. I did not manage to get many shots though – even the bugs I couldn’t get good focus on today…
Just as we got to Cómpeta we saw our first company of the day; Pepe riding Cordero (which means lamb!) to give this beautiful horse some exercise on the high road and, he planned, round the back towards Gávilan.
The path comes down beside the football ground which is at the top of the town and the connecting path, though only a few years long is poor – steep, narrow and badly eroded. Given that the town is encouraging walkers and walking and this is the main connection between town and hills this is something they should really take a look at.
We made it down, however, stopped for a coffee in El Recreo (one of many bars) and then set out to walk back. The low road!
Past San Anton and down the stony gully with high banks, overflowing with … more flowers!
The path opens up to run alongside beautiful terraces with glorious verges, passing behind one or two houses before heading down to the road. One of the houses had a rather overgrown flowering tree and neither of us knew it but it buzzed with wildlife, bees and butterflies intoxicated by the smell.
At the road we emerged just beside a bridge over a dry valley and Jill said, “I think of this as Nightingale Valley. Listen!” And sure enough, a nightingale was singing from deep in the cover given by the overgrown poplar copse beyond the bridge. “That’s where we go next,” I said.
The path down is steep but quite visible in winter – now it is about as over grown as it gets with tides of periwinkles, and prickly with brambles, but once you have got to the valley bottom you are through. This is a wonderful spot for sitting and birding – as well as the nightingale there were blackbirds and dozens of tiny movements within the overgrowth.
From here we walked along terrace ages through farmland, with avocados dominating and wonderful views of the lower valley. We saw a couple of lads clearing the ground with hoes – this is crazily hard work, which might be why they invited us to join them! – and past the foundations of a big new water tank, probably to supply the latest plantings (avocados are very thirsty trees). And still more flowers – the variety is absurd.
The path, after crossing one track then another – you actually have a choice of about five different routes – finally brought us back into Canillas de Albaida. The whole thing took us about 5 hours including a half hour coffee break. To be honest though it is only about a 3 hours walk … if you leave your camera at home and don’t waste all that time looking at flowers!!! Thanks, Jill, for joining me on this one.
To see another story on the low road walk go to Cómpeta-Canillas Loop