Tag: Merlin

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!

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!