Quiet roads. Farms. Bulls. Busy hot road at the very end.
Estacion de San Roque to La Línea. We were unsure of this route. We expected to be blocked by a military zone near La Línea. In fact it was a nature reserve and the only hazards were bulls bread for the ring and many bee hives. We were able to avoid the bees and the bulls were calm. The mountain reserve was covered with flowering scillas and crocuses. These were doing exceptionally well after a bush fire. All the scrub was burned out allowing more light at ground level.
9.05 We have just got to the bus stop where we got on yesterday. I said I wanted 1 euro 14 twice. The driver asked me where I was going. Thinking quickly I said la Carretera para la Estacion de San Roque. He then said yes 1 euro 14. On the ticket it actually said Carretera San Roque so that was close.
I verify the name of the river. It is Guadarranque. On the bridge yesterday the letters Guada were missing. I should have known. Neil is logging on and I put on my cagoule because it is cold.
122 The village just under the bridge is called Tarragilla. I go into two librarias/prensas to try and get Clara magazines but without success.
We reach the crossroads where we came out yesterday. There are lots of storks nests here. Left is the river Guagarranque crossing. We turn right and head east over the railway line. Many of the pylons have special tops on them for the storks to make their nests. But even when there isn’t a top, the storks make a nest any way. Once over the river we go over the railway line.
Yesterday it rained in the night. It had been very clear earlier. The cows were lying down. You could see every detail on the coast of Africa across the straits.
We get to a junction. There is an “ethnic” sign saying left to Pinar de Rey and Estacion de San Roque. Straight ahead is a 4 km sign. Just beyond this is a second left turn and we are hoping it’s our pecuaria. We go on it. It goes uphill and is not surfaced.
11.35. We pass a load of junctions to the left and right but we go straight ahead towards San Roque which is a white village on top of a hill which we can see on our right. We continue to pass the Rocks of Gibraltar.
We now approach a fierce main road. Right goes to San Roque. We hope we can go behind San Roque rather than going through it. In the event, we go left because this is the road which bypasses San Roque. On the cusp of the hill is a road with a million cars on it. We hope we shall avoid it.
12.05 Our road comes to an end but a gate at the end shows tracks of cows and horses continuing across a field. We hope that this will lead behind San Roque or failing that to San Roque itself. The route we wanted to take was fiercely fenced and impossible to get on to.
We have lunch in this field as it is a lovely place. We hope we can find a way out of the field because if not, we shall have to go back a very long way to the main road.
We skirt the left-hand side of the field looking for a place where we can get through. Eventually we find a place where we can get through on our hands and knees. There was some barbed wire at ground level which we had to be careful not to kneel on. Once through the fence, we turn right onto a little track.
We hope we are not in a militar. We get to a river. There is no bridge but there are some stones but, as the river is in spate, these are inadequate. We get wet feet again.
We are now working our way across to another track going up a hill. There is no sign of a fence between us and it. We go through a gate which says beware of the ganada (cattle probably but female luckily) suelta. We now go along a link road to the fierce of a million cars.
13.35 There was an under bridge. Beyond this, we turn off the asphalt which bears left. Our track goes straight ahead. Again there are signs saying beware of the cattle (male this time). Unlike the aeolic fields, the fields here seem to be fenced. Later these fences disappear and we are amongst the bulls. Emboldened by our experiences in the aeolic fields, we persevere until we get to what seems to be a homestead called Plaza de Toros los Leones. Here there are some helpful men who explain how we can get through to La Linea. There are horses tethered in the yard and now we catch sight, on our right, of a little amphitheatre. This is an actual Plaza Tor (see The Gondoliers by Gilbert and Sullivan) and the helpful men are no doubt real matadors and picadors.
Those bulls roaming free and without their cows with them were being raised for the bullring and we had passed through them unscathed. I expect the bulls remain kind until their neck is full of spears and then they react in the only way they can. They certainly were magnificent specimens. You can imagine Theseus and his mates leaping over them. No one yet, so far as I know, has done their PhD on bull leaping and tried it out. In view of the many things attempted, this is a subject worthy of attention and interesting for a classicist who is also an Olympic gymnast.
At the bull ring a beautiful old English sheepdog puppy came out and later the mother as well. It was beautiful. The helpful men told us we needed to get through a gate which might or might not be locked but that once we were through this we could go all the way through to La Linea.
We make our approach to the gate which is both shut and locked. Luckily, by unhooking a piece of wire at the top, it was possible to pull the gate forwards and create a little gap which we were able to scrabble through. It shows how skinny we really are because the gap was very small. Once through the gate, we replaced the wire and continued.
We now put on our hats as there are bee hives ahead and the bees seem to be unusually active, preparing for a swarm perhaps. We decide to go off the track and head uphill to bypass the hives. Neil is especially not keen on being stung by bees. This does happen from time to time and we are adept at removing the stings. I mind less although it is not my favourite. There are sand crocuses up here. The sort with a long thin centre bit (pistil, stigma, style?) and growing singly rather than in clumps. Once beyond the bees it becomes apparent that there are more bulls here and most of them on the path. Now we know these are bulls for the ring we are less keen on approaching them. On the detour, it’s a huge crocus garden – so many that it is difficult not to tread on them.
We eventually get back to the path but it is so muddy here that we make yet another detour.
14.50 We get to a T junction. We turn on to it and head uphill wondering if it is a militar. Our guide in Gibraltar had told us there was one up here and we could see the antennae.
15.00 Our track splits into a Y. I hope we can do the contour rather than go uphill further. We decide to go uphill because Neil thinks the contour route goes no further than some disused barracks. We get to a second split and look at the Google maps to see if this route goes through. On the face of it it does so we abandon the uphill track and bear right along a higher contour. We see some scillas (not Peruvian ones but perhaps the ones that you get to if you avoid Charybdis). Lithospernum (lithodora). This is a wonderful garden up here. Mini would like it if we could approach it from a different starting point. Geranium tufts (huge) daisies white and yellow, sand crocuses dandelions, lavender asphodels and a new tufty white.
We are getting close to the militar and there is no route through it so we edge down to the previous contour which we thought was a dead end. So we have avoided the antennae but not the militar. We have to edge down past some bulls. Once on the barrack contour, we turn left and carry on towards the main surfaced road from La Linea to the Militar.
15.40 We are making good time today and wonder whether we couldn’t also do Gibraltar to get it done giving us a free day. We’ll see when we get down how much this would add to the walk. Pink scabies dark pink cistus white cistus pink erica. We are definitely getting into a new climatic zone. To avoid a huge loop the loop on the road, we cross a meadow towards an industrial estate. There is a fence at the far end. Neil steps over by pushing down the barbed wire. I go through a gap as my left leg refuses to lift that high since it fell off (broke).
We now head down towards the bus station by the shortest route. It is too far to do Gibraltar today. We may do it tomorrow or even at Easter. Either way we have reached our target.