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The beds were very comfortable and combined with the fresh mountain air meant that we had a very good night’s sleep and enjoyed a bit of a lie-in, scandalous behaviour on our holiday! After breakfast we returned to our room and got ourselves ready to go for a walk. My North Face trousers felt very tight! We had been marking pages in the “Walk! The Alpujarras” book by Charles Davis and differed a little on choice of walks but we settled on an easy/moderate walk for today (walk no.17, to La Cebadilla).

The forecast the hotel receptionist gave us yesterday was for decent weather today, turning cloudy and wet again from Thursday on. Having picked the walk, I now spent a few minutes carefully entering the waypoints in my GPS. It was a sunny day, with clouds hanging in the valley lower down, below us. We now got our first proper impressions of the pretty village. We walked into the centre of the village and found a small supermercado to buy some ingredients for a picnic lunch (bread, local cheese, sausage/longaniza, a tasty pepper, water and some biscuits). We weren’t the only tourists or hikers and bumped into a group of Dutch women doing the same, although with less success at Spanish than we had. They were most impressed by my near-fluent questioning as to which of the cheeses was the strongest. Then we started our walk.

First we had to find the starting point on the edge of the village, which we did easily enough, by chance more than by map-reading! The path started to climb quite steadily along the sides of the valley as we made our way out of the village and through the scenic fields and trees. We started to sweat quite quickly, especially as the sun was still out. Early on in the walk we came across a local man leading two donkeys back to the village. I noticed that my GPS wasn’t showing us as being anywhere near any of the waypoints I had so carefully entered, and then realised that I had entered a set for a different walk altogether. Ness said she had been wondering why I was keying in a set of numbers for a totally different walk but had assumed that I knew what I was doing! Since we were going to rely quite a bit on this information, we spent the next couple of minutes re-entering the correct coordinates and then continued.

Coming back our way was an older couple, who we asked to take a picture of us together. We heard the Scottish accent and learned they came from Dumfries. We settled into the rhythm of the walk and it was a pleasure to be walking in these surroundings. We were still at relatively low altitude, not really in dramatic mountain scenery but in more pleasant woodlands and sun-dappled fields. We climbed further and further into the valley and it became more wooded, pines etc., and rocky. We turned onto a wide track or path and continued to head north. All around us were lovely woodland scents of pine and more. The clouds parted now and then to leave gaps through which we could see the clear blue sky. The air was lovely and fresh and it felt great to get lungfuls of mountain air. At some point the path started to descend as it made its way to the far end of the valley, to La Cebadilla, where there now was a small power station.

At this point we had to start heading back, following a path which climbed back up along the other side of the valley, the western side. This track was much narrower than the one before which was more like a small road. La Cebadilla itself consisted of a collection of abandoned buildings and houses. A small picturesque church, not much larger than a chapel, was a sad sight inside as it had been thoroughly vandalised. The track back climbed quite steeply, with some dramatic views across the edges of the corners as the path turned out of sight, and we worked up quite a sweat as we puffed our way up and up. Heading this way we of course got to see the valley ahead of us and the views were all the better, with the fields, the old stone cottages and the typical grain threshing circles. We bumped into several Dutch people, including one group of twenty or so which included the two women we had seen in the supermercado earlier on. They were all puffing and sweating away. After our steep climb up it was now mostly a gentle downhill for most of the way, on a path through the trees and fields. We descended down to the river at the centre of the valley, where there was a recommended picnic spot on the rocks by the river under the poplars. Sounded idyllic, but when we got there the best spot, a large flat rock by the bridge, had already been taken by two locals who looked comfortably settled, and it was a bit too hard to clamber over the rocks on the other side to reach the spot the author of the walks book had suggested. Instead we faffed a bit over where to sit and eventually settled on the wall of the bridge. We had our picnic lunch but were bothered by pesky flies. Not quite as idyllic as the surroundings might have suggested. Still, it was a nice break and much needed before we tackled the climb back up on the other, eastern, side of the valley towards Capileira.

Across the bridge, Puente Buchile, the rocky path now climbed steeply, with quite sharp drops to our right, and I had to think of Barry and his vertigo. I was ok with it, but at one point I did rather hug the inside of the path! Ahead of us we had stunning views over the valley, with its green trees, including poplars and looked to me like cypresses, as well as chestnut trees, with their bright green chestnut balls (like baubles in a Christmas tree) against the yellow/brown of the fields, and the sun dappling the scenery between the clouds. On the way up we were passed by a group of four mountain bikers (walking!) We continued to climb all the way up to the village, Capileira, and had to ask for some help from a local woman for directions to the Plaza, the one with the Bar El Tilo, and she was helped out by the two locals who we had seen by the bridge earlier, and who had caught up with us now, and who led the way for us through the maze of twisting streets. At the bar we had some very welcome beers! We were both very sweaty and we quickly headed for showers at the hotel next, and felt greatly refreshed afterwards.

From our hotel room balcony we had stunning views over the valley, now withouth clouds (which still lingered but lower down now, and they seemed to come and go, as if the earth was breathing in and out). We spent some time writing our diaries. Later (by now our body clocks have adapted to having dinner at a later time!) we went back out for dinner. We couldn’t quite decide which of the many places to go for but one near our hotel at the top of town, Ruta de las Nieves, looked very convivial and the upstairs room with its dark wood and peppers hung to dry (many freshly hung) looked spot on, and so was the hearty food. Ness had an excellent rabbit stew, conejo …, and I had a portion of espinacas (spinach) and asparagus with a fried egg, and the plato alpujarreño, which had a bit of everything: morcilla – very tasty black pudding but unlike the British variety in texture, longaniza, pork belly, etc. Very filling and very satisfying. We finished it off with delicious home-made ice-cream (with honey!) and then toddled up the hill and into bed!