Authors note: As Tom is now having to send me the details of his walk, it seems better to write in his voice – so that is what I have done here.
Considerable pondering this morning over whether I should take Chica or Merlin. Chica seemed fine but this was going to be a four or five day stint with no chance of a change-over. In the end, decided best to let Merlin do this one. The next stretch would be much longer so best that Chica is in top form.
From the last drop off location, we all walked the first stretch through scrubby terrain with holme oaks and some abandoned road works. Here Gill, Arfy and Chica turned back, Chica looked pretty miffed. Me and Merlin carried on over a rise and down into the next valley.
A long walk along the valley followed, heading east and steadily climbing past a goat farm and some derelict buildings. The temperature was climbing too and we stopped for water and a rest. Hearing a low buzzing, I spotted hundreds of bee hives hidden in valley below.
The rough track was now very exposed with more goats and olive groves. We were both very hot and I was getting worried; we were short of water and Merlin was looking a bit weary. Eventually we found a hole dug to pump water to crops so he was able to drink.
The village of Serrato had no bars or shops but we found a wrought iron bench in the shade by a fuente (fountain). I brewed up coffee whilst Merlin drank and ate treats and was quickly revived and happy again. A local farmer turned up to fill his water flagon and told me how good the water was, knocking some back to prove it. After a halting conversation in Spanish he walked off, but then came back to give me directions for the GR7. What a gent!
Rehydrated, we hiked out of village then up and up into the hills to a wonderful camp site above the tree line with great views in every direction. Merlin was very alert and on guard. Bolognese noodles for my supper, and chicken and treats for Merls. Absolutely knackered, everything aches!
Made coffee at 8am then went back to the tent to do physio exercises, listen to my audio book and luxuriate in the quiet. Merlin also very chilled. Set off at 11 feeling fairly fit and strong as we climbed steadily.
The Sierra Nevada came into view as we followed the washed out track. It then turned downhill out of pine trees towards open farmland, passing farms with more goats, free range and intensive chicken buildings and cultivated land.
There were fields of regimented rows of olives and blossoming almonds, and the sound of chain saws at work trimming and thinning the olives. It was now very hot and exposed, and water was at premium again. We were very grateful to reach the outskirts of Ardales and a welcome water tap by a shady stone seat.
Some friendly locals asked what I was doing and then directed me to a bar for food. Unfortunately, it was closed but we continued out of town to Hotel el Cruce for lunch. It was 3pm and 28deg.
Beer, olives, bread, fish and chips, coffee and cookie for €13.50. The lovely waitress filled my water bottles and it was with some reluctance that we went on our way at around 4pm. Another 1k on the road then upwards again on tracks for two hours to find an excellent camping spot with views in all directions. Merlin is getting into this camping lark! El Chorro tomorrow!
* Final location WTW bath.wrenches.presets