Holiday Report: Andalucia Trails, Spain | Far and Ride

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Holiday Report: Andalucia Trails, Spain

Journal of trip to the Alpujarra, June /July 2017 – Anne Gwynn

EasyJet left Bristol promptly at 06.05 on June 27th and we landed at Malaga on time, only to have to wait 45 mins for the baggage to arrive. This time I had invested in a medium sized trolley case so jodhpur boots and hat could be packed with room to spare.

The Alsa kiosk was easy to find and the señorita suggested buying both the ticket to Granada and the one up to Lanjarón and as luck had it, the bus arrived 15 mins early at Granada and I got the connection straight away and Phil was waiting to pick me up from the bus shelter at 3!

It was great to be back at the farmhouse, the pool was as inviting as ever and in it I went, joining Ann there for a chat. It was quite windy but we had dinner outside under the canopy of green grapes. It was lovely also to be staying in Casa La Rosa again, with its ancient chestnut beamed ceiling and Moorish windows. Almonds were being blown off the trees and landed

JUNE 28th
In the morning I was picked up by Laura and her small daughter who were also going up to the stables. It turned out that I was the only full day rider on Pieper (hooray, she is such a super mare) with Amy accompanying me on Spicer, a ginger chestnut Arab mare. On the way up a mother partridge scuttled away, taking her tiny chicks to the edge of the track. We rode up, through the Parque Nacional to the lovely clearing in the pine trees where the Forest Patrol have a base at Puente Palo. There the cool clear water of an ‘acequia’ runs through, providing a welcome drink for the horses. The place is popular with walkers too, who can reach it from the village of Soportùjar but today we had it to ourselves.

After our picnic we watered the horses and then took a different route (Amy’s special path) down through bushes of rosemary, and tarragon – covered in blobs of yellow tansy like flowers, and oregano. Fragrant and relaxing – aroma therapy at its best. The wind got up and blew really fiercely and my black silk was whipped off without warning. Gone with the wind, totally.

That evening the wind was still very strong, so after a welcome dinner of meatballs, rice and salad and stewed white peaches, everyone retired early.

JUNE 29th
Amy rode the bay Pepe and I again had Pieper, this time going downhill following Antonio, the local farmer/breeder/horse whisperer who was schooling his 4 year old bay half PRE/Arab – both very laid back, weaving calmly from one side of the road to the other. We left him as he turned for his farm above Lanjarón and we headed for the drover’s road beyond the farmhouse Casa del Vent (the ride’s main accommodation). An enormous Agave plant sprouted a huge flower by the roadside. Once or twice we caught sight of a Golden Oriole flying between the trees. The path passes above the dwellings perched above steep terraces, including the Casa del Viento, and winds on around the contours of the mountain past the “Yellow House” which has a lone pine tree standing by it. During a fierce forest fire some years ago, which destroyed many of the Spanish chestnut trees in the valley of the rio Lanjarón, I was told a jet of water was aimed from a plane at this tree, which was of special interest, to save it from burning. It had obviously worked.

Not far past this house the track veered steeply to the left and we had to dismount for a while, and then turned back up the valley onto the rocky mule track, which is very ancient. The horses negotiated the hard, irregular surface nimbly, here and then brushing past brambles and thickets. Plants in this place find water to grow and sometimes even a trickle crossed our path, and it was muddy! The first mud I had ever seen in the Alpujarra! The skeletal pale grey trunks of the burnt chestnuts stood out bleakly but here and there a few sprouts of green leaves proved that there was life in some of them yet. We pressed on and eventually came to a sort of plateau, with half hidden terraces, and the low roofs of a deserted cortijo, or farm. There was water here, so that the horses could have a drink from a hosepipe. They were tethered in the shade of a walnut orchard, and up on a bank a lone cherry tree glistened with ripe yellow-red fruit. No birds had discovered it. On the other side of the rio the waterfall trickled thinly. Once this little farm must have supported a family in this remote spot. Apparently a couple had lived here fairly recently but after a baby arrived, they had left. Now it was empty, and sadly the land was no longer tended.

After lunch we climbed over the shoulder of the mountain and came out high above Cañiar, descending gradually – far below the blue waters of the dam from the Rio Guadalfero glistened, and further still the white specks of the houses of Motril, and beyond them lay the Mediterranean.

JUNE 30th
After the stony tracks of the previous day, Pieper had lost a shoe overnight so was waiting for the farrier. He turned out to be highly qualified, with the initials of the Worshipful Company of Farriers on his van and had trained in the UK. My mount for the day was another grey Andalusian mare, Tequila, who still had rather a floppy crest even though she had been put on a strict diet on arrival at the Caballo Blanco! This time Amy rode Ruby and we did two loops around the mountain, setting off down towards Lanjarón again and climbing back up through the chestnut forest before stopping in the shade at a farm for lunch. On turning into the valley above Lanjaron we spotted two large birds circling, one a buzzard and the other, very white bellied, probably an eagle. Amy said they had a nest down there. The wind got up, yet again, but was not quite so strong as before, and the views as we rode down towards the stables were as spectacular as ever. Little did I realise that the dam we could see way below would be near where we would ride next day.

JULY 1st
Ally kindly drove me down to the bridge at Órgiva where Pieper and Furía were waiting (I knew that the descent down the cliff required stoutly soled boots, which I did not have. I had done it in October and knew how slippery it could be). Amy this time had Furía, who was as fast and furious as her name. We set off past the huge field of solar panels, and wound our way down into the canyon where the Rio Guadalfeo flows westwards into the dam, always visible when riding up on the mountain above. Down here it was hotter and more airless and we were glad to get to the river, shallow though it was. Pieper has a special method of cooling off, which involves pawing vigorously with her forelegs so that she soaks her stomach (and so cools down). Luckily she did not seem inclined to get down to roll. It was still not midday so we moved on, climbing up narrow paths winding around the steep sides of the canyon, eventually coming to ground with more vegetation. Compared to the high mountain it was noticeably more humid and there were flies, even under the eucalyptus trees where we stopped for lunch. The horses needed their fly masks then.

The final leg of the ride took us up through olive groves, some with dry red soil, some undulating on grey-yellow ground. One steep one led up to a farm with a generator and we set off at a gallop. Pieper raced up it happily, but Furía was not used to going uphill, so ran out of steam! After that we rejoined a gravel track and kept on climbing, walking now in serpentines, until we reached the track that leads to the little hill above the stables. That is a favourite stop for a photo shoot, with the dam far away below in the distance. Amy turned round and said, “You realise we have just ridden up the equivalent height of Ben Nevis, don’t you?”

Read more about the ride here: Andalucia Trails, Spain


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