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, June 14, 2012

June 10 2012 Section 19 Visitor centre to Vereda Estrella

The end of the walk .

June 10 2012 Section 19 Visitor centre to Vereda Estrella

We did it. Finally after all these weeks we joined the circle up and completed the last section down to Estrella.
It was quite sad to think that our walk was nearly complete, the project has kept us amused for so long, each week we had another section to finish.
We had saved the last section to the end. I know that sounds pretty obvious, but the way we had chosen to do the walk, in separate unconnected stages, enabled us to fit the walk in around different weather conditions on the northern and southern slopes. There were different  time requirements for doing the middle sections up in Almeria province, which took up a lot of traveling time. We could also see the same region in different seasons, we may have finished one section in the Spring and then went back to do the following one in the Autumn, but we had kept this last section so that the end of the book was the end of the walk.
The walk started from the Visitor centre on the Sierra Nevada road, the official start and finishing point of the Sulayr path. The track follows a paved road as it heads down towards Gúéjar Sierra. I can only remember walking on one other section of paved road in Capileira, and as they were both very quiet roads we can let it go.
The road winds its way down through some very lush countryside, past some very imposing houses that are dotted along the hillside. We had not travelled far when we were joined by a dog who seemed keen to show us the way. He probably spends every day waiting to guide befuddled old gits on this section of the Sulayr. In the end we named him Sue after the Sulayr path.
After 4 kms we left the road and picked up a forest track as it headed into the San Juan valley, this is a great area and we will return to do some further exploratory walks soon.
We stopped for a little lunch at la Hortichela, a delightful wooded area, before setting off for the final short walk down to the Vereda Estrella. Just as we arrived at the Junction with the Estrella path, and the end of our 300 km trek, a very nice young lady from the Medio Ambiente arrived. Normally when you get to the end of a long distance path there is no one there to welcome you, to say well done, but we had an official from the authority responsible for the whole Sierra Nevada National park. I could not have arranged it better if King Juan Carlos had been there! I told the group I had arranged for her to be here to welcome us.
After the obligatory photo opportunity we turned around and headed back towards our starting  point. We were expecting Sue to leave us as we passed his house, but no, he continued with us back to the cars.
You can’t celebrate the end of a long distance walk without a bottle of Champagne, well you can in Spain, you spend €2.55 buying a bottle of Cava from Diá. We celebrated in style, nine people to one bottle, and then headed for the bar. To our surprise Sue also joined us, the Camerero knew where he lived so we left him there.
In the afternoon the celebrations continued around at Mike and Sheila’s.
The Sulayr path has been an incredible journey for us, every walk has been different and very enjoyable, the final section today was a fitting end to our adventure.         

The walkers; Mike, Kees, Ray, Graham, Rene, Mark, José, Daniella and myself.

Distance walked on route today,7.4 km. Total distance today 15.4 km. Height climbed today 585 metres. Total distance walked on the Sulayr path 299.3 km. Distance left to do 0.7 km. Total height climbed 24394 metres. Total distance walked 671.5 km.  

Somehow along the route we lost 0.7 km, we don’t know where it went, someday we may have to go back and re-measure the distances.

Whilst inking the route into my maps I discovered the missing .7 km. When we had done the Trevelez sections we had walked out of the village on one walk. The next time we walked into Trevelez we had caught the bus back to Capileira from the outskirts of the village and never completed the route through the village. We all blamed Ray for this oversight and returned to Trevelez on the 19th June 2012 to finish it off. We could not have lived with ourselves otherwise. It was also an excuse to go and do another a fabulous walk from there.  

When we had originally planned the walk there were going to be five of us, Mike, Kees, Ray, Graham and myself. A totally boy’s own adventure, this did not go down well with the girls in the group, we were accused of being sexist,  being old gits someone had to explain what sex is.
In the end we relented and allowed them to join us, subject to them not whinging when conditions got tough.
It soon became apparent that Ray and Graham would not be able to complete every section as they were not living here permanently. So it was down to Kees, Mike and myself to walk the full distance, with the others walking when they were around. We weren’t able to walk every week, most of the walk is at an altitude of around 2000 metres so in the winter it is covered in snow, in the summer it is too hot, and there were holidays and sickness to contend with.
I must single Rene out for special mention, not only was there no moaning, except for our occasional choice of bar in Cadiar, on most of the walks she out walked us.
Mark gets a special mention for taking his poor little Renault van up some very rough off road bits.
Plym gets a mention for her minimalist approach to walking, whilst the rest of us were taking full packs, stuffed with food, drinks and spare clothing. Plym would turn up with a banana, but only if it was going to be a long walk.
Ray gets a mention for being so quiet, there were times on the long car journeys when I had to keep checking in the mirror to make sure he had not fallen out of the car.
Graham for his unstinting controversial comments.
Finally Mike and Kees, without them and their unshakable belief that I knew where we were going the walk would never have been completed.

Hopefully we will try and and put it all down in a book so we all have a permanent record of what must be one of the best walks ever devised.  

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