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Not one of my hikes. Jörg and Jenny went to Spain to walk the Elcaminito Del Rey trail, that is the walk into and out of the gorge on the cliff face.
Whilst on one side Catalonia was preparing itself for its independence referendum on the other side of Spain Jenny and myself were making our way through the Spanish country side.
The Journey began early Friday morning closer to 1am when we met up at the airport Hotel. As early as nature would allow we arose and made our way to the breakfast table (bagged a lunch as well thanks to a large handbag and limited morals) and made our way back to the airport to collect our car for the weekend. A few wrong turns was beneficial to our trip as the GPS, fed up at this point, then kept us off the highway and led us on to El Chorro via the more scenic back roads. Not 10 minutes into our journey we stumbled across the first point of amazement, an aqueduct. Not certain at first what it was we assumed it to be roman and possibly a town wall, but Google cleared this matter up and it was the unfinished Arcos de Zapata (Aqueduct) built in the 1700’s.
We arrived at El Chorro with good time and were even able to stop for coffee before heading off to the Elcaminito Del Rey trail begin, the reason for this trip. The trail started with a 20minute bus ride to the start of the trail which was followed by another 3km walk to the actual trail begin and this was followed by a 20minute wait before we were assembled, given our hard hats, refused to wear the hard hats, given a talking to and off we went, the shortening of a bucket list had begun.
From the start of the trail into the gorge we were hesitating every 10 meters to wonder about the 100meter high cliffs to which we were attached by a narrow platform, the tiny fossils in the cliff face, the readable geology that had been kneaded like bread dough over last few million years and how fragile the original platform looked that was used to service the waterway following the same route. The waterway which was part of a hydro electric installation at one stage also served as the trail.
The Grand finale to the trail was crossing from one cliff face of the gorge to the other with a less than stable suspension bridge, again with the cliffs extending 100 meters above and below us to the water level. To celebrate we stopped off at the strategically placed ice-cream shop before giving back our hard hats and filing our experience into long term memory.
Our booked apartment was a short distance from El Choro in the village of Ardales, a bleach white village situated on a hill side with a Castle and church overlooking the whole thing. We wasted no time in exploring the village and quickly found ourselves in the town square on the pavement beer in hand watching village life unfold. I certainly didn’t think village life like this still exists in our world of hustle, digital and bustle. The men were gathering after a days work in the town square in front of the town hall discussing, playing cards whilst it was impossible for any lady to walk through the square without interrupting their walk to greet and probably catch up on gossip. Worth mentioning is also the Fruit and Veg shop that still smelt like fruit and veg where the vegetables were not shiny or first grade but rather exactly as they came from the farmer except perhaps the box of Mangoes with importo el Mexico written on it.
An English breakfast started our Saturday with the intention to explore the local castle. The castle was under refurbishment so no entry but the church was open and then inspected. Off the tourist trail and just on the outskirts of the village lay a 2000 year old roman bridge. No entrance fee, not protected behind a glass panel and no neon signage saying look here we have an ancient bridge, nothing it was just there, well most of it, a piece had to be replace after a storm during the reign of Isabela I. The bridge is still in good use by People horses, farm Tractors and the odd Passenger vehicle. It was nice to keep in mind whilst we crossed the bridge that by crossing it the Roman engineers 2000 years ago built a bridge for us.
Teba a village just west of Ardales was our afternoon outing for no reason whatsoever, just to see another village. Again we were treated to unexpected must sees. An old Fort on the highest point of the village was our first point of attention. The fort had proved interesting as this vicinity marked the border between the Moors and Christians and many a battle were fought in this location. The fort although completely dilapidated still housed a museum in the only intact tower which was built to celebrate the victory of the Christians and thereby their ownership of the fort. Particular attention was given to the Scot Sir James Douglas and his Knights who whilst on route to the Holy land and itching for a fight decided to stop off in the region and help out the Spanish King Alfonso in 1330 in his battle against the Moors. Bad decision for Sir Douglas I’m sure he thought in his last few minutes as it would be the last battle he fought. Once a year now the town celebrates Douglas day in his honor (but nothing for the Victors of the battle?).
Whilst at the museum we were informed of a cheese festival taking place in the village and of course this took our interest and we wanted to see the village in any case. Of the festival we saw many people, many busy streets of festive people, busy restaurants but absolutely not a single sign of any sort of cheese whatsoever, maybe we got there too late maybe the cheese was already finished, nevertheless the warm sunny 30 degrees weather called for ice cream and Coke rather than cheese. Our last stop would be in the Local Church as is common in Europe every village is dominated by a church steeple. The church very esthetically pleasing with many decorations, white washed walls, marble pillars supporting the arches and lots of gold left us asking the question – does this still send the right message?
Eventually on Sunday we had to return to the modern world and reality. We made our way to Malaga early in the morning via the highway, dropped of the car at the airport dropped off Jenny’s luggage at check-in and headed into the City center to explore. The main attraction in the city was the Alcazaba of Malaga, a palace and fortification from the Moorish times. Only problem was the number of tourists because if there’s one thing as tourists we try and avoid its other tourists. The palace provided some nice views over the city and it was very clear from the decorations in the architecture that the palace had Moorish roots. But our time was up and after parting our ways Jenny headed in the general direction of the airport whilst there was just enough time for myself to do a quick Hop On Hop Off bus tour through the city to get the highlights before also making my way to the airport and back to Cologne.
A sub note and word of warning: When seeing an Olive tree do not pick the olives and assume it may taste somewhat like the olives we buy in the shops or that it may in anyway be even slightly palatable – they aren’t and you’ll be left regretting your curiosity.
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