We’re delighted that some long-promised rain has arrived. As I type this all I hear is rain pinging off the metal grills over my windows and spattering in the street from terrace spouts. Given the severity of the recent drought its a big relief. And the timing was perfect. Last week of Feb I was walking.
It’s been good week. For one thing, I was blessed by good company: old friends and new, including a lovely gang of good-humoured Scots. One of them, Catherine, had a wonderfully infectious laugh that set us all off, filling the hills with laughter. For another thing, this being Spain, the rain arrived late.
Monday’s walk was glorious. We walked up the forest track the start of the ‘silk route’, once used for trading silk and silk cocoons, with Granada. This path has several ruined inns, a couple of lime kilns and some of the best views in the province. Behind us to the right was Cerro Gavilán with the fire-watch post on top. In front of the views open up wonderfully. Ahead right the magnificent El Fuerte rises from behind the ridge of Cerro Verde bajo, which hides the town of Acebuchal. Ahead left lies the whole of the Almijara range: Cerro de la Mota, Cerro Cenacho, the sharp point of Lucero, and rounded La Cadena. In the near distance there’s Las Tres Cruces; beyond it the double bump of El Cisne, with Navachica in the distance. A folded rumpled landscape: it’s fantastic!
The trail winds between pine forest and scrub. There were big bushes of rosemary, broom, gorse, and prickly juniper while common thyme and lemon thyme scent the air as we stepped on them. We picnic’d beside Venta Pradillos in the warm sunshine, reapplied sun-cream and, turning our backs to the sea, followed the track up hill to reach the bright white Puerto Blanquillo, complete with a couple of parked cars (with brave owners drivers). We test our suspension – and our nerves – with a steep path off the track to reach the trail in the valley, then follow the (mostly dry) river course back through the valley. This is densely forested bar a couple of isolated farms and there are ibex in them thar hills – some of us saw one bounding up the slope – as well as an abundance of water loving vegetation, from brambles and ferns to euphorbia and oleander, in contrast to the open herb and grass flora of the morning. This trail eventually brings us the Fábrica de la Luz to meet our taxi, wondering what happened to the promised rain. Superb walk. So good I made a minute film of it:
Tuesday we went up the Cájula river valley. The river was so low that the crossings were just a big step. Much of the route is farmed terraces with citrus fruit or avocado planted low in the valley and further up you eventually come in sight of a hilltop farm, above slopes covered with grey-green olive trees. The wild land intersects with the farmed, with steeps and dramatic sandstone cliffs. No farm buildings in the valley (just 1 ruin) but plenty of farming trails. It seemed very quiet – the calm before the storm, someone said. At our last stream crossing I saw (nearly stepped on) a little Woodcock Orchid, decked out in rain drops.
Yes, the rain was with us. By the time we came to the track we could see the clouds rolling our way, so our waterproofs got their christening as we walked to the head of the valley and back. It is always dramatic to see clouds rolling in towards you but we never had a downpour and by the time we came (via another zigzag down and up) to the town, the sun was peeking out.
Wednesday we headed out to Sedella and got our waterproofs on straight away to walk up the zigzag track to the picnic site. A couple of us regret that the old wooden tables and benches are gone here. I miss the Vulture statue too.
Heading towards the mill above Sedella in light rain we almost met a couple of hundred goats before they tumbled off the track and down the slope below us. There are a couple of biggish goat farms in the area – up to around 500 in a herd – the animals kept for milk, cheese and meat.
We watched them standing on hindleg-tiptoes to reach the lower branches of a few small holm oaks on the slopes. Goats are said to keep the forest at bay!
From here we went to the mill, where you can see the workings of the water run grinding used for centuries here, and the water management system. Then with the rain clearing we walked into the village in time to see the Día de Andalucia flag raising.
That was a nice – and not too wet – starter walk before an early lunch at Restaurante Lorena – but the best was yet to come. We headed down to the Roman Bridge – there is none more picturesque – and up the steep, shattered landscape to the big ruined farm, then on and up to the following ridge and downhill along the acequía. I don’t know quite what it is about this path that appeals so – perhaps the drama of the shattered path and the lovely views of Sedella. Perhaps it is the charm of the acequia path.
I had left the restaurant a little earlier to go ahead with a couple of walkers who were keen to get ahead with a chance to look at the wildlife on the way. We were lucky again: we puffed up the steep slopes and cross-checked our route in nothing worse than drizzle, enjoying spotting a chiffchaff here and a sardinian warbler there. We heard the rest of our gang catching up with us in peels of laughter here and there, and they more or less joined us as we danced our tightrope walk along the water channel.
Now the rain came in earnest, as we walked down to the track. ‘Oh well,’ I thought, ‘Twenty minutes to Salares now. Not too bad.’ But here was Avril heading the other way. “We’re going to walk to Fogarate,” Andy said, “Avril knows the route and I ran yesterday.” Off they went. Other people joined me, looking puzzled. “Don’t worry, they decided to go longer way back, but they know the route” I told them. “The longer way?” said Craig, his eyes agleam. “Oh, I think Claire and I will just catch them up. I’ve got my phone with me. Okay?” And he and Claire were off into the pouring rain.
So we didn’t make it back to Salares with all hands – not because anyone was lost but because, in spite of the pouring rain, some of the walkers hadn’t had enough. Great walking.
Postscript: the rain we were caught in was light or medium but overall we were very lucky. It came down in sheets and bucketloads from Wednesday night on. By Saturday pictures of the road between Árchez and Salares – which we had all travelled by taxi twice on Wednesday – were all over social media, and a video clip complete with police cars was on local Spanish TV:
It is a little alarming to know we were travelling over something quite so near collapse!