Tag: Gilliwolfe

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!

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!

Day Eleven of Tom and Chica’s walk

What can I say but it’s beautiful!

Coming up to two weeks and thanks to Tom and Gilliwolfe we, too, have shared every step of the way. As usual, taken from here.

Enjoy Day Eleven!

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Day 11: Indiana to Arriate 14k

By Tom and Chica, 30th January, 2020

Written by Tom’s wife.

After her two day camping adventure, we gave Chica a day off and once again Merlin stepped into the breach. Also, Synnove, our lovely neighbour here in Jimera was going along for the day.

Starting from Indiana and heading towards the city of Ronda, this was gentler country of pasture and olive orchards. The cliffs that surround the city drew nearer and seemed particularly impressive when viewed from below.

A steep winding path took them up to the top of the cliffs and into the old town. They crossed the famous Puente Nuevo bridge which separates the ‘new’ town built around the 12th century from the ancient Moorish old town. The view is spectacular and you have to jostle for position the get the essential ‘me on the bridge in Ronda’ pic.

After a coffee here, they headed to the top of the town, past the railway station, through the industrial area and back into the countryside. Merlin took all this in his stride and it became clear that he was the better option for the urban parts of the journey. Chica would have found this quite stressful.

After a slight map reading error leading to an unscheduled tour of the surrounding area, they resorted to GPS and found their way back to the route, which headed north-east towards Arriete. The going was easy; tarmacked road though cultivated fields and grazing land. Every property here seems to be guarded by a gang of barking dogs and most have ‘Beware of the Dog’ signs of varying degrees of crudity, but this one was rather good, they thought.

Reaching Arriete, they headed to the station. Technically, dogs are not allowed on trains in Spain but we have managed to take ours a short distance by looking pathetic and saying “No entiendo” (I don’t understand) a lot. This was unnecessary here as the lady in the ticket office was clearly a dog lover and made a huge fuss of Merlin. We’ll see if they’re as lucky tomorrow when Tom and Chica try and get the train back to Arriate. Then I can have a lie-in!

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I love that about putting the dog on the train! 🙂

Just a small but fascinating item on this amazing walk. The walk along GR7.

Keep it coming, Tom!

Days Nine and Ten of Tom and Chica’s walk.

This is becoming compelling!

Susan said in response to yesterday’s post: “It feels as if we are joining them on their adventure.

I said I truly felt the same way.

This walk of Tom and his dogs is so wonderfully described, and written up by Gilliwolfe, that it does feel that we are sharing the adventure; albeit in spirit only.

The photographs are to die for as well.

Here’s the next chapter.

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Days 9 and 10 Bonacoaz to Indiana via Montejaque 34k

By Tom and Chica, 29th January, 2020.

Written by Tom’s wife.

Another glorious day but it took us quite a while to get organised. Tom was determined not to forget anything vital for the first overnighter so it was 10.30 by the time we left. Making our way back to Benacoaz through Ubrique, where Los Alcornacales gives way to the Sierra de Grazalema, the landscape looked stunning in the sunshine.

Setting off all together, we climbed out of the village between fields dotted with wild iris onto the ridge above where I left the intrepid pair for their two-day trek. Tom had done this walk before a few years ago and had loved it so was keen to revisit.

Grazalema Natural Park was designated a Unesco Biosphere reserve in 1977 and the Sierra de Grazalema was declared the first natural park in Andalucia in 1984. It is one of Spain’s most ecologically outstanding areas. The 51,695 hectare park is famous for its spectacularly rugged limestone landscape of cliffs, gullies, caves and gorges.

The region is well known for being the rainiest place in Spain, with an annual rainfall of 2,200mm, which means that the 1,300 Mediterranean plant species that have been registered here, many of them endemic and some of them unique to the Sierra, flourish.

The town of Grazalema, which nestles between two rugged peaks is well worth a visit, not only because of its spectacular setting, but because there is a bakery selling the best cakes I’ve ever tried. Sadly for Tom, this wasn’t on today’s route.

With large birds of prey cruising on the thermals above, the pair headed down the concrete track – easy on the feet – through the forest with views to the Montes Grupo de Libar (Libar mountain range) beyond. The path then climbed up a rocky staircase between peaks before descending through scrubland to the vast flat-bottomed Libar valley. This is really a high plain and the lush grass provides grazing for the local cattle, giving the area the appearance of a prairie in a Western.

They headed west on an undefined path until reaching a large stone hut which offers shelter to hikers in summer but was closed up, presumably not anticipating mad Englishmen and their dogs arriving in mid-winter. However, it provided a good spot to strike camp, with water and a table for cooking and eating. Once she’d been fed and watered, Chica wanted to go to bed. She sat in her night jacket demanding entry to the tent but had to wait while Tom ate his freeze-dried hot pot!

Sleep was a little disturbed as Chica growled at the various grunts and howls in the night. At one point, Tom got up to investigate, concerned that there may be a hoard of marauding wild boar in the vicinity. There wasn’t, but the clear night sky was beautiful so far from civilisation.

In the morning, it was cold as the surrounding peaks screened the sun. Out of the early mist, a herd of small deer, probably roe, crossed the valley and a fox passed close by, alerting a sleepy Chica who opened one eye and then went back to sleep.

By 10, breakfasted and packed, they continued to the end of the high plain. From here the track gradually descended towards the pueblo blanco (white village) of Montejaque. Here they relaxed in a café for a while before continuing over the next range of hills to meet me on the road a few miles outside Ronda. Chica looked very pleased to see us!

“Was it as good as you remembered?” I asked.

“Absolutely, and more.”

“And the camping? Everyone here thought you’d freeze to death”

“Ha – as if! It was great!”

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Wonderful! Just take, for example, that last photograph. What colours, what intense contrast, what a beautiful scene.

That isn’t the only one by far!

I don’t want this walk to end and I’m sure you echo my thoughts.