Friday, 3 January 2014

Cazorla National Park

Dirt road
Puebla de Don Fadrique is just a small town with not much to do and see so that I left after only one night. I would have a longer rest in Cazorla which is only 5 days away and much bigger. The walk out of Puebla looked horrible: A 32 km road walk! I have hardly had any long road walks so far in Spain and was not looking forward to that one. But as far as road walks are concerned this one was not bad at all. First of all I split it into two days. Secondly there was hardly any traffic on the narrow road and the scenery was nice. Day one was only half a day of hiking and took me up to 1,700 m. At the end of the day I detoured onto a dirt road that looped back to the highway. Same mileage, but dirt instead of pavement and higher. That meant that I ended up at 1,700 m and plenty of snow for camping... Still my sleep system handled the cold pretty well and it was nice to be off pavement for a while.

Snow above 1,500 m
Next day I was back on the highway for the second half of roadwalking. Snow line is around 1,500 m right now and I was dropping below that now to get into Santiago de la Espada. The route leaves the highway (no trail marker though) and passes through a river gorge with an old cave settlement. The houses were built directly into the rock high above the river but mostly abandoned. Still I saw some kids playing and a lot of trash which was sightly eerie. As there were no trail markers I got slightly lost and had to walk through the houses when I finally spotted an adult. The only people still (or again) living there is a group of friendly young greenies who set me back on track.

Abandonded cave dwelling
There are several supermarkets in Santiago de la Espada none of which I had found when researching this trip - uselessly carrying 4 days worth of food from Puebla. This was New Year's Eve and I wanted to find a nice and quiet campsite. So onward to Pontones and sheep country were I was spotted by a lonely sheep dog. The dog followed me forever but I did not want a camping companion. He probably preferred sheep anyways. With perfect timing I found a stand of pine trees on flat ground and this is were I spent the last hours of 2013. No fireworks disturbed my sleep.

Cazorla NP
When I peered out of my tent next morning I thought I was in Scotland instead of Andalucia. Sheep pastures in fog and a slight drizzle were awaiting me. I was amazed that there were still sheep kept outside. Even at 1,700 m and snow I had still seen sheep looking for grass under the snow. The weather could not be helped and therefore I put on my raingear and set off for Pontones where things improved dramatically. First the sun came out and then the GR 7 (no trail markers) coincided with the brand new GR 247 (perfect Waymarking and signposts everywhere). The GR 247 "Bosques del Sur" is just a couple of months old and definitely worth hiking. Unlike the GR 7 it usually passes free refugios something I would be missing the next two days because it started to rain. It had not rained in this region for 4 months - probably just waiting for me to come through...

Cazorla NP
To make things (and the weather) worse I was now going up to high elevation. After passing the source of the river Segura the trail climbs up into Cazorla National Park. I would hike for 2,5 half days through this beautiful park but unfortunately I did not see much of it because of constant fog and drizzle. The route does not stay up all the time. You drop down into the valley of the Guadalquivir river twice following the river and its spectacular side streams for a while. On day two the rain really got to me. Although it was not raining hard everything gets wet after a while. I had to cook under an umbrella sitting on a wet rock under dripping trees - no fun! You are hiking mostly on forest roads but even they had turned into one huge mud puddle - not to mention the countless rock falls that let me worry about a safe campsite. Of course no one was out there hiking except me. At least it was relatively warm despite the high altitude. After putting on wet rain gear and a wet backpack two mornings in a row I was definitely ready for a warm and dry hotel room.

But the trail was winding through every nook and cranny and took forever. This was supposed to be one of the most beautiful places of my entire hike but I did not really enjoy it with a visibility of less than 50 m and a wet butt. (Another reason to come back and hike the GR 247 in sunshine...)

Finally Cazorla came into view with an abrupt change of scenery. I had hiked through pine forest for 5 days but the view down from Cazorla was nothing but olive trees - one huge sea of olive trees. (28 million olive trees in Jaen I was told - I guess I'll see more olive trees in the next days). But at least I got the timing right: more rain is forecasted for tomorrow when I will have a full rest day in Cazorla.


Juan Holgado said...

Christine. Have a good rest in Cazorla where I will be also on a month from now walking another part of the GR247 Bosques del Sur.
Olive trees and so on to Sierra Mágina and Sierras de Jaen but do not worry about high altitude. Nice white villages and Alcala la Real where you can rest yourself again.
Enjoy the walking and hope the weather improves.

German Tourist said...

The GR 247 looks really interesting. I'll definitely hike it one day. I have discovered so many other hiking trails in Spain I'll soon be back here.