Day 7 – El Chorro to Valle de Abdalajis – 15km
The Ciccerone guide states that this leg is 10km. A light day really. However, I think quite a bit has changed since the last revision in 2013; more on this later.
The climbing starts straight out of the blocks today. Unsurprising perhaps with El Chorro’s spectacular gorge location.
After 10 minutes we see, ahead of us, three figures plus two parked cars. Obscured by bushes I assume that a long-haired girl is having her photograph taken against the backdrop of The Caminito Del Rey.
jagged dramatic peaks of the Torcal.On passing and exchanging ‘buenos’s’ we find it’s three men. One has lovely long hair and the face of Iggy Pop. One of the men catches up with us ‘Are you doing the GR7 may I ask?’ Our questioner turns out to be a German journalist, Florian. He is doing a piece for a German magazine called Merion on the subject of the GR7.
He has five days on location, picking five different sections along the route. Thus far we are the only people he has met actually doing the trail. That said so are we the only ones we’ve met doing the trail too!
We have a good conversation and Florian takes notes. We end our encounter with them taking photos of us walking away up the hill. Who knows, we might feature.
Shortly after this, we are climbing steeply through Eucalyptus and Pine woods motivated by stunning cliff backdrops.
Pic 1 – Chris ascending from El Chorro
We muse as to why this trail is so empty. It’s not famous, admittedly and isn’t perhaps ‘baggable’ like Corsica’s GR20 but it’s endlessly beautiful and we do a ‘Snowdon’ of climb most days. It’s lovely empty but also a shame in a way.
At 700m the trail levels out into beautiful floral meadow.
Pic 2 – Alpine meadows above El Chorro
There is an info board with various circular routes described. A good excuse to return we decide.
The Ciccerone guide indicates a contouring route from here past houses across the valley to the next mountain outcrop.
The marker posts take a different route; more climbing eventually up to 900m in a big loop. It’s worth it.
We round one bend in the track and come across an immaculate Series III Land Rover. Doors open. Keys in ignition.
A small wisp of smoke rises from a nearby abandoned fire. There’s no one to be seen. Anywhere. And we can see for miles. All the scene lacked was a Mexican slumped in the driver’s seat mumbling “agua…agua”
(If you’ve seen ‘No Country for Old Men’ then you will get this. If you haven’t, then watch it, if for no other reason than the brilliance of Josh Brolin)
Pic 3 – No Country for Old Land Rovers
At the 900m high point of the route there is a big trough and pond. A perfect place to dip hot toes.
The descent from here into Valle de Abdalagis is straightforward. At one point we have about 20 dogs welcoming us.
It’s a small town and not blessed with tourist dollar. We picnic lunch by the church. Our hostel is efficient Bebitos? Si. The Bar Los Naranjos (see photo) offers up San Miguel at €1 a bottle. Tapas? No. Trip Advisor (ugh) lists two eateries one in town (closed) the other a mile out of town and up a hill. It’s listed as open. We trudge up the hill. It’s closed. Bed by 8pm. No supper. Rock and bloomin’ roll.
Pic 5 – Living it up in Valle de Abdalagis
Day 8 – Valle de Abdalagis to Antequera – 20km
An early start – 7.30am. A cold wind A 5km uphill slog. Some great dog action though. Our first chaser of the trip; yapping at my heels but cannily avoiding my flailing stick. Then, later, a fenced garden with a raised wall allowing a line of four snarling bundles of love a perfect head height attack position. The scenery remains epic with the wild flowers again the star of the day.
Pic 6 – Looking towards the Torcal National Park.
There’s some wonderful trail through winding olive groves then a long tarmac stretches eventually in to Antequera. It’s a wonderful town; full of bustle, narrow streets, squares and bars. Lots of bars.
Our hotel, the Infante Antequera, is really lovely. The room has views to both front and rear. Out front a big square, our little balcony at the same height as the bell tower opposite. Out back a terrace and pool. I’d describe Antequera as a must visit. Post piscina we bar hop.
The highlight probably; Arte de Tapas. Prawn croquettes and Bobina (best described as hairy prawns – good hair though) washed down with great sloshes of vino tinto.
Pic 7 – The surprise pool at Hotel Infante Antequera
We nightcap back in our square. Vino TinTo goes well. Understood first time. Pedro Ximenez not so much. I feel I have mastered the fehfehfeh wispy sound required for chorizo and Ximenez but apparently not it seems. As I am required to repeat myself again and again I feel my ‘buerre tremor’ come into my voice. My ‘buerre tremor’ hails from a particularly stressful breakfast incident in Paris many years ago.
“Err Pedro Ximenefehfeh…por favoror…”
I am 52. This cannot be happening. Again
“Oh Pedro XimeneZ”
‘Oh’ indeed. Just a Z. Exactly like I would say it in English at Venga.
He doesn’t have any anyway. We get served something else that tastes exactly the same. I ask
Chris to ask for the bill and perform any necessary formalities. I am reduced to nodding.
Day 9 – Antequera to Villanueva de Cauche and onto Riogordo – 24km
Antequera is just as beautiful the morning after. We grab coffee and cake from a delightful cafe and fill our water bottles at the same time; it’s going to be sunny all day. The exit from Antequera is past the Moorish fort and then along a river gorge to an old disused flour factory. It would make an amazing hotel.
Now there is 8km of road to march up and it is up too. Relentlessly so. The road sections of the GR7 are in some respects not so great; the traffic is a hazard, big coaches and fast motorbikes but there isn’t much of it really. On the plus side the scenery is fantastic and walking on tarmac allows us to constantly look around without fear of stumbling.
Pic 8 – Jagged dramatic peaks of the Torcal.
The Torcal looking mighty fine from the road. There is more climbing then a long descent to Villanueva de Cauche. It’s a small hamlet, pretty but right by the main Malaga to Madrid motorway. It’s hot and we stop at the Hotel Las Pedrizas to eat and make plans. For a motorway motel type place it’s rather good. From Villanueva there is a 18km road section to hike and it’s mainly up hill. We elect to skip it by going south to Colmenar part by taxi and then by more walking to regain the route north of Riogordo.
We overnight at Casa Paz y Mas. It’s beautiful and the view is a view amongst views around here. There’s a pool which we have all to ourselves. Our little cute terrace looks across to the hike ahead. It looks long. Bar El Molino in Riogordo is basic but the Tapas are very good indeed. Gambas sizzling in garlic, masses of fried salt cod, the best aubergine with molasses of the hike so far.
I look at bits of kit in this village bar with envy. A keg cooler fridge that would be ideal in our VENGA Garden. A draught font serving ‘00’ Cruz Campo. Neither are available in warm beer England. The bar recommended to us for dessert has a large caged terrace in front of it. There are about 50 screaming feral children in the cage which has to be passed through to get to the bar. They have built a barricade out of plastic Cruz Campo chairs. We go back to our terrace at Caza Paz dessertless.
Pic 9 – The view of the long route ahead from our little terrace at Caza Paz y Mas
Day 10 – Riogordo to Zafarraya – 24km
I’ve been trying to piece together today’s route from afar looking at the scenery from our little terrace at Caza Paz y Mas. It looks long and quite complicated plus I can’t match up the hills to the map. We miss our first turning. We only have to backtrack about 100m but I wonder if it is a portent. After a few kilometres on a windy road the trail turns sharply uphill. There is a big board of mailboxes on the roadside. This is never a good sign as it means the lane ahead is too steep for the mail van. A 2km slog through attractive grove brings us back onto another road. The planned cafe is closed but there is a consolation puppy in residence.
Pic 10 – Puppy – a good caffeine substitute.