Taha de Pitres……….. a hike through seven villages

Once you’ve spent a day or two becoming familiar with the vicinity you’re stationed in when you’re visiting the Alpujarras, your appetite for more of the same increases exponentially. So, from the occasional ramble between little viilages, you venture out into the slightly longer hikes, like the one I described in my blog of yesterday. The ease of getting around, and the simplicity of the access is quite liberating. Yes, this is mountain territory and the weather can close in any time, yes, some of the tracks are quite steep, and some of the surfaces quite corrugated, but something about the place makes you feel adventurous and explore more and venture out further.

So, when I picked up a leaflet “Exploring the Alpujarras” with Elma Thompson – Taha de Pitres – Seven Villages, the decision to do it was obvious. In hindsight, when I think about it now, 7.5km over donkey and similar tracks, is not really a long hike, though when you think about walking between seven villages, it somehow feels a lot further than it actually turned out to be. The route that links these villages, is ancient as it follows the medieval caminos that were used before modern transport dictated alternate access. An extract from the leaflet reads ” do not expect to find shops or even bars in each village – though you will find an abundance of drinking water”. So, backpacks packed with munchies it was off to the start. Ironically, the walk starts next to a bar/restaurant on the min road. just in case anybody needed topping up to avoid any withdrawal symptoms from the abstinence over the kilometers ahead :-):-).

The route starts in pitres, and it doesnt take long to realise why alternate routes had to be found for modern transportation, the first downhill part was literally a slot cut into a bank, which you soon realise is in excess of 2m deep….a bit daunting if the banks were a bit unstable, but its been there a while so it shouuld be fine:-). Before long, all of 20 minutes later, you reach Mecina. The significant thing about the closeness of these two villages, is how the altitudes differ, Pitres is 1245m, and Mecina 1027, yep! 218m difference in height!! hopefully that will emphasive how steep that bank must have been.

 The route continued to Mecinilla, then on to Fondales hich turned out to be the lowest village of the route at 930m. A short while later you cross the Puenta de Fondales (bridge), and the route leading to Ferreirola at 1005m starts the climb back up the slope. Interestingly, as you approached each little village there was always a group of three or for village elders I assume just hanging out there having a chat. They paused mid conversation, nodded an acknowledgement and just continued about their conversation. Along the route you encounter fruit and nut trees, amongst them almonds and oranges, and houses as described in previous blogs, though with quite high density, packed closely together, with very narrow roads in between and tunnels that are called “tinaos” where buildings straddled the road at the upper level. Houses were kitted out with flower boxes, and planting, chainlink screens, and even an outdoor hammock with an incredible view. Your instinct is to just buy a place and move there 🙂 and trust me, I lingered for a while at every te vende (for sale ) sign I stumbled upon.

Ferreirola was the next village followed by Atalbeitar at 1139m. There are numerous “hito” (marker posts) along the way, so theres no reason to feel like you’re lost, occasionally the route joins the GR7 hiking route through Europe. From Atelbeitar the route takes you to Portugos at 1303m before the circuit is completed when the path returns to Pitres. The hike was a wonderful way to discover so many little villages with populations all below 500 and not even exceeding a few more than one hundred in one case. Something that one becomes familiar with in this area of villages with tiny populations is how few people one sees. This is further amplified during the Spanish afternoon siesta, during which I walked through a few of the villages, the place was deserted except for a few hospitable street cats who decided to hang around to provide a friendly welcome to visitors who didn’t quite get the idea of the siesta and chose to go on a hike instead  :-):-)……..the journey continues……………………………………………………………

Which brings me to todays images, taken along the route of the seven village hike…. ………..my thanks to Elma Thompson for her comprehensive and explicit directions which made this hike very enjoyable..:-)

paradise for hikers with musical diversion along the way…………………

Once you find a place to stay in the Alpujarras, and you’ve taken a little time to orientate yourself, you begin to realise the extent of the connection between the surrounding villages. The caminos I was describing in yesterdays blog, just have a way of connecting every village to the next and more. So its like this multitude of necklaces that all laid over one another and the villages are little beads each with its own little community, sometimes as small as 104 people. The roads obviously are a secondary means of connection but the distances are substantially longer, as they have to wind their way along contours ascend and decend where the slope makes it possible etc. So you can imagine with all these caminos, this is absolutely a paradise for hikers. But this was winter, so there were not so many of them about, in fact very few, but fortunately for me the weather was being super polite. Beautiful sunny days, just below 20 deg C, perfect hiking conditions, and a multitude of hiking options, long routes, short routes, climbing ones, descending ones, ones that passed through villages along the way, and more. Bubion, and the other two villages I visited are situated on the Precipice of Poqueira, essentially a steep cliff which meets a river at the bottom of its descent, and starts climbing on the opposite side. One of the routes takes you along this steep slope down to the river, where you can cross a bridge and head over to the other side where you can ascend again to the top of the slope on the other side.

Along the hiking routes in the area it is common to find isolated dwellings called “cortijos”, most of them abandoned as people emigrated out of the area and into the villages or moved away. The abandoned buildings are quite derelict and neglected with obvious signs that the forest was taking back its territory. Every now and then you stumble upon one that has been reinstated by people moving back into that specific area.

After crossing the bridge and walking on the other side I passed a horse tied to a tree, rather strange that he was just out there in the wood in a somewhat deserted spot?? A little further, there appeared to be what looked like one of the abandoned cortijos, looking pretty derelict and completely overgrown by vegetation and bush. So I just ambled along assuming it too was just one of the abandoned ones. The next instant I became aware of something moving behind me, and before I could even register what it was, I heard this fierce barking from what looked like a really vicious dog that was held back by a makeshift leash, literally inches away from my leg. Its enough to give you a cold shiver!!  I’m not even going to think about what would have happened if he wasn’t on the leash, or if the leash was any longer!! It gives me the creeps to this day!!

It turned out the dog belonged to Eric, an old guy who had moved into this abandioned cortijo, with his fifteen cats, one horse, and rambo :-):-). We managed to understand one another through his spanish and my english, as he gestured me to follow him inside his dilapidated abode, which didnt look one bit capable of human habitation, despite the visible food packaging, and large number of long life milk containers. He took me to a space which had walls plastered with pictures of him and visitors to his enclave taken over the many years he has been living there. He carefully removed a guitar from its case and sat down to play me a tune. He insisted that I take photographs of him, and with him, and gestured to a bowl that visitors to his “abode” leave contributions in. He seemed a likeable chap, an accomplished guitarist, who just found himself an ababdoned spot along a well used hiking route to provide an interesting deviation for hikers as they made the long climb to the top of the hill on the other side. I bade him farewell, and continued on my way to the second bridge where I would return to Bubion from……………………. The journey continues………………….

Todays images are taken along that route with two of the pictures that I had taken of Eric in his no longer abandoned cortijo………………………this post is dedicated to him, long may he entertain those that encounter his enclave……….