The loud pitter patter of raindrops on clay tiles lasted most of the night but by dawn had gone silent. Not because it was dry but because, as we discovered on leaving our shelter, the fine misty drizzle made no sound. Draping the surrounding hills in a gauze of grey it seem to impose a quiet over the river valley we started up out of town.
Everything was coated in sparkling shiny water droplets and the air had been washed of all haze creating particles leaving what could be seen below the drifting, swirling cloud to stand out in sharp relief.
It was all about the water. The river was below us, winding through the walls of layered and undulating seams of sandstone and bursting from dams.
It also burst from the ground next to us in “Fuentes” nicely planted and with seats that would have tempted in sunnier conditions.
And it also covered our heads in a ceiling that rose and fell and drifted around us on unfelt currents.
Although we were wet and a bit chilly and had concerns that it should improve before we got too high, it was very calming and a silent beauty pervaded the vast forests of the Sierra de las Nieves Natural Parque.
We left the forest track to descend on a trail to cross the river and clamber up a steep and rocky slope past the ruins of old cortijos that once clawed a living in these wild spaces. The landscape opened around us as we climbed out of the forest and up into the high plateau guarded by the remnants of a cliff top fortress.
The flat ground, at over 1000m high, was occupied by a working farm of grain and sheep. A lonely spot to be sure, we followed its track up to the pass at 1160m and then down towards their nearest neighbours 5km away.
As we got lower the flat plain around our objective, Ronda, revealed itself.
The rain / drizzle/ damp was long gone by now and after reaching the cortijos lower gate and starting across the agricultural land ,that now did not seem so flat after all,we began to feel the Kms covered and anticipated our arrival
Glad to have arrived we had to negotiate swarms of meandering tourists to get to our bed for the night and climb into the shower before taking to the streets again in search of a back street local frequented eatery before collapsing wearily into bed.
Up and out before the sightseers clogged the streets we crossed over the famous bridge and down the beautifully cobbled path into the gorge, only making way for a mass of runners with an axe to grind.
The path was magnificent. The cobbling superb. The light a delight.
What’s not to like.
A couple of Kms out out town we turned off onto an old dirt track that serviced a small group of houses and a gaggle of rough and ready farm buildings. After the swish 5* buildings of Ronda this was a forgotten outland or edge town.
At the edge of edgetown we joined the railway track that was to accompany us all the way the to JIMERA de LIBAR.
It became the day of the insects with the air full of flying ants, the vegetation full of snails and busy dung beetles crossing our path.
We left the railway to climb a beautiful ancient cobbled path up over the mountain, passing a flock of sheep on the way.
From the top of the pass and down into the town of Benoajan we unfortunately passed some animals not best looked after. A horse tangled on a few inches of rope, sheep grazing on layers/ stratas of rubbish and one of so many dogs we heard chained and wimpering.
Perhaps ironically, the town is famous for its pork products. Supposedly made from free ranging pigs happily gorging on acorns in the holm oak forests. We have our doubts.
Moving on through town on an old track past the station we continued on a beautiful riverside trail.
The valley was spectacular, and just the railway and our track ran through it.
Our views alternated between far reaching vistas of the railway, river and mountains and intimate ones of trees and trail.
Eventually we crossed the railway on an elaborate bridge and walked alongside the river before starting the final climb towards our days end.
Stopping briefly at a Fuente beneath some towering and randomly decorated palms
we climbed our last hill of the day, a 2km, 150m ascent to JIMERA de LIBAR.
Tomorrow is our last leg of this trip. A hopefully relaxed 17 km walk to Benalauria.