Day 18 – Lanjarón to Soportújar- 12km
We kind of expected Lanjarón to be bustling and busy when we set off at about 10am. It’s not. Almost everything is closed. We are almost out of town before we can grab some caffeine. The ascent out of the town, once off the road is stunning. A tight narrow path cuts across tracks and little roads heading straight up the mountain.
Pic 1 – the path out of Lanjarón.
After the big ascent, it just gets better with a series of huge ravines to cross, the path is narrow, precipitous and has big drops. It’s a welcome change from tracks. It’s much more alpine in terrain now although we are still always alone. It’s really quite extraordinary to meet no one walking. Of course, it’s good to be alone but the flipside is, without footfall, the trail can be somewhat overgrown at times. The ravine leading up to Canar is really quite something. We walk to within what feels like touching distance of the white houses and then turn sharply away and downward to the valley floor. The path back out is very gravelly and has huge drop offs to the right as it edges around rocky outcrops. The cobbled streets of Canar make for a big contrast when we arrive at the top of this beautiful village. A coffee beckons and it’s comes with a delightful tapas.
Our official destination as per guidebook today is Soportújar. However, our accommodation is potentially some 3km uphill from the village. Last night I had a look at google earth to try and see what tracks might exist allowing for a short cut. Certainly the 1:25000 maps show nothing. As we leave Canar, we can see the other side of the second ravine of the day. It’s huge and our accommodation is somewhere on top way over the other side.
The path winds up and down, over crags and under outcrops. It ducks down several times into smaller side ravines. Eventually the path comes to a small and pretty woodland plateau. This sits atop the so-called Dique 24; an enormous retaining wall that is part dam, part waterfall. It’s part of a series of walls designed to prevent flooding of the valley towns below. The stream running over the waterfall is the Rio Chico and we have to wade (well paddle) across it. The far bank provides the most wonderful lunch spot as our feet dry in the sun. I have made a right old Scooby snack for lunch oozing with cheese, ham and pate.
Pic 4 – “Dique 24”
There is steps down in front of the Dique, then a gushing acequeria that we walk alongside. My shortcut now begins, steeply up the side of the ravine on an unmarked track, then through olive groves before more track that seems too inclined for any vehicle. After twenty hard minutes we arrive at Cortijo Solera. It’s bliss. It’s better than bliss. It’s bliss-plus.
Great hosts, Merek, Anna plus their son who runs the ‘bar’ and a top dog, Yuki, along with characterful cat. Beer. Pool. More beer. Pool again. Chill and look at the most beautiful view.
Pic 5 – Cortijo Solera & Pic 6 – Yuki.
Later we dine royally and lavishly on Anna’s cooking. The starter of homemade carrot & ginger soup with toasted almonds competing for holiday best flavour top spot. El Coto Rioja at €10 a bottle helps a bit too. Cortijo Solera is a very special place. We wished we had some ‘zeros’ planned here.
Day 19 – Soportújar to Pitres – 17km
We descend back to the GR7 via a long track. Well, that’s after we negotiate the ravine of death that Merek directed us to first thing. Maybe we weren’t such good guests after all.
After re-joining the route, we find ourselves on the comedy path to beat all others. ‘Comedy Path’ is a term I coined while walking the South West Coast Path in 2017. It refers to any path so hideous/dangerous/unpleasant that you can only laugh at your own stupidity. The most common variant on the SWCP was frequent greasy mud funnels plummeting downwards at 45’ plus bordered on both sides by deep mini ravines of nettles and brambles. These ‘ice’ chutes masquerading as part of a National footpath. Occasional human size indentations in the bramble/nettle border making one ruefully smile; ‘not me at least.’
Our comedy path today is overgrown. A ‘little overgrown’ accordingly to the guidebook. Well, the grasses tower over my head by thee feet let alone the thistles, gorse, knife-orchids, razor-herbs, sharktooth nettles and flowering samurai bushes. I may have made some of these up. I pride myself on not having too many allergies. Far too snowflake and modern for me so it’s been a disappointment to find I don’t really get on with gluten however, the one reaction I have had all my life is a skin rash when in contact with grass. This was diagnosed when I was four. I clearly remember my mother bringing me back from Alan Whitworth, our GP and gravely informing my two older, feral brothers that under no circumstances was I to be exposed to cut grass as I might die of asthma. This lecture took place at the bottom of
our large garden in Reigate. At the top of the garden was the biggest compost heap of grass you could imagine. After mum had resumed sewing indoors, said brothers (or Nazgul as I prefer to call them) placed me in a wheelbarrow and, at speed, ejected me into said compost heap. Later watching my mother beat them both half to death through my inflamed, massively puffy red eyes was some consolation.
The comedy path is endless, and we are slowed to about 1km/2hours.
Pic 7 – a comedy path. I’m not laughing & Pic 8- childish rash behaviour
At one point the path dips to the road before soon offering an encore of comedy up a side path. We stay on the road. There is now a big climb up into Pampaneira, one of the best known white villages of the Alpujarra. It’s worth the haul. Possibly even the rash. We feast on coffee, cake and coca zero. We love the touristy towns because things are actually open.
Pic 9 – Pampaneira
There’s a great connecting path from here further uphill to Bubión and then a not so great slog up and over a big ridge before a long descent in to Pitres. The guidebook describes Pitres as bustling. It isn’t. We find our accommodation on the main through road although, I should add that ‘main’ in this context is relative. La Oveja Verde (Green Sheep) is charming. The bar’s closed but we cadge a beer in a glass so frozen the liquid forms a Cruz Campo slush. Heaven. The highlight though is the pool. It’s ‘natural’ apparently. In practice this means that it has a reed bed and nine residents frogs. The frogs quite like to come up and nip you when you least expect it.
Pic 10 – ‘natural’ pool at The Green Sheep
Pic 11- complete with frogs.
We dine at the next bar along. The proprietor looks bemused as we order. When the food comes we realise why; it’s enough for 10 people. When I ask for a bottle of Rioja to take away, in Spanish; he doesn’t bat an eyelid and it’s delivered within seconds. I am ninja of Pitres,
Day 20 – Pitres to Trevelez – 20km
Today we walk to the ‘Capital of ham’ – yes. Jamon kingdom. We are the Fellowship of the Ham. We have set off early. This is for a number of reasons; firstly, it’s getting hotter. A lot hotter. Secondly, we are now doing a Ben Nevis a day as opposed a Snowdon a day.
My feet are pretty shredded too. Chris is concerned and after 5km of early ascent she suggests a bus-based alternative to the day. I say, no, I’m fine, let’s walk. Rather bravely I thought. No one (I mean NO one) will deny me walking (limping) to the kingdom of ham so I stride on. I am Aragon. I am also quite shagged and, to be honest, so is Chris it seems, as she appears rather grumpy after my bus refusal.
At least we have a scheduled zero after today plus a pool to enjoy it with. The path today is beautiful, winding through pine and eucalyptus. It is also relentlessly up. Again, we see no one; total solitude. The lack of housing means a welcome lack of snarling territorial mongrels, however, the heat brings flies.
There are buzzy, land on your nose for no reason flies.
There are pointless, dozy, land on you and rub their legs in glee flies.
There are sneaky, razor jowled horse flies after our blood.
There are massive, short-sighted, blunder into your face like slingshot flies.
But the fly creme de la creme are these clever little shits that take up a position about 20cm in front of your eyes and then proceed to fly backwards maintaining position at all times.
Eventually after some 2 hours of climbing we reach a vehicle track which contours the mountain to our left side. It’s a high route in to Trevelez which in turn is a popular starting point for the highest peaks in Spain. It’s smooth easy going and also fly free. Unfortunately, after a few hundred metres, the GR7 marked route plunges off the side of this track and into a massive ravine before, evidently, toiling its way back up the mountain to the same track we are now on.
Our guide book says the track ahead was destroyed by a massive landslide in 2010.
Landslide rubble or ravine? Stay high or lose height? We opt for landslide rubble. Despite a portly and stationary mountain biker giving us an omen of ‘dodgy path ahead’ we manage the landslide rubble without incident.
Soon after we get our first views of Trevelez. It sits at around 1,400m and we are way above it. The town has three distinct areas (barrios) and the steep descent path drops us into the top one (Alta). There’s a charming little cafe with knockout views so we take on board our, now customary, Cafe con leche and Coca Zero. Plus seconds of course.
The descent through the Barrios is very, very steep. Some chaps are drilling little floral arches into the pavement. There’s a festival apparently. No one seems to care. The main commercial part of the town lies along the main road along with huge Serrano Ham warehouses and stores. Trevelez may be the ‘world capital of ham’ but don’t ask for Iberico here. It’s Serrano or ‘no.’
Our campsite is 1km out of town. Uphill. Uphill a lot. I kind of knew this when booking but I was swayed by the pool for our zero day.
We are housed in a ‘static’ style shack at the very top of the now obligatory hill of death. The pool is devoid of water. ‘It will be ready in a few days.’ I am desolated.
Day 21 – Trevelez – Zero Day
So, what do you do on a baking hot zero day with no pool? Boozy lunch, that’s what. In town we randomly manage to pick the best reviewed restaurant. We have time on our hands so go for their suggested traditional Andalucian menu, plus rose wine.
Pic 13 – lunch starter in Trevelez.
Zero-day lunches are one of the best things in the world! Guilt free bingeing on wine and food following days of walking. Even the hill of death doesn’t seem so bad afterwards.
We pass the swimming pool on the way up to our shack. There’s a hose gurgling water into its depths. Back at the shack we find we have no running water. We are fine though, just as long as that pool’s ready in a few days. Not.
Pic 14 – lunch main in Trevelez & Pic 15 – the local custom of tea cosying pot plants.
Day 22 – Trevelez to Cádiar – 23km
Pic 15 – leaving Trevelez with dry trunks
It’s getting hotter; 34’ today in the shade, of which there isn’t much. Having crested the ridge out of the valley, the route is all downhill passing through three bright, white mountain villages. The first is Juviles. The final approach to the village is through a mass of poppies.
We stop at a cafe/bar for our ‘usual.’ A free tapas arrives; a mass of tinned ham, cubed and served with broad beans.
After leaving Juviles the path becomes narrow and precipitous; contouring a dramatic gorge
before rising to pass through a narrow gap in the crags. It then drops sharply to the second village of the day, Timar. The village is perched on the steep slope. It’s typically pretty but lacks any further caffeine opportunity so we sit by the church in some rare shade and improvise lunch from my rucksack stash.
Just below the village we drop off the official GR7 to take a recommended alternative route that follows a pretty path alongside a sparkling acequia all the way to the last village for today, Lobras.
After Lobras we are into crazy canyon country. Up and down over these bizarre steep and narrow, scrubby ravines.
Around 3km short of the town of Cádiar there is a very worn sign to our overnight hotel. The sign has been uprooted and is leaning on the bank pointing hopefully up at the sky. At one time it pointed down a small but recently strimmed path to our right.
After a few hundred metres we come to a river. There are three ropes strung across it. A river crossing. Without doubt the best prescribed route to a hotel I have ever experienced. The water is cooling on the legs, the obligatory hill of death follows but at the Alqueria de Morayma the welcome is warm and the setting simply devine.
Pic 18 – on route to our hotel
We collapse into the beautiful pool. We wash dusty clothes. We nap before beers on the terrace. We drink the hotel’s own organic wine and eat our fill of great food.
Pic 19 – this is what a pool should look like; it has water and everything & Pic 20 – ‘that’ organic wine. A rapidly acquired taste.
A really good day on the trail.