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.
Wall to wall interest.
Come back next week for another trio of daily walks by Tom, Chica and Merlin!
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.
I have just about muttered all the ooh’s and aah’s I can about this walk and the stupendous photographs.
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.
Day Twenty-Four tomorrow!
I must say these are fabulous posts and I shall miss them when they eventually come to an end!
I opened my email box a couple of days ago and there was an email from Sarah.
I would be honored to be a guest writer for your blog and of course would reciprocate. I hope you don’t mind that I shared your link in my last post. I am not totally sure if blogging etiquette.
Of course I said yes!
Sarah’s background is sociology and she has a degree in the subject. Just as important she owns a dog walking business. I will let her finish her background:
I believe in living life to the fullest.
My daughter is a Cancer survivor- and as a result of that journey- It put my life into perspective. I learned to never take anything for granted- you never know what’s around the next corner. I am continuing to work on becoming the best version of me, while making the most of each and everyday.
Frankly, I do not really know what it is like to have a daughter, or a son come to it, go down with cancer. The nearest I have come to the disease was when I had just turned 12 and my father died of lung cancer.
So here’s her guest post.
Start your day with music- not the News! Surviving the Coronavirus with mindfulness Day 2
By Sarah Kinneavy, March 28th, 2020
As I continue to try to stay calm with mass panic happening across the globe 🌎 with this pandemic. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post:
I am using mindfulness to train my brain in how it reacts to stress. The more we do these exercises the better we get at them.
Yesterday one of my friends posted on Facebook to start the day off with music – rather than the news! What a great idea!!! So, yesterday, as I got ready for a job interview and I waited until it was late enough in Hawaii to do my daily well check on my daughter there (she is in isolation in a dorm room – I am not sure if she has the dreaded virus or not). I used music as the focal point of this mindfulness exercise. This 15 minutes of focusing on the music- listening to the rhythm helped keep me present. I wasn’t worrying about getting the job or how my daughter was doing. I was just in that moment of getting ready with the accompaniment of music. It was honestly 15 minutes of pure happiness. What a great way to start my day! One thing I have to add – I try to not let myself think about what the words of the songs mean to me, or when I first heard the song. I just listen and enjoy. Okay- I may have danced around my apartment a bit too!
I can tell you – I did not feel anxious going to my interview like I normally would. I didn’t panic about my daughter’s health – I was able to wait until after my interview to check in on her. Mindfulness does not keep me from ever worrying about my kiddo or the world around me. No – I still worry – but It isn’t swallowing me up whole. And this is key!
I can’t wait to talk to you again tomorrow . How are you coping with all the stress and anxiety?
That’s a lovely guest post!
And the message is clear and powerful: “No – I still worry – but It isn’t swallowing me up whole. And this is key!“
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!
Shelter Pup Can’t Believe He Just Got His Very First Bed
March 25th, 2020
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
Pharaoh died on the 17th June, 2017 and he is still badly missed!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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!
Focus on your breath. Listen to your body. Notice your emotions, but don’t judge them.
These are a few of the cues routinely used to induce mindfulness, a meditative state of self-awareness and detached acceptance that promises practitioners a sense of peace and presence of mind.
By putting equanimity within arm’s reach, if even for a moment, mindfulness programs are quickly gaining steam throughout the country. And it’s perhaps no surprise. At a time when America’s huddled masses seem more wound up, stressed out and distracted than ever before, the call to calm down is a compelling one.
At issue is not only relief from stress but also the innumerable ailments related to it. And like yoga, mindfulness programs are proving to be powerful antidotes. From depression and anxiety to weight control and pain management, there’s a mindfulness treatment out there for what ails you. Fortune 100 companies are using mindfulness as part of leadership training, and the military is incorporating such techniques to reduce stress before deployment and to help ease post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It’s cultivating a general skill that can be applicable in lots of different circumstances,” says Vermont-based psychotherapist Arnie Kozak, who’s been using mindfulness in his clinical practice for nearly 20 years. “I think the place where it pays the biggest benefit is helping people to reduce reactivity,” he says. As Kozak explains, mindfulness won’t change someone’s condition, but it can change someone’s response to it and, in doing so, alleviate suffering.
How and why mindfulness works
In dealing with a difficulty — say, a crisis at work or a chronic disease — people often get mired in the narrative they create about the situation, perhaps chastising themselves about their feelings or behavior, envisioning catastrophic consequences or rehashing the incident ad nauseam. Mindfulness, however, teaches a healthy skepticism about the stories we tell ourselves, say Kozak, who likes to repeat a mantra: “Don’t believe everything you think.”
Fundamental to the practice is acceptance, rather than avoidance of a stressful situation. In a sense, it’s the opposite of the “Calgon, take-me-away” approach of yesteryear (commercials for the bath products featured a harried Mom pleading with Calgon to “take me away” from the cacophony of domestic life). Mindfulness, alternatively, would ask you to accept and observe the chaos, without liking or disliking what’s happening around you.
If that sounds challenging, it is — but the rewards can be profound. And they don’t require some sort of monastic discipline.
After an eight-week course of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness, participants changed their brain structure, according to a study by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital. Brain scans of the subjects, who meditated an average of 27 minutes a day, found a thickening of regions associated with learning, memory, self-awareness and compassion and a thinning of the region connected to stress and anxiety.
According to Psychologist Lindsay Sauers, there are two parts of the stress-response cycle, and though everyone knows the first part — the rush that comes when you system is flushed with adrenaline and cortisol — the second part doesn’t get as much notice, but it’s important. There must be an emotional and physical release in response or the cycle is “incomplete.”
“We often wait until the ‘breaking point,’ when addressing the impact of stress becomes an absolute necessity,” she told Dave Bellomo of NorthCentralPA.com. “The challenge is that in waiting, we often feel so guilty about the consequences of the breaking point that once the immediate distress has leveled off, we go right back to pushing aside stress until it grows to that ‘breaking point’ again. It becomes a ‘rinse and repeat’ situation. While the rinse and repeat might be tolerable if we know it’s going to happen … this all-or-nothing process has a cumulative, detrimental impact on the body.”
Bringing mindfulness mainstream
University of Massachusetts’ Center for Mindfulness is where MBSR — and much of the mindfulness movement in this country — got its start. That’s thanks to Jon Kabat-Zinn, an MIT-trained biologist who founded the center in 1979 and developed the MBSR program, helping to bring meditation mainstream.
Today, there are some 520 MBSR programs across the country and about 740 worldwide, according to the center’s executive director, Saki Santorelli. The center has seen more than 20,000 people complete its eight-week course, with many of them referred by conventional medical centers.
Santorelli attributes the interest in mindfulness primarily to research and access. “From the very beginning, research has been a critical part of this process,” he says, adding that “society, in many ways, trusts science.” The growing body of literature on mindfulness fuels further interest.
Also, mindfulness work has a low bar to entry, Santorelli says. It doesn’t require renouncing one’s faith. It doesn’t necessarily cost anything. And it enables people to take an active role in their own healing.
He argues that the optimal approach for health care incorporates both the Western discipline, in which practitioners do something “to” or “for” a patient, with the self-care inherent in mindfulness.
While the former is critical if a patient requires surgery, the latter can bring about a sustained approach to well-being, Santorelli says. How so? He explains that through mindfulness, observation gives way to self-awareness — the point at which it becomes possible to change habits and behaviors.
That’s especially important, he adds, since so many of today’s maladies are related to lifestyle — from obesity to smoking.
As director of research at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, Frederick Hecht is using mindfulness techniques to disrupt the automatic eating behavior that so often derails efforts to lose and maintain weight.
“The idea is to chew our food a little more carefully, to really savor both the texture and the taste of the food, to be aware of all the sensations you’re feeling as you eat,” with the goal of getting greater satisfaction from less food, he says. By paying close attention to how they feel before and after eating, participants may be more likely to make healthier choices.
“There’s promising data for things like mindful eating, but it’s preliminary data,” says Hecht, who is training in internal medicine and clinical epidemiology. “More research and better research is really key, and its particularly key for health professionals when we’re called on to really recommend this, and we need a stronger evidence base.”
At the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, pulmonologist Roberto Benzo is using mindfulness techniques to help patients manage conditions such as lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). “Health is far beyond fixing an organ, having a transplant, getting a coronary fixed — that is just a piece of the story,” Benzo says, referencing his yet-to-be-published research showing that quality of life and self-care hinge on one’s emotional state.
The many benefits of mindfulness training.
With that in mind, Benzos work as founding director of Mayo’s Mindful Breathing Lab is to help patients see past their disease and appreciate life.
“To embrace life, we always embrace what we like … It’s difficult to embrace that sometimes we’re sad, sometimes things are not going in the direction we want,” he says. “Mindfulness is the ability to be here and now even when one has a condition like a lung disease or a heart disease or something like that.”
Using techniques like breathing, moving and gratitude, Benzo has found that patients tune in to the moment and feel better. “They start to look at the good that is in front of them,” he says.
But getting to that stage requires switching gears.
To that end, Los Angeles-based psychologist Elisha Goldstein and author of “The Now Effect” reminds his patients to simply “STOP.” The acronym stands for: Stop, take a few breaths, observe your experience and proceed. As Goldstein puts it, the exercise “pops them out of autopilot” and into a position to ask “what really matters in life” at that moment. From that place of calm, we are better poised to make the best choice and the most of the moment.
As those moments build up, they may amount to a lifetime of living in the midst of them.
I can do no better than to repeat the advice of Elisha Goldstein in that penultimate paragraph.
Stop, Take a few breaths, Observe your experience, Proceed.
Gilliwolfe has changed very slightly the appearance of the post. But it’s just as good!
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.
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.