Tag: Tom

Day Eight of Tom and Chica’s walk

Now it gets very interesting!

This is a longer post and with great interest.

For it covers the Park at Los Alcornacales as well as the Spanish cork industry.

As always, the post is a republication of the original and is gratefully offered to my readers.

ooOOoo

Los Alcornacales – cork and pork and much, much more.

By Tom and Chica, 24th January, 2020

Written by Tom’s wife.

So far, during this part of the walk, Tom and Chica have been travelling through the unique habitat of Los Alcornacales. We fell in love with this beautiful area the first time we visited back in 2013. As we are rained off at the moment, I thought I’d take the opportunity to research more about the area, especially the amazing cork oaks which comprise large areas of the forest.

 Granted natural park status in 1989, Natural Park Los Alcornacales occupies a protected area of 170,025 hectares in Andalusia. Soil, moisture and traditional uses have been the main factors in the conservation of the largest productive area of cork trees anywhere on the Iberian Peninsula. Located in the province of Cadiz and part of Malaga (mainly in the municipality of Jimena de la Frontera, where we have just been walking), it runs from the mountains down to the recently created Estrecho Nature Park on the coast and is home to a variety of landscapes, flora, fauna, history and folklore.

This rich diversity is mainly due to the many rivers, streams and reservoirs but also the moisture that comes from the coast. This latter accumulates to form banks of mist in the deep, narrow gorges known as ‘canutos’. In these conditions, the ancient laurel forest flora has flourished. Characterised by smooth, bright leaves, it can make the most of the moisture and limited light that penetrates the alders growing on the edge of the gorges. So, amidst the scent of laurel and the beauty of flowering rhododendrons, you can walk through this dense forest accompanied by the sound of dippers, kingfishers, blackcaps and finches.

Egyptian mongoose
Griffon vulture

In the more clay-rich areas lower down you can see the wild olive tree, cleared from time immemorial to make way for pasture for the region’s most typical livestock, the brown Retinta cow. On the valley sides, the Mediterranean scrub of rockrose, heather, lavender, daphne and hawthorn is perfect for Andalusian deer, as well as buck, roe deer and carnivores such as genets, badgers and also the Egyptian mongoose – the largest population anywhere on the Iberian Peninsula.

Cork production

Los Alcornacales and the surrounding areas are home to the Iberian cork industry. As well as its most well-recognised use as bottle-stoppers, cork is also found in many products from car construction to aeroplane insulation.

The cork oak, quercus suber, is a native of both the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean. Its age is unknown, but quercus suber or its ancestors have been around for at least 147 million years. It is a prophyte, ie a species adapted to survive fire. While other species rely on seed propagation to survive fires, the cork layer protects the stem of the tree so it only has to regenerate branches. This makes it very well adapted to the fire-prone forest of southern Spain.

Archaeologists have found evidence of tribes actively working with cork oak in northern Africa before 6,000 BC. Early man would have used the various species of oak for fire wood, tools, weapons; and for building as the hunter-gatherers began to settle. Similar evidence has been found in Andalucía and other parts of southern Spain dating back 4,000 years BC or more.

However, it would take a few thousands more years before the special sealant qualities of cork would be utilised. This property is due solely to the presence of one particular constituent: suberin. Suberin is a fatty substance found in the cells of the denser forms of cork which stops the passage of air or liquid.

Cork was probably first used as a sealant in containers by the Greeks and Phoenicians, for wines and other liquids in pottery containers but it would take the invention of the glass bottle, a fairly recent innovation in historical terms, for cork to finally meet glass. Legend claims that Friar Perignon, a French monk, discovered this use for cork on a slender glass bottle neck in the seventeenth century. As news of its efficacy spread, so a new industry appeared.

Cutting the cork is a highly skilled task and requires two years training. It is unusual for a tree to survive ring barking (the bark being removed around the complete circumference) and it needs to be done with care and at the right time. The cutters’ experience tells them how far to cut up the tree to avoid harming it.  Cutting is only legally permitted between 15 June and 15 August which is when gangs roam the oak forests, each of the usually five members having a specific role, from chief cutter to lowly carrier.

These gangs traverse the forest in a nine-year cycle, allowing the trees they cut to regenerate the cork in the intervening period. Their mules roam free in the forest except for the two month harvest period when they trek back and forth between harvest site and cork factory. So expert is their knowledge of the routes that, once loaded, a tap on the back will send them off unaccompanied. The town of Cortes de la Frontera actually holds burro-loading contests at its annual summer feria, with a prize for the most ingenious loading of a burro.

What we see lying curled on the ground is still many stages away from fitting into the neck of a bottle. At the factory the cork is boiled in a vast, deep pool of water, which renders it malleable for flattening and then processing by machine. The cork then goes through several levels of compression, depending on its destination. It emerges as very thin sheets of varying sizes, perhaps thinner than a child’s little finger. It is then checked for quality – the oak trade has five levels, from excellent to poor – and the oak is assigned to an appropriate use.

Most interestingly, however, is how it does reach the bottles we uncork. Bottle corks are stamped out by machines at different widths for wine, champagne and cognac (Spanish cork is treasured by French brandy producers). When they pile up in the dumpers beneath the pressing machines, they look like big wooden pennies. These are graded by quality, and then carefully fed into further compressing machines. Cork makers reckon that it would be a waste of good cork to use it throughout a wine or champagne cork, so lower quality cork is placed in the middle, highest quality at either end, where the cork meets both wine and outside air. These layers are then compressed so tightly we do not even notice that a cork we pull is not one single unit but a compression of up to eight layers crushed together. The finished corks are then dispatched to bottling plants across Europe and beyond.

There have, of course, been concerns about the rise of the plastic cork. Its proponents say that it prevents a bottle being ‘corked’, ie, spoiled, by air penetrating the old-fashioned cork. Its detractors argue that, beyond the aesthetics of levering a wad of white plastic out of your favourite wine, it doesn’t allow the alcohol to breathe naturally. (French brandies breathe so profusely that the distilleries are wreathed in fumes which promote fungi on the roofs and keep nearby cattle happily sozzled year-round.) Yet with even the British supermarket buyer seemingly moving upmarket in their choice of corked drinks, and the Spanish and French keeping their noses in the air over plastic stoppers, it seems the Iberian peninsula can hold on to its two billion euro cork industry yet.

Other uses for cork include flooring. We have some of this in our bathroom at home. A long way from the basic dull cork tiles of old, now it comes in stunning patterns and looks beautiful. It is also sustainable, provides excellent insulation and is lovely and warm to walk on. If I could, I’d floor the whole house with this.

Iberian pigs

The Iberian pig is a traditional breed of the domestic pig (Sus scrofa domesticus) that is native to the Iberian Peninsula and is currently found in herds clustered in the central and southern part of Portugal and Spain. Its origins can probably be traced back to the Neolithic, when animal domestication started.

The most commonly accepted theory is that the first pigs were brought to here by the Phoenicians from the Eastern Mediterranean coast, probably along the old droving tracks one of which our route, the GR7, roughly follows. They interbred with wild boar and this cross gave rise to the ancestors of what are today’s Iberian pigs.

Prized Iberico ham

The production of Iberian pork is deeply rooted to the Mediterranean ecosystem. It is a rare example in world pig farming where the pig contributes so decisively to the preservation of the ecosystem. The Iberian breed is currently one of the few examples of a domesticated breed which has adapted to a pastoral setting where the land is particularly rich in natural resources, in this case acorns from the holm oak, gall oak and cork oak.

The numbers of the Iberian breed had been drastically reduced since 1960 due to several factors such as the outbreak of African swine fever and the lowered popularity of animal fats. In the past few years, however, the production of pigs of the Iberian type has increased to satisfy a renewed demand for top-quality meat and cured products. Now, though, there is controversy over the providence of the highly prized Iberico ham as breeders cash in on the market and produce a similar but much less sustainable product more cheaply, thus threatening this ancient livelihood.

The Iberian pig can be either red or black or in between. In traditional management, animals ranged freely in sparse oak forest (dehesa in Spain, montado in Portugal).  They are constantly on the move and therefore burn more calories than confined pigs. This, in turn, produces the fine bones typical of this kind of jamón ibérico. At least a hectare of healthy dehesa is needed to raise a single pig. True dehesa is a richly diverse habitat with four different types of oak that are crucial in the production of prime-quality ham. The bulk of the acorn harvest comes from the holm oak (Quercus ilex) but also the Pyrenean oak (Quercus pyrenaica) and Portuguese or gall oak (Quercus lusitanica) and the late cork oak season, which extends the acorn-production period from September almost to April.

Some recent research from Cordoba university concluded {the translation isn’t perfect but you get the idea}:

‘The couple Iberian pig and dehesa has proved to be very effective; so much [so] the Iberian pig is called the dehesa jewel, but the first needs this agro-ecosystem to reach its highest quality properties (organoleptic and nutritional ones); and the second needs a clear commercial differentiation for Iberian pork and cured products in order to receive a high price to maintain and conserve the dehesa. Spanish authorities should be responsible for protecting this traditional system from fraud and unfair competition. In this way, farmers economy could be enough to conserve this unique ecosystem and its values for the whole society.’*

Whether you eat pork or not you may still believe as I do, that this traditional and sustainable way of producing it is better for the ecosystem and the pigs than intensive farming on a huge scale. And we love seeing the black pigs snuffling through the forest. I hope it can be protected along with the rest of this remarkable and stunningly beautiful area.

ooOOoo

Well I must say that this is a tremendous post and a privilege to be able to republish it.

Gilliwolfe did an incredible job in composing the post and inserting all the photographs. Well done!

Well done!

 

Day Seven of Tom and Chica’s walk.

I’m republishing three in three days!

I want to get further ahead in the story of this walk and I get the very clear impression that you are in agreement with this.

My readership numbers have been high and there have been no negative responses to the generous offer from Tom and his wife to republish Tom’s long and interesting walk along the Spanish pathway GR7.

So on we go!

ooOOoo

Day 7: Jimena de la Frontera to Cerra de la Fantasia 20k

By Tom and Chica, 22nd January, 2020

Written by Tom’s wife.

The last two days were non-walking days, one for bad weather and another to move base again. Now we have the luxury of being in a house for a while in Jimera de Libar, a village we know well.

So the day started with the drive back to Jimena and the weather looked reasonable. Again, Merlin refused to be left so the three of them set off up the path, climbing steadily for the first hour and a half.

Climbing path.
Spanish Fir / Pinsapo (Abies Pinsapo) in the background

The path eventually levelled out and passed beneath the rocky outcrops of the Altos de Paneron and Cerro de Marin. After a bare rocky sections where the route was harder to determine, they went into dense forest of oak and Spanish fir (we love these and call them lollipop trees because of their shape). Both dogs in great form, but Tom was mean and moody :).

Dark clouds were gathering from all directions but the view to the coast was still impressive. However, it wasn’t long before the rain began and the temperature dropped.

Looking south – you can just see the sea.

Fortunately the rest of the route was on a well-defined and signposted track, winding down through the cork oaks in the midst of the Los Alcornacales. It was here deep in the forest that I eventually picked them up. I had forgotten that smaller Spanish roads aren’t always roads as I know them and the last five and a half miles I was driving along a rough track with no mobile signal, not at all sure I was in the right place. Even though we have a 4×4, I made very slow progress and it was with considerable relief that I found them, damp but completely unconcerned.

ooOOoo

I wonder why Tom felt “mean and moody”? Gilliwolfe doesn’t say.

But it is still a most fascinating walk.

Day Six of Tom and Chica’s walk

The walking tour of Spain continues!

Once more I will keep my introduction very short. Except to say that the original was here.

It’s turning into a fabulous walk!

ooOOoo

Day 6: Castillo de Castellar to Jimena de la Frontera 22k

By Tom and Chica, 18th January, 2020

Written by Tom’s wife.

Today was the longest walk so far and didn’t actually start until late as we decided to shift base. By the time we had the caravan installed on a site in Jimena de la Frontera and I’d driven Tom and Chica back to Castillar it was 2pm. Chica was obviously refreshed after her day off and keen to go. Castillar again looked amazing and it was great to know the start is downhill on a tarmac path through more lovely woodland.

As it levelled out, the tarmac gave way to a gravel track through scrub and grazing land occupied mainly by local brown retinto beef cattle. A huge old farmhouse had seen better days and seemed unoccupied, at least by humans. The scenery changed again as they entered the first cultivated area they had come across since the start. No idea what the crop is though.

The route met up with the railway track and would stay with it all the way to Jimena. There was a pony grazing here. Despite having a rug and being quite friendly, the white hairs on its nose indicate it has been put in a seraton – a noseband with spikes that dig into the soft flesh of the muzzle. These are still used a lot in Spain. Nearby there was a donkey that was hobbled – which is now illegal. Equines get a rough deal here sometimes.

A grand entrance

There were a few dwellings as they approached Jimena – one with a very impressive gate. The shell motif is associated with St James and is a common one on caminos (pilgrim trails) although more usually found on the famous Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.

The light was fading fast and the last hour or so was done in virtual darkness with Jimena castle luminations acting as beacon to the weary traveller.

ooOOoo

Wonderful. And what a lovely job of writing it all up.

Keep it coming, Mrs. Tom.

Day Five of Tom and Chica’s Walk

Seeing parts of Spain that the tourists rarely see.

Again, I’ll keep my introduction really short. After all you came here to read of Tom and Chica’s walk along GR7.

ooOOoo

Day 5: Castillo de Castellar (new town) to Castillo de Castellar (old town and castle) 14k

By Tom & Chica, 17th January, 2020

Written by Tom’s wife

After his adventure yesterday, Merlin was up early this morning bounding around shouting ” Me! Me! Me!” Chica opened one eye (she’s not good in the morning) and made it clear that she was happy for him to deputise for her today. She had a lie-in while Tom and Merlin headed back up to Castillar and as you can see, later she helped me deal with her social media fans!

Day 6 started as day 5 ended, by the road. This proved less hazardous than the next section which was on a track by the main road along which groups of lycra-clad cyclists flew in both directions. It was with relief that T & C were able to turn onto a lovely quiet road that wound through the oak forest towards the castillo (castle) high on a rocky outcrop ahead.

Inviting paths
Inviting paths

After a few kilometres, a very inviting track appeared to the right of the road and despite the marker not being for the GR7, Tom couldn’t resist, wanting to be off tarmac for a while. A bit further on, a post bearing the red and white stripes of the GR routes was a welcome sight and the path through the wood was cool and easy on the feet (all six).

A short cut.
Yay, A cold beer after a steep climb.

The path eventually came back out onto the road and the castle could now be seen high above. As it started to climb, the road also started to wind so Tom thought he’d try and cut off the corners. But we all know that cutting corners rarely works and sure enough, he soon had to retrace his steps. Eventually, a cobbled path did appear but it proved a steep slog. Plucky little Merlin who’d been trotting along happily up until now started to flag. His tail had been vertical all the way but now began to droop a little. Both were very pleased to see the bar at the top.

The castle
Information sign.

It is beautiful spot with wonderful views and the history of the village goes back to the Bronze Age. The prehistoric presence is still evident in the many caves around the area, where enthusiasts can see the wonderful cave drawings. It played an important role in the wars between the Spanish and the Muslims. In such an advantageous strategic position, many cultures wanted to control this strong vantage point.

In the 1960s the new town, where we started today, was built 7 km away in a more convenient location next to the road and the train station. This new model Andalucian town was inaugurated in 1971.

Two years later the Rumasa Group acquired the old village and in 1983 the Spanish government expropriated Castellar and declared it an ‘Historical and Artistic Monument’. By this time, the place was in a state of neglect and the Town Hall invested the equivalent of around £100,000 to restore the old castle and village.

If you ever find yourself in this part of Spain, we strongly recommend a visit.

ooOOoo

I can’t do any better than to repeat what I said after the last:

Keep it going, Tom. For the description of your walk is very engaging. To be honest, it is Tom’s wife, Gilliwolfe, who deserves as much credit. For without her then we would not be reveling in Tom’s walk.

 

Day Four of Tom and Chica’s walk

The walk along GR7 continues

This walk is really getting under way. In day four they achieve the stretch from Los Barrios to Castillo de Castellar.

ooOOoo

Day 4: Los Barrios to Castillo de Castellar 15k

By Tom & Chica, 16th January, 2020

Written by Tom’s wife.

In complete contrast to yesterday, this morning there was a clear blue sky – a truly glorious day. We all set off together for the first mile or two but when I turned to go, Merlin dug his paws in and and absolutely refused to come with me. So he carried on with Tom and Chica while Arthur and I returned to the car.

Mules

Mules are still used in Spain both as personal transport and as pack animals. Here in the forest, they haul wood and cork. These two look in good condition and don’t have any of the white patches or scarring that indicates poor loading or ill-fitting harness that is often seen. Happily, it is now illegal to hobble equines (ie chain the front feet together to severely restrict movement). This is a very recent change and six years ago when we first came to this area it was a common sight. To restrict the movement of a prey animal that naturally depends on flight for survival is very cruel, in my view, so it’s good to see it dying out.

View across Algeciras to Gibraltar

Today’s route wound gently uphill past an army camp until, at the high point, there was a fantastic view across the top of Algeciras, the main port, to the rock of Gibraltar. After that it continued to through pasture and cork oaks until the enormous rubbish dump made its presence felt well before it was visible in what appeared to be a disused quarry.

Eventually, the path came out on the road, which though not very busy was less pleasant to walk on and all three members of the party were quite happy to be picked up after 15k in very warm weather.

ooOOoo

Keep it going, Tom. For the description of your walk is very engaging. To be honest, it is Tom’s wife, Gilliwolfe, who deserves as much credit. For without her then we would not be reveling in Tom’s walk.

Day Three of Tom and Chica’s walk

The journey continues!

I made a mental note to republish this wonderful story more often than hitherto.

Certainly, if I am do the story justice, and I do want to do that, then a couple of republications a week is needed.

So we are at Day Three.

ooOOoo

Day 3: Embalse de Almodovar to Los Barrios 20k

By Tom and Chica, 15th January, 2020

Written by Tom’s wife.

Silent sentinels

This was the first cold and cloudy morning we’ve had since we arrived in Tarifa – a bit of a shock! The lack of wind, which is a rarity here, meant that all the wind turbines were motionless – like silent sentinels guarding the the hills.

 

 

Silly Billy!

oooo

Back on the stony track.

oooo

Don’t run them over!

We reached the start point (What Three Words location: dashes.outlived. plums) at around 10.15. Frustratingly, the route is barred by an electronic gate and notices warn that vehicles are prohibited, although google maps shows it as a through route. This wasn’t a problem this morning but made for a long drive for the pick up later.

After yesterday’s day off both dog and man keen to get going and set a brisk pace to keep warm. The lizards referred to in the sign weren’t in evidence – it was definitely too cold. The same very stony track caused less problems for Tom today with medium rather than light weight boots. The route climbed steadily to a high open valley to Puerto de Ojen giving views of the Sierra del Nino to the north. There used to be a bar here offering refreshment to walkers but sadly only a rather angry little dog and a donkey there now but a brief lunch break was taken anyway.

Puerta de Ojen

oooo

Paths of the prisoners.

This sign on the right (Ed. the last one above.) was a little further down the road. A brief translation tells us that, as a result of the Spanish civil war, prisons were overflowing so Franco decided to create disciplinary battalions, an organized group of political prisoners to perform forced labour. After the outbreak of WWII, he launched the Fortification Plan on the northern shore of the Strait of Gibraltar, with the aim of fortifying and defending the area from possible attacks from the coast. To do this, he built a network of roads in this coastal area of ​​southern Spain from Conil to the Guadiaro River and the path of the prisoners is part of this network of roads built by disciplinary battalion number 22 that was located between Venta de Ojén and Cerro del Rayo from 1940 to 1943.

Rustic bread oven

oooo

Further along they came cross this old bread oven that is currently being restored. Tom is a builder specialising in stone work so was able to determine that it was a good example of modern stonework. He was unable to fully translate the sign but it said that bread was a very important part of the diet and this was oven was a vital resource used by many people.

All in all, an interesting and reasonably easy route. The weather had improved as the day went on and it reached 18 deg but after 20k both Tom and Chica were quite happy to see the car, I think.

Pooped!

ooOOoo

I am so grateful for being given permission by Tom’s wife to republish this amazing journey along the GR7 path.

I’m assuming that you all are enjoying this!

 

The continuing GR7 journey

Where does the time go!

It is now ten days since I last reported on Tom and Chica’s great walk; so much for my couple of postings a week!

But they continue to walk the GR7 path in Spain and I will continue to republish their posts of this great trip.

So now, so far as republishing goes, we are up to Day Two.

ooOOoo

Day 2: La Pena to Embalse de Almodovar 16k

By Tom and Chica, 13th January, 2020

Written by Tom’s wife.

Human breakfast!

All walking days will start with the full monty for Tom. He is a very practiced breakfast chef so I leave him to it. It did seems to take a while this morning so I think we may have to start getting up a bit earlier. For this week, at least, I will be dropping him off and picking him up so he doesn’t have to carry the full pack with the tent etc, giving him time to get some fitness back first after the flu virus.

The start

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So it was 10am before we got to the start at La Pena (What Three Words location: crafted.indecisive.barbecued.) and already a really glorious day; full sun and a gentle breeze. The route wound up into the hills giving wonderful views back down to the sea and across to the Moroccan coast. The path continued on a variety of surfaces, some tarmac, some sand and some stony tracks. The latter proved a bit uncomfortable and Tom now thinks that his more sturdy boots might be better, despite being a bit heavier. He has metal rods in both his feet, the result of a climbing accident about twenty years ago. So it’s extra important that his feet are well supported.

Goats on the move
Very spiny cactus with fruit – name anyone?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The landscape was quite rocky with olive and other hardy shrubs and trees, and lots of cacti too. Not much wildlife spotted but plenty of goats with their melodic bells. The route ended at a large lake on a inaccessible track so they walked back to the road where we met, conveniently close to a bar for a much appreciated cold beer (for Tom)and long drink of water (for Chica).

Meanwhile, back at the campsite, there was a minor crisis as a neighbour discovered a number of processionary caterpillars. These are nasty critters with highly irritant hairs that can cause a painful rash in humans but are even more dangerous for dogs. As the name suggests, the caterpillars form a chain when they move and, of course, most dogs want to investigate but if they ingest the hairs it can cause real problems. The nests can easily be spotted as dense webs on the tips of pine branches. The site maintenance staff were very prompt in coming along to remove the nests but we will remain vigilant. It was probably a bit daft to choose a plot under the pines and it’s a lesson learned for the future. One of many to come, no doubt.

 

 

ooOOoo

This is such an amazing trip. Words hardly express my admiration for what Tom.

And, as before, please do follow Tom and Chica directly.

The GR7 by Tom

Another republication of the Spanish walk by Tom and Chica.

There was such a wonderful response to the post on the 28th January that I decided to republish another one. This time I have started at the beginning.

ooOOoo

The GR7

The road less travelled…..

If you tell someone you’re planning a long walk in Spain, they will mostly assume you’re talking about the Camino de Santiago pilgrim trail across northern Spain. Tom being a bit of a misanthrope said he’d rather go somewhere less crowded.

We are familiar with a part of the GR7 as it runs through the Serrania de Ronda where we have spent a few recent winters. After more research it was decided that this would be the most interesting.

The GR7 starts on the south coast at Tarifa, near Gibraltar, and then runs up through the Los Alcornocales, a beautiful forest of cork oaks, then into the Grazalema National Park before reaching the city of Ronda. Dramatically perched above a deep gorge, Ronda is our favourite city.

From there the route turns eastwards towards Antequera and passes through the Parque Natural del Torcal whose bizarre rocky outcrops form one of the most impressive karst landscapes in Europe.

Shortly beyond, the route splits and Tom and Chica will be taking the southern variation through many small villages into Las Alpajarras. Then it heads up into the Sierra Nevada and there it may get tricky depending on the snow level. Chica isn’t keen on being belly deep in snow!

As the route heads north inland from the east coast, it is all new territory for us. There should be a couple of visits to both our charities near Alicante and Valencia and then due north to the border with Andorra. The final stop for recuperation will be with good friend, Kate, in the Pyrenees.

Day 1: Chica’s Challenge begins!!

Chica’s Challenge started today at Playa Chica.

At last, after a fair few hitches and glitches, Tom and Chica took their first steps on a journey that will take them right across Spain to Andorra on the GR7 route. The start is at the aptly (and purely coincidentally) named Playa Chica, which is the most southerly point of mainland Europe. From here, you have the Med to the east, the Atlantic to the west and Africa on the horizon. It’s an epic trip and one that only around five people complete every year. It should cover a variety of landscapes, starting today with the beautiful beaches of Tarifa and the surrounding area. As it’s a Saturday, with a good strong breeze, the kite surfers were out in force. It’s quite a sight!

Kite surfers at Valdavaqueros

Today was a short toddle, by comparison with what will follow – just 11k in about 2.5 hours. The route was almost entirely on the beach and Tom shed his shoes and walked barefoot. It might be the only time that will be possible.

Given that he is recovering from flu an easy start seemed a good plan – definitely so as it’s now raining! Chica, however, needs to understand that stopping to investigate every interesting smell would mean the walk would take several years.

We will be posting a blog every day of the walk, with information on the route, the scenery and the flora and fauna. Tom isn’t able to carry field guides – too much extra weight – so identification from any of our followers would be appreciated, starting with these shells found on the beach today. These pics will be posted on our instagram page too.

Shells found on the beach at Valdevaqueros

As well as posting our position, hopefully using Viewranger (we’re working on this) we will also give our position using What Three Words. Tonight’s are: tigress, asked, varies. This is fun and will be another way of ensuring that the back up team (me) can hook up with them.

Stay with us!

Just this far to go….

ooOOoo

This is an incredible journey and I’m so pleased that Tom is happy for me to share it with you.

And, please, do follow Tom and Chica directly.

This is a walk and a half!

An outstanding walk.

Tom came to Learning from Dogs a short while ago and signed up to follow the blog. As is usual, I went across to his blog in order to leave a thank-you note. I was flabbergasted at what I saw. Tom and his two dogs were walking across Spain. He called his blog Chica’s Challenge and this is what he wrote on his home page.

First, Tom decided he wanted to do a long walk.
Then he thought Spain would be nice as it has to be in winter.
And he’d like to take Chica, our podenco.
As an afterthought, he said, “Maybe we could raise some money?”
“Who for?” I asked.
“Well, as I’m taking Chica and it’s in Spain, I guess for Spanish podencos.”
“Great idea! I’ll write the blog!”

I wanted to follow his posts and did so.

Then I wanted to republish a post and asked Tom if I had his permission to so do.

“Of course”, came the reply.

So I am going to republish the post that was Day 7 of the walk.

ooOOoo

Chica’s Challenge

One dog and her man walking across Spain, raising money for their podenco friends.

Day 7: Jimena de la Frontera to Cerra de la Fantasia 20k

The last two days were non-walking days, one for bad weather and another to move base again. Now we have the luxury of being in a house for a while in Jimera de Libar, a village we know well.

So the day started with the drive back to Jimena and the weather looked reasonable. Again, Merlin refused to be left so the three of them set off up the path, climbing steadily for the first hour and a half.

Climbing path
Spanish Fir / Pinsapo (Abies Pinsapo) in the background

The path eventually levelled out and passed beneath the rocky outcrops of the Altos de Paneron and Cerro de Marin. After a bare rocky sections where the route was harder to determine, they went into dense forest of oak and Spanish fir (we love these and call them lollipop trees because of their shape). Both dogs in great form, but Tom was mean and moody :).

Dark clouds were gathering from all directions but the view to the coast was still impressive. However, it wasn’t long before the rain began and the temperature dropped.

Looking south – you can just see the sea

Fortunately the rest of the route was on a well-defined and signposted track, winding down through the cork oaks in the midst of the Los Alcornacales. It was here deep in the forest that I eventually picked them up. I had forgotten that smaller Spanish roads aren’t always roads as I know them and the last five and a half miles I was driving along a rough track with no mobile signal, not at all sure I was in the right place. Even though we have a 4×4, I made very slow progress and it was with considerable relief that I found them, damp but completely unconcerned.

ooOOoo

In the original some of the photographs were side-by-side but in copying them across I chose to enlarge them.

The start of Tom’s walk may be seen here and I thoroughly recommend that you read it in full.

I shall continue to follow Tom’s walk and may republish another post.