THE SKIRTS OF MULHACEN

On one day during our Spanish holiday, Graham and I went for a day-long walk up to the mountains. Well, to the snowline anyway. We didn’t have the equipment or time to mount a full-scale expedition to the peak of Mulhacen, and I’m not really a winter mountain walker anyway, so we’re saving the real thing for a summer visit. Instead we took a route that took us under the Veleta ridge and below Mulhacen, following partly a waymarked route called the ‘Sendero los acequias del Poqueira’. Poqueira is the name of the river and gorge, and ‘acequias’ are the water channels built (mostly by the Moors) to get water where it’s needed to the fields and villages. Amazing feats of engineering, some of these, travelling miles and miles and, when viewed from across the valley, often appearing to defy gravity and be channelling the water upwards.

We drove up to Capileira and walked from there, on the way passing above La Cebadilla, a village that was created for the workers who built the water treatment works at the top of the gorge, but that is now abandoned and spookily empty, even the windows of the church smashed. We crossed rickety looking bridges that you wouldn’t think would take your weight, crossing over rushing, tumbling rivers of freezing cold water (I know, I paddled!). Twisting, turning, rocky paths climbed ever higher, taking us past numerous abandoned cortijos (farmhouses), but the buildings aren’t completely unused; they still provide shelter for livestock, and we passed cows with clanking bells around their necks, as well as spotting quite a few ibex (mountain goats) and we were even lucky enough to see three wild boar with about a dozen or 15 baby boarlets. And all the while, the snowy peaks were above us, gradually getting closer and closer.

Eventually we hit the (rather patchy!) snowline, and at the highest point of the walk, we joined one of the acequias, following it for a way, before heading back down through pine forest, to the welcome sight of Capileira below us.

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