Malaga is home to hosts of Eagles. When the great migrations occur in Spring and Autumn flocks of birders congregate in Gibraltar, competing for vantage points to see something extraordinary – raptors of all kinds flying in great numbers over the rock.
Now, I have to admit I have not, by any means seen all the Eagles there are here – no Imperial Eagle has, alas, tipped its wings in my direction. But those I do see are regular visitors, and impressive enough in their own right. Here is a quick summary
The Booted Eagle, a small-medium member of the family is a common sight here and in the light phase the clear white Y of body and upper wings with black outer feathers on the rim of the wings makes it unmistakable on a good view. As for the mobbing I witnessed the same phenomenon – described in Battle in the Skies
Booted Eagle, Hieraaetus pennatus
These photos show two other species I see a regularly, along with the Booted. I have only seen Bonelli’s Eagles for certain a few times near Cerro Gavilan, well within the Natural Park. But Short-toed (aka Snake) Eagles I see regularly as low as the in the valley as Algarrobo and all the way up to Cerro Atalaya. To date I have only had definite sightings of light phase Short-toed Eagles.
I have seen the mighty Golden Eagle twice. I don’t say might flippantly. They are the 5th largest Eagle species with an adult wing span between 6 foot and 7.8 foot. A few years back when I went up onto the high meadows in winter I saw a single bird on the shoulder of La Maroma. My other sighting, though was more dramatic – a dark cloudy day and I was walking with friends through Cómpeta and looked up. Fairly low, below the cloud 6 Eagles were gliding – four adults, two juvs. The larger birds were ridiculously big, all were dark brown … I couldn’t believe what I thought I was seeing, when Martin got his binos in focus and said it: “Golden”. I was amazed to see a mini flock of these birds – I wonder if two of the ‘adults’ were youngsters from a previous year so all six were a family group.
They are a relatively widely spread species of eagle and the mountain ranges here do seem ideal for them, though there is a fair amount of competition, not just from other eagles but from a couple of species of vulture. There is also a strong hunting community, reducing available prey, so perhaps it is not surprising I see them fairly rarely.
Hopefully I will see them again soon. (You never know your luck).
I think I first walked the goat path with Janet and David back in 2003, possibly the first time they visited Cómpeta. I had walked with them thousands of times in the Lake District and Scotland but never before in Spain. Another couple of grasshoppers who liked hopping about hills and wild places, both were terrific walkers. Both loved wildlife: Janet was especially keen on birds and flowers. The April day I’m thinking of was beautiful – we saw violet-winged carpenter bees feeding on the Jerusalem sage’s pink blooms under the old olive trees. David and Janet were tickled when we meet goats on the goat path (how unlikely!) and, though they had no Spanish, enjoyed saying hello through me to Antonio, the goat herd. If I remember rightly when we got to Canillas we found a bar, drowned our tapas in wine, and staggered merrily out for a taxi to get back to Cómpeta quoting a walking song to each other:
“Before the Romans came to Rye or out to Severn strode The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road…”
When they visited in more recent years we did plenty of other walks – La rahige; the silk route on a very hot day; Puerto Collado to Acebuchal for a wonderful meal. I remember a trip with them during a rainy March to the magnificent limestone scenery of El Torcal where we saw ibex.
We followed that with a walk up the Cájula valley, though the bad weather continued, telling ourselves the weather was clearing up a bit … maybe … as the stream lapped our boots and the rain became heavier and heavier. We took shelter in the doorway of one of the ruins en-route. “Is this revenge for all those wet walks we dragged you out on in the Lake District?” asked Janet. “Definitely,” I said, “but I never expected to wreak my revenge out here”.
But then a couple of years ago Janet got sick, a nasty form of cancer attacking her bones. For months this active woman was stuck, unable to go swimming, unable to enjoy long walks, unable for back-pain to drive – hardly likely to come out to play in Spain. She said to me later that it had been horrible but she’d tried to keep walking every day if she could “Even if it was only as far as the gate posts, on David’s arm”. I loved her bloody mindedness, finding what she could do instead of focusing on what she could not. A keen and capable gardener, unable to tend her garden, she told me she’d been working on plant pots: “It’s so good to have my fingers in the soil again”.
Some 10 months and a grim winter after the diagnosis, Janet’s condition was better: she could even take a short ‘treatment holiday’. David and Janet immediately booked to come over (‘Oh to get some sunshine!’) and said they would like to walk but that she would struggle with distance and hills. Now, obviously I like walking, but I probably like a good all-day walk best. I prefer going uphill from down: great long marches that make you heart thump and bring you sweating to see the most spectacular of views. Flat, easy walks are not abundant in the Axarquia.
Nor on the net. I had a look, in case I had simply missed some easy walks but found that most walking sites, routes, or suggestions on-line focus on the macho full length stuff. I thought the valley walks (flatter) would be too rough – and besides, wanted to bring my English visitors into the light uplands. Tricky, this. Even when I go from Canillas to Cómpeta I choose the high road over the goat path.
The Goat Path! Of course! Mainly flat, beautiful, simple, a village end with access to a cafe to recover in. But would Janet be able to do the 3 Km? Her condition had been bad enough for that there was some doubt.
It was May and a simply glorious day. From Santa Ana in Canillas, all along the path there was a mad profusion of flowers – poppies and periwinkles, bindweed and bugloss. At the start we saw bushes spread with the skirts of funnel-webs. Janet never like spiders much but the webs in the shade were holding beads of water and were beautiful.
Janet absolutely gloried in it; from flower to flower, view to view she loved it. “So close to the town and yet we are right in the heart of nature. People may not realise what they can get to see” she said, and we talked about how people who can’t walk easily like people who live in town and cities may feel they can’t go birding, see wildflowers or wildlife.
Yet from tower blocks to tube-lines there is always something to see, because nature finds a way to get everywhere. Janet always found a way, too – a way to enjoy beauty, a way to take part, a way to live.
A yellow serin perched in a bush over our heads and sang it’s twittering little song, over our heads and stayed and stay ed above us: it was a delight. “Seranaded by a serin! Wonderful!”
Perhaps you appreciate things most when you’ve missed them. Janet had not be certain she’d ever again be able to go walking with me among the Spanish hills. She was radiant that day from start to finish – it shows in the photos – not merely enjoying the sunshine but revelling in it. She made me appreciate more what I have here on my doorstep.
It was, in part, Janet, and especially this walk with her and David, that inspired me to start this blog. I wanted to share my love of wildlife, walking and Malaga, not just with the serious hill walkers and the macho mountaineers, but with people who can appreciate these things but may not be able to hike up El Lucero. I wanted to write up some walks that almost anyone can enjoy.
Now Janet has died. But every time I walk the goat path this spring – and probably on many other walks too – I will be thinking of her, showing her in my mind the things I see, the birds I hear. I’m thankful that we shared a life-long love of the natural world and that her passion for it, her appreciation of it, and her courage in all things were inspirations to me. She was wonderful.
Cómpeta’s latest artwalk has come and gone. I didn’t see all of it – there were 22 locations with work by 38 artists from many different countries, live music in various places and the Easter processions, so seeing all of it would take some doing. I managed to run in and see a few exhibits and greatly enjoyed doing so. Here is something of what I saw.
The Ceramica la Posada giftshop: wonderful paintings and ceramics by Rex Gates (above). In the upper room Laura Harrison was displaying her photographs. These were simple shots of anything that caught her eye, such as tree bark patterns, coloured glass panes or the mooring line between ship and dock. Perhaps it is my interest in small creatures but I thought this macro work was brilliant.
Artwalk #3 beside the Antiques shop showed work by Hendrieka Osephius, inspired by the contrast between nature and human construction.
I liked the demonstration of bronze sculpting at Artwork #4, a reminder of the hard labour (as well as skill) involved; Daan van Neerven told me the molten bronze is at 1500 degrees, which is quite a risk to manage.
Then there was Artwalk #5 at the primary school, displaying the younger children’s work on the outside wall (you couldn’t do that in the UK) with bigger paintings on the main building.
Inside I found Yani playing a keyboard and singing Italian songs in a rich baritone. He’s the art teacher at the secondary school of Alojaina, which collaborated with Cómpeta’s secondary in the art project. The walls were covered with their work, and the paintings on the tables expressed a progression through the four elements. I hope you will forgive my giving a little extra space to the work of these students.
In Artwalk #8 the big seascapes with flecks of colour stood out.
I liked them but think I preferred the black and white work displayed here.
There were also huge fabric wall hangings, made by Beatriz Constán Martín, apparently from recycled scraps. Beatriz also made jewellery also using circular shapes and vivid colours.
I was tempted again into Artwalk #10, Galería Luz de la Vida, opposite. Always beautiful work here. Amazing statues, fabulous paintings from a range of artists.
This year they were serving drinks and tapas in the lower room near a tiny garden. I got here late on Saturday when many exhibits were closing and several exhausted artists were crashing out here. Anna Barbara Lenzin was still at work, though, up on the scaffolding to make a new mosaic at gallery’s back wall.
I caught the display of Bettina Winther’s very calming paintings – again inspired by nature, using very simple colours.
Artwalk 12# was the Galería Centro de Bellas Artes and housed work by various artists. I especially loved the bright colours used by Carin Tegner but all were interesting.
The last exhibition I made – I missed out most regrettably on 15-23 – was Artwalk 14 – the townhall exhibition rooms. These included the excellent Phillippa von Krusentierna, who also displays in the Canillas and who makes strange manikins and strange simple paintings.
I hope this gives you some idea of the enormous range and interest of the event. I can’t convey the atmosphere, enhanced by the celebration of Easter at the same time. Then there was music – Mar y Luz performed in one street, Mitch France in another and on the Sunday there was a jam session in the main square. And I wish I had seen Merel Holleboom’s work – her strange machines are always fun. Oh well. There’s always next year…
It’s on again: the Cómpeta Art Walk, where dozens of artists exhibit within the town. Last year I thought the event was terrific – have a look at my Artwalk post to see what was involved.
You can expect artists from many different disciplines, of different nationalities and with radically different styles. And judging from last year, there’s a high probability of a great atmosphere, too.
It runs for 4 days, but skips Good Friday in respect for the Easter celebrations, so 12th, 13th, 15th and 16th from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. I believe there are over 35 artists involved this year…so put your walking shoes on and check it out!
I mentioned, in writing on Cómpeta recently, the wealth of artists and art that is hidden in these small villages and, very much in passing, a guitarist who was due to perform in a Canillas de Albaida. I remembered this on the day itself and in spite of being “Too Busy” decided to take a peek anyway, even if I could only stay for a few songs.
The performance was held in the old fish market on Calle Fortuna, just below the main square. This does not sound promising, does it? However, it has been converted into an art gallery by Philippine von Krusenstierna,
a Swedish artist and ‘Canillera’ of many years. It is clean and tiled, with a high ceiling creating space, and a couple of small counters (easily converted to serve drinks). It is very small – no more than a large room – but Phillipa has made the most of it, filling the walls with her strange, surreal artwork. I came to the double iron gates wondering where the audience would fit in.
By squeezing, it turned out. There were banks of chairs, all but two taken, and some people standing. Someone was passing out tiny beakers of red and white wine from the counters. I looked around at the shadowed art on the walls, and listened to the warm hush of voices – the noise of many people being quiet because here was the guitarist, Keith James, explaining how the songs he was singing had caught his attention or were poems which he had set to music, and playing a hypnotic guitar. He played Lenard Cohen songs, one based on a poem of Federico Garcia Lorca, he played sad love songs and poems. And the music gained echos from the intimate atmosphere of the tiny gallery, the candlelight, the strange, almost sinister artwork looking down on us all. What a treat. What a pleasure to enjoy such a complex experience in such a setting!
Difficulty: Easy. And pretty flat. The walk runs along the contour line; part of the path is sanded, part path, part road. No steep sections.
Good Walk for: An easy stroll between villages; wonderful flowers in spring. Unusually LEVEL: good for anyone who struggles with ups and downs. If you want to make it a round trip you can stop for a coffee then go back again or vary your route by taking the Low Road. Lovely little walk all year round.
Distance: 3 Km (about 1hr)
The starting point is the square in Cómpeta. From here go up to the street overlooking the plaza (C/ San Antonio) and passing the arts and crafts shop head left, away from the square. You pass a pharmacy, the primary school and the health centre where the road splits, but keep going in the same direction, passing the Hotel Balcon and the little San Antón shrine. After this the road swings round a corner and uphill; here, just before a house with a turret, a yellow sandy path with a wooden rail leads off to the left. Take this.
This path runs more or less on the level. You will go almost immediately past a tiny yard where, bizarrely, a local builder keeps a couple of rather sad ostriches (the female looking especially the worse for wear). Keep going. You pass some picnic tables and an enormous green watertank and go on. The path is lovely and there are beautiful views down the valley down on the left, and of Canillas ahead; there are also lovely olive groves on the right. After about 15 minutes you come to the end of the yellow sand and the path constricts into a more typical narrow footpath. You keep following this and will glimpse a road below you; in a few minutes the path leads you down to it, coming out near the metal gates of a house-drive on the right (a signal for the path if you walk the route in reverse).
Turn right and continue. You are on a quiet road above but not far now from Canillas. After about 5 minutes there is a little path leading down on the left. This is now easier to spot – there is a GR242 sign by it. Follow this little cut carefully down and it leads you over a field or two before you come out onto a gravelly track. You begin to pass houses – this is the upper end of the second village – and then come to a tarmac road. Turn left and walk downhill.
You descend towards Santa Ana (you might like to take a moment to walk up to the church to look at the contrasting views to south and north). Take the road to the left, passing the church on your right and then take the first right downhill and keep going down until you reach a little ‘plazoleta’ with a choice of 3 exits. Turn left on the only level street. This brings you out into the town’s square – if the restaurant-bar is open you might stop for a drink! When ready, keep going past the townhall and onto a narrow street; it is kinked but stays on the level. When it comes out to from between buildings a few steps down brings you to a road. You are at a taxi stop, with a shop, supermercado Andalucia ahead on your left and, opposite, the road down to Árchez. You can get a taxi from here – call Silvia (652 63 55 00) or Mari (699933026) – if you want a lift back. On the other hand, you could go down towards Árchez to start the low road – or point your nose uphill and head back to Santa Ana to do the Goat Path in reverse. Enjoy!
The New York of the Sayalonga Valley! Cómpeta is one of the larger white villages. It is also distinctive in its cosmopolitan nature, with a big immigrant community – about 800 residents are foreign – mainly British, but many other nationalities are represented. It lives on tourism as well as agriculture and building – domestic tourism, at the Noche del Vino and Semana Santa, for example – as well as international tourism all year round.
I’ve often heard visitors express disappointment or disapproval at the effect of this modern influx of foreigners on the town. “Uff! I can hear more English than Spanish!” they say, or “Hardly an authentic pueblo blanco, is it!”
I understand that people who head to the hills wanting to escape the costa-del-sol cliché don’t want to see British tourists. But there a limitations for the residents to the ‘quaint’ villages that are preferred and, in my opinion there have been terrific benefits – and not just financial ones – to the development that Cómpeta has seen over the last 50 years, including the arrivals from abroad.
The town is so beautiful and its hillside location is so picturesque that it has long attracted artists and would-be artists. I do not think this has overwhelmed the town’s Spanish culture – just enriched it, with new ideas and new audiences. I think the many small businesses that have grown up based initially on foreign visitors have given the town a vibrancy and energy it would not otherwise have.
An example of this is the yearly ‘Art walk‘, held around Easter week, which was begun by foreign artists but embraces many nationalities, reaches out to Canillas de Albaida and just gets better every year. There was music in the square this time – I briefly saw the talented Yanique and friends playing there – but then, there is almost always music on in and around Cómpeta. Even the cuisine here seems to me to have been enriched and enhanced by the influence of visitors from many different countries to become more varied and interesting, whether you are having Spanish tapas or a Moroccan tagine.
There is lots on here because there are people who want to make things happen. Everywhere you go at all times of year – even a rainy weekday in the first week of December, for example, you will see posters telling you of different activities, classes, demonstrations, performances: I noticed the “Encuentra de los coros” – choirs from 5 villages will be meeting in the church to sing together – an ‘unplugged’ music event in restaurant Casa Paco, a crooner in a bar in the countryside, a guitarist performing in a tiny art-gallery in Canillas – a Christmas market, and a performance of artistic skating in Torrox! That’s more events being advertised than I remember happening in a year in the dull, dormitory town (30,000 popn) I grew up in!
Cómpeta is a cracking small town with a wealth of facilities and activities, a vibrant cultural scene to enjoy and the most wonderful natural landscape all about it to discover.
Cafés/Restaurantes (lots): Too many to count. Of particular note, El Recreo – just
behind the townhall, a cafe with a nice open patio; the 3 cafes on the square and plenty of restaurants – La Tetería, which also has occasional curry nights (though service can be slow); El Pilon up the steps; Oscars just off the square (especially good range for vegetarians); Hotel Balcon – the menu del dia I had there in the summer was superb; Pamplona up above Plaza Vendimia – worth the walk.
Shops: 3 medium sized supermarkets; many small shops including boutiques, bazaars and hardware shops; 3 chemists. There is also a weekly market held in the open air carpark (shut for the day) on Saturdays.
There’s also a Medical Centre (Consultario), Police Station (beside the townhall), Nursery, Primary and Secondary Schools, Tourist office (at the bottom of the hill near the bus stop), banks, estate agencies and more. You get the picture. Of special interest to walkers, the adventure agency Salamandra have their shop and office near bus stop and tourist office – you can’t miss them.
Accomodation: Hotel Balcon is the main hotel. The Estate Agencies, of which there are at least 4 in the centre of the town, can help with rentals – or you can find hundreds on the web.
Transport: Buses 3 per day to Malaga via Caleta and Torre del Mar
January 20th Feria del Barrio, celebrated on San Sebastian’s day as he is the town’s patron saint, a procession followed by a town picnic.
May 3rd, Día de la Cruz – again a procession, this time up to Cruz del Monte in the first hills above the town, for a ‘merienda’ – a tea-time picnic.
March-April Semana Santa: processions from Palm Sunday through to Easter Sunday. Many of these are spectacular, with the icons taken from the church and carried around the village on great plinths by smartly dressed (but sweating) locals to the accompaniment of the town’s brass band. In addition, recent years have seen a passion play performed in the main square and other parts of the village on Good Friday.
Late July: Summer Feria, the usual 3 days of partying and fair-ground fun, usually including live music and public dancing, a foam fiesta and other events, always accompanied by letting off loads of ‘cohetes’ – incredibly loud banders. Great fun or noisy disruption, depending on your mood, age, company and circumstances.
August 15th : Noche del Vino
This is Cómpeta’s unique festival, celebrating the start of the grape harvest, the local moscatel grape and the wine produced from it. The posters for it are created from the winner of the yearly competition by local artists and are now a collector’s item.
There are events through the week and on the day markets and stalls sell local goods. In Plaza vendimia there are displays of traditional grape pressing and people queue for free plates of migas (fried breadcrumbs) with bacalao (cod) and grapes, along with samples of Cómpeta wine. There are performances of flamenco dancing and band music. In the evening, more free wine and, in the main plaza, speeches, prizes and flamenco artists performing.
September 6th/7th Noche de las Lumbres
Traditionally, with the grape harvest coming to an end, people in the countryhouses and farms would collect all the old and broken boxes, baskets and planks and build a bonfire (‘lumbre’) in honour of the Virgin Mary, with the family celebrating by eating peanuts and drinking anis round the fire and hoping (after enough anis, perhaps) to see her image in the flames, presaging a good harvest. Nowadays fires are lit in various parts of the village as well as in the countryside and there are sometimes firework displays. .
Coming from Sayalonga to get to Cómpeta the shortest walking route given that you shouldn’t walk the main road, (it is neither pleasant nor safe) is the wide, well used track that runs along the top of this side of the valley ending at Portichuelo, one of the upper entrances to the second town. You can reach it by heading up the hill that rises on the right hand side from the main road to Cómpeta and is used by many to find a space to park; at the top the track goes left and winds on and on and on.
We went in the early afternoon – a bit hot for walking – but we were in no hurry, kicking up dust on the quiet road, enjoying the views, admiring the villas. These are rural lands, alternating between small farms or country houses bedded in among the vineyards and olive groves and little knots of (often) foreign owned villas, many of which are beautiful.
If you go left at the ‘Lagarjita’ lizard sign, you join the track that winds down to Bodegas Bentomiz. This is the home of the gorgeous Ariyanas wines and is worth a visit – they do almost daily tours and wine-tastings, as well as an elegant restaurant serving wine-centred lunches. We went the other way – up and on to reach the ridge and continue towards Cómpeta.
The vines leaves are just taking a hint of yellow as we head into autumn, but the grapes were still being dried into raisins in the white-walled paseros, darkening to a rich sweet red. Looking across the valley the breadth and depth of this ridged and channelled land striking. It is easy to forget how long and deeply this region has been farmed and, eager to reach the natural park, miss the beauty of the vineyards and olive groves on all hands.
We reached the ridge, opposite Corumbela, with wonderful views of Cómpeta and Canillas de Albaida ahead.
Our route was enlivened by a pair of kestrels in airborne courtship display: we heard the sharp cries, saw them tangle in midair, land briefly and then they flew again.
In these tamed lands you are not likely to see anything wildly unfamiliar, but the garden escapes mixing with wayside plants are very pretty. And Cómpeta is more beautiful than ever in the evening light.