Mountain paths. Hippy colony. Strenuous.
We drove to Las Negras getting a little lost. Some of the routes were still dirt roads and we didn't want to risk the brand new hire car on such ways. Starting at Las Negras, we walked northish along the beach and then up the river bed. The start of the walk was easy to find. At Cala de San Pedro we got lost again. We walked through the caves, tents and shanties up the river valley. This was a tiring but interesting mistake. Eventually we went back to the coast and asked a man in the chiringuito the way. This establishment seemed only to serve canabis judging by the state of the man we approached. We assume there was a canabis farm somewhere even more isolated than this inaccessible spot. After another tiring climb, the rest of the walk was easier but slow because of the rough path and ascents. We took so long to get to Agua Amarga that we could not return to Las Negras in daylight. In any case we were too tired. We got a taxi back to Las Negras.
Today the sky is overcast but it is dry. We set off at 6.45 to go back to Las Negras. We decide to go via Rodalquilar to see if we can find the restaurante. This ends up with us going again along the bumpy approach road to Los Albaricques and then a dirt road to Rodalquilar. We abort and try the next road along. This too ends in a dead end at a farm. The third road goes to Fernan Perez and should work because I saw a sign to this at the Rodalquilar T junction yesterday. We pass through Fernan Perez and head down to Las Negras circuiting Hortichuelas which was also interesting. We park in the centre - no worries about flooding today.
We head down the beach, turn left and pick up a path heading inland through bamboos. Soon we see the path to Playa San Pedro and Agua Amarga leading off on our right. The estimated time for the 12 km walk is 4.5 hours. As we have usually completed the routes in well under the suggested time, we were confident that we could do the round trip in a sensible time.
This route out of Las Negras must be the one we took with the bottle of olive oil when we got to the four inch wide slippery sandy track along the precipice last time. The ascent is straightforward enough. We climb on a track passable by 4x4 vehicles. Someone has painted on a stone a message to effect that this is a beautiful place spoiled only by the people who are a load of hippies. My view is that hippies may possibly spoil the place as they pass through it but the painted stone has spoiled the path in perpetuity. As we progress, the path narrows and, at the far end, we see the same precipice looming. There is a little pile of diarrhoea at the side of the track. Was this from someone about to do the track or someone who had just done it? We carry on and luckily, since our last visit, the track has been made level and widened to a couple of feet. This makes all the difference. We head on down into Cala San Pedro.
The path bifurcates many times and wanders all over the place as we make our descent. This is because the cove which is inaccessible except by this mountain track or by sea is inhabited by a multi-national group of young people. Many seemed to university students camping out for the Easter vacation. Others could have been more permanent residents. Many were living in tents but some had made a home in derelict buildings making them waterproof with plastic sheeting and stones.
One enterprising couple had set up a conservatory. The cove was supplied with several springs which meant water was always available. People would have to go to Las Negras from time to time for supplies. We headed up the valley looking for a way out. At one point some people on the far side shouted to me that I was on the wrong path. I should have been on the higher one where 'my marido' (my husband) was. I work my way up. In fact we were both wrong and had to go back down almost to sea level. On the way, we met a girl. I asked her where the track was and she said somewhere over there she wasn't sure ask at the chiringito. We went down to the chiringito. There wasn't a sardine in sight. Just some people freaked out smoking joints or, as Neil who keeps up to date with these things said "splifs". I asked one of them which was the sendero to Agua Amarga. He said a la izquierda y despues.....(left and then…) and waved his arm up and up and up. We thanked him and set off. The detour had taken an hour and had been quite strenuous.
The trick here is to go right down to the beach and then look for the path round the back of the little fort. In future we will always go right down and look for the way out from the bottom.
Now we were on the right path we ascended steeply once more along a narrow rocky track. It took a long time to get to the top. We saw convolvulus cneorum, gladioli a gone over orchid and pink sage leafed cistus. At the top it was obvious we were going to take considerably more than 4.5 hours to do the walk. We discuss whether we should head back and do the second half tomorrow from the other end. I say we should carry on and have a taxi back to the car. It will be expensive but it is my fault we are so slow and I will pay for it.
At the top, we stop and have lunch. We are overtaken by some fast walkers to whom we say hola. They politely pass behind our lunch place and carry on. We set off again and soon come across them having their lunch. We say Hola otra vez (Hello again - Spanish) and wish them Guten Appetit (Enjoy your meal – German). We get chatting and it appears they too are finding the walk longer than they expected. I tell them of our plan and invite them to join us if they feel they can't get back. They hope to make the double trip and may well succeed. They soon overtake us and we agree to meet in Agua Amarga if they are still there. They speak German with a southern accent. I can't identify which as it is slight. They too went wrong at Cala San Pedro.
We carry on down to the second cove which does have vehicular access and then up and over to Agua Amarga. On the last stretch we meet our friends again. They thought we were Dutch no doubt because they know English people can't speak other languages. They are heading back. They have four hours of daylight and the last bit was a wide track which you could well do in the dark although the moon is waning after Easter and won't come up till late. We have taken seven hours to do 15.2 km. It would take a further 6 hours to return without errors. We can't do it. We head into the town square. A bus is arriving but it is an escolar so it doesn't help us.
We go into the bar opposite, get a bottle of cold water and ask if there are any buses. We know there aren't and she says buses do come but she doesn't know when. That probably because it goes into Almeria early in the morning and comes back late in the evening. We then ask about a taxis. There aren't any. Does she have the phone number of a taxi. She does. It takes three people some considerable time to find it - not surprising as it was scribbled on a scrap of paper. She now writes down his home number and his mobile number for us. She also gave us the name of the driver, Ramon, the name of her bar, La Hoya, and the name of the bar owner, Grigorio. We head outside with our bottle. We have not bothered to pay for it. I rush back in and the lady laughs. She had forgotten as well.
I get out the telephone and switch it on. I am bombarded with welcome texts which I ignore. I ring Ramon at home so he doesn't have to pay to receive my call and get his wife who is very helpful and says she will ask him. She keeps saying un secundo (just a second) so I know she's still there and eventually Ramon comes on the line. He is happy to come out. He lives in Carboneras. It will take him 15 minutes. We drink the water, I have my apple and Neil has a healthy bar. We look for lixos to put our rubbish in. Soon our taxi arrives. It is a big old Mercedes. I go in the front and it was well worth it because Ramon was in a very good mood. He said he often had to take people back after they had done that walk. We have decided that the time is calculated in relation to the distance with no consideration being given to the type of terrain. I had a friend who went on a trek in the Himalayas and they did only five miles a day but, at altitude, on steep terrain that is quite enough.
Ramon is a mine of information. He told us how the lowlands of the Cabo de Gata used to be very fertile with fruit tree everywhere and fields of crops. In the last 45 years, the rainfall has decreased and now everything is grown under plastic where crops need less water.
Add Swiss people love the pussy better than all that plastic round Almeria. I say yes but at home we eat the produce and they say so do they but perhaps they shouldn't. Well you could stop eating the strawberries but tinned tomatoes? You'd never know where they came from. So Los Albaricoques really was once an apricot growing village.
We see a French car ahead. I say there are lots of French cars here. He says there are more English and German people and that you need English and German more than French. Is this perhaps because the French drive down in their own cars. Ramon dislikes the French who are surly like Basques and Catalans. The English are much more friendly. His nephew is married to an English girl.
We get to Las Negras. It is 60 euros because we had to pay from Carboneras - this is usual in Spain. We say goodbye and then go to the Las Negras olive oil shop which is open to get some yoghurt, drinks and avocados. On the way home, we go through Rodalquilar and find the restaurante. It is in a little square in Rodalquilar and it is not a hundred miles from the sea but it has a plastic neon sign and says pizzeria on it. It would have been too much to hope that it had remained unchanged all those years.
In Retamar, we picked up some petrol. The car has a very small tank. Then it was back home for supper - salmon and ratatouille and pasta followed by ice-cream with a caramel Easter egg. We finished off the Easter Cava. Not many people would make it last three days. I have a cork solution to keep in the fizz. Tomorrow we are going to do Agua Amarga to Carboneras and we hope back. It should be possible as the route is also recommended for bikes. That means no really steep bits although a couple of sections do have an alternative much further steep route. Maybe we can try those on the way back if we make good time.