On a quick escape from the frozen north we decided to tackle a few days level(ish) trekking as far south as we could get in Spain. I had discovered a Camino route from Algeciras westwards towards Cadiz that also mainly coincided with a couple of coastal GR routes, the GR 92- Sendero Europeo Arco Mediterraneo to Tarifa and the GR 145 Arco Atlantico from there onwards to Zahara de Los Atunes where we intended to finish.
After a beautiful train journey from Antequera to Algeciras along many of the routes previously walked on the Gran Senda de Malaga we hopped in a cab and alighted on the trail at Las Pantallas leaving another 10 km or so to do. The strange construction was a wall built in 1942 to hide a military road up to the gun emplacements from prying eyes on Gibraltar.
The surreal oddly artistic military defence continued off and on as we continued uphill into the Natural Parque de Estrecho, named after the Straights (of Gibraltar). After 5 bouts of Chemo (with added Immuno) therapy I wasn’t able for too much too steep or too long and Sallys knees etc have been in better shape so it was a relief to gain the plateau summit at about 250m and stop for the view and snacks.
We turned off the tarmac and continued on a potholed track across glorious country with free grazing cattle and views across the straits to Africa before a final cruel ascent off trail to our cabin for the night at the Eco Huerta Grande park in El Pelayo.
Rain in the night and more promised meant we didn’t take time to explore the extensive gardens of La Huerta in the morning but carried on down the trail through verdant country with cork oaks and herbage running wild. We turned off the main track to head down to the sea past long abandoned fincas.
From here we followed the GR 92 along the shore line up and down on slippy muddy tracks between beaches littered with the tragic remains of immigrant inflatables.
And unfortunate cattle.
We reached the Torre de Guadalmesi where the car tracks continued to Tarifa but we stayed with the GR/ Camino route which followed an interesting geological line of uplifted rock and scattered WW2 concrete bunkers.
It had been raining for long enough to have us soaked and cold by the time we reached the outskirts of Tarifa and,weary of the ups and downs, we were glad to finally, after about 19 km altogether, reach our posada for the night and hang up all our clothes to dry.
In the morning we hit the market for breakfast before heading off from the signboard on the prom westwards on the GR 145/ Camino de Estrecho with blue sky ahead and dark, threatening clouds behind us. We were led onto a long section of wooden boardwalk before a protected area of dunes meant the trail was diverted alongside the busy main road.
We were grateful when we were led away from the road through pines towards the shore again. This stretch of coast attracts a huge amount of campervans and there were many parked up where we took advantage of shelter when the rain came again.
We abandoned the GR when it returned to the roadside and continued along the beach, facilitated by the low tide, past more crumbling bunkers, interesting rock formations and art, to reach our A frame tent on a campsite at Valdevaqueros after about 13 km.
After an afternoon/ evening of eating, drinking, washing and watching camper antics we hoped for dry conditions over the next two days of trail and retired to our surprisingly delux boudoir for the night.