Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Be Prepared - This Blog is Twice as Long as Usual!

Be Prepared - This Blog is Twice as Long as Usual!!

Thursday 14th January 2016.

Another bright sunny, and eventually, very hot day at the office!  Today we decided to walk from our campsite near Nerja and visit the town of Torrox, which has two completely separate zones - and the one we'd chosen to visit was located 3km from the coast in the upper part of the Torrox River Valley.  This part is the very Spanish section,  with a lovely church and tiny lanes of closely packed,  tiled  and whitewashed houses, the balconies and doorsteps of which were mostly festooned with bright flowers.   The other part is on the coastline and is clearly dedicated to tourism with numerous hotels, bars, restaurants and beaches that are flanked by wide promenades and terraces.  Interestingly, Torrox’s other claim to fame is that it's supposed to have the best climate in Europe - a fact that we certainly wouldn't argue with.

We started our walk from the camp site walking beside a road that initially climbed steadily, but quite suddenly our path deviated into a deep chasm, and it was here that poor John was subjected to a very sulky Lin!  As I've said before, it was quite hot and humid, so as we descended into the chasm, climbing down over a steep rocky and occasionally muddy surfaces, we became hotter and hotter, and I became grumpier and grumpier! And when we did eventually get to the bottom we had to wade through an area of horrible mouldy vegetation so this did nothing to improve my mood.  Then, to add insult to injury, we had to climb up the other side, and by this time John said my bottom lip was almost dragging on the floor - only good thing was I didn’t sulk for long, once we reached the top a cold drink did wonders for restoring my good humour.

We wandered around the streets for a short while and then decided to descend to the coast and seek out a restaurant for a meal, and happily, we picked an alternative route for our return journey.  The walk down was really quite delightful, we found a little monastery that dated back to 1676, and as we also had the fantastic view of the almost navy blue Mediterranean to keep us company.

It was also quite an easy job to find a ‘watering hole’ that was only a few metres from the lapping waves, so we quickly acquired a late lunch of paella with a drop of red included in the price. Following this they offered us desert - and it would have seemed rude to decline  - so we didn’t, and then to finish we were given complementary brandies - and all for under 20 quid!  After lunch we strolled 'merrily' along the prom, and then back home.

John pretending he's on the Titanic!

We finished our day chatting with another English couple on the camp site, and then made our plans for our departure the next morning.

Friday 15th January 2016

This morning, after a ‘full English’ (minus the sausage) we departed the campsite and headed along the coast road through Torre del Mar, to La Cala del Moral on the outskirts of Malaga. The road passed though several other little towns, and for most of it’s way it was flanked on the sea side by a cycle path.  Maybe we should have stopped another day! 


As we approached Malaga we rounded a corner and thought we had come across a launch pad - but no - it was only a cement works!  

And soon after that we pulled over into a parking area high above the ocean from where we took a little walk and lingered to have lunch.  Again, there was a multi use path in both directions that seemed very popular with numerous cyclists and runners whizzing by, but we only ambled along for a little while, and although the view was a little marred inland by industry, the sight along the coast and out to sea was splendid.

Our journey then took us onwards along a motorway, which eventually gave way to a two way road, which eventually gave way to a winding 'lane' that lead us up up up into the hills where we were treated to magnificent views of towering cliffs and a huge turquoise lake. Our home for the next few days was to be Camping Ardales and it was from here that we were hoping to be able to access the Gorge walk from Ardales to El Chorro, but we knew that if we were unlucky and unable to do it, there would be loads of other options for both walking and cycling adventures.

Only snag was, we were a bit lonely!  The site is out in the middle of nowhere and we were the only ‘campers’ there.  Also, we only had a weak phone signal and no internet so, for the time being, we're totally unaware of anything else that was going on in the world. ‘bliss’.  

Saturday 16th January 2016

Another Birthday.  This time our Grandson Thomas - Grandad and I hope you had a fantastic day and a lovely party xxx

Today was a cycling day, and boy were we in for a treat!  We left the site and cycled along the quite high quality roads mostly around the huge reservoirs - Embalse del Conde de Guadalhorce - a huge body of water that is roughly divided into three arms.  

And this is only one of them

The road was a bit up hill and down dale but only very gently, and it was only slightly challenging in one place.   Additionally, there was only very  minimal traffic, so for the most part,  we were able to concentrate on watching the stunning vistas as they unfolded in front of us.  However, we did come across a caterpillar crossing zone - there were hundreds of them, and although we tried to avoid as many as possible I'm sure we ‘murdered’ a few!

We eventually came to a ‘Mirador’ (view point) with far reaching views over the reservoir and dam - only trouble was, it was up a huge rough staircase, and although I set off carrying my bike I soon had to give in - maybe the bike is heavier than it looks, or more likely, I need to eat more spinach!  

But it was well worth the effort! From our vantage point we could look down over the turquoise water to the dam and the road that we would later ride over, but before we got there we had a bit more rough terrain to negotiate!

The main rivers that feed the Reservoir include The Turon River which originates in the north of the Sierra de la Nieves, The Guadalteba River and The Guadalhorce River, and the information boards informed us that projects to control them started from the beginning of the 20th century. The main one however, was the building of the El Chorro Dam which resulted in the huge reservoir that provides such beauty in this area today, and it is also one of the main sources of water for the city of Malaga.  For this project the main work started in 1914 and was completed in 1921 King Alfonso XIII laid the last stone.

As we'd ridden along above the reservoir we had seen numerous fishermen presumably trying to catch their supper, and when we reached the dam wall we could see that maybe this wouldn't have been a very difficult task. There were loads of huge fish milling about in the very clear water - you certainly wouldn't need many chips if you'd got one of these on your plate!

Sunday 17th January 2016

We woke up this morning with news about the snow back in England - well, it wasn’t so hot here either - only about 14 degrees, much like a lovely spring day really!

And Hooray, Hooray, Hooray!  We've got them!  Our permits to walk along Caminito Del Rey. The only way to do this gorge walk is to obtain a permit by applying on line at http://www.caminitodelrey.info/, but at this time of the year there are only 50 places available every half an hour between 10am and 2pm, and every time I’d looked over the last couple of weeks the web site indicated that they were fully booked.  However, at one point (while on line), I stumbled across a hotel that guaranteed to obtain tickets for you if you stayed with them for two nights!  We did consider it,  but we didn’t really want to desert the T4rdis, so when we arrived at Camping Ardales I asked at their reception if they could help us, and they thought they possibly could.  They applied for the permits on our behalf, and ‘hey presto’, they materialised last night.  

Our time slot for the walk was 11am, and we had a couple of miles to trek  to the beginning, so we set off quite early, but when we arrived we almost thought we were in the wrong place. There didn’t seem to be any other customers about and everything was barricaded off - but we didn’t have long to wait before the other 48 people turned up.  Then the preparation for the walk commenced - our permits and passports were checked and we were given a hard hat and a hair net - I'm not sure what that was for!

We were also given lots of instructions of ‘dos and dont’s’, initially in fast Spanish, and then in very heavily accented fast English - I think I got maybe half of it and John got none of it, but from what I understood it was mostly common scene so we didn’t worry to much!

The old path is still visible just below the new one
The walk was mainly through a gorge and along a suspended walkway that cling to the sheer cliff side high up above the gushing torrent of The Rio Guadalhorce River.  To be fair, we always felt safe because the walkway is guarded on one side by the rock face, and on the other by a strong wire fence that is about 4 feet high, and it's also patrolled regularly by Caminito Del Rey staff. However, in times gone by this walk was labelled ‘The most dangerous in Europe’ and in it’s history it has noted many fatalities, resulting in it being closed and renovated to it’s present state.  It was reopened in March 2015, but it is still possible to see remnants of the old path, and it certainly didn’t look very robust! 

The total length of the walk is about 5kms, and for almost it’s entire length, your eyes just don’t really know where to look.  

At one point there is a glass balcony with nothing under it except a long drop, and at another there is a suspension bridge that sways in the wind as you walk over it!  But even though these two areas were supposed to be major highlights, the whole walkway is a truly amazing experience, and viewing the vultures that soared overhead was also another wonderful facet of our adventure. 

Therefore, I think I can safely say that although this path isn't one of the seven wonders of the world - It will certainly count as one of the major highlights of our tour!  

All too soon our walk was completed and we were descending down into El Chorro where we needed to catch a bus back to Ardales (your only allowed to walk in one direction at this time of year).  Happily, it was there and waiting for us, because by this time we were both quite cold - the sun had been trying to shine but in the shelter of the gorge, and with the wind whistling through it'd been quite chilly.  The ride back to Ardales was another scenic treat, and for once, John could sit back and enjoy it as someone else took the ‘helm’ - which the driver did quite expertly when he met another bus coming the other way on a narrow part of the road and at a blind bend!  

Anyway, we were soon back in Ardales safe and sound, and as our walk had amazingly been ‘free’ we decided to treat ourselves to lunch in a restaurant overlooking the resevoir.  Again, it was a bit chilly on their balcony but the amazing view and good food soon took your minds off it.

Then it was back to the T4rdis for a warm, and to find that we had new neighbours - an English couple who are doing much the same as us!  It was also ‘a make your mind up time’ as to if we should stay any longer in the hills or move on to Ronda.  In the end we decided yes, we would stay at least one more day in this lovely region that I would have absolutely no hesitation in strongly recommending to others if you’re looking for fantastic scenery and somewhere to cycle and walk ‘far from the madding crowd’.

Tuesday 18th January 2016

Today we were off on our bikes again, mostly exploring an area between two of the arms of the reservoir.  We set off trying to follow a route that we'd seen on a signboard in Ardales, but when we got to the beginning of the 'off road' section the sandy track seemed to have crumbled away down the steep slope, and there was only the bank of the reservoir left which wasn’t navigable. Therefore, plan B had to be instigated, requiring us to ride UP the road a ‘little’ further, before we spotted another way down on to our original planned route!  By now the sun was shining and warming us up nicely and the view was fantastic so we felt forced to stop for coffee, lemon croissants and a banana!

From here we continued along the track a little further, but it soon joined a very minor road which we followed for a couple of miles, and then we picked up another track that John thought would lead us round in a circle back towards our start point.  We followed it up hill for a couple of kilometres but it got quite rough in places - and then it landed us in an olive grove where tracks led off in all directions!  We could see for miles but not what we wanted to view!  It was impossible to identify which track might lead us where we wanted to go, and if we’d (John) picked the wrong one goodness knows where we might have ended up or how far out of our way it might have taken us!  Therefore, we played it safe and backtracked, and it really didn’t matter.  The views were so fantastic we could have gone in any direction and still have enjoyed our ride just as much.

Tomorrow we're going to try and rejoin the world of the wifi and the internet - and if we do you’ll be able to read about all the things we've been up to over the last few days xx

Click here to see our Spanish Camping Spots

Click here to see the location of Caminito Del Rey - It's the green walking icon!