Unmade mountain roads. Short stretch of coast road near La Isleta.
We drove the hire car to San Jose and then walked on dirt roads to La Isleta del Moro. This road was in disrepair and even four wheel drive vehicles would be unwise to try it. So there were no cars until we re-joined the coast road near La Isleta. Since we had to return to out car, the route was circular. We followed the coast out and went inland for the return trip. Much or this route was off road too. Had we followed the waymarks better, the whole return route could have been off road.
The two distances quoted are first for the walk across Europe. The second is how far we walked that day.
We leave the flat at 6.45 and get to San Jose at 7.45. It was overcast and dull but we didn't see an ibex. We headed out of San Jose towards the cliffs beyond and soon after passing a campsite we were on a track heading uphill sometimes steeply. This walk was our heart's desire. The sea crashing below and a deserted track above. Once we had made our ascent 130m the walk roughly followed the contour and with only slight ascents and descents until we got almost to La Isleta. We were followed along this track by a man in khaki shorts and navy fleece. He is our today's surveillance disguised in plain clothes.
There are few new plants but Neil spots a small gladiolus and we see verbascum and blue and yellow phlomis and huge yellow thistles (centauria). Towards the end of our walk we meet a big party of Spanish ramblers doing the walk the other way round. When La Isleta comes into view we make our descent past a castle and some campervans. Just beyond these is a left turn to Pozo de los Frailes. We decide to use this route on our return to make the walk into a circular.
We continue to the main road and go along it briefly not bothering to cross over as we shall soon be turning off - not soon enough, however, for a German cyclist to turn round and tell me I should be vorking on ze ozer side. He too spoke only moderate English and came over as extremely aggressive. There was no traffic at this hour of the morning and our side had a hard shoulder which the other side didn't. I was ahead of Neil at this point and his suggestion was to tell him to "F' off back to Germany where he lost the war". Of course this is not original. It was a London taxi driver who originally told an American to "F off back to 'Nam wehere he lost the war". Luckily the American was actually Canadian and he found the comment highly amusing.
A little later, I see the Bernado bus heading into La Isleta. We shall miss it but there's a thought. If we had put our skates on we could have been in La Isleta in time to pick up the bus back. If it then goes via San Jose we could have picked up the car, driven to La Isleta and done another leg. We soon head across country on a narrow track and come across a mosaic compass like Henry the Navigator's in Portugal. We don't know who made this one.
As we get close to la Isleta, we go down a deep tureen and up the other side before heading back down into the village. At this point we see our surveillance man crouched down with his shorts round his ankles obviously having a shit. We walk past facing politely forwards as if we haven't noticed. He must have overtaken us on one of our breaks. Once in La Isleta, we see that there are plenty of places to park the avtokinito. We go down to the sea.
11.9km (This is the half walk)
Groups of people from the Almeria (Buceo) Scuba Club are going out diving. There is a coach which brought them and various other family members wandering about. All the Buceo people walk energetically. I expect they are all super fit. After a brief pause to watch the action, we return the way we came passing on our way back to the track across the tureens our surveillance man. They'll have to use someone else tomorrow.
When we get to the turning to Pozo de los Frailes (Friars), we turn right along a level track. We should have picked up a dry river bed near a campsite but fail to do so and have to work our way towards it a bit further on. The signing is very good at the start and end of walks but haphazard in between. The instructions in the Cabo de Gata map suffer the same complaint - excellent as an aide-mémoire if you have done the walk before but less good if you are doing it for the first time.
Further on, we miss our turning once again and end up going up a steep hill which turns out to be a dead end. The view was fantastic from the top so perhaps it was worth the effort. We head back down and miss our turning for a third time ending up on the road a for a short stretch which was a pity. One kilometer out from Pozo de los Frailes (the Frailes are two pointed extinct volcanoes), there is a left turn. I am ahead as Neil is taking photos. Because his candelabra is playing up, he takes lots in the hope of getting a few good ones. I ask some men if the road has a salida and it does. It is un-surfaced and twists and turns between little houses. Eventually we get to a left turn which is where we should have come out. There is a big sign marking the start of the walk. Apart from the detour uphill which was out of our way and the small disappointment of ending up on the road for a bit, our detours didn't add substantially to the walk.
As we head back into San Jose, we see the bus which had dropped off the ramblers in La Isleta picking them up again in San Jose. They will have had a lovely day out.
We get back to the car. It is a Kia Picanto and is blue and we have a little drink before heading back to Aguadulce. We replicate the route taken by the bus and the road is very poor. I had attributed the bumpy ride to the state of the bus springs but there was probably nothing wrong with them. We shan't go that way again and it isn't so attractive either for Mini's day out in the pussy.
Once home, Mini had made a lovely supper of stuffed buck buck baa chest, asparagus, spinach and pasta. We had fizzy Cava to celebrate Easter and Capuccino ice-cream for afters. Mini has melted the microwave lid by grilling it when she thought she was turning the power down. We will have to go to a ferret shop to buy a replacement.
Tomorrow we are going from La Isleta to Las Negras. We shall be revisiting our old haunts as we had a holiday in Hortichuelas with New Century Holidays. The firm did not last long. They had a wonderful concept but did not have enough local back-up on the ground. The first hiatus was the failure of Mateo, the taxi driver, to turn up at Almeria airport to collect us. He lived next door to the house and his wife was the sister of the owner. The second hiatus, when we eventually found the house was that we were totally unexpected and Mateo's wife had to rush round like a scalded chicken to get it ready. She was even going to empty the cupboards but we said not to bother. The third hiatus was when, after being freezing in the evenings (it was lovely during the day) we lit a fire in the fire place and set fire to the chimney. This was soon put out and Mateo came over with an electric fire which made all the difference.
We loved it there. Barnabe's shop was an ethnic experience. On New Year's Eve he gave Neil and Me a little tot of something and we went home very cheerful indeed. Another day, he offered us some of his home-made serrano ham. He kissed it and said it was like a virgin. If so, the virgins in Hortichuelas are made of stern stuff because the ham was virtually un-chewable and lingered for ages in the mouth - but totally delicious. We found a lovely walk there with strange moonscape rock formations which we hope to find again. It was on this holiday too that we had taken a portable disposable barbecue - restrictions were less severe in those days (1999).
We had not told Mini as the barbecue was to be her Christmas surprise. We had brought stuffing and bacon to cook on it but needed tomatoes peppers, courgettes and aubergines for vegetable skewers. Mini was all sad because instead of buying a proper Christmas dinner, we got a bottle of olive oil and other things to make our basting sauce. Then we then went for a walk along the cliff. Mini stayed behind for this bit. Neil and I went some way our bags weighing a tonne with all the things we had bought. The path became progressively narrower until it degenerated into a sloping scratch high up on the cliff with a steep drop straight down to the sea. We don't suffer much from verdigris but there is a limit and the heavy bags were the last straw. The only problem now was that we had to get back along the same path. Abject terror now and again does no one any harm and once you've survived, you feel all the better for it. We had a lovely barbecue on Christmas day down by the sea in a dried up river mouth. The best Christmas lunch ever and Mini finally understood our insane shopping spree. We haven't done it again because we can no longer easily carry inflammable objects in our luggage.
Another day Neil and I were again on our own. In those days Mini did most of the walks. We had climbed up out of Hortichuelas up and over a pummock and down into the next valley. I had paused to relieve myself in a sunny spot and this was a mistake because sharing my chosen location was a long thick black asp. I am not especially afraid of snakes and once you have identified your companion as harmless, you can watch it slither away calmly. It is just that nano-moment of panic as you crouch revealing all and wondering how you will explain when you turn up at the hospital for some anti-venom how you managed to get bitten in such a strange place.
Once over the pummock we picked one of the last remaining pomegranates of a tree and ate it going along. This is really the only way to eat pomegranates as the seeds need to be spat out and it is much more convenient just to spit them onto the ground. We came down the other side and here Neil says by the sea, Mini says at the end of a square and I say on a corner overlooking but not especially near the sea and probably in Rodalquilar we came upon a restaurant and decided even without Mini to have lunch there.
We had chicken and it came absolutely covered in roasted garlics. I had never eaten garlic on this scale and it was absolutely delicious. I have cooked my own chickens this way ever since. Another day we went there again with Mini and had pork which was just as good. Our plan is to try and locate this restaurant if it is still there and if the menu is unchanged and to have lunch there as before. Last time, we then struggled out of the town and slumped down under a tree to sleep of the meal and the wine. Now we are walking across Europe we have much less wine and never in the middle of the day. Besides it seems to conflict with one of my medications (I have yet to establish which) in anything other than minuscule quantities. Then when we take Mini to the pussy we can take her again too and maybe even sleep under the same tree.