This is a continuation of the report which can be viewed on
Trevelez to Pitres (approximately 14 Km) 19/07/15
The second leg of the walk takes us along the GR7 footpath from Trevelez to Busquistar, along the West side of the Rio Trevelez valley. On the map it is shown as GR 240 but it is signed GR7. This is the footpath that starts at Terifa near Gibraltar and exits Spain into Andorra, it is continuous with the European footpath E4 which stretches to the Peloponnese and over the water to Crete and Cyprus – we didn’t make it that far.
After an early breakfast and packing up we left the hotel to locate the GR7 route to the West of the village. It was an absolutely stunning morning, already warm with clear air; there wasn’t much in the way of traffic but the village shops were setting up. Trevelez is renowned for its dried hams, there are several large plain whitewashed buildings with open grille windows through which you can see hundreds of hams hung from the ceiling; the cool dry air being perfect conditions to concentrate the flavour, a specialty of the Alpujarras region. We wound our way Northwest out of the villages, past the door maker, the village stores, the drinking troughs, out into the cultivated terraces above the village and picked up the footpath.
The farmer’s access path brought us out onto an ATV track used by the forestry teams which took us almost all the way to the villages of Busquistar and Portugos. The track was about half way up the slope with the main road and river far below. There was hardly a manmade sound and we didn’t meet another human until the village. There was little wildlife either; a couple of distant eagles circling but very few birds. The valley is beautiful and unspoilt but lacked variety in the walking, with little shade, the track being fairly level, we covered the 13 Km in about 4 hours, arriving perfectly for lunch.
In the village square there was a small chapel and one cantina open, after being exposed to the sun we were pleased to sit out on the vine sheltered terrace. Having ordered our drink and food, which was excellent, we were witness to what could have been a scene from a spaghetti western as four horses clip-clopped into the square and tied up at the hitching rail of the cantina, the horses didn’t look too comfortable on the concrete paving of the square and one in particular suffered from a somewhat overweight passenger. They strolled inside, disappointingly they didn’t have spurs on or ammunition belts across their chests, had their drinks and went back to their horses; a couple of them struggled to get back on but they eventually trotted off.
We threaded our way out of Portugos and through the maze of tracks above the village of Pitres to find the Hotel Maravedi; the only one that had rooms available in this area. The hotel was somewhat understaffed; we arrived an hour earlier than notified and had to wait for the key holder. The hotel was nice, the rooms good and the grounds pleasant. The pool a godsend! The same lady that opened the door cooked and served dinner; it turned out she had no command of English and our Spanish was minimal so ordering dinner became a series of mimes, the most amusing was my attempt to mimic lamb by making sheep noises and indicating the diminished height of lambs compared to sheep. I should point out that we had mislaid the Spanish phrase book at Malaga airport and although I had been listening to a Teach Yourself Spanish CD for weeks and writing some potentially useful phrases none includes descriptions of food. The phrase book turned up at the very bottom of my ruck sack at the end of the week. Somehow we managed to get food for dinner but there was no one around at breakfast time; luckily we were prepared for that and eat in Pitres.
Pitres Loop walk (approximate 13 Km) – 20/07/15
Apart from the ascent of peaks of the Sierra Nevada the other key target for the weeks walk was this day’s route around the gorge to the South of Busquistar and Pitres. This was the third time I have walked this area, once in the nineties with friends (the highlight of which was seeing the most perfect set of lenticular clouds beyond Orgiva) and once with Debbie in the ‘noughties’. I think the original route came from a Cicerone guide but we have never followed the same route twice (we did it again, with Debbie, the following week) as the whole area is crisscrossed with footpaths and tracks. This walk is an extended version and includes a section on the South side of the river in the Sierra del Mecina.
The Alpujarras is a unique area on the South side of the Sierra Nevada which is historically important as the last outpost of north African culture following the re-conquest of Spain by the Christian Monarchs. The villages tend to be densely packed with predominantly flat roofed houses, small courtyards and balconies are everywhere. The fields are fertile (fruit and vegetables abound), small and terraced and depend upon the extensive and ancient irrigation system which distributes the meltwater from the winter snows and mountain springs over the area. The water channels (Acequia) are often covered and the first indication you are near one is the sound, some are useful walking routes and many feed drinking fountains (Fuente) as well as the fields. In such a hot, dry climate they are a Godsend – July is the hottest/driest month.
From the hotel we strolled down to Pitres and then down the Carre el Pueto to its junction with the main road (A 4132). The path starts down the side of the Restaurante Le Carretera on the South side of the main road; the first section, between buildings, is steep but gets shallower. It is a winding donkey track, the walls are now rebuilt since our first visit when the path was full of boulders, and is pleasant and sheltered. It emerges at a tarmac road opposite a Hotel rural in Mecina-Fondales. We went left into the hamlet, and carried on Eastwards until we came out at the road on the edge of the Rio Bermejo barranco, the road looped North and after crossing a small bridge followed a circuitous route into the village of Ferriola. The road peters out and turns into village paths, passing the village fountain it runs roughly East and comes out into open countryside, sloping away with fine views to the South. The path goes into a lightly wooded area, drops down to the Berranco del Castinar where there is another fountain (La Fuente De La Gaseosa), and then rises up the other side. It was in this wooded stretch that a concealed snake, about 1.5m black and purple, shot across the path between myself and Ben; the speed they go is impressive and it disappeared as quickly as it appeared. I don’t think we saw another snake the whole two weeks we were there, maybe it was too hot.
Coming out of the trees we walked into an area of abandoned buildings and a threshing floor; these can be seen all over the area. They are usually roundish, comprised of flat volcanic stones which are often worn smooth and invariably sit above a slope. The wheat is separated from the chaff by beating on the floor and then pitchforked into the air when a convenient updraft carries off the lighter chaff and leaves the corn. The view from this one is particularly good and we stopped to have a snack and drink. We continued eastwards across another barranco and then across a more open, poorly watered area which dipped towards the river gorge. Again abandoned houses were evident and the view back from the dry harsh scrubland back to the more fertile area around the villages was striking. The path came down to an old abandoned mill close to the river (strictly speaking there wasn’t enough water in the bed to justify the name of river but I suspect in Winter it lived up to the name. Just below the mill there was a bridge and the other side of the valley was a steep zig-zag path; not an appealing prospect in the midday heat. It was also clear that the hills opposite (The Sierra del Mecina ) was a lot more arid than the area we had just come from; clearly the Acequias did not span across the gorge.
On the walk we took a week later we did not walk down to the bridge but carried on over the hill and headed Northwards towards Busquistar where we had lunch. After that we took a path parallel to the main road and through Atabeitar to get back to Pitres. Another good route and not a tough as our one on the 20th.
Although hard work in the heat the zig zag path was not a tough as Mulhacen, mainly because we only had light rucksacks, albeit full of water bottles; we were spurred on by the possibility of a café at the Cortijo de Panjulia. From the top of the steep slope a dirt road ran out South to the col where we could look down into the Rio Guadalfeo valley and across to the coastal range. What we could not see was the long anticipated café; there was a large house which may have been a cafe once. We considered walking down the A4130 road but weren’t convinced there would be any other eateries, besides we had enough food and water to get us back to Pitres. We therefore turned back and headed along the East bound ATV track that runs along the Sierra de Mecina for several miles. The South side of the valley is much less interesting that the North but the distant views are great. We eventually reached our turn off, right and down a sloping track which passes an old corral and then fades into a rough footpath.
The footpath led downwards towards the only footbridge in this stretch of river, the Puente Romano; the path is steel and loose but not really difficult. The clearly ancient bridge is single span with the stream bed some 20m below, the rock on either side deeply cut, the water an unpleasant shade of green. The path up the South side meandered through lush vegetation and small farms and into the hamlet of Fondales, through narrow passageways and under balconies. We eventually came out on the tarmac road that links the three small settlements together, this traverses back and forth across the slope but eventually ends up at a dead straight road (Carre la Isla) that was completely out of place, the church and hotel on the right. This brought us out to the bottom of the donkey path and the uphill stretch into Pitres, a veritable metropolis compared to the villages we had been walking through; not only did it have open bars but a mini market where we could buy next day’s breakfast for the early start.
To be continued:- see https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/posting.php?mode=edit&f=16&p=458779
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