The next 2 stages took me away from the hustle and bustle of the Costa and the busy A7 motorway and deep into the Natural Parque around the Sierra Enmedio.
The first, from the Nerja caves near sea level involved an ascent 765m over 15km and back down to 300m at Frigiliana. The second day was the toughest and last of the trip, climbing to nearly 1200m before dropping to 685m at Competa 27km later.
Leaving our park up in the grey blue steely light of the early morning there was still some moisture in the cloud covered sky. We had been forecast a lot of rain for the morning but it seemed to have run out overnight and I set out with my fingers crossed and waterproofs packed.
It felt good to be finally heading for the hills but I was also aware that these mountains, though popular with walkers, are not to be underestimated and remembered a story of a German woman a few years ago who headed up this track for a stroll and got lost in the wilds for days before reemerging shaken and stirred.
The route started with a 5km gravel track to the picnic Area de Recreativo del Pinarillo and from there was mostly narrow paths over the wild and rocky terrain.
I joined a line of pine processinary caterpillars following their leader to a new lifecycle.
The female of the moth lays hundreds of eggs in the pine trees which develop into caterpillars that build themselves cotton wool like nests and feed on the leaves- seriously defoliating them.
The little critters have hairs with a very toxic irritant which are easily airborne and they can, if stressed, fire out like harpoons. Dogs getting them on their paws and then licking them have had to have their swollen tongues amputated to prevent choking to death.
I passed by some of the caves in the riverbed below me, occasionally occupied by nature loving hippy types of which I saw no sign. The mountain slopes were filled with Alleppo pine, box, broom, juniper,fan palms and assorted and unknown to me, flowers.
At the slightly dilapidated picnic area I moved on to a path that wound its way down into a barranco before starting the climb to the Collado Apretaderas, my high point of the day.
The clouds that dropped some light spittle on me roved around the peaks as I passed the first of only 2 people I saw all day.
A little later I disturbed a mother ibex and her young kid who quickly scrambled away into the bushes.
Fine views opened up
before I descended steeply through the thick vegetation
passing the impressive canal del chillar which cuts a gash for 6km across the mountain carrying the lifeblood of the crops on the Costa and energy for electricity production.
A 200m drop took me down to the river Chillar itself which, after the nights rain, I was glad to see easily ford able.
All the calcium in the Limey water left Tuffa deposits and strange colouring to the riverbed. The next 4km were a series of ups and downs, passing rocky outcrops,
and wide open vistas.
There was now more Maritime pine with beautiful coloured bark.
and I passed the first of many lime kilns in the area.
Eventually I saw the gorge of the Rio Higueron below me
And clambered down to walk along the river bed
and into Frigiliana where I carried on for a couple of km to find Trevor and a camper park up for the night overlooking the hills now dotted with a multitude of villas and farmsteads.
Up early to tackle the long stage to Competa I started on the 18km slog uphill to Collado de Los Hornillos. From there it would be kinda levelish for 6km and then a steep descent for the final 4km or so.
Having left the houses behind I was now on a track leading to the “lost village” of El Acebuchal where the inhabitants many of whom were guerilla fighters in the civil war were driven out by Franco’s men. It lay abandoned for decades until about 20 yrs ago when settlers and some of the original families started to return. It is now a beautifully restored village in an awesome setting with what is reputed to be the best bar/ restaurant in the area.
From there I followed a stony riverbed
through thick undergrowth
to reach the first ancient ventas or rest houses that lined these old transport routes
The walls of rammed earth still showed the put holes for timber beams.
The whole area was thick with flowering rosemary and the buzzing of bees and I passed many hives.
The ridges of the hills were often laboriously cleared of befits toon to create firebreaks in this highly flammable environment.
Deep into the hills were the remains of remote fincas perfect for the off grid survivalist.
The cortijo del daire’s terraces still had old cherries, walnuts, figs, olives and pomegranates.
After passing the farm I was signed up a steep and narrow path
through prickly gorse
leading to evermore impressive vistas
as it led up to the highest point of my trek.
The beautiful path took me on a meandering course through maritime pine
past more ventas
complete with lime kilns
and threshing circles
and along a ridge with views back over my day’s journey.
The walls of the Cortijo Maria Dolores told the tale of years of occupation in layers of lime wash built up on the stone walls.
Passing beneath a fire lookout station I was soon confronted with the importance of their work. A huge area of burnt and denuded hillside
on the outskirts of Competa
where the warren of steep narrow streets brought me down passed many pretty properties much sought after by foreign buyers.
At the edge of town I reach the end of my trip on the GR 249 and a cold beer in the camper.
A very varied few days hiking that only wetted my appetite for more, although it’ll be tougher without the support of Trusty Trev.