Saturday, 3 January 2015

Our most ambitious ascent yet - walking the hills above Mojacar

We discovered a stunning walking route yesterday. Dave had already
View back down to Mojacar pueblo and playa from way above 
researched a way out of Mojacar pueblo that would get us out onto the hills, already pretty high up, and we could then strike out 'off piste' as it were and explore at will. Starting with a very slight downhill section out of Camping El Quinto, practically all the first two hours were relentless climbing, and an equal proportion of the second half of the walk was, unsurprisingly, almost as steeply down again! However, we managed a total of five hours actual walking with an ascent from lowest to highest points of 600 metres - our longest ascent yet. Plus, neither of us ended up injured so we are very proud!

If you'd like to try this walk yourselves, the following link should go to the gmaps pedometer website where we've clicked round the route, as accurately as we could see. The tracks are fine, but the middle section of the footpath was tricky to make out on satellite view. For walking purposes, stay on the footpath! It's mostly very clear on the ground. Overall the whole route is a little over eight miles and I'd advise walking sticks and good boots as a few short sections are bordering on a scramble.

Setting out from the campsite at 11am, we went up the road to the edge of Mojacar pueblo, further up past the school and the big car park, up past the back of some apartments, and out of town another street that passed a house with six barking dogs and ended by a water building. Then onto a rough track which, when it forked, had a Privado chain across the road, but with a obvious footpath width clear to the left side for walkers. Every so often we could hear bursts of almost Moorish music floating up from one of the buildings on the edge of town. Be sure to turn back every so often as you climb away because there's some great views back down to Mojacar and beyond. The horizon was hazy but even so we thought we could see as far along the coast as Mazarron.

The track became rougher the further along it we went as fewer vehicles needed to use it. Eventually it petered out altogether and, casting our eyes around, we spied a single-person-width footpath continuing on into the wilderness. At this point, we had no idea where the footpath led but, as it seemed to be upwards, we had a crazy idea about getting to 'the top', we had our lunch with us and all the afternoon's sunlight remained, we followed it. The ground changed from dry greyish scree to a rich terracotta-brown earth. There was lots of thyme, heather and lavender, and the air is beautifully clear. We had pure blue skies as well and not too hot so perfect for walking. Are you envious yet?!

At some points the footpath is fainter than others, but by using the 'El Torcal' method of navigating - looking for the darker colour of repeated footfalls on rocks - we kept going.The route varied from almost flat path to scrambles up what appeared to be a little dry waterfall. Around 1pm we began to get a little worried as we weren't exactly sure where we were in relation to looping back before dark. We knew we could easily retrace our steps, but having already been that way, we wanted to keep travelling forwards. We found ourselves with GPS on Dave's phone. The track, however, was too naturally coloured to show up on the satellite view. We decided to keep going forward until lunch. The views across the hills and occasionally out to sea are so beautiful. In the very far distance we could even see snow-covered mountains. I almost wished I had a tent in a backpack and could keep going right until the horizon!

A(nother) abandoned building just below the skyline to our right with a dry streambed below it was the setting for lunch. We were careful not to leave anything behind as, unusually for Spain, we hadn't seen any litter at all since leaving the vehicle tracks. Given the extra half hour of our being still, Dave's phone GPS managed to really sharpen the satellite image and I could now make out not only our footpath, but also a white track close by in the direction we were going. The whiteness looked as if it would lead round to wide tracks back home. Imagine our surprise when our footpath not only actually met this track, but we crested a slope to be greeted with this signpost - the first and only in nearly three hours!

We came from 'A Mojacar'

I was glad that we had lunched where we did, ie before joining the PR370 track, because the footpath, despite being obviously well-used, felt isolated and almost magical. I loved feeling as though we were the only people there and that we had this vast landscape to ourselves. If I ever do get around to writing my own novel, I should definitely set some of it here! 

Once on the PR370, there were vehicle tyre marks and and we left the fox-red earth behind for dry scree again. Somehow knowing other people have walked a route, historically or recently, has a certain romance to it. Knowing they drove there in their cars just doesn't have the same effect. There were a lot of sparkly slate fragments lying by the sides of the tracks and heaped in steep valleys. They looked like silver twinkling in the sunlight and where the roads had been carved into the hills, the sides were a wonderful blend of coloured rocks from purples to oranges. The track was marked with official yellow and white striped marker poles and, had we gone to its conclusion, would have taken us to Turre - not far from our campsite - where there are bars. However, in order not to have to finish with an(other) uphill, we instead took ourselves off via La Alcantarilla which must have been a pretty hamlet once but is now mostly deserted. Here there is a quaint stone bridge over a narrow single-carriage road and an orchard with three cute donkeys in it. There are also two new houses each with several barking dogs. We had walked these few streets a few days ago in the outward direction so remembered that when the way ends in a high gate, we could step left over a dirt bank onto a crumbling road which would be suicidal for motorists. It's fine for walkers though.

Although, we were glad to get back to Bailey again for a well-deserved sit-down and a cup of tea, I think this is one of the best walks we have done. I remember one in the Brecon Beacons and one in the Picos which had similar senses of vastness. I love walks where the path seems endless and the possibilities infinite. I hope we will discover many more!

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