Author: stevesally55

LA GRAN SENDA DE MALAGA: GR249. 17/18th October :El Chorro to Ardales (16.7km) to El Burgo (25km)

We thought we might not make it.
Booked to fly from Shannon to Malaga the day that Hurricane Ophelia swept across Ireland and all media were constantly telling everyone to stay at home, we didn’t think we’d be taking off at all.
Miraculously though,our plane was still not cancelled as we chain sawed our way through fallen trees on route to the airport through the maelstrom.
As we approached we saw the first post cancellations jet wobble its way down onto safe ground, and we knew we’d be off soon.
And so it was. After a remarkably smooth flight we landed into a barmy still night on the Costa del Sol, seemingly on a different planet to the storm tossed coast we had escaped.
Here for another week on the GR 249 trail, continuing the circumnavigation of Malaga Province for just over 100km over 5 days hiking and finishing with a bit of R+R.

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Studying the map board at El Chorro station, where I’d finished up last time, we were disturbed to see the route had been changed from all the info we had and now went 6 km longer past Carratraca before turning towards our objective, Ardales. However the GR7 still went along the original route so as it was already nearly midday we decided to stick to that.
It was a bit daunting to look up at the tower atop the hill we had to climb.

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The tower was connected to a reservoir 350m higher than those below, and water is pumped up at times of surplus energy and allowed to run back down, through turbines, at times of need.
We climbed relentlessly for over 4 km, passed some interesting looking rock formations with life clinging to it precariously.

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The higher we climbed the better the view, and after an hour or so we arrived at the wall of the reservoir and the tower with it’s resident vultures/ eagles and many more riding the updrafts around and above.

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From this vantage point we could look down on a line of people crossing the new bridge at the end of the Caminito del Rey gorge, and continuing along the cliff side walkway.

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We were now on a high plateau with extensive views over the surrounding Sierra , a landscape of pine trees and herbs which supplied a glorious scented background to our walk.

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After a couple of km along a forest track along the ridge we joined the Tarmac road that serviced the high reservoir briefly and passed by the entrance steps up to the 9 / 10th century fort of Bobastro.

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This was where the Mozarab rebels led by Omar Ibn Hafsun hung out and built an impressive citadel complete with this church and subterranean cemetery.

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Off on tracks again the next couple of hours took us across an empty quarter of sparsely populated farmland of sheep and grain ,now mostly within a Natural Paraje or park. There were a few tasteful finca to holiday home conversions but mostly simple farm worker ” navvyies” or houses surrounded by stock sheds.

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The subsistence grain growers had left the old cobbled threshing grounds, or “eras” behind, for the few passers by to admire the view from.

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The ringing of bells heralded a large flock of sheep minded by dog and man.

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A little earlier we had passed a long water trough with an elaborate welded cage around it and been puzzled.

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Looking back as the flock surrounded it we could see it was to allow the sheep to drink without climbing in and fouling the water.
Another flock was being minded by a large but mild mannered dog who seemed to let them wander at will.

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The last 4 km were downhill through open country until Ardales came into view on the other side of a busy road.

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We found the stage end and sign board for the next leg and bought the makings of a huge tuna salad to fortify ourselves for the following day.

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The night was full of thunder and rain and , as forecast, the next day dawned drizzly under leaden skies. We dressed for rain and headed out under the ancient hill top castle and down to the Roman bridge over the Rio Turon.

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Fair play to the Roman builders, that bridge has been carrying traffic for 2000 years.

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We now had 10 km of ascent ahead, taking us from 350 m to 820m. As we climbed, the view back over the mountains we had climbed from El Chorro was of darkness and light, with white clouds rising from the gorge.

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Atop of the first ridge was a medieval fortress from the war between Granada and Seville kingdoms.

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We climbed up into the vast public forest, 1000’s of hectares planted to help with erosion and as an amenity, although this is a little known and remote area- we saw no one all day.

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The rain started to come down relentlessly although the trees gave us some respite for a few hours until we reached more open ground of deep soiled mixed crop farmland. Luckily, at more or less the same time the rain became drizzle, then stopped, and then the sun came out for awhile and we stopped to dry out.

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A long line of bee hives were laid out next to the track and a copse of fine eucalyptus soaked up the rain from the arroyo.

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We were now back down to Rio Turon level. While the river had meandered its way through the mountains we had gone over them. As we neared the town we passed the fertile riverside gardens and a little shrine to the saints

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And finally, still pretty wet, a couple of km further than expected was El Burgo with its welcoming streets and hot shower.

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The cloud is well down again and tomorrow we have to climb, over 25 km, up to 1160m and back. So I really hope the forecast is right and we can stay dry.
But now some internal liquid is required.

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LA GRAN SENDA DE MALAGA: GR 249.10/11th SEPTEMBER. CAMPILLOS TO EMBALSES de GUADALHORCE and beyond (32.5km) to EL CHORRO (13km)

I immediately took the wrong way out of Campillos in the pre dawn gloom but soon the sun was lighting my eucalyptus lined road past some big industrial chicken “farms”.

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Some fields were turning from brown to green with new life while on their edges the dry seed heads ended that cycle.

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This area is famed for its many lagoons, some no more than a patch of damp ground at this time of year, others a much prized habitat for wildlife, birds in particular.
Pink flamingos tiptoed in the shallows of this one as the squealing of pigs broke free from the unit behind.

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The land hereabouts was good quality with an amazing depth to the soil.

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A shepherd led his flock to graze the stubble of grain near a huge cortijo which had done lots of tree planting and landscaping.

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A beautiful place that looked like they loved the land.

The mountains to the south were looming larger and after another stretch of road I entered a forest of pines and a first view of the destination of the day, the reservoir of Guadalhorce.

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To get there I crossed a large area of land being grazed by sheep- complete with guard dogs but no shepherd .

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The track turned back into woodland and followed a winding path that gave me enticing views of the cool turquoise water that I was too hot to resist clambering down to for a swim.

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Refreshed, (briefly), it was off through more thankfully shady pine untill the red and white blazes led me across a tricky rock face where the weight of my water filled pack threatened to full me off onto the rocks below.

With the heat building towards the daytime maximum I emerged onto the road at the dam wall between the two reservoirs of Guadalhorce and Guadalteba- two huge bodies of water.

I had a few km of road walking on the other side of the dam before I started to climb into the mountains that were my final hurdle. This point was usually the end of the stage from Campillos, having already covered 23km, a lot of it on tarmac. But I was anxious to leave as little of the final stage for the last day as possible. I knew it would be an uphill slog for 500m ascent, followed by a long fairly steep descent and didn’t want to do it all in the heat so decided to carry on for awhile. After another half hour or so I was driven into the water again by the blazing sun and then sat out the worst of it feeding the carp.

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I could see a bunch of vans and cars high up on the track into the sierra and after turning back onto the trail and starting to climb towards them I saw why. The sheer limestone walls of the towering cliff faces are a magnet for climbers and I watched with bated breaths tiny dots scaled their heights with and without ropes. Major cojones.

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The views over the reservoir and the hills to the north opened up more and more as I slowly made my way up through the landscape of boulders and scrub. Passing through the Puerto de Ramos the vegetation became increasingly given over to Juniper, a forest of it, and laden with berries.

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With the light starting to fade and keen to find somewhere to camp I came to an isolated plantation of young olives with a nearby old stone barn that looked inviting but a couple of chained and barking dogs put me off and carried on into more and more unsuitable surroundings with very thick juniper shrub and rocks and boulders in any space between.

Eventually I ended up in a drain for the night. Not as bad as it sounds with a flat smooth surface, shelter and privacy, not that there was anyone for miles.

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And the view wasn’t bad.

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It was however pretty cold at that altitude without a sleeping bag and I had a fairly restless night listening to strange sounds of birds and unknown wildlife and what I was sure were trains running through tunnels that were somewhere deep deep below me in the mountain, before dawn gave way to another clear blue sky day and I set off early for the final 250m climb, with the landscape i’d covered over the week laid out below.

On a plateau at 830m was an extremely remote farm with hundreds of goats and extensive tillage of which not an inch was wasted amongst the rocky crags.

The inventively recycling farmer not only used bedsprings for fencing, but a multitude of baths for water and feed- however he got them up there.

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Suddenly I was on the downhill stretch, passing my first asphodel

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and my first other GR249 user this trip.

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Watching him cycle up this steep track towards me made me feel as inadequate as the climbers had. He was escaping from a Torremolinos holiday to mountain bike in the wilds and was loving it.

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The vista before me to the east was of the area i’d be hiking through on my next trip on the GR when the route goes to Ronda and the Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema.

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Lower down an old finca still supplied almonds

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and a newer homestead sported a yurt, a pool and a riding stables.

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Before too long I was surprised on the wooded trail by my second GR user of the trip- presumably from the attractive property nearby.

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Huge eagles or vultures circled above more climbers I could just make out high above on the cliffs surrounding El Chorro, hopefully not in anticipation of rich pickings.

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I could see the beginnings of the gorge of the Caminito del Rey, the scene of our previous adventure and another site popular with dare devil climbers for years.

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I arrived at the journeys end with time, water and food to spare and awaited the train to emerge from the tunnel into the mountains I had slept on the previous night.

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My third instalment of the Gran Senda over, I was happy to have visited the vast olive plantations and wide open spaces of the grain growing areas but more happy to anticipate the sierras and natural parks to come — next month— when it’ll be cooler.

LA GRAN SENDA DE MALAGA: GR249. 8/9th SEPTEMBER. ALAMEDA to FUENTE DE PIEDRA (16.5km)to CAMPILLOS (19km)

Walking out at dawn I realised I’d been on the very edge of town and skirted around it through an industrial area. I was taken by the artistry of the car breakers.

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The first olive groves actually had grass between the rows. Was this the work of some radical organic farmer or merely sensible intercropping.

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The land here was very sandy leaving tracks of wildlife and tractors.

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An hours climbing to the high ground of the day and I was pleasantly relived to finally come to another species of tree. Aleppo pine and plenty of herbs, the scent of which filled the still morning air.

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The previous morning, surrounded by mile upon mile of olive I was sure I could smell the oil, a not very pleasant odour normally only noticed around the mills at processing time.
Another change of crop was a plantation of almonds, although the eagle eyed reader may have spotted a picture in the last post of rows curving over a hillside.

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And then for the first time this trip I was off the farm tracks and on a woodland one, running down between the pines and past a strange enclosure that looked like it had been used for pigs.

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It was literally and figuratively downhill from there and back to the olives before a break in the form of an remote controlled aircraft landing strip. These toy flying zones are immensely popular in Spain for some reason and I’ve come across them in many of my ramblings here.

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Kenny and friends seem to enjoy their time here, flying high maybe.

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I had to cross the AVE high speed train line which although not pretty is a monument to Spain’s love affair with mega infrastructure projects. They seem to have the space to push these things across the country with gusto.

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And then on the last leg into town across another area of flat arable land I past the ruins of the big watering infrastructure of the past. Huge pump houses now derelict.

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I arrived to find the place just setting up for a weekend of fiesta revelry.

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The campsite I’d booked for a shower, phone charging, clothes washing etc was rammed and no quiet corners for me to bivvy in so they lent me a tent complete with mattress for 2€ and erected it next to an extended family and all their mates intent on partying.
Before I left home I’d discovered that the Donkey Sanctuary charity for whom we foster donkeys had a affiliated Spanish branch here, so I hiked over for a chat and look about.

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An interesting place, if your interested in donkey sanctuaries. Almost a reverse situation to Ireland in terms of donkey care. All feed brought in, dry paddocks, hot conditions, actually an environment they are genetically designed for. About 80% of their funding comes from England and they( and their new sister sanctuary in Extremadora) take in donks and mules and the odd horse from all over Spain as well as Italy and France.

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That poor specimen wouldn’t have made the grand in the flamboyant display of horsemanship that went on in Piedra that evening.

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Macho posturing and horse grooming at their finest, and the señoritas weren’t to be outdone.

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The Main Street was closed and the riders had to pelt up the hill and catch a steamer rolled on a wire with a little wooden pin, presumably to catch the eye of one of the exquisite beauties watching from the sidelines.

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It went on for hours.
The weary walker couldn’t stay up for the late night procession of the Virgin through town, but I got a sneak preview in the cathedral of her flower bedecked podium(?)

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Of course there was no rest to be had at fiesta camping and me and my outsider neighbour, tossed and turned through the hilarity till they collapsed about 2am.
Up at 6am and thinking of singing loudly I instead snuck quietly away to join a track alongside the railway.

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Passing a goat “farm”

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I carried on beside the railway into the rising sun and , at last, towards the mountains.

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It was more of them

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And more of that

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With the occasional building to add interest. Some old and abandoned, some old and refurbished, and one a bizarre mix.

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I got as close as I was going to get to the famous lagoon. Still horizontal smudge across the background there was no chance of spotting the pink flamingos.

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Then came the tough part, though thankfully the sky clouded thinly, as I made my way across a vast rolling ocean of earth.
It reminded me very much of crossing the Meseta on my first Camino. Mind numbing. But lacking visual stimulation I added aural and the music filled my mind, my body and my soul and I fair flew along to the tunes of the maestro who is Baramus.
You need a zen like state at times to be happy covering distance where the horizon never seems nearer.

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Shaken out of my reverie by the sight of Campillos on a now changing horizon I was able to leave inner space and Evie’s details like the mud cracked ground.

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Entering the town I passed the grand cathedral where a wedding was taking place.

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Unfortunately the edifice viewed from my hostel room didn’t mimic the finer architectural details.

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And so I prepare for the hardest two days of the trip. Long stages, nowhere to get food or drink and big mountains.
And a tight deadline. There’s a plane to catch.

LA GRAN SENDA DE MALAGA:GR 249. 7th SEPTEMBER. ATALAYA TO ALAMEDA. ( 22.5km)

Starting off with a head torch to spot the markers on a myriad of sandy tracks, the path climbed slowly out of the valley and up through rounded hills to reveal more and more olives lit by the light of a silvery moon.

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Attractive in a strange way despite the monotony this monoculture , and the practise of keeping the earth clear, certainly aids erosion in fragile soils such as these. Very silty with underlying clay, once any watercourse gets a hold it sweeps all away, down the arroyas to the rivers and eventually the sea. God knows how many million tons of soil are washed into the med every year but it’s a wonder the whole thing isn’t silted up.

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There was a lot of gun shot throughout the early morning as men and dogs sought rabbits. I came upon their prints embedded in the sun baked clay.

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The baked clay made the tractor compressed dirt tracks set like cement which wouldn’t allow any rain soakage.

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But passing slowly through the regimented planting was hypnotic and calming and bought to mind a passage in a book I’m reading at the moment that goes some way to explain why I’m happy on the lonesome trail.

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To ramble further in this vein, another recent read “The Moth Snowstorm ” spoke of how a reconnection with the awe and ,at times, sublime joy felt in the presence of “nature” by 50,000 generations of hunter gatherer ancestors could possibly save us from the likely consequences of the actions of the last 500 generations as we withdrew from the natural world.
Of course you may not hold with the notion that agriculture was the beginning of the end and the families that owned the huge estates I was walking through surely didn’t.
Holed up in their vast cortijos, these were not subsistence farmers.

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These places have reigned supreme for centuries and there’s no sign of a slow down. Run like self contained fiefdoms in the past big business continues to plant on an industrial scale.

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I did come across one derelict place adjoining a more modern one.

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These countless trees demand an unimaginable amount of labour and I saw teams of men cutting off suckering shoots and tractors dragging tyre formations across the endless “groves”.

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As someone who has harvested a few olive trees in my time I can’t imagine the logistics involved in saving these never ending crops. And they are all WATERED! Mile upon mile of underground plastic pipes releasing precious aqua to each individual tree from a multitude of pumps.

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Much as I admired the ingenuity involved and appreciated the shade they offered I eventually grew to hot to feel awe or unbridled joy in their presence and it was with relief I stumbled out onto a road for the remaining km or so into Alemeda.
A strange place with a street of mostly undeveloped plots

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It had a large mobile home park and my home for the night, an old and imposing posada that even, joy of joys, had a small pool to cool my overheated body in.

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I guess there are benefits to civilisation.

LA GRAN SENDA DE MALAGA: GR249. 5/6th SEPTEMBER. ARCHIDONA TO VILLANUEVA DE TAPIA (17+3km) to ATALAYA (17km)

It’s been 3 1/2 months since I left this trail to swelter in the heat of the Spanish summer and there has been precious little rambling since so I approached my return with a little caution, starting with what I thought would be a couple of easy days to ease my way into some kind of track fitness.
As soon as I stepped off the plane I realised that the heat was still going to be a problem. 11 o’clock at night and still 30 degrees and it was somewhere in the 30’s when I passed the thermometer sign we had sweated passed last trip.

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Cap and shades on I set off through town and out onto the sandy track towards Tapia with as much water as I could carry.

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Which was just as well as the bountiful Spring I had noted in the GR249 YouTube film was dry as a bone. Not that I could carry too much as I was travelling with minimal package. In a desperate bid to keep the weight on my back down as I had failed to reduce the weight of my front , I was planning a few nights camping without tent or sleeping bag just silk liner and mat. Even so, with some spare clothes, book, map, electronics, bit of food and my 2 lt water bladder my 25lt pack was bulging.

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The landscape, thankfully, was gentle with only about 200m of ascent and descent to Tapia. The dusty track led me through a “Dehesa” of scattered holm oaks among the olives, almonds and grain fields.

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There were also more rabbits around than anywhere else I’d seen in Spain, evidently many had escaped the numerous cartridges scattered across the ground.
The route went under a railway and motorway in quick succession

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and soon after across another rail line empty of trains but busy with tractors.

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The relatively flat open spaces means the farmers can employ big machines unusable on the rugged mountain slopes the GR had been though in its first dozen stages. Perhaps it was one that had flattened the rabbit that provided me with a “lucky” foot.

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There is a long overlap with the E4-GR7 hereabouts, that, had I followed it, would had led me to Athens and beyond, but in this heat I was happy to stop at a lovely hotel rural for a cold drink but less happy to discover they didn’t serve lunch on Tuesday.

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This threw the timing off a bit and after another weary couple of hours I arrived at Tapia just too late for lunch in the bar and a couple of hours too early for post siesta shop opening. A fountain in the park cooled my head and feet and I rested up. There was nowhere to stay here and I was going to have to head for the hills to find somewhere to lay my mat.

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By the time I’d eaten and restocked with water etc it was 7 and thankfully a little cooler as I clambered up the steepest climb of the day for a few Kms getting increasingly apprehensive at the severe lack of camping opportunity. Steep and rocky, the abundance of ruined and deserted homes declared that this was not an easy place to live, or camp.

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I was a little concerned about wild boar and mosquitos of which there seemed to be plenty.
But the late evening light on this ancient drovers track lent a magic to the land and as it finally faded I at last came to a ruin with an open barn and straw to lie on. With a full moon rising and mosquitos gone it was all I could wish for.

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Next morning I was up by moonlight and on the trail in the gloaming, the olive groves slowly lit by the rising sun. The landscape I’d crossed 2 years ago on the Camino Mozarabe was ahead of me with the head shaped lovers leap and the mountains of El Torcal behind.

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There were well kept farms here with a variety of fruit and vegetables hidden away amongst the vast olive groves. One little finca had the least effective guard dog I’ve ever seen. Unlike most in Spain there was no yapping or growling and leaping up and down. This poor fellow couldn’t do enough to hide away in an attempt to avoid all contact.

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They seemed very “grove proud” in these parts with men and machine watering, feeding, clearing and flattening(!) their fincas. I’d never seen anyone with a leaf blower tidying up around their olive trees before. And why do they need it so flat?

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Eventually my path descended down to a stream bed, passed a ruined mill, and across a lot of the detritus of past flooding.

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I came into Algaidas past the vast olive mill, idle for the moment but awaiting a storm in a few months.

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Stopping for a cafe con leche I google mapped my Air b+b but upon arrival the mailbox was for different names. A very friendly policia local knew exactly who I was looking for and directed me to a village a couple of km further. The route out there was on the Camino Mozarabe and brought back memories of the shady path and bridge, although it looked like there had been some raging waters here too.

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There is a whole load of new signage for the Camino and I saw that it has been given the GR designation.

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And so I will miss out on the next stage of the GR249 to Cuevas Bajas as we did it on the Mozarabe and continue on to Alameda. Hopefully a good rest and an early start will allow me to climb the initial 250m without heatstroke.

LA GRAN SENDA DE MALAGA: GR 249. 16/17th May. Alfarnatejo to Villanuevo del Rosario (22km) to Archidona (23km)

After a day off the trail we got a lift back to where we had walked to last time we were here together and promptly went off route somehow. Instead of a level hike around the hill between Alfarnatejo and Alfarnate we followed the path that went over the top of it. So we found ourselves looking down on the town we were supposed to be climbing into.

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After the huffing and puffing of the climb we needed coffee when we got down there and so we gate crashed what turned out to be some old folks day centre thinking it was a bar. They didn’t seem to mind, I guess we fitted right in.
It was a funny old town anyway

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and we moved on down the road surrounded by grain fields and poppies.

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We took a dirt track leading straight up the mountain ahead of us

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where traffic is banned and the rocky slopes are being planted with oak. The air was thick with the scent of Spanish broom and a wealth of wild flowers grew despite the dry conditions and an altitude of over 1100m. The views back over towards the south and the flat high plains were impressive.

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After cresting a pass and passing down through Aleppo pines we stumbled upon an old campsite, accessed from the north, that was now an outdoor activity centre with tree walks, zip wires and climbing walls.

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There were signs of other outdoor activities in the shape of abandoned loud speakers and campfires.

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From here we began to climb to the ravine at Llano de la Cueva, the highest point at 1385m of the entire 660km GR249 route.
A delightful path led us up through woods of oak and hawthorn with more Aleppo pine and Spanish Terebinth to little fields cleared of stones where small herds of sheep sheltered from the sun.

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There were the tell tale scuffling and rootling of wild boar too but no signs of the Ibex or Roe deer that live here.
We climbed past another old threshing circle marvelling at farming grain at 1200m. Looking eastwards from here we could see the empty quarter of the Central Limestone Arch and in the far distance, snow on the Sierra Nevada’s.

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Climbing up out of the woodland towards the pass at 1385m it remained lush, with a plethora of colourful or spiky plants still roughing it out. There was also a stone construction we thought must be to catch water.

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Pausing for lunch and self congratulations at the summit we looked westwards along the mountain chain, admiring the rugged splendour of it all.

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To the north we could see our destination but had to follow a long looping track down past the Mirador de Hondonero and another picnic site and bird observatory.

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There were big patches of Dehesa oak woodland and great spots for rock climbing like the imposing Tajo de Madera cliff face.

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We arrived at the little chapel of our Lady of the Rosary just outside the town.

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After collapsing in the plaza for awhile with cold beer and crisps and shopping for dinner our kindly Air b+b host Gustavo picked us up and whisked us in minutes to a lovely old cortijo set in the olive groves.

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A restful night under the ancient beams and we were off down a track through the olive groves back to the village/town. The flowering is dramatic this year and I pity those with a pollen allergy.

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A cafe con leche and tomate tostada set us up for our last days hike this trip. 23km to Archidona across a different landscape to the mountains so far.
We left the town by a gentle waterside path leading us through the huerta, a fertile area of crop growing.

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This was the humble beginnings of the mighty 166km Guadalhorce river and the path gradually moved away from it along a constant corridor of flowers.

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Soon enough the surroundings moved from the poetic to the prosaic as we passed under the motorway to a landscape of abandoned developments and collapsing fincas.

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But before long we were walking away from the mess of man and up into a wilder space, a big area of shrubby Dehesa with cistus and potentilla.

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It was a beautiful area and I could see why some obviously wealthy finca owners had chosen it to make their gardens and erect their tents.

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Plain farming folk were here too with their sheep and goats, their grain and their oaks.

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Some of the olives were looking pretty industrial level Corp.

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We climbed higher, passed the olives, to an area where pines had been harvested from the steep hillsides after a fire.

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The view back was over the vast prison

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The view forwards was down into the Hoz de Marin and we climbed along its edge through the strangely coloured gypsum and clays.

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Before dropping steeply down through a pine forest on a track destroyed by mountain bikes.

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Our destination came into view between the trees

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and reaching the valley floor we crossed the river and walked along a lovely shady path before the last gruelling 100m ascent into town.

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We realised why the last climb had been such hot work when we saw 33• degrees on the thermometer sign.

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And so a few days rambling over we plan our return to Ireland and maybe our return to the GR 249.

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LA GRAN SENDA DE MALAGA: GR 249. 13/14th MAY COMPETA TO CANILLAS de ACEITUNO (22km) to PERIANA AND BEYOND(29 km)

Continuing my circulation of Malaga province for a few days Sally and I spent a night in a Competa townhouse with views over a jumble of interconnecting roof terraces.

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Leaving the village in the morning past the Ermita de San Antonio, we were startled by the surreal sight of an ostrich beside the log railed path.

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The way was lined by the thrusting stalks of agave flowers.

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Canillas de Albaida came into view with the Maroma mountain range towering to over 2000m in the background.

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This area is renowned for the grapes grown between the olive trees and dried on netted sloping pens.

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We entered the wild and forested Naturel Parque de Sierra Tejeda, passed the deserted Casa de Haro and down to the old Roman bridge at the start of a long steep climb up to Puerto de la Cruz del Muerto.

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The wild flowers were a glory to us and the multitude of bees feeding on their nectar and gathering their pollen.

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A long drop down to the hidden village of Salares over another Roman bridge and a quick coffee break was followed by another steep climb past an old threshing circle or “era”.

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The grain winnowed here for generations was still growing feral in the deserted fields.

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Another descent, another ancient bridge and we climbed into the flower bedecked streets of Sedella.

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Our last big climb of the day led us past a series of narrow terraces of neat vegetable ridges and grain crops surrounded by more wild flowers.

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The lushness was enabled by irrigation channels emerging from a water mill on the hill above the village.

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As we climbed the views opened up eastwards passed the irrigation canals to the mountains and firebreaks

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and south towards the sea.

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At the summit was the well equipped recreation area with camping spots, showers, toilets , water taps, barbecue pits etc and Sally rested briefly on the designated bench.

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From there a long descent past impressive holm oaks took us finally to our accommodation for the night and a very welcome but chilly dip in a pool.

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The next morning we started by climbing down a steep path into the Rio Almanchares, up into the village and down again on a woodland path to the caves of La Fajara which have tunnels and passageways of 1500m.

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A 3km climb on a track with the forested Natural Park on one side and clumps of waving grasses on the other was followed by a steep clamber down through an olive grove into Alcaucin.

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Passing the traditional graveyard and a very untraditional housing block we found a bar for cafe con leche.

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From there a concrete track took us down down to the riverbed and up again to cross the road leading to the Boquete de Zafarraya, the gap in the mountains that led towards Granada.

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From the mirador del Pilarejo there were views back over the Maroma range and westwards over Vinuela reservoir.

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The concrete track continued for another 5km or so through olive groves and an amusing chameleon juddered across our path.

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On the outskirts of Periana was an area of unfinished development the bubble had burst over. Plazas and plots empty and waiting.

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We were soon climbing away from the town on the bed of the old railway which ran from Malaga to Zafarraya till 1960. Steep enough to need a cog system to draw the trains up the slopes the track makes for a fine walk under bridges and through cuttings to the high point at 875m and fine vistas westwards across the yellow rape fields.

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We stopped at the spot we had reached from the other direction last year and after relaxing in the shade from our efforts and soaking up the views we returned the 5km to Periana and a lift to dinner, beer and bed.

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