Andalucia Trail, Spain, January 2009
Emma Thompson, Far and Ride
Here you will find wonderful and relaxed people who are friendly, helpful and fun. I was met by Ali (the husband of Sarah who hosts the riding) at Granada airport, who transferred me to the beautiful farmhouse. Ann, the owner, showed me to my room, which was in one of the little stone cottages. The room was pleasant with a homely and cosy feel. Ann had put the gas heater on for my arrival – it was unusually cold weather as it often reaches the teens in January. Nevermind, this was no reason to dampen my spirits!
The farmhouse is fairly simple, clean and comfortable with a cosy atmosphere. Each unit is self-contained with a private bathroom and most have their own kitchen and cooking facilities. This is where your adventure starts and ends for the trail programmes. Ann regularly works with ‘help exchange travellers’ or ‘Woofers’, who help her manage and maintain her land and farm her almond, olive and orange trees. It’s a great way to meet new people from around the world. I admired the views from the patio which extend across the town of Lanjaron and the mountain peaks of Africa! Lanjaron offers many attractions as there are plenty of bars, Tapas, places to eat, a park, the famous spa and some good Fiestas!
Lunch was served at around 2 o’clock and the roaring open fire was welcoming and made for a cosy environment. My first taste of Ann’s cooking in this ‘family’ environment was very promising, with her home made almond soup and fresh bread. It was delicious and I looked forward to dinner time!
Ali returned to pick me up for an afternoon ride with Sarah. The riding centre is further up the mountain and stands at around 1000m above sea level. They offer tuition and trails on safe, reliable horses and they have a horse for every type of rider. Sarah and her team are flexible in order to produce a package to suit you as an individual or you could opt for one of their fantastic trail options. The terrain is rough and takes you up and down ancient mule tracks but Sarah will plan a route to suit, depending on your experience. Children are also catered for and they run regular fun camps for youngsters.
My first ride was on a six year old bay mare (Akiko) who had a kind eye and a ‘take it in her stride’ attitude. She was an excellent horse for the intermediate rider as she was forward going but trustworthy and great with the tough terrain. There was a dusting of snow around and crisp sunshine as we set off for a three hour ride down the mountain, before ascending again and having some canters which my little girl and I greatly enjoyed.
Dinner back at the farmhouse was roast pork, vegetables and gravy and it did not disappoint as the pork melted in my mouth, with great flavours to accompany it. Ann uses as much local produce as possible and it was a treat to return from a wonderful ride to an equally wonderful meal. I learnt that the meals are flexible and Ann will cater for any needs or dietary requirements. You can eat in the Farmhouse with everyone else, have your meals prepared and brought to you, or eat out, just let Ann know and she will sort it! She is also happy to advise and recommend day trips out in the local area – the farmhouse is in close proximity to a professional ‘hikers and bikers’ company.
My spare time was spent visiting the local towns, villages, markets and I also took a trip to Chris and Dave’s mountain lodge (accommodation for the trail rides) which offers fabulous views and fantastic people. The accommodation here is in self-contained cottage type units or you can opt to spend a fun night camping in tents during the summer months. The lodge is situated at around 1700m and, although a long way from the town, is pretty self-sufficient with a small shop offering snacks in between meal times. I was also taken out for the night with Sarah, Jane and one of Sarah’s Woofers, Robyn. We popped down to Lanjaron for a Tapas night and visited both English and Spanish bars for a night of fun and laughter, showing the locals our talents at playing pool and darts.
Other rides during my visit took us through various mountain paths, whilst admiring the snow which glistened in the views around us. One laid back and handsome chap that I rode was called Lucero (as pictured), he was a recent new recruit and loves his new life. He is a kind boy who would look after the nervous and novice rider and he was a great mount for me, allowing me to enjoy the scenery as I trusted in his sure-footed nature. We rode high enough to experience some wonderful views of the landscapes and although the snow was unexpected, it didn’t hamper my trip or my enjoyment of the riding. Lucero and Akiko took the weather in their stride and it was fascinating to see Spain as a winter wonderland. I would love to go back and see the surroundings uncovered though the snow did add a surprising hint of magic!
Overall this is a great destination for all abilities of rider and as they are very flexible and willing to adapt, you can mix riding with relaxing and exploring as you wish.
Read more about the ride here: Andalucia Trail, Spain.