08.04.2016 - 10.04.2016 17 °C
I don't know that I will ever be able to drag Simon away from Spain. He was in his happy place all weekend.
It started on Friday morning, with ham and cheese and tomato on offer at breakfast. (Me? I was just happy that there was cereal with cold milk on offer. Simple things.)
The day's walk took us back through Bubion, giving us the opportunity to correct navigational errors made the day before. Turned out Simon was better at navigating while walking, so he inherited the route maps for the rest of the trip. After Bubion we achieved some serious elevation and had spectacular views across the valley, with snow capped mountains in the background. Seemed the perfect opportunity for a quick phone call. The track then went to Capilerilla, and then Pitres, where locals gave us directions without us asking. We stopped for una cerveza (Alhambra of course - our current beverage of choice) and still got surprised when it came with a free tapa of paella. Even when we stopped for pizza in Mencina-Fondales I was surprised by the bonus plate of olives and prosciutto. The food has certain similarities to Italian cuisine, and the quantity is certainly comparable, but in Italian restaurants there was nothing 'free' or 'bonus' - and if you were given something you hadn't ordered, you still had to pay for it. Even if it was a sleazy old man playing the accordion in your face.
After our pizza stop we spoke to some English travellers who had been at our hotel the night before. I only uttered about three words (two of them Spanish town names) and yet they thought I 'had a very British accent'. I think they need their hearing checked, just quietly.
The route seemed easier to follow than day one, but our only complaint about the route notes was that there was no mention of walking between two donkeys or through a herd of sheep and goats anywhere in the written description. Poor form. On arrival in Portugos, we checked in at our hotel and obviously gave convincing enough 'holas' and followed the first part of the conversation well enough to be given a long stream of instructions in Spanish. Blank looks and 'hablas ingles?' quickly rectified the situation. We gave ourselves a bonus walk around town and checked out the Fuente Agria and El Chorreron - a fountain and waterfall coloured red by the high iron content in the water. You could even smell a certain metallic scent if you got close enough to the water. I wouldn't recommend drinking it though; you'd probably rust from the inside out.
We had time for a quick workout on the exercise equipment (strategically placed looking out over the valley) before dinner at 7.30 - rather early by Spanish standards. My stomach doesn't know whether its coming or going lately! Sopa de Alpujarra made a reappearance, followed by pork with potatoes and salad. Dessert was a choice between a flan and a local speciality - natillas. We thought that we would just share one serve of natillas between two but that suggestion was immediately scorned by our host and we were instructed to have one of each dessert option "because you are going to walk to Trevelez tomorrow, you must have dessert". One hates to offend, so we jolly well had dessert. Glad we did - natillas was kind of like what would happen if tiramisu and custard had a baby and cognac was the godmother. After that it was time for Deep Heat and Deep Sleep.
Saturday morning started in the manner in which we have become accustomed - plenty of food. Our walk started with many serenades from the local dogs, and I think that us walking past their fields was the most exciting thing that happened to the dogs all day. We found Busquistar easily, but missed a turn at the cemetery on account of the cemetery only being visible if you walked the wrong way up the wrong hill, gave up and then came back down again. Tricksy little cemetery. After that minor detour, we made good time and continued uphill for a long way without dying - win. We crossed streams, we forked left, we followed footpaths uphill, we forked right, and we took photos whenever we needed a break to 'admire the view'. We also admired the many gates and fences made of bed bases - gotta love a bit of recycling. The cows responded to us with great nonchalance, but provided no assistance when we needed it most. Our route descriptions finally failed us. We walked to the cortijo (farmhouse) in ruins. The next instruction was "100m after cortijo..." You can't finish an instruction with an elipsis! Not helpful. We did our best to guess what the elipsis meant but there were so many animal tracks in this section of the forest that it was incredibly ambiguous what was actually a path. We managed to find the red and white paintmarkings that generally showed the way - but they didn't seem to go in the direction that our map and Steve's compass told us to go. So we did the responsible and safe thing and called the support team - turns out someone else had the same problem just two weeks ago, so obviously the ellipsis had fooled some other walkers. With some verbal guidance we soon ended up back on the right track and eventually Trevelez appeared in sight. For some reason the final kilometre of the day is always the hardest - doesn't matter if it's uphill or downhill, it just hurts the most. You can imagine our heartbreak then when we discovered that our hotel was up a steep flight of stairs. That certainly wasn't in the route description! Thankfully it was worth climbing the stairs for our spacious room and warm shower. Tell you what - the Spanish know a thing or two about hotels. The two star hotels here have massive rooms with comfortable beds and large, clean bathrooms with hot water and excellent water pressure. I've stayed in worse places with higher star ratings, that's for sure.
Sunday's walk was almost a day of rest - which we felt entitled to. We were given directions (I think) by a man who didn't hear, understand or care when we said "no hablamos espanol". We got the words "camino" (walk) and "rio" (river), and he pointed his walking stick in the direction of the track so we'll assume he was just making sure we wouldn't get lost.
The track took us along the Rio de Trevelez - and even though the ascent/descent component of the day was not particularly challenging, it was much harder than usual to appreciate the scenery while walking. In theory our track was parallel to the river, but at times the river did not respect its own boundaries and we needed a fair bit of concentration to make sure we didn't step in squelchy mud, balance on unsteady rocks or immerse ourselves in water. More of a cognitive challenge, with some balance and core strengthening exercises thrown in for good measure. On the plus side, the views were stunning and the banks of the river provided excellent picnicking opportunities. On the downside, two German Shepherds barked at us to steer clear of their horse, so we detoured a little more river-y than we would have liked. And at one stage my camera was so overcome with the beauty of the river it decided to go for a little swim. I am pleased to report that it was immediately retrieved and remains fully functional. Phew.
The further north we got, the further squelched in mud we became. And it's not just gambling that the motto "if it's no longer fun, walk away" applies to. So back we went to Trevelez, thoroughly full of views and serenity. We wandered around the town and checked out the shops, which sold everything you could possibly want. Assuming, of course, that you wanted ham, ponchos, ham, and rugs. And ham. Did I mention ham? Ham is kind of a big deal here. Ham.
After our stroll we relaxed (I know, anyone would think we were on holidays) and braced ourselves for the inevitable onslaught of food that would appear at the dinner table. My guess is that we'll be eating ham.