Category: History

Day Twenty-Five of Tom and Chica’s walk

The third episode this week.

Tom’s walk continues!

He is in Granada and his stop was at Arenas del Rey. He now continues along GR7 to Jayena.

As always, taken from here with the permission of Tom and Gilliwolfe.

Read on!

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Day 25: Arenas del Rey (Rio Anales) to Jayena (El Bacal) 16k

By Tom and Chica, 2nd March, 2020.

Written by Tom’s wife.

As I woke in the morning, I was greeted by a couple of squirrels who ran by the tent, up a little tree and gawked at me. Clearly, not convinced about what they saw, they did another circuit and came back for second look. No doubt, this wouldn’t have happened if Chica had been with me.

I was surprised and pleased to find that this spot I had chosen in the dark was right by a ford over the river and actually on the GR7 route. Worked my way steadily uphill through scrub until I reached the pines. The conditions were ideal: cool, fresh and pine fragrant air. Great views down into the river valley below.

The rest of the day was similar – lots of ups and downs and more pines, though in one area there was evidence of these being cleared for cultivation, probably olives or almonds. I also found an old lime kiln and more information about resin extraction.

By now, the shop had opened and I bought tuna, chocolate and a strawberry milkshake. Not a particularly healthy or satisfying meal so I grumpily headed out of town and found a sign to the El Bacal camping area so made for that. Lit a fire, made a brew and settled down at around 9.30pm.

Beautiful morning – wonderful smell of pine.
Pines being felled and ground being prepared, probably for more olives
A few lonesome pines left.
More about resin extraction – a way of life.
An old lime kiln site.
The limewash was use on the houses – hence the Pueblos Blancos (white villages) of Andalucia
Jayena – today’s destination.

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Wall to wall interest.

Come back next week for another trio of daily walks by Tom, Chica and Merlin!

Day Twenty-Four of Tom and Chica’s walk.

The walk with Chica and Merlin continues.

I must say that this walk along GR7 takes in a great deal of fabulous countryside.

Just look at the opening photograph of the almond blossom and the snow caps in the distance. All credit to the team!

Taken from here with Tom and Gilliwolfe’s permission.

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Day 24: Camp site* to Arenas del Rey and beyond 17k

By Tom and Chica, 26th February, 2020

Written by Tom’s wife.

Woke this morning to find hoar frost on inner and outer of the tent fly sheet. Porridge made for a warming breakfast along with strong coffee and parrots (sic. He means paracetamol. Ed).

As I was packing up, I was joined by marauding dogs, two of which decided to follow me all day to the next village whereupon they promptly disappeared. Bit of a relief as I was rather taken with the cute young Jack Russell bitch, a very endearing dog.

Arenas del Rey was apparently closed for the day so I spent a bit of quality time in the town square brewing coffee, drying my tent and washing my feet at the fuente directly beneath the holy shrine at the front of the church. Fortunately, there was no-one around to witness this disrespectful behaviour!

After foot repairs and a light lunch I set off on route to Jayena. Once it got dark, route finding became trying so at 8pm I pitched the tent by a river. I went to sleep to the ever-present chorus of distant barking dogs.

Ice on the tent.
Bee hives.
Beware! Bees at work.
Stone threshing circle.
Almond Blossom for the bees.
Snow caps getting closer.
Finally wearing that hat. Does the job!

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I have just about muttered all the ooh’s and aah’s I can about this walk and the stupendous photographs.

Just loving it as much as everyone else!

Day Twenty-Three of Tom and Chica’s Walk

Tom travels on his own.

As you will read below, Tom took the opportunity to travel without Chica and Merlin today.

It was going to be too hot for the dogs.

Taken from here and republished with Tom and Gilliwolfe’s permission.

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Day 23: Alhama de Granada to camp position* 10k

By Tom and Chica, 26th February, 2020

Written by Tom’s wife.

Although Chica is much better and Merlin a very willing substitute, the forecast suggested quite high daytime temperatures so we decided it was best that I do a stretch on my own to try and make up lost time.

I caught the early train from Jimera to Granada where I got a tram to the bus station. The bus to the coast via Alhama de Granada didn’t leave until 3:30 so I had lunch at a pavement restaurant opposite. Later, I sat on a park bench in the sun to read but it wasn’t long before an ancient bucolic type decided to join me and make loud incomprehensible conversation. Eventually, I gave up and went for coffee. Returning to the bus station, I found him fast asleep presumably waiting for a bus. Not mine, fortunately, so a peaceful ride to Alhama but that was shattered as I found myself in the midst of a carnival with everyone in mad fancy dress!

After wandering around taking it all in, I headed to the top of town and filled my water bottles at a fuente then headed off at 6 pm. An hour later I was walking through poplar plantations on a pitch black lane trying to find a suitable camping spot. It was another hour before I picked up a GR7 sign in my torchlight which pointed uphill, too steep to try in the dark.

Luckily, I found a perfect spot above a stream which was only marred by the broken bottles left by previous visitors. By now, it was very chilly so I went straight to bed, glad to have put in at least a couple of hours walking.

Carnival fancy dress – strange!
The theme isn’t evident!
Leaving the party.

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Day Twenty-Four tomorrow!

I must say these are fabulous posts and I shall miss them when they eventually come to an end!

The simplest gift

Sometimes the most precious gift in the world is the simplest one.

So starts today’s republished essay.

I would slightly amend the saying by removing the word ‘Sometimes‘. It is a fact that the most precious gifts are the simplest ones.

This essay was on The Dodo just three days ago and is perfect!

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Shelter Pup Can’t Believe He Just Got His Very First Bed

March 25th, 2020

Photo Credit: Fairfield County Animal Shelter

Sometimes the most precious gift in the world is the simplest one.

For Ezra, a stray dog who spent his life on the streets, that was somewhere soft and warm to sleep. And the smile on his face when he received his very first bed said it all.

When Ezra first arrived at Fairfield County Animal Shelter in September, he wouldn’t look anyone in the eye. He lay in the back of his kennel, shaking and staring at the wall. Shelter staff knew he’d need to overcome his fear to have a chance at a better life, so they came up with a plan to win him over: hot dogs.

Photo Credit: Fairfield County Animal Shelter

“The hot dogs were the key to his heart,” Samira Yaghi, rescue coordinator at the shelter, told The Dodo. “We always had hot dogs when walking by Ezra’s kennel. What started with tossing the hot dogs slowly became him taking them gently out of our hands.”

As Ezra got more comfortable, he began to press his body up against the volunteers, allowing them to pet him.

Finally, five months after he arrived, the nervous dog went outside for his very first walk. “It’s been uphill ever since,” Yaghi said. “He is full of wiggles and bounce anytime he sees us approaching, eager to say ‘hello’ and eager to give us kisses.”

Photo Credit: Fairfield County Animal Shelter

It was after one of these walks that Ezra’s life changed forever. “We had several dog beds donated and they were still sitting by the entryway,” Yaghi wrote on Facebook. “On his way out for a walk, he [lay] on the bed [and] had to be coaxed off. On their way back in from the walk, he [lay] on the bed again.”

Seeing how attached Ezra was to the bed, the shelter staff put it in his kennel. He immediately sat in the bed, smiling from ear to ear. “Just look at how happy and proud he is to have that bed,” Yaghi wrote. “He sat nice and tall with a smile of gratitude on his face!”

The sweet photo of him smiling in his bed even caught the attention of the shelter’s northern rescue partner, S.N.A.R.R. Animal Rescue Northeast. Soon, Ezra and his beloved bed will be on their way to New York in search of a home, and his friends at the shelter couldn’t be more proud of how far he’s come.

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Of our 6 dogs only 1 is a non-rescue. Jean’s history with dogs goes right back to Mexico and her finding homes in the USA for homeless street dogs taken in by her.  When I met her, back in 2007, she had well over 20 dogs and when we came up to America to be married, in 2010, we came across the border with 16 dogs. All with the necessary paperwork I will add. But the border officer, after calling out to a colleague in the next customs booth, “Hey Jake, there’s a guy here with 16 dogs!“, couldn’t go throw all the paperwork and simply passed them all; not that we had anything to hide!

So Cleo was purchased to be companion to Pharaoh when Pharaoh was becoming an elderly dog.

First meeting between Pharaoh and Cleo; April 7th, 2012.

Pharaoh died on the 17th June, 2017 and he is still badly missed!

Day Twenty-Two of Tom and Chica’s walk

A hiccup to their progress!

At the time of republishing this, as in March 27th, I am well over a month behind the news that Chica suffered an infection. But it was still a shock to read of Chica’s illness and, thank goodness, it wasn’t anything more than an infection.

For I have got used to Chica and Merlin walking GR7 and hadn’t thought of anything interrupting their progress.

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Day 22: El Robedal to Alhama de Granada (including emergency car ride) 10k

By Tom and Chica, 20th February, 2020

Written by Tom’s wife.

I woke as the sun hit the tent and Chica sat outside soaking up the warmth while I had a leisurely breakfast and packed up. It was 11ish before we set off up the track. More evidence of sap bleeding before we came across some processionary caterpillars on the march.

We know about these nasty critters from earlier in the trip and I avoid camping anywhere where the nests are evident but these appeared on the track. I was pretty sure Chica hadn’t got anywhere near them but when she started to slow down and look decidedly off colour, I got very worried indeed. They can cause serious injury to dogs. I stopped to try and decide what to do – I was the middle of nowhere and it looked like we might need a vet.

As if sent from the gods, Heidi (who was actually a London cockney) rocked up to walk her dog and offered a lift into Alhama de Granada. She was the first person I’d seen all day! I accepted very gratefully.

I found a vets and they were opening soon so we sat on the steps outside and waited. The vet was lovely, examining Chica thoroughly and to my relief saying it wasn’t anything to do with the caterpillars. She had a high temperature, however, and so it was probably an infection. He gave her an antibiotic injection and vitamins and asked me to bring her back in the morning. I then carried her, as well as my pack, to the nearest place I could camp and put her to bed wrapped in my fleece. She was instantly asleep.

Chica warming up.
Pine forest and blue skies.
More sap bleeding.
Processionary caterpillars proceding across our path.
Clinique Veterinario Alhama

Author’s note: Although her temperature had lowered, Chica was still poorly the following morning, so we decided it was best for me to go out and fetch them. They are now back at base in Jimera and we will take a break until she recovers. Many thanks to Clinque Veterinario Alhama for their exceptional care.

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Day Twenty-One of Tom and Chica’s walk

Another day where the photographs reign supreme!

I love this slightly altered format of the posts from Gilliwolfe. Because the photographs are so, so beautiful.

Taken from here, as per usual, and republished for your delight with the approval of Tom and Gilliwolfe.

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Day 21: Ventas de Zaffaraya to El Robedal camping area 15k

By Tom and Chica, 20th February, 2020

Written by Tom’s wife

After a relaxing day off in Zaffaraya, Day 21 dawned fair and after breakfast of tostada and jam, we headed out of town on the dismantled railway track. This nice, level start was welcome before the climb up into the hills in holm oaks, later descending into farmland, mostly vegetable cultivation – artichokes and courgettes among others. As it began to heat up to around 25 deg, I passed a honey locust tree with the longest spines I’ve seen. These are related to the false acacia which I’ve had to trim for clients in the UK – a job to be done with extreme care and robust gloves.

Lunch at around 2.30pm of scrambled eggs and asparagus, washed down with coffee and beer at Hotel Los Canos de la Alcaiceria. We then entered the National Park and enjoyed pleasant walking until 5pm when we reached the El Robedal recreative area. This is set in pine forest with views to the nearby snow-capped La Maroma mountain and offers free camping with a toilet block, running water and barbecue area. So after the tent was pitched, I lit a fire, ate a mediocre dehydrated meal and sat back to enjoy the fantastic night sky. Perfect!

Setting off …
Ironic!
Honey locust tree – a gentle name for a truly vicious tree!

No lack of information.
Sap ‘bleeding’. The sap is used in turpentine production
Heading towards camp.
El Robedal Area Recreative – free camping with toilets, running water and barbecue areas.

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I hope you good people are enjoying this walk as much as I am!

It is such a wonderful trip and they have been on their walk for very nearly three weeks!

Day twenty-two tomorrow.

Day Twenty of Tom and Chica’s walk

A cornucopia of photographs!

Just three paragraphs of writing are published in today’s GR7 post. But the photographs are precious!

Just see what I mean!

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Day 20: Alfarnatejo to Ventas de Zaffaraya 18k (inc deviation)

By Tom and Chica, 16th February, 2020

Written by Tom’s wife.

We had a very long but really enjoyable day today. Unfortunately, I took a wrong turn early on, which meant a lot more mileage and hill climbing to get back to where we should have been.

However, it was interesting and I got to meet lots of people including a chap from Derbyshire who gave me the right directions. Then a couple of old ladies at a fuente who confirmed that I was now going the right way. After that, a group of young Spanish women walking the other way who told me how far I had to go. Which was slightly deflating.

When I reached Ventas de Zaffaraya at 7pm, I decided the prudent thing to do was to go to the first bar I saw and rehydrate. This was Hotel/Bar Aqui te Queiro (I love you here??). I asked about places to stay as hostel next door appeared closed. The owner was located though, and she spoke English – always a relief at the end of the day when I can barely string a sentence together, even in my own language. Shower and comfy bed beckons. Joy!

Breaking camp
Leaving no trace
I’m ready!
Pomegranate.
What a strange house.
Early mists.
Keeping the ear in the sun from burning. Trend setter?
Tempting!
Definitely on the right track now!
These pilas (troughs) are so welcome.
Late afternoon.
Civilisation means a bar!
Pooped squeaks.

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Glorious! Just glorious!

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.