After a good night’s kip, we were up at 8am as it started getting light. A strong breeze had all the turbines on the surrounding hills earning their keep. Merlin is now getting into the camping vibe and suggested the walk should be temporarily renamed Merlin’s Mission!
Eventually, after taking time over breakfast to enjoy the surroundings, we set off down a pleasant track through mixed woodland. And then it started to climb, and went on climbing for several k until we reached a short stretch of hairpin highway with splendid views in both directions.
We then turned into dense woodland and the path followed the foot of dam at the end of the reservoir high above the village of El Chorro. As the route continued around the reservoir, incredible views opened up to the river below.
Merlin led the steep descent into El Chorro (which appeared to be closed for the day). Here you could see the recently-refurbished Caminito del Rey – an artificial high-level walkway and bridge that traverses the gorge.
We had a pitstop at a fuente to refill bottles and have a quick cooling wash. A car pulled up and an English family came to fill their large containers. A quick conversation established that they were, in fact, the owners of the excellent nearby Olive Branch campsite. How fortuitous! We were soon setting up camp and a very sociable evening followed with other hikers and climbers.
A murky, horrible morning, not improved by a sore head from the previous night’s cider intake, meant we just stayed in bed. Merlin was no more anxious to move than I was. We finally emerged at about 10am to find we had missed the full English. Disaster! However, the continental version was considerably better than expected and did the job admirably.
We finally got going, heading uphill along a gravel track beneath the 1200m La Huma rockface. I was able to watch the many climbers enjoying this world-famous rock-climbing playground. The visibility was too poor for many pictures but a brief ray of sun just caught some almond blossom, cheering things up a bit. I did, however, meet the first other person doing the GR7. She was from the Czech Republic and we spent a little while comparing notes, before Merlin and I carried on to the town of Valle de Abdajalis and found a suitable place to pitch camp a couple of k beyond. We were both very grateful for an early night.