Trekking Costa Del Sol - Easter 2013

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Thursday 1 May 2014

Trekking Costa Del Sol - Easter 2013

Our trek along the Costa Del Sol in late March 2013 was a real new experience for us in many ways. Firstly, we would be using a lot of our new, lightweight hiking gear such as our Osprey Exos 58l packs, down filled sleeping bags and carbon fibre trekking poles. Having upgraded a lot of our gear in early 2013 we were very excited to really give it all a proper test. Secondly, this would be the very first time we'd be eating our homemade dehydrated soups on the road! Thirdly, this was the first multi-day hiking trip where I was attempting to managing my health issues on the road as in other trips we'd always be coming back to a hotel room at night.

So we knew there would be a lot to learn on the trail and we flew into Malaga more than a little nervous about what lay ahead. We had originally talked about picking up part of the GR7 long distance trail and heading through part of the Sierra Nevada mountains, but this early in the year there was still a lot of snow in the hills and the weather reports were very bad, so we decided to play it safe and stay warm walking by the sea.  It was after all a holiday and if we'd wanted sleet and snow we could have just stayed home for that!

Where is the camping?!?
From some cursory planning we'd seen from GoogleMaps that it looked like you could walk along the coast most of the way and that there were usually campings spaced, at most, 30km apart for the first week at least. So we set off from Malaga, heading east towards Torre del Mar. The weather was fine, a few showers, but warm and we covered a lot of ground and as the day drew to a close we estimated we'd walked more than 20 miles already. But where was the camping? On and on we went until just when we felt we'd have to sleep by the side of the road we arrived at Camping Valle Niza Playa where we pitched up and showered as the sun set. We were almost too tired to eat, but I did rehydrate and cook our first meal - some tasty butternut squash and roast garlic soup, and it worked perfectly. We were both very happy and with slightly sore feet slept soundly.

The next day we walked another 20km but with tired feet cut the day a little shorter than our first day and stopped at Camping El Pino. The only downsides to Camping El Pino were very stony pitches (a bit of a theme we discovered on this trip) and the fact it was a 20 minute walk from the main road, uphill! Never mind, we were soon pitched up and cooking dinner again.

The third day was even shorter again, about 15km this time to Camping Nerja, a tourist hotspot right on the Mediterranean. We reached the camping not long after lunchtime but decided it was prudent to rest up. We were coming to realise that even though we were both very fit, gym fitness doesn't necessarily prepare you for multi day trekking where you are on your feet all day every day. Besides, Camping Nerja, on the foothills of the Sierra de Tejeda national park had amazing views and I even borrowed a book to read from the reception.

Beautiful coastline
Day 4 was a mammoth day on the road, but also had the best scenery by far since we'd left Malaga. We ended up reaching La Herradura after a day slogging up and down one of the most scenic roads we'd ever seen, winding its way along the Mediterranean coast. Unfortunately the camping we'd been aiming for turned out not to exist and we ended up back tracking on a late bus to the town centre to find a place to stay -a farm camping just outside the centre, where we seemed to be the only ones.

Unfortunately by now we'd reached the end of the nice coastal road and motorway took us further, so we hopped on an eastbound bus the next morning (Day 5) to Motril, a slightly larger town set back from the coast. From here we walked to Camping Don Cactus near Calahonda. We were amazed as we reached the brow of a hill overlooking Calahonda that everywhere we looked were growing tents covered with plastic and guarded by, as it turned, vicious dogs. In fact at one point we were faced down by 3 of the nasty beasts - an Alsatian licking it's lips, a Rottweiler and a Doberman in the middle of the road - all blocking our way and snarling. If a farmer in a van hadn't appeared and used his van as a shield between us and the dogs we could well have been backtracking 8km to Motril.

Only the English use the pools in March!
Camping Don Cactus was a huge site and a nice respite, so we stayed for 2 nights in the end with a day wandering around Calahonda (Day 6) coastline, preparing a slightly larger meal and just lying in the sun. Though it was sunny, it was still quite fresh. However, Esther still wanted to use the pool, which did look very inviting.  The timetable said the pool should be open, but yet the gates remained shut. A determined Esther went to reception to ask if there was a reason why the gates were locked.  The receptionist said he'd get someone to open the pool.  He spoke some Spanish into his walkie talkie and the reply was just laughter! 5 minutes later, someone came shaking his head to open the pool for an excited English girl!  Esther said it was freezing but after having gone to the trouble of getting someone to open the pool felt obliged to persevere and look happy.  

Planning ahead we realised we'd have to take another bus to avoid the motorway which we did the following morning (Day 7) to Adra where we hoped to pick up another easy to follow coastal path. Unfortunately the reality was that by now, couple hundred km from the tourist hotspots and the mountain foothills, there wasn't much scenery, just a lot of industry and no longer an obvious walking route by the coast. So we made an executive decision to hot foot back to Nerja where we'd had such a nice time. Also, I was struggling a bit with my health problems and couldn't face another night in a tent. So we took a 3 hour bus ride back to Nerja and booked into a hotel. Not really in keeping with our hiking goals but we both felt we needed it and it was especially appreciated as I spent much of the night in the bathroom.

Let's climb that mountain!
The next day we (Day 8) decided we would have an extra night in the hotel and have a day hiking in the nearby Sierra de Tejeda mountains, specifically aiming for the big cone shaped peak we could see from our hotel - whose name escapes me, but which stood at 1500m above sea level. We left right from the hotel and the early going was in the sunshine, but as we reached about 1100m the clouds rolled in and visibility went to zero. It blew away again so we pushed on, but after a few more false starts the cloud eventually came to stay for good and we reluctantly turned back. Tired feet got back to the hotel that evening, but at least we had a bed to go to.

Frigliana to Nerja
The following day (Day 9) we caught a local bus to Frigiliana and followed a trail through the national park back to Nerja. The route card can be found here. It took a full day in baking sunshine but it was well worth it. By the time we reached Nerja we were done in. We found a much cheaper B&B which was almost the same price as the camping at just 18 euros but, well, let's just say we still slept in our sleeping bags on the bed and left before breakfast!

With 3 days left until we flew home we started the hike back to Malaga, following the same trails we'd used just over a week earlier to reach Nerja in the first place, taking variants where they existed. The weather stayed fine and we managed to stay in different campings, including a lovely site at Torre del Mar.

We reached Malaga and then for our final night we'd found a hotel nearby in the (in)famous Torremolinos. As we had an early departure we wanted to be near the airport and well rested and for just 20 euros we decided to have one more treat. Unlike our last 20 euro attempt this hotel came with a sea view balcony, was clean, tidy and the staff very very helpful. A lovely way to end 12 days (mostly) on the trail.  In the morning, we set off early and walked from the hotel, finding our way through Malaga suburbs, all the way to the front door of the airport.

We had learned a lot about ourselves and our gear on this trip. Perhaps most importantly, although it was challenging, I had managed to cope with trekking and my health issues, although we'd needed a few more stop overs in hotels than planned.  Secondly, we made a list of all of the gear we wanted to change. We'd gone quite lightweight, but were still hauling full winter gloves and gaiters and 3 different methods of purifying water. That could definitely be slimmed down for future trips.  We'd had plenty of time whilst walking with sore feet to discuss what we wanted take out of our bags for next time!

Finally, as it had been some time since our last adventure abroad, we'd reminded ourselves that we are never more happy than when we on the trail and exploring the great outdoors......

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