Day 17: Antequera to Villanueva de Cauche 18K

Up at sparrow’s fart and actually managed to catch the 7.28am train. Yet again, no problem taking a dog on the train but, unlike Merlin, Chica really didn’t like it. She sat on my lap and trembled for over an hour. Only just before we got off, did she settle. Then we encountered our first refusal. The train stops short of Antequera and the last 18k is on the bus. Even when the lovely train guard tried to persuade the driver to take us, he was unmoved. So a rather expensive taxi ride was needed to do the last section.

We have visited Antequera before – the old town is interesting, once a centre for fabric-making and our trail took us along the river and past where all the laundry was once done. There was an old stone ‘washboard’. It must have been very hard work.

An easy well-defined track today through open countryside. The weekend’s cold had left me with a ferocious sinus headache but it was clearing nicely and we both enjoyed the sunshine.

After a few days off, the pack felt heavy and I was glad to reach Villanueva. The small town is used in film sets apparently, but there was nothing here today so I found a suitable camping place under a rockface showing signs of recently climbing activity. But maybe not tonight….

Day 15 & 16: East of Ardeles to Valle de Abdajalis 28k

Day 15

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.

Olive Branch campsite, El Chorro

Day 16

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.

Days 13 and 14: Cuevas del Becerro to east of Ardeles* 32k

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!

Day 14

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

Day 12: Arriate to Cuevas del Becerro 10k

Day 12 saw a late start as Tom headed for the station with Chica for the 12.50 train. Again, no problem boarding with a dog. The guard even ruffled her ears as he collected the fare.

After a quick coffee in Arriate, the trail headed out into the countryside past large chicken sheds, piggeries and posh houses, one still apparently celebrating Navidad!

They reached the railway station at Parchit, all of which remains is the platform. The station house and bar were gone and a new road was in the process of construction. Nosing around here, Tom spotted a very grand entrance to a vineyard. Oddly here, gates are one extreme or another; either grandiose like this one or an old bedstead wired to a pole or even more rustic, a couple of strands of wire held up by small branches. You very rarely see a common-or-garden functional gate

The route turned into a delightful country lane and with Chica breaking trail, still heading north-easterly, they continued through mostly holm oak and olive trees. Eventually meeting the main road they found the path ran alongside so they chose to keep to one a bit further away. Here stonemason Tom was happy to see a beautifully constructed dry stone wall, not unlike those seen at home on the Mendip Hills.

As the sun was going down, around 6pm, Tom texted to say they were somewhere on the A367. Fortunately, the What Three Words location (built.orangey.juicy) was more accurate and I was there shortly afterwards. Home before dark.

Day 11: Indiana to Arriate 14k

After her two day camping adventure, we gave Chica a day off and once again Merlin stepped into the breach. Also, Synnove, our lovely neighbour here in Jimera was going along for the day.

Starting from Indiana and heading towards the city of Ronda, this was gentler country of pasture and olive orchards. The cliffs that surround the city drew nearer and seemed particularly impressive when viewed from below.

A steep winding path took them up to the top of the cliffs and into the old town. They crossed the famous Puente Nuevo bridge which separates the ‘new’ town built around the 12th century from the ancient Moorish old town. The view is spectacular and you have to jostle for position the get the essential ‘me on the bridge in Ronda’ pic.

After a coffee here, they headed to the top of the town, past the railway station, through the industrial area and back into the countryside. Merlin took all this in his stride and it became clear that he was the better option for the urban parts of the journey. Chica would have found this quite stressful.

After a slight map reading error leading to an unscheduled tour of the surrounding area, they resorted to GPS and found their way back to the route, which headed north-east towards Arriete. The going was easy; tarmacked road though cultivated fields and grazing land. Every property here seems to be guarded by a gang of barking dogs and most have ‘Beware of the Dog’ signs of varying degrees of crudity, but this one was rather good, they thought.

Reaching Arriete, they headed to the station. Technically, dogs are not allowed on trains in Spain but we have managed to take ours a short distance by looking pathetic and saying “No entiendo” (I don’t understand) a lot. This was unnecessary here as the lady in the ticket office was clearly a dog lover and made a huge fuss of Merlin. We’ll see if they’re as lucky tomorrow when Tom and Chica try and get the train back to Arriate. Then I can have a lie-in!

Days 9 and 10 Bonacoaz to Indiana via Montejaque 34k

Another glorious day but it took us quite a while to get organised. Tom was determined not to forget anything vital for the first overnighter so it was 10.30 by the time we left. Making our way back to Benacoaz through Ubrique, where Los Alcornacales gives way to the Sierra de Grazalema, the landscape looked stunning in the sunshine.

Setting off all together, we climbed out of the village between fields dotted with wild iris onto the ridge above where I left the intrepid pair for their two-day trek. Tom had done this walk before a few years ago and had loved it so was keen to revisit.

Grazalema Natural Park was designated a Unesco Biosphere reserve in 1977 and the Sierra de Grazalema was declared the first natural park in Andalucia in 1984. It is one of Spain’s most ecologically outstanding areas. The 51,695 hectare park is famous for its spectacularly rugged limestone landscape of cliffs, gullies, caves and gorges.

The region is well known for being the rainiest place in Spain, with an annual rainfall of 2,200mm, which means that the 1,300 Mediterranean plant species that have been registered here, many of them endemic and some of them unique to the Sierra, flourish.

The town of Grazalema, which nestles between two rugged peaks is well worth a visit, not only because of its spectacular setting, but because there is a bakery selling the best cakes I’ve ever tried. Sadly for Tom, this wasn’t on today’s route.

With large birds of prey cruising on the thermals above, the pair headed down the concrete track – easy on the feet – through the forest with views to the Montes Grupo de Libar (Libar mountain range) beyond. The path then climbed up a rocky staircase between peaks before descending through scrubland to the vast flat-bottomed Libar valley. This is really a high plain and the lush grass provides grazing for the local cattle, giving the area the appearance of a prairie in a Western.

They headed west on an undefined path until reaching a large stone hut which offers shelter to hikers in summer but was closed up, presumably not anticipating mad Englishmen and their dogs arriving in mid-winter. However, it provided a good spot to strike camp, with water and a table for cooking and eating. Once she’d been fed and watered, Chica wanted to go to bed. She sat in her night jacket demanding entry to the tent but had to wait while Tom ate his freeze-dried hot pot!

Sleep was a little disturbed as Chica growled at the various grunts and howls in the night. At one point, Tom got up to investigate, concerned that there may be a hoard of marauding wild boar in the vicinity. There wasn’t, but the clear night sky was beautiful so far from civilisation.

In the morning, it was cold as the surrounding peaks screened the sun. Out of the early mist, a herd of small deer, probably roe, crossed the valley and a fox passed close by, alerting a sleepy Chica who opened one eye and then went back to sleep.

By 10, breakfasted and packed, they continued to the end of the high plain. From here the track gradually descended towards the pueblo blanco (white village) of Montejaque. Here they relaxed in a café for a while before continuing over the next range of hills to meet me on the road a few miles outside Ronda. Chica looked very pleased to see us!

“Was it as good as you remembered?” I asked.

“Absolutely, and more.”

“And the camping? Everyone here thought you’d freeze to death”

“Ha – as if! It was great!”

Day 8: Cerra de la Fantasia to Benacoaz 16k

Authors note: Because we have had such a long weather delay, I have decided to number only the days that Tom and Chica actually walk otherwise it is going to give a very unrealistic idea of how long it takes. That is why today is Day 8 and the last walking day was originally Day 10 (but is now Day 7). I have updated all the blog references to correspond.

We were up with the lark this morning. Earlier in fact, as it was still dark but we were keen after such a long rain delay. We left the village in fog and went in and out of the sun and mist all the way up to the start point miles into the forest. It was still murky there too and we didn’t hang around as there was a gathering of hunters. Their dogs were in trailers, barking with excitement as this is probably the only time they ever get let out of their cages. But what happens to them after the end of the season next week? I can’t bear to think about it. But that’s why we’re doing this – so onwards and upwards my faithful duo!

After coming out of the forest onto the road, the trees gave way to scrub and the track roughly followed the same route as the road. The mist made it hard to get a feel for the surrounding landscape at first but then as the mist became patchy there were glimpses of the majestic valley and surrounding mountains – a truly spectacular view but impossible to capture on a phone camera.

The track crossed the road and descended to the river – Rio de Ubrique – which heads towards the town of the same name. After a bit of a clamber up a steep, wet, rocky and rather unsavoury path between agricultural outbuildings, we popped out right next to the town sign.

It was a pleasant stroll through the comparatively large and bustling town centre. The sun was now properly out and so Tom stopped in a plaza outside the Town Hall and had a coffee while Chica scrounged titbits by breathing in and contriving to look half starved!  Carrying on up through the narrow streets, they arrived at the Convento de Capuchinos where a sign to Benacoaz pointed up a cobbled road: the Calzada Romana (Roman Road).

This proved quite tough on the feet as the cobbles were uneven and scattered but after 3.5k it emerged into the village of Bonacoaz, perched on the side of the mountain with vast panoramic views south –  stunning end to today’s beautiful walk.

Los Alcornacales – cork and pork and much, much more.

So far, during this part of the walk, Tom and Chica have been travelling through the unique habitat of Los Alcornacales. We fell in love with this beautiful area the first time we visited back in 2013. As we are rained off at the moment, I thought I’d take the opportunity to research more about the area, especially the amazing cork oaks which comprise large areas of the forest. 

Granted natural park status in 1989, Natural Park Los Alcornacales occupies a protected area of 170,025 hectares in Andalusia. Soil, moisture and traditional uses have been the main factors in the conservation of the largest productive area of cork trees anywhere on the Iberian Peninsula. Located in the province of Cadiz and part of Malaga (mainly in the municipality of Jimena de la Frontera, where we have just been walking), it runs from the mountains down to the recently created Estrecho Nature Park on the coast and is home to a variety of landscapes, flora, fauna, history and folklore.

This rich diversity is mainly due to the many rivers, streams and reservoirs but also the moisture that comes from the coast. This latter accumulates to form banks of mist in the deep, narrow gorges known as ‘canutos’. In these conditions, the ancient laurel forest flora has flourished. Characterised by smooth, bright leaves, it can make the most of the moisture and limited light that penetrates the alders growing on the edge of the gorges. So, amidst the scent of laurel and the beauty of flowering rhododendrons, you can walk through this dense forest accompanied by the sound of dippers, kingfishers, blackcaps and finches.

In the more clay-rich areas lower down you can see the wild olive tree, cleared from time immemorial to make way for pasture for the region’s most typical livestock, the brown Retinta cow. On the valley sides, the Mediterranean scrub of rockrose, heather, lavender, daphne and hawthorn is perfect for Andalusian deer, as well as buck, roe deer and carnivores such as genets, badgers and also the Egyptian mongoose –  the largest population anywhere on the Iberian Peninsula.

Cork production

Los Alcornacales and the surrounding areas are home to the Iberian cork industry. As well as its most well-recognised use as bottle-stoppers, cork is also found in many products from car construction to aeroplane insulation.

The cork oak, quercus suber, is a native of both the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean. Its age is unknown, but quercus suber or its ancestors have been around for at least 147 million years. It is a prophyte, ie a species adapted to survive fire. While other species rely on seed propagation to survive fires, the cork layer protects the stem of the tree so it only has to regenerate branches. This makes it very well adapted to the fire-prone forest of southern Spain.

Archaeologists have found evidence of tribes actively working with cork oak in northern Africa before 6,000 BC. Early man would have used the various species of oak for fire wood, tools, weapons; and for building as the hunter-gatherers began to settle. Similar evidence has been found in Andalucía and other parts of southern Spain dating back 4,000 years BC or more.

However, it would take a few thousands more years before the special sealant qualities of cork would be utilised. This property is due solely to the presence of one particular constituent: suberin. Suberin is a fatty substance found in the cells of the denser forms of cork which stops the passage of air or liquid.

Cork was probably first used as a sealant in containers by the Greeks and Phoenicians, for wines and other liquids in pottery containers but it would take the invention of the glass bottle, a fairly recent innovation in historical terms, for cork to finally meet glass. Legend claims that Friar Perignon, a French monk, discovered this use for cork on a slender glass bottle neck in the seventeenth century. As news of its efficacy spread, so a new industry appeared.

Cutting the cork is a highly skilled task and requires two years training. It is unusual for a tree to survive ring barking (the bark being removed around the complete circumference) and it needs to be done with care and at the right time. The cutters’ experience tells them how far to cut up the tree to avoid harming it.  Cutting is only legally permitted between 15 June and 15 August which is when gangs roam the oak forests, each of the usually five members having a specific role, from chief cutter to lowly carrier.

These gangs traverse the forest in a nine-year cycle, allowing the trees they cut to regenerate the cork in the intervening period. Their mules roam free in the forest except for the two month harvest period when they trek back and forth between harvest site and cork factory. So expert is their knowledge of the routes that, once loaded, a tap on the back will send them off unaccompanied. The town of Cortes de la Frontera actually holds burro-loading contests at its annual summer feria, with a prize for the most ingenious loading of a burro.

What we see lying curled on the ground is still many stages away from fitting into the neck of a bottle. At the factory the cork is boiled in a vast, deep pool of water, which renders it malleable for flattening and then processing by machine. The cork then goes through several levels of compression, depending on its destination. It emerges as very thin sheets of varying sizes, perhaps thinner than a child’s little finger. It is then checked for quality – the oak trade has five levels, from excellent to poor – and the oak is assigned to an appropriate use.

Most interestingly, however, is how it does reach the bottles we uncork. Bottle corks are stamped out by machines at different widths for wine, champagne and cognac (Spanish cork is treasured by French brandy producers). When they pile up in the dumpers beneath the pressing machines, they look like big wooden pennies. These are graded by quality, and then carefully fed into further compressing machines. Cork makers reckon that it would be a waste of good cork to use it throughout a wine or champagne cork, so lower quality cork is placed in the middle, highest quality at either end, where the cork meets both wine and outside air. These layers are then compressed so tightly we do not even notice that a cork we pull is not one single unit but a compression of up to eight layers crushed together. The finished corks are then dispatched to bottling plants across Europe and beyond.

There have, of course, been concerns about the rise of the plastic cork. Its proponents say that it prevents a bottle being ‘corked’, ie, spoiled, by air penetrating the old-fashioned cork. Its detractors argue that, beyond the aesthetics of levering a wad of white plastic out of your favourite wine, it doesn’t allow the alcohol to breathe naturally. (French brandies breathe so profusely that the distilleries are wreathed in fumes which promote fungi on the roofs and keep nearby cattle happily sozzled year-round.) Yet with even the British supermarket buyer seemingly moving upmarket in their choice of corked drinks, and the Spanish and French keeping their noses in the air over plastic stoppers, it seems the Iberian peninsula can hold on to its two billion euro cork industry yet.

Other uses for cork include flooring. We have some of this in our bathroom at home. A long way from the basic dull cork tiles of old, now it comes in stunning patterns and looks beautiful. It is also sustainable, provides excellent insulation and is lovely and warm to walk on. If I could, I’d floor the whole house with this.

Iberian pigs

The Iberian pig is a traditional breed of the domestic pig (Sus scrofa domesticus) that is native to the Iberian Peninsula and is currently found in herds clustered in the central and southern part of Portugal and Spain. Its origins can probably be traced back to the Neolithic, when animal domestication started.

The most commonly accepted theory is that the first pigs were brought to here by the Phoenicians from the Eastern Mediterranean coast, probably along the old droving tracks one of which our route, the GR7, roughly follows. They interbred with wild boar and this cross gave rise to the ancestors of what are today’s Iberian pigs.

Prized Iberico ham

The production of Iberian pork is deeply rooted to the Mediterranean ecosystem. It is a rare example in world pig farming where the pig contributes so decisively to the preservation of the ecosystem. The Iberian breed is currently one of the few examples of a domesticated breed which has adapted to a pastoral setting where the land is particularly rich in natural resources, in this case acorns from the holm oak, gall oak and cork oak.

The numbers of the Iberian breed had been drastically reduced since 1960 due to several factors such as the outbreak of African swine fever and the lowered popularity of animal fats. In the past few years, however, the production of pigs of the Iberian type has increased to satisfy a renewed demand for top-quality meat and cured products. Now, though, there is controversy over the providence of the highly prized Iberico ham as breeders cash in on the market and produce a similar but much less sustainable product more cheaply, thus threatening this ancient livelihood.

The Iberian pig can be either red or black or in between. In traditional management, animals ranged freely in sparse oak forest (dehesa in Spain, montado in Portugal).  They are constantly on the move and therefore burn more calories than confined pigs. This, in turn, produces the fine bones typical of this kind of jamón ibérico. At least a hectare of healthy dehesa is needed to raise a single pig. True dehesa is a richly diverse habitat with four different types of oak that are crucial in the production of prime-quality ham. The bulk of the acorn harvest comes from the holm oak (Quercus ilex) but also the Pyrenean oak (Quercus pyrenaica) and Portuguese or gall oak (Quercus lusitanica) and the late cork oak season, which extends the acorn-production period from September almost to April.

Some recent research from Cordoba university concluded {the translation isn’t perfect but you get the idea}:

‘The couple Iberian pig and dehesa has proved to be very effective; so much [so] the Iberian pig is called the dehesa jewel, but the first needs this agro-ecosystem to reach its highest quality properties (organoleptic and nutritional ones); and the second needs a clear commercial differentiation for Iberian pork and cured products in order to receive a high price to maintain and conserve the dehesa. Spanish authorities should be responsible for protecting this traditional system from fraud and unfair competition. In this way, farmers economy could be enough to conserve this unique ecosystem and its values for the whole society.’*

Whether you eat pork or not you may still believe as I do, that this traditional and sustainable way of producing it is better for the ecosystem and the pigs than intensive farming on a huge scale. And we love seeing the black pigs snuffling through the forest. I hope it can be protected along with the rest of this remarkable and stunningly beautiful area.

Day 7: Jimena de la Frontera to Cerra de la Fantasia 20k

The last two days were non-walking days, one for bad weather and another to move base again. Now we have the luxury of being in a house for a while in Jimera de Libar, a village we know well.

So the day started with the drive back to Jimena and the weather looked reasonable. Again, Merlin refused to be left so the three of them set off up the path, climbing steadily for the first hour and a half.

The path eventually levelled out and passed beneath the rocky outcrops of the Altos de Paneron and Cerro de Marin. After a bare rocky sections where the route was harder to determine, they went into dense forest of oak and Spanish fir (we love these and call them lollipop trees because of their shape).  Both dogs in great form, but Tom was mean and moody :).

Dark clouds were gathering from all directions but the view to the coast was still impressive. However, it wasn’t long before the rain began and the temperature dropped.

Fortunately the rest of the route was on a well-defined and signposted track, winding down through the cork oaks in the midst of the Los Alcornacales. It was here deep in the forest that I eventually picked them up. I had forgotten that smaller Spanish roads aren’t always roads as I know them and the last five and a half miles I was driving along a rough track with no mobile signal, not at all sure I was in the right place. Even though we have a 4×4, I made very slow progress and it was with considerable relief that I found them, damp but completely unconcerned.

Day 6: Castillo de Castellar to Jimena de la Frontera 22k

Today was the longest walk so far and didn’t actually start until late as we decided to shift base. By the time we had the caravan installed on a site in Jimena de la Frontera and I’d driven Tom and Chica back to Castillar it was 2pm. Chica was obviously refreshed after her day off and keen to go. Castillar again looked amazing and it was great to know the start is downhill on a tarmac path through more lovely woodland.

As it levelled out, the tarmac gave way to a gravel track through scrub and grazing land occupied mainly by local brown retinto beef cattle. A huge old farmhouse had seen better days and seemed unoccupied, at least by humans. The scenery changed again as they entered the first cultivated area they had come across since the start. No idea what the crop is though.

The route met up with the railway track and would stay with it all the way to Jimena. There was a pony grazing here. Despite having a rug and being quite friendly, the white hairs on its nose indicate it has been put in a seraton – a noseband with spikes that dig into the soft flesh of the muzzle. These are still used a lot in Spain. Nearby there was a donkey that was hobbled – which is now illegal. Equines get a rough deal here sometimes.

There were a few dwellings as they approached Jimena – one with a very impressive gate. The shell motif is associated with St James and is a common one on caminos (pilgrim trails) although more usually found on the famous Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.

The light was fading fast and the last hour or so was done in virtual darkness with Jimena castle luminations acting as beacon to the weary traveller.