Author: Paul Handover

Day Nineteen of Tom and Chica’s walk.

These photographs are just amazing!

Gilliwolfe has changed very slightly the appearance of the post. But it’s just as good!

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Day 19: Riogrande to Alfarnatejo 16k

By Tom and Chica, 16th February, 2020

Written by Tom’s wife

This morning’s doze was interrupted at 6:30 by a digger starting up and then at 7:15 by lights of a 4 X 4 as fella turns up for work. Hey-ho! So up and into town for double rations of bacon bocadillos with coffee and on the road at 11am. Passing out of town,  two ground workers and the digger driver wanted to know if it was cold in the tent so I put them right; good sleeping bag and doggie hot water bottle. After a bit more building site banter (to make me feel at home, but without the rain) I stopped at the fuentes on the outskirts of the town, had a quick wash and filled the water bottles.

A hard uphill slog followed and this pack isn’t getting any lighter, I’m going to have to be more ruthless in selecting items next time! But it was a great day’s hiking and I was delighted to find Restaurante Gerado by the Rio Sabar where I scoffed an early supper of ham, egg and chips with two beers for €8. Bargain! Sated we trotted off into the hills for 45 mins and found a lovely camping place in the olive terraces  – pictures tomorrow.

Leaving Riogrande
Hmmm, nice pad!
Cooling off!
Essential water purifier.
Good walking surface!
Easy to miss but welcome confirmation that we’re on the right track!
Looking back the pointy peak in the distance marks where we started this stretch. Satisfying!
Restaurante Gerado – highly recommended!

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It’s an amazing walk and that doesn’t really give full justice to what Tom and his two dogs are doing.

It’s a very real pleasure to be given the permission to republish these episodes.

Another three next week!

Day Eighteen of Tom and Chica’s Walk.

The days pass by and the walk continues!

Eighteen days! What a walk and really with two dogs: Chica and Merlin!

It’s a fascinating journey and one that many people will be keen to read about.

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Day 18: Villenueva de Cauche to Riogrande 22k

By Tom and Chica, 14th February, 2020.

Written by Tom’s wife

After good night’s sleep under the crag, we woke to find ourselves in thick cloud so didn’t rush to get going.

To save water, I brewed a small coffee, gave Chica her quota and had a muesli bar for breakfast. I packed up between bouts of light rain and we set off at 10am with almost a spring in our step, down to the road and heading east.

We passed a strange group of buildings which turned out to be a circus school, complete with mini castle. Which was slightly surreal!

Beautiful scenery as we were walking on the northern edge of El Torcal nature park. We have visited here before and the small park has an amazing and unique karst limestone landscape straight out of a cowboy movie.  If you find yourself near Antequera, it’s well worth a visit. Lobo Park is nearby too, where they are trying to preserve the last of the almost extinct wolves in Spain. You can go on a ‘howl night’ which Chica thought sounded fun.

After a short break for Chica to catch some rays, a very long stretch of road walking followed and it was getting hot. I started to get a bit concerned about the shortage of water. I intended to knock on a door and ask but all the gates were padlocked and there was no sign of life. I began to feel really anxious – we were both thirsty and the route was about to leave the road and head across county where there would be much less chance of getting water. Then I saw a chap and his dog at the bottom of his driveway. He saw me and waited to speak to us. After mumbling in my extremely basic Spanish, it turned out he was Belgian and spoke excellent English. He fetched water for us and a very welcome apple for me.

Newly energised and very relieved, we left the road and headed steadily downhill enjoying the great views all round. Chica met lots of friendly mutts including a very snivelly Welsh border collie.

Eventually, we made it to Riogordo at around 5:45, There were a lot of workman and road reconstruction going on. Despite the diversions to avoid newly-laid concrete, the farmer on his mule drove his sheep and goats straight over it.

Exploring the town, I bought sardines for Cheeks and chocolate for me. It seemed very pleasant and I looked out for sneaky camp spots but I got diverted into Bar Molina for Iberian steak and chips, goats ice cream and honey, and quantities of beer.

At 9:30 we headed off in the dark and made camp on a piece of waste ground. This turned out to be slightly sloping so I had to use Chica as a wedge to stop me slipping down it. She appeared to rather like it. What a good girl! But maybe it’s best to suss out the camping place before the beer in future.

wtw location

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I hope this gets turned into a book! It’s such a good story and one, I’m sure, that would inspire many others to copy.

Can’t wait to read tomorrow’s episode!

Day Seventeen of Tom and Chica’s Walk

More beautiful photographs and the continuing story behind them.

Tom and his dogs, Merlin and Chica, are well over the two-week mark in their continuing remarkable journey along GR7.

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Day 17: Antequera to Villanueva de Cauche 18K

By Tom and Chica, 13th February, 2020

Written by Tom’s wife.

Up at sparrow’s fart and actually managed to catch the 7.28am train. Yet again, no problem taking a dog on the train but, unlike Merlin, Chica really didn’t like it. She sat on my lap and trembled for over an hour. Only just before we got off, did she settle. Then we encountered our first refusal. The train stops short of Antequera and the last 18k is on the bus. Even when the lovely train guard tried to persuade the driver to take us, he was unmoved. So a rather expensive taxi ride was needed to do the last section.

We have visited Antequera before – the old town is interesting, once a centre for fabric-making and our trail took us along the river and past where all the laundry was once done. There was an old stone ‘washboard’. It must have been very hard work.

An easy well-defined track today through open countryside. The weekend’s cold had left me with a ferocious sinus headache but it was clearing nicely and we both enjoyed the sunshine.

After a few days off, the pack felt heavy and I was glad to reach Villanueva. The small town is used in film sets apparently, but there was nothing here today so I found a suitable camping place under a rockface showing signs of recently climbing activity. But maybe not tonight….

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Today, and the next two days are devoted to republishing this fascinating walk.

Dogs and grass!

Most, if not all, dogs eat grass – this explains why!

Of the many Mother Nature Network articles there are many that concern dogs. Such as this one.

Dogs love to eat grass especially when the grass is green and fresh. Quite often some of the dogs throw up not long after.

Here’s a post on Mother Nature Network that explores the topic.

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Why do dogs eat grass?

By Morieka Johnson    August 15, 2019.

Some dogs just like the taste of grass. (Photo: Tanja Esser/Shutterstock)

No walk around the neighborhood is complete without my dog Lulu eating grass. Even on a full stomach, she likes to hunt for the perfect blades and chew away. Left unattended, I’m sure she could mow down a small lawn. Since lawns today have any number of herbicides and pesticides, many pet parents wonder if it’s OK to let their dogs eat grass.

Here’s what the experts say about these grass-eating habits.
It’s yummy: It’s normal for dogs to chew on the green stuff because they like the taste of grass, says Dr. Jennifer Monroe of Eagles Landing Veterinary Hospital in Georgia. Some pooches even develop preferences that range from fresh leaves to drier weeds or even a particular species of grass. What they cannot discern is whether grass has been chemically treated. Use caution when walking on a neighbor’s lawn and stick with greener products in your own yard. Monroe recommends nontoxic treatment options.

“You do have to be careful if you have a dog that is a chronic grass eater,” she says. “We do have a lot of clients who bring pets in for vomiting and wonder if it’s from something the yard was treated with.”

Nutritional deficiency: Most commercial dog foods offer a balanced diet, so many experts say its unlikely that your dog isn’t getting the nutrition he needs from his dinner. Instead, dogs with certain intestinal diseases don’t necessarily digest food properly and have trouble absorbing minerals, which can lead to grazing, says Monroe. Anemia and bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract also cause dogs to eat dirt.

Some dogs eat grass because they need to throw up. (Photo: smerikal [CC by-SA 2.0]/Flickr)
They are trying to induce vomiting: When dogs are eating something that doesn’t agree with them, they often have an upset stomach and eat grass to induce vomiting. If eating grass causes your dog to vomit twice a week or more, call your veterinarian because there could be another underlying health issue. She also recommends a visit if there is any doubt that your dog may be ill; better safe than sorry.

Some dogs nibble the lawn and are fine, while others are always eating grass and vomiting. It may just be the grass tickling their throat and stomach lining that causes them to vomit, says PetMD, or it could be something more serious. That’s why it’s key for dog owners to make sure their pets aren’t sick. Keep track of how often your dog vomits and let your vet know.

Instinct: One theory is that this unusual dog behavior is just instinct. Dogs in the wild are natural omnivores who eat meat and plants, so domesticated dogs naturally gravitate towards plant material too, says Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine. Another theory is that wild dogs would eat plant material in the stomach of their prey, so they developed a taste for it.

Behavioral issues: Dogs can develop obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) regarding the grass. (I suspect that my Lulu falls into this category. She’s pretty determined during those lawn-gobbling excursions.) In the majority of cases, Monroe says this is no reason for concern. To correct the behavior, she recommends reducing your dog’s grazing time.

Basket muzzles restrict grass guzzling, too. In severe cases, she recommends consulting a certified veterinary behaviorist for advice. Otherwise, let them stop to smell — and chomp — the greenery.

“If not they are not vomiting and not destructive, I say let them enjoy it,” Monroe says.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information since it was first published in October 2013.

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All very straightforward it seems.

But I suspect there may be just a few who found this post revealing.

Days Fifteen and Sixteen of Tom and Chica’s Walk

On they walk!

Tom must be so immersed in this walking trip that he is probably starting to think that he has been walking forever.

Anyway, here we are up to Day Fifteen and Sixteen.

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Day 15 & 16: East of Ardeles to Valle de Abdajalis 28k

By Tom and Chica, February 8th, 2020

Written by Tom’s wife.

Day 15

After a good night’s kip, we were up at 8am as it started getting light. A strong breeze had all the turbines on the surrounding hills earning their keep. Merlin is now getting into the camping vibe and suggested the walk should be temporarily renamed Merlin’s Mission!

Eventually, after taking time over breakfast to enjoy the surroundings, we set off down a pleasant track through mixed woodland. And then it started to climb, and went on climbing for several k until we reached a short stretch of hairpin highway with splendid views in both directions.

We then turned into dense woodland and the path followed the foot of dam at the end of the reservoir high above the village of El Chorro. As the route continued around the reservoir, incredible views opened up to the river below.

Merlin led the steep descent into El Chorro (which appeared to be closed for the day). Here you could see the recently-refurbished Caminito del Rey – an artificial high-level walkway and bridge that traverses the gorge.

We had a pitstop at a fuente to refill bottles and have a quick cooling wash. A car pulled up and an English family came to fill their large containers. A quick conversation established that they were, in fact, the owners of the excellent nearby Olive Branch campsite. How fortuitous! We were soon setting up camp and a very sociable evening followed with other hikers and climbers.

Olive Branch campsite, El Chorro

Day 16

A murky, horrible morning, not improved by a sore head from the previous night’s cider intake, meant we just stayed in bed. Merlin was no more anxious to move than I was. We finally emerged at about 10am to find we had missed the full English. Disaster! However, the continental version was considerably better than expected and did the job admirably.

We finally got going, heading uphill along a gravel track beneath the 1200m La Huma rockface. I was able to watch the many climbers enjoying this world-famous rock-climbing playground. The visibility was too poor for many pictures but a brief ray of sun just caught some almond blossom, cheering things up a bit. I did, however, meet the first other person doing the GR7. She was from the Czech Republic and we spent a little while comparing notes, before Merlin and I carried on to the town of Valle de Abdajalis and found a suitable place to pitch camp a couple of k beyond. We were both very grateful for an early night.

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This walk is incredible. The dogs are incredible. The photographs are to die for!

This could go on for ever and a day!

 

Days Thirteen and Fourteen of Tom and Chica’s walk

The photographs are stunning as well!

Dear people, I cannot really add anything to these beautiful posts that, as always, are republished from here.

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Days 13 and 14: Cuevas del Becerro to east of Ardeles* 32k

By Tom and Chica, 5th February, 2020

Written by Tom’s wife.

Authors note: As Tom is now having to send me the details of his walk, it seems better to write in his voice – so that is what I have done here.

Considerable pondering this morning over whether I should take Chica or Merlin. Chica seemed fine but this was going to be a four or five day stint with no chance of a change-over. In the end, decided best to let Merlin do this one. The next stretch would be much longer so best that Chica is in top form.

From the last drop off location, we all walked the first stretch through scrubby terrain with holme oaks and some abandoned road works. Here Gill, Arfy and Chica turned back, Chica looked pretty miffed. Me and Merlin carried on over a rise and down into the next valley.

A long walk along the valley followed, heading east and steadily climbing past a goat farm and some derelict buildings. The temperature was climbing too and we stopped for water and a rest. Hearing a low buzzing, I spotted hundreds of bee hives hidden in valley below.

The rough track was now very exposed with more goats and olive groves. We were both very hot and I was getting worried; we were short of water and Merlin was looking a bit weary. Eventually we found a hole dug to pump water to crops so he was able to drink.

The village of Serrato had no bars or shops but we found a wrought iron bench in the shade by a fuente (fountain). I brewed up coffee whilst Merlin drank and ate treats and was quickly revived and happy again. A local farmer turned up to fill his water flagon and told me how good the water was, knocking some back to prove it. After a halting conversation in Spanish he walked off, but then came back to give me directions for the GR7. What a gent!

Rehydrated, we hiked out of village then up and up into the hills to a wonderful camp site above the tree line with great views in every direction. Merlin was very alert and on guard. Bolognese noodles for my supper, and chicken and treats for Merls. Absolutely knackered, everything aches!

Day 14

Made coffee at 8am then went back to the tent to do physio exercises, listen to my audio book and luxuriate in the quiet. Merlin also very chilled. Set off at 11 feeling fairly fit and strong as we climbed steadily.

The Sierra Nevada came into view as we followed the washed out track. It then turned downhill out of pine trees towards open farmland, passing farms with more goats, free range and intensive chicken buildings and cultivated land.

There were fields of regimented rows of olives and blossoming almonds, and the sound of chain saws at work trimming and thinning the olives. It was now very hot and exposed, and water was at premium again. We were very grateful to reach the outskirts of Ardales and a welcome water tap by a shady stone seat.

Some friendly locals asked what I was doing and then directed me to a bar for food. Unfortunately, it was closed but we continued out of town to Hotel el Cruce for lunch. It was 3pm and 28deg.

Beer, olives, bread, fish and chips, coffee and cookie for €13.50. The lovely waitress filled my water bottles and it was with some reluctance that we went on our way at around 4pm. Another 1k on the road then upwards again on tracks for two hours to find an excellent camping spot with views in all directions. Merlin is getting into this camping lark! El Chorro tomorrow!

* Final location WTW bath.wrenches.presets

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The two photographs of Merlin are terrific. As Gilliwolfe writes:

Merlin is a tough little Patterdale and is loving being on the trail. He is getting on for nine years old so we didn’t really think he’d manage. But looks like we were wrong.

I know I am repeating myself but so what: The photographs are stunning!

More tomorrow!

Day Twelve of Tom and Chica’s walk

It continues to be perfect!

Once again, it is my pleasure to republish this and, as usual, it is taken from here.

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Day 12: Arriate to Cuevas del Becerro 10k

By Tom and Chica, 31st January, 2020

Written by Tom’s wife.

Day 12 saw a late start as Tom headed for the station with Chica for the 12.50 train. Again, no problem boarding with a dog. The guard even ruffled her ears as he collected the fare.

After a quick coffee in Arriate, the trail headed out into the countryside past large chicken sheds, piggeries and posh houses, one still apparently celebrating Navidad!

They reached the railway station at Parchit, all of which remains is the platform. The station house and bar were gone and a new road was in the process of construction. Nosing around here, Tom spotted a very grand entrance to a vineyard. Oddly here, gates are one extreme or another; either grandiose like this one or an old bedstead wired to a pole or even more rustic, a couple of strands of wire held up by small branches. You very rarely see a common-or-garden functional gate.

The route turned into a delightful country lane and with Chica breaking trail, still heading north-easterly, they continued through mostly holm oak and olive trees. Eventually meeting the main road they found the path ran alongside so they chose to keep to one a bit further away. Here stonemason Tom was happy to see a beautifully constructed dry stone wall, not unlike those seen at home on the Mendip Hills.

As the sun was going down, around 6pm, Tom texted to say they were somewhere on the A367. Fortunately, the What Three Words location (built.orangey.juicy) was more accurate and I was there shortly afterwards. Home before dark.

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It hardly seems relevant for me to add some words at the end. The description of the walk stands up on its own.

But what I will say is that there is another episode tomorrow!

Wow! What a stupendous sight!

Mars!

I’m not going to do anything other than launch straight into this post. Taken from EarthSky.

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Curiosity rover on Mars snags highest-resolution panorama yet