Days 106 & 107 – To be the man who walked a thousand miles…

Sunday 28th & Monday 29th October

I would just like you to compare the following 2 photos and kindly explain to me, “What in the name of tarnation happened!?”

Good thermometer, nice thermometer
Bad thermometer, naughty thermometer

Did you spot the difference? Did you? Exactly! A drop in temperatures of more than 26 degrees centigrade (43 degrees Fahrenheit for our US readers)!

These photos were taken just 3 days apart. The second, as if to add insult to injury, was taken at a more southerly latitude!

Yes, we have moved further south for climbing. It is however, colder here, in the Murcia region of Spain than it was on most of our early morning starts in the Alps at high altitude, on glaciers, wearing crampons!

If you read the link for Murcia, you will see that…

This region boast[s] over 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, and its coastline is bathed by the warm waters of two seas. In fact, its coast is known as the Costa Cálida (the balmy coast)…

Sounds lovely doesn’t it? Sounds toasty warm. Sounds like climbing weather…

Well, not today it ain’t. Today it’s like a bloomin’ fridge. Why am I complaining? I hear you ask…

I would like to refer you to the following average annual temperatures for Murcia

Check out October, or even November. It says nothing about temperatures of 6 degrees centigrade with a maximum daytime temperature of 10 degrees.

Mrs P had to have a hot water bottle!

Ok, so I may be over egging it and I may be overusing the exclamation mark a tad but, jeepers. We’re freezing to death here! (Look, there’s another one.)

On Monday we brave the elements and go for a walk. The photos may look sunny but, I tell you, it was hell out there. Our sandwiches nearly blew away, we couldn’t wear shorts… need I list more hardships? The locals are pretty close to declaring a state of emergency. We may need the army to airdrop blankets and chicken soup.

Colder than it looks

We joined up 2 local walks from the campsite we are staying at in El Berro. One of 10km, the other of 7km.

The walk is unfortunately pretty disappointing. No great views, not much in the way of up and down, scrappy paths. Certainly nothing to write home about… erm… Oops!

The best part about the walk is perhaps the comma vs decimal point anomaly. Let me explain; In the UK we use a period as a decimal point i.e. 5.4km. In much of Europe however, they use a comma i.e. 5,4km. Generally speaking this goes pretty much unnoticed. Round these parts however, and some would say with typical Spanish carefree abandon, they like to add some entirely unnecessary zeros. So, you get signs like this…

This could take a while

This is great because it looks like we walked one heck of a long way.

As the walk lacked views of note my eye was drawn to the minutiae of my surroundings. So, for want of photos of stunning vistas, I will leave you with the following images…

This tunnel used to be part of an ancient irrigation system
Acorns on a Holm Oak tree
Olives and olive tree (what else?)
As M.C. Hammer would say, “Can’t touch this”
5,400 km later…
I like to think we deserved this after more than 17,000 km

Days 104 & 105 – Gorgeous Gorge & Film night

Friday 26th & Saturday 27th October 2018

Friday morning we woke all set to go off climbing again but, as I explained yesterday, this campsite, far from the tourist factories on the coast, far from the great whites, is home to a different breed of over-winterer (did I just make a word up?).

As we idly munched on our muesli and contemplated the sunny day ahead we are visited by a chap from England who is staying here till March. He and his wife are the vanguard of a group of like minded folk who spend the winter here. Let’s stick with convention and call him Mr S.

Mr S says (I do hope he will forgive me for paraphrasing): “Would you like to join me for a walk?”

Mr P: Oh, yes please. Where’re we going?

Mr S goes on to explain a 27km circuit taking in a visit to some donkeys (Mrs P is immediately sold on the idea), a look down a big hole, a visit to a Refugio (refuge/hut/elaborate garden shed. Call it what you will) and a scramble down a gorge.

He then says: “How fast do you walk?”

Mr P: “Eh?”

Mr S: “How fit are you?”

Mr P (thinking, ‘This man is 12 years older than me!’) stifles a derisive laugh and says; “Well, we just spent 3 months in the Alps.”

“Good.” Says Mr S, “See you at 10.”

Another day, another Gorge (Actually, it’s exactly the same Gorge as 2 days ago)

Now Mr S is a sexagenarian (late sexagenarian at that. Oh, ok, he’s 67. But don’t tell him I told you), dynamo powered, (like the Duracell Bunny), speed demon. He certainly isn’t powered in the conventional way. You know, food, water, that kind of thing. In 7.5 hrs I think I saw him eat 2 fig biscuits and drink a thimble full of water. Mrs P and I can’t go more than 3 hours without recourse to numerous snacks, a proper lounge by the trail lunch and, of course, something sweet to take the taste away.

We set off at a rate of knots little known in our stop every few minutes to take a photo, change layers, point at things, answer a call of nature, world.

Mr P briefly manages to get in front of Mr S to take a photo
Down at the bottom of the Gorge I assume Mr S will slow the pace as we are now facing a 300 metre climb over less than 1 km but no, if anything, he speeds up!

Along the way we whiz past some great views and visit a few interesting sights like a donkey sanctuary…

Donkey sanctuary interloper

I know, it’s a goat but, in my defence, he was way more photogenic than the donkeys.

We also got to look down into a 50 metre sinkhole called L’Avenc Ample, and watched some spelunkers (apparently they prefer the term cavers, but it’s not their blog so, tough!) climbing out.

The sinkhole L’Avenc Ample

The sinkhole apparently leads to a short series of squeeze tunnels and then into a huge underground cavern. The above link has some great photos.

“Which rope did you say I shouldn’t let go of?”

After the first ascent I develop a ploy to slow Mr S down, or at least arrange it so I don’t have to speak and walk at the same time. At the beginning of each climb I ask him questions like, ‘précis your last 6 holidays’ and ‘Name your 100 favourite films. In alphabetical order’.

Our journey along the Barranc de L’Infern was spectacular and we got in some great scrambling and general messing around.

Mrs P enters the Gorge
Mr S’s favourite bit
The only way is under…
… or over…
…or,… Oh, do stop messing around!

All in all the hike was 27k (16.2 miles), over 7 hours, with 1,457 metres (4,781 feet) of ascent and descent and all done at an average pace of 600 kph (373 mph). It was a great walk, a great day and great company. We cannot thank Mr S enough for dragging us along in his wake. All hail!

Saturday 27th and I was overjoyed to be visited by Mr S who popped by to tell us that his legs ached after our outing. Result!

We use the inclement weather (temperatures dropped by 10 degrees overnight and there are rain showers all day) as an excuse to relax for the whole day. We visit the coffee shop, the bakery, clean Gandalf and watch a film.

Before…

The previous and following photos are the Gandalf version of one of those before and after shots where the before shot shows an overweight, unsmiling, badly lit, unattractively posed person and the after shot shows exactly the same only they are better lit, smiling and have been allowed to wear underwear appropriate to their stature.

…and after

GRATUITOUS ADVERT: Use GLEAMO cleaning fluid for that sun shining through the window look!

Yes, you heard right by the way. We watch a film. Some DVDs have been left behind in the communal area of the campsite. The place where paperback books go to die. We fire up the laptop and watch our first film, tv or anything of that ilk for more than 3 months. Feels weird. The film is called Wakefield. A dark drama. Mrs P and I can recommend it.

Clocks go back tonight. Extra hour in bed. Tomorrow we drive South. Heading for warmer climes and climbs.