The start of it

For a long time, whilst out walking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, we have come across footpath signs to Sulayr but we were never able to connect the signs to any known path, they always seemed to point to somewhere high in the Sierra Nevada. Then in August 2009 whilst on the Mulhacen mountain bus Paco, the guide, explained that it was a 300 km circular path running around the Sierra Nevada National park.
Slowly my interest in this walk was aroused, but it always looked like it would be a ambition never undertaken. The path runs around the Sierras at about 2000 meters, and the thought of taking our poor little Renault Kangoo up all those access tracks to the start of a new section of the walk filled me with dread, it was our only car.
In 2011 the chance came to buy another car, and the thought of walking the Sulayr path gained momentum. What was needed were some good buddies to share the experience. My wife has always classed the “The A Team” of the Lecrin Valley Limpers as something out of “The Last of the Summer Wine”. A group of old men who go out in to the mountains for the day and come home raggy arsed, tired and dirty. After careful consultation with fellow team members who jumped at the chance of expeditions into the high Sierras I decided to buy a small 4X4.
This is the story as it unfolds.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

1 November 2011 Section 17 to the Lavaderos de la Reina

Lavaderos de la Reina

This week we did a section of the walk that is difficult to access, It is in the middle of section 17. We have done either end of it previously, but the middle bit involves an 8.3 km walk to get to the start of the path. We had left it until this week because we understood that the Autumn colours on the route were spectacular.
With another 7 am start we drove to Purullena, where we had arranged to meet Mark and Plym, before driving to Lugros and the off road section which would take us to the start of the walk. Normally when we hit the dirt road it heads up hill towards the Sulayr path saving us a considerable amount of effort in getting up there, but this week the road was virtually flat. After about 3 km of driving we came to a gate across the road and the starting point for our walk. Up until the gate the road had been a rough track, the other side someone had gone to considerable expense to lay a slate tiled road surface. The road was in a steep sided wooded valley and, as it slowly climbed, the colours of the trees became more intense, changing from yellows at the bottom through orange to deep reds at the top. We followed the tiled road for about 4 km until we eventually arrived at what we thought must be stock pens where they auctioned the cattle that roam in the hills. With such an expensive road we had been expecting a hotel or mansion, but no, just a cattle pen!
From here the road left the trees behind and went back to what we are used to, a dirt track. At one point a Golden Eagle flew past us no more than 15 metres away, I was so mesmerised that I did not manage to get my camera out, it would have made David Attenbrough jealous. It took us 2.5 hours to reach the start of the Sulayr path, which we then followed towards the Lavaderos de la Reina.
This is the third time we have visited this magnificent valley looking for the Sulayr path, on both previous occasions we have approached it from the other direction and we have been unable to see where the path went, hence one of the reasons for coming in from this direction. The path is difficult to follow but because we now knew where we wanted to be we did not have a problem and we arrived at our destination in time for lunch. You could not get a better place to stop, it was superb, but with the cloud starting to roll in and the temperature dropping we thought it best to head back, not only had we the 12 km walk back to do. We also wanted to walk back towards Postero Alto and to the end of the trail we had been to on July 8 2011.
Over the course of our Sulayr walk we have awarded Brownie points to members of the group who have shown outstanding leadership or path finding abilities. In Britain they are looked upon like a medal of honour, something to be proud of. So it came as a shock to discover two of the group, and I will not name them to save embarrassment but, they are both Dutch. One who does not have Brownie points was trying to buy some for a bar of chocolate, the other who was selling also does not have any either, this was a blatant attempt at short selling. I know this kind of thing goes on in the European Union, but in our group it is banned. Let this be a lesson, no more sneaky foreigner tricks, if you want to buy some Brownie points see me.
In the past we have had discussions regarding whether water in an acequia (canal) can flow up hill. I tend to go along with the general scientific observation that it can’t, but there are those amongst us who believe that a 1000 years ago the Arabs discovered an ingenious method of lifting water without the use of energy. Well once again we were walking by an acequia when the cry went out, “look the water is going up hill”. If we didn’t need oil to create energy Gaddafi would be still alive and living in his tent and we would have perpetual motion.  
We walked back along the Sulayr track until we came to the point we had reached previously. We have now completed the whole of the north side of the walk, a magnificent achievement. Plym has a maximum limit of 30 km at which point she falls over, so we approached our return journey with some trepidation as it would be be touch or go as to whether she would be able to make it back. We did consider the possibility of carrying her, but this would have slowed us down somewhat and we were looking forward to our beer and tapas. We arrived back with 300 metres to spare, pretty good planning and at least she did not have to spend the night on the hills.
On the drive out we had passed a lot of cave houses in a village called Marchal, we thought we might be able to find a cave bar in the village so we headed there for our refreshment. What a miserable place, not even a bar so we headed back to our morning coffee stop in Purullena.
We had had a long day but it was a fantastic walk, one of the best to date. Every section so far has been great, it is going to be difficult to vote for the best one.    
The walkers Mike, Kees, Rene, Plym, Graham, Mark, and myself.

Distance walked on route today, 6. km. Total distance today 29.7 km. Height climbed today 1178 metres. Total distance walked on the Sulayr path 214.5 km. Distance left to do 85.5 km. Total height climbed 17213 metres. Total distance walked 500.3 km.