Malaga to Cordoba 2nd-10th March 2015

CAMINO MOZARABE  Dona Mencia to Córdoba 8th/9th March

29km/ 36km

Needless to say the fiesta in Dona Mencia didn’t get going till after pilgrim bedtime. I vaguely heard some music and cheering in the night but not nothing to disturb the sleep of the weary.

The route out in the morning led me up into the olive cloaked hills again with far ranging vistas across the uninhabited landscape dotted with the remains of grand old fincas.

On the outskirts of Baena I came upon this rather dispiriting marker post,

before entering the seemingly quiet town,

that suddenly came alive with drumming and centurions.

Legions of them, in different squads, marching around the narrow spectator lined streets. I moved on before the finale, past a nice graffiti dog

and millions of caterpillars of the processionary moth that have been a feature of the trail the last few days.

Trying to avoid them as they marched back and forth across the track mad it look as though I was hop scotching to Santiago.

The increasing heat made the 20km remaining to Castr del Rio seem a long way through the olives and alongside the convolutions of the Guadajoz river.

I found my way to the local police station for the key to the albergue I had to myself situated in a fine big old town house on the church plaza, where the storks nest on the bell tower.

Yet another beautiful ancient city with layers of Roman, Moorish and Spanish influence and infrastucture.

I decided to make the jump and go for Córdoba in one stage rather than two. Sign says 36km, more accurate guide says 39km.

The landscape shifted, less rugged, more rounded then rolling. Olives giving way to grain.

Soon I was reminded of walking the Meseta on the Camino Frances , miles and miles of open skies and limitless horizons of shelter less , hedgeless grain fields.

No one lives out there and the silence was broken only by the heavy buzz of insects rather than chainsaws and the engine of distant tractors fulfilling their endless tasks across the vast prairies.

Again the heat got too much and I had to rest up for an hour. I had thought of camping on route and leaving 10 or so I’m for theorning but the high empty country was not inviting so I carried onandon and with 35km done and twilight approaching, when a jeep pulled up alongside and offered a lift, I didn’t refuse.

The albergue is an amazing facility right in the heart of the old city next to the cathedral, with courtyards,lounges, study areas and dining hall. 20€ for bed and breakfast in a twin bed room.

I was going to have a day off here but I feel like I’m in a hurry to get home at the moment ( probably not a good thing) so after a look around the awe inspiring Mezquita and  a blog posting I may head into the blistering heat again.


It’s a time of readjustment. To walking. To walking on my own. To being on my own. After a month of being with family and friends and a few days of hiking with a couple of buddies it’s back to just me and the trail and whatever random encounters are thrown my way.
We left Antequera under a cloudy sky with a view back to the castle and forward to the face of Pena de Los Enamorados ( lovers rock).


The illicit coupling of Moor and Christrian ended tragically atop the rock when pursued lovers chose to leap to their death together rather than be separated. My friends chose to take the bus the next day.
We were soon across the low lying vega on the outskirts of the city and after crossing under and over motorways were entering the olive growing area that still, a million trees later, dominates the landscape.


We did a fair bit of climbing, looking back to the Sierra we had crossed getting smaller and smaller. Through the single street of Cartaojal and on through miles of olives with the buzz of the pruning chainsaws drowning the birdsong which seems very rich considering the monoculture of the entire area. I guess the olive tree is a better biodiversity habitat than grassland. But the waste ponds by the olive oil factories don’t look good.


After 25km we passed through Villanueva de Algaidas and , with time and energy still available, decided to carry on past the nice looking Albergue another 10km to Cuevas Bajas. Down to the river and then up and up some more past the pruning, hoovering, fertilising and plowing farmers.



Eventually we crested the ridge at an ancient ruined finca with a beautiful old era from the days when grain was grown here and at last started to descend past almonds in full glory to the old bandit hang out of Cedron, where it looked like they were hoping a bit of restoration would bring in some tourists.



On down into Cuevas Bajas where we found a couple from Belgium already settled in the smart new 6 bed Albergue.

We were later joined by a Spanish man who was clocking 50 or 60 km a day and later still by another couple of Spanish men who had to try and sleep on the small sofas.
Blue sky had returned and the next couple of days were scorchio. The route went along the vega of the river Gentil to start before climbing up through more olives to Encinas Reales where Ivor Bundle left us and Ali Blabla decided to go the extra mile , or 20 km, to Lucena.
This route led us even deeper into olive country through the valley of the Anzur river, our first real flowing water for days.



Vast areas seemed to belong to single vast fincas and others areas were obviously abandoned. The soils changed colour from white to brown to red but the crop remained the same


Lucena is quite a big city and we were led into it through a large and empty industrial estate but eventually got to the centre where Ali got the bus and I found a room in time to witness some fiesta drumming.


Past the church of Santiago in the morning

And onto the Via Verde La Subbetica, the old olive train track closed in 1985 and now a cycle and walking route which makes for an easy Camino trail for 26 km to Dona Mencia.




The route, although still through olive country was relived by the fact that it adjoined the Subbetica Natural Park, another of Spain’s many wild areas virtually unknown to tourists.

And so I found my way to a double room in a restaurant/hostel for 10€ in a town cranking up for a big do tonight. The plaza next to my hostel is lined with seating the stage is being built the bars are all ready for business. I guess it would be rude not to join them.

CAMINO MOZARABE Malaga to Antequera 2/3/4 March

On the trail again and the going has been hard.
Not the route itself ,taking a couple of days to get from the coast up through the hills to an altitude of 590mt at Villanueva de la Concepcion followed by an ascent to a pass at 900mt through El Torcal and down to Antequera at 570mt.
Not much to complain about in that but although the mind has been willing the flesh has been weak.
A very extended 60th birthday party resulted in a weakened immune system, allowing a nasty dose of man flu to hit on the first day out.
I’m walking with two friends from Ireland and two of us were struck with the hot and cold fever, coughs and sweats.
We didn’t get going from the church of Santiago in Malaga till about 12.30

So pushed up through the suburbs in the noonday heat, stopping at Junta de Los Caminos after 11km to light some candles for the three peregrino amigos at the wayside shrine and have a late lunch.
It was another 12.5km to our beds so we push d on with h an ETA of 6.30. Half an hour later we finally got off Tarmac and ran into problems with bad signage leading us astray and a detour of a few kms as the moon rose and the sun set. With our destination finally insight we hurried/staggered on to the final hurdle- a steep descent followed by an ever steeper ascent up through the winding narrow passageways of a the towns, stopping every now and again to ask directions to the albergue (always further always up).
We were very lucky when, at about 8pm, we came upon it there was a member of the civil protection outside.
They look after the albergue for pilgrims there and he was able to give us keys and show us the set up.
A shower food and bed quickly followed, after a 26km first day.

Next morning we were out by nine and lost by ten. Somehow we missed a turn on the track, but we realised quite quickly and could see on the map how to get back on track a little while later.
Beautiful weather again-blue Sky and sun (hot- should have started earlier) and lovely scenery with innumerable ranges of hills fading into the distance and the trail winding gently through the surprisingly empty countryside of grain fields and almond and olive groves, dotted with vast abandoned fincas.


We could see our destination, Villanueva de la Concepcion long before we got there, descending to cross the river Campanillas on stepping stones and taking dirt roads that had recently been very muddy up and around the low hills


before the final exhausting climb up to the village where the my manflu wasted body collapsed into the albergue bed on arrival, temporarily revived for a dinner out, and shivered , coughed and sweated through another long night.
We had been sharing the albergues with a Swiss women who had done a few Caminos with her adapted shopping bag trolley, loading it to the handlebars with bags of kit and dragging it behind her on a network of straps. She’s had to tackle some rough ground with it but overall it seems to work for her.
Arriving in Antequera she announced she wouldn’t stay at the same albergue as us if there was only one dormitory as she didn’t want to put up with our coughing, wheezing and snoring anymore.
She’s heading for Merida, 3 weeks into my trail so I guess she’ll be avoiding me for a while yet.
I had woken with a clearer head and was able to properly enjoy the days walk for the first time, feeling a bit of energy return.

We’d set off in a fine pink sunrise, heading towards the cliffs of El Torcal, the limestone peaks and pinnacles glowing in the light.

Blankets of cloud were spread over the mountains here and there and the air was cool and clear, still scented by almond blossom. The big hedge less fields reached far up into the Sierra del Torcal


And at the top, in a karst landscape of jumbled rocks, cleared ultragreen fields and a sea of wild flowers, like a MegaBurren, we had our breakfast break and marvelled.



A few meters further and we were through the Puerto de la Escaleruela and on a switchback stone path down to the dusty cattle roads leading into Antequera.


Down into the historic centre of this city in the very heart of Andalusia, to our albergue in the church of Santiago where our last fluless man had to go to a clinic to get his infected swollen finger sorted and the church youth group did some serious skipping in our little plaza.