Riding, riding, riding...
16 May 2013
Posted at 17:10 Comments (0)
It's been a busy few weeks but I've found a new dietary formula...just get a horse, put it on a piece of land up/down a hill and 15 minutes walk away, and you'll lose weight in no time at all! By the time you've done 2 feeds per day, maybe a 3rd visit, various replenishings of water, checking hooves, grooming, never mind getting prepared and ready for a ride...and then riding/walking...you will soon find a new, slimmer, fitter person emerging. Exhausted sometimes of course and frustrated when simple tasks become tricky, but the enjoyment level is high nonetheless.
Tomorrow we ride to the Lobrasan horse weekend, which for us will be a spectator event but for some it includes horse 'races', gymkhana events and ladies in big hats! Steve is on his way there now with the tent, sleeping gear, boxes of food and feed and wine. The logistics and preparation took a while but it's not so different from a bike ride or a mountain walking expedition. Pity the weather is imploding of course! We've had some glorious days and the spring flowers are heavenly, but at this very moment it's raining quite hard and looking thundery. My poor girl, out in her field, with just one tree to get under...the shelter is yet to be built although we have the timbers treated and next week could see it going up.
One of our good friends has bought himself a BMW 650cc, a few years old but very handsome; someone else has a new puppy...and we think a few kittens will arrive in the village shortly. Friends have come and gone and more are arriving soon, many from Bonny Scotland...no peace for the wicked!
2 legs good, 4 legs better...
20 April 2013
Posted at 15:46 Comments (1)
It's been a while since the last post (?!) partly because of visiting family and friends and other social activities, and partly because of a new preoccupation...the imminent arrival of a four-legged resident on our land...Canela, a cinnamon-coloured 4.5 year old Andalusian mare. Are we mad, we ask ourselves, and the answer has to be 'yes,' but the die is cast and we expect to install her in about 8 days time. Meanwhile we are are trying to source electric solar fencing, materials for a wooden shelter and all the necessary basics to get her started. Local horsey people have been wonderfully helpful and we have had 2 'experts' to ride her and help us to assess her temperament. Thank you, Jo and Nadia! I had ponies as a child and have ridden out here quite a lot (and in South America) but feel ignorant when it comes to owning a big horse or caring for one properly. The newest book on the shelf is Monty Roberts, the 'horse whisperer' andd we are doing a lot of googling to inform ourselves on everything from saddle selection to removing ticks to checking hoofs. Oh and having a good 'seat' too. And at 6am some chap I know will have wandered down to the land to see his new girlfriend!
Apart from that, what an amazingly summery couple of weeks we have had! We recorded 44 degrees in the sun on the terrace at some point and everyone began to look suspiciously suntanned. Yesterday we walked up the Poquiera valley towards Mulhacen and enjoyed the combination of a green valley, rushing waters, snowy peaks and warm sunshine...today all has changed and it's foggy, dull and cool. But summer will return soon!
Snow-shoeing in a blizzard...
24 March 2013
Posted at 22:03 Comments (0)
Our friend Anne has been trying to organise a snow-shoeing expedition for some weeks, but each time the weather has got in the way, or some other deterrent...finally we decided that today would be the day and 4 of us booked a session with the Navadensis chaps up at the Granada ski station. Down in the valley all was green, with the occasional jewel-like oranges or pink almond blossom indicating spring...but up on the mountain it was another story altogether. Threatening, dark clouds rolled around, a light drizzle was turning to fresh snow (at 10am) and some roads were already getting very narrow thanks to the drifting . Visibility was poor.
But hey, we're British, we don't do negativity! By 11.30am we were out on the mountainside (at 2500m perhaps), wrapped up in waterproofs, woolly hats, gloves etc with 'raquetas de nieve' on our feet and ski poles in our hands. Buitre was our guide and we headed up the snowy slope into the stinging wind...this quickly became even heavier snow and a stronger wind as we climbed, until we were well past the Virgen de la Nieve monument and getting towards the top of a 'red' ski route; by this time we couldn't see anything much, although the odd skier passed by going down. We were glad of our protective clothing and decent energy levels, but decided that we too should turn back after a couple of hours as it was all getting a bit risky; even Buitre wasn't sure of the route back in what was now a complete white-out and temperatures of about -10 with the wind chill factor and blizzarding snow. When your hair turns stiff and white, your cheeks are sore and your eyes watering, and only your snow-shoes are stopping you from sinking or skidding over icy patches - it's time to go home! We collected up a young Spaniard, Juan on the way down, suffering from a bit of altitude sickness and, I think, fear of where his troop of snow-shoers were going. We were all glad when first the Military mountain refuge and then the Albergue de Juvilines came into view, although we still had a few miles to walk to reach our car and the main road. It was 5pm by the time we left.
But we were not done...the road down to Granada was in chaos! Very, very icy and full of traffic! The World Finals for Snowboarding and Freestyle ski are taking place this week and next, so the resort is packed out, but many people had headed down to the city for a day in sunlight of some sort...and now they were coming back up to their hotels, without realising how bad the weather had been all day. People had stopped to put on chains or because they were slipping about or, being in Spain, because they wanted to overtake the car in front but couldn't quite make it...and people like us going down the mountain were tending to do the same thing! Result: a horrible mess! It took a good hour to get clear and the only solution was to head for Lanjaron and hot chocolate with buñuelos to sustain us!
We enjoyed the actual snow-shoeing and will do some more; we were glad of our sensible clothing and warm layers; we thought Navadensis did us proud at 30 euros per head for a good 4 hrs; and Buitre was an excellent guide and a nice man. But next time we want sunshine and a view, not the sensation of being adrift in Antarctica!! Oh and some decent driving too!! Happy days!!
A bit of luck...
09 March 2013
Posted at 17:53 Comments (1)
They say that you make your own luck...I don't know whether that's always true, but today it seemed to work. Despite the weather forecast and the appearance of the sky, I thought I would take a gamble and go to Granada, just to see if there would be any tango in the Plaza de las Pasiegas in front of the Cathedral. Low cloud and dark skies hovered over me all the way to Padul, then the rain started to fall...should I bother at all or just turn around and go home?
Well, I carried on, parked and walked to the centre...the rain almost stopped...I met up with a number of tanguero friends...about 12 people were already dancing despite the wet marble slabs...time to put away the brolly and get out there! It got better, we even had a few minutes of sunshine, and people danced in jeans, boots, jackets, stilettoes and skirts. It didn't matter and we all had 2 hours of creative fun and elegance.
Even as I walked back to the car park the rain started again and the drive home was beset by foggy mist. Now it's pouring down but we are snug and warm to watch the Ireland v France 6 Nations match...and I've had a lovely day! So the moral is, I suppose, that if you really want to do something you have to make an informed decision and then stick to your guns...and maybe a bit of luck will come your way.
More thoughts on Patagonia travelling
04 March 2013
Posted at 23:02 Comments (0)
I've had time to start reflecting on our trip and to focus on the best elements..and what information anyone else might find useful if they went in that direction. First of all, our itinerary was as follows (geographically):
Getting there: Granada - Madrid - Buenos Aires - San Carlos de Bariloche. All very smooth, with at least 3 hours in each airport which allowed for transfers to different terminals, collecting the suitcase etc. We used Iberia inside Spain (great new Nostrum planes, delightful staff) and Aerolineas Argentina for the rest (not too bad except for dreadful 'soothing' music at take-off and landing and somewhat indifferent food, plus a long time to be sedentary...).
We had 1 night in Bariloche (Hotel Tyrol was excellent) then took a bus down the lakeside, caught a day boat tour to the end of Lago Nahuel Huapi and walked for 2 days mostly through forests via the Paso de las Nubes through to Pampa Linda and Mount Tronador. We slept that middle night in our bivi's after a long day's hiking and were most glad of a) mosquito nets for our heads and b) Steve's brew of tea. We spent about 3 days at Pampa Linda on a wonderful but simple campsite (you can stay in the hotel or a refugio). The weather was great, we went riding and walking and ate some reasonably good food (the hotel does the best breakfasts).
Then we took buses via Esquel and El Bolson to get to Futaleufu in Chile and eventually Palena. A taxi from Palena got us to 'the end of the road' and we then walked for about 4 hours, including crossing the Rio Tigre in bare feet, to reach Alto Palena and the ranch. The link for this is firstname.lastname@example.org and you can walk, climb, ride, fish and amble about in the most gorgeous surroundings. There's also a lot of river kyaking and rafting around Futaleufu and I swam there in the river.
Our next destination was Alto Mapucho but I can't recall which buses we took back into Argentina...we certainly ended up on a private boat across Lago Puelo and then a 2 day walk back across into Chile (heavy rain) and then an hour in another boat all the way down Lago Azul to the homestead of Giraldo and Azalea...their lovely horses and more fishing! They have cabanas you can stay in and will also cook meals etc. Take some mite/flea powder though because something 'got' us whilst there which we never completely got rid of until we got back to Spain...itch, itch...
Eventually we ended up in Puerto Varas and took a 6 hour bus ride back to Bariloche, then a flight to Buenos Aires (more on that next time). The buses are excellent although the bigger distance ones have to be booked in advance at one of the fairly numerous ticket offices; local ones you pay as you get on or off. Prices are low (15 euros pp for that 6 hr return trip) and there are coffee/toilet facilities on board. Chilean roads are almost all unsurfaced so don't expect luxury, just enjoy the people and the roads! If no bus comes, stick your thumb out and hitch a ride...we did and met some lovely people from Santiago de Chile who spoke excellent English.
We could have spent less on B&Bs and done more camping, we could have skipped the boats and gone the longer routes using more buses, but in the 20 days we had, it was the longer stop-overs that counted the most. And the deep, mysterious, lush forests...high snow-covered peaks rumbling with the sound of collapsing glacier blocks...eagles, condors, river birds...amazing mosses, wild fuschia bushes, semi-wild pigs and cows...and so many horses...
More next time!
Farewell to South America
25 February 2013
Posted at 19:24 Comments (1)
In a few hours time we'll be heading towards Buenos Aires airport and our flight back across the Atlantic...saying goodbye to Argentina and Chile and a simply great month. We've visited 'black' glaciers that you can only get to after 2 days walking and 'blue' lakes, stuffed with fish, after 6 hours on horseback...we've taken bus-rides through areas covered in volcanic dust and waded up to our thighs across icy rivers. We've eaten lamb roasted outdoors on a spear of metal (parilla), cottage cheese made from cow's milk collected by hand the same morning (after the cow was lassoo-ed) and fresh trout caught by the Man himself. I've done a little bit of cattle rounding, also on horseback, danced a few tangos in the street and acquired a fabby pair of new tango shoes and a black trilby hat. We've gone in and out of Chile and Argentina several time so our passports are well-stamped, and shared our bivouacs with horses, occasional small pigs and interesting birds. Also a variety of B&Bs of varying quality...
Buenos Aires is a great city, full of colour and vibrancy, and well worth at least 1 week of your time. You need a little bit of Spanish, some friends or guides to get you started and some street/bus maps and a tolerance for warm, humid conditions with sudden downpours of rain. This is their summer. Oh and some idea of what your reaction might be to having a semi-automatic handgun pulled on you in a lonely backstreet...ours was fight not flight and luckily the two young men involved decided to abandon the idea and whizzed off on their (quite nice) small Honda motorbike. Too quickly for Steve to push them off it unfortunately! There was no way that they were going to get my little backpack with my tango shoes inside it, but I did have to wrestle for it!!
I'm sure I'll put more on here in a few days...suffice to say that I'm thinking seriously about buying my own horse, Steve loved his fishing opportunities, we used or wore pretty much everything we took, and none of it would have been so exciting or adventurous without the support of Sepp & Inger, Camille & Diego...and each other!
Rain, snow, wind...
24 January 2013
Posted at 17:56 Comments (2)
Are we cold enough? Have we had enough rain, wind and snow for a little while? It's certainly quite chilly at 1200m...and we've had a couple of poplars toppling over in the car park, crushing a car and leaving a lot of mess. Mind you, most of us know better than to park right in the path of monster trees in very windy conditions! Of course, my excellent companion got out there with his chainsaw and I brought the yard broom along...things looked a bit straighter by lunchtime. Let's hope the almond blossom can survive the gusts.
We took a walk up the Poquiera gorge on Sunday, scrambling across new scree, saying hi to a large flock of goats and their dog-minders and finally finding a way across the turbulent river...this became somewhat perilous as Steve edged his way 5 metres along a fallen tree and I made a 'leap of faith' via a very uncertain branch...not the recommended routes! We won't be out that way for a while, certainly not while the snow is down.
The Patagonian kit is laid out ready for packing, Steve has managed to get some Innov8 boots and my Tuffa suede gaiters have loosened up a bit...we have shiny new riding hats and a bottle of Deet...only a few days to go before we head off for our backpacking/riding/dancing trip of a lifetime. It's a bit warmer in Argentina, even in the south and I just need to plan my tango wardrobe...are 2 pairs of shoes enough? Better ask Imelda...Next Blog post might not be until March...
For my good friends who wonder how my health is doing, I am feeling very well :). The only addition to my medication list is...bicarbonate of soda! I don't believe in the numerous snake-oil and unproven remedies out there, but b.o.s. comes with a lot of credit, not least because our grannies recommended it and keeping your body 'alkiline' is preferable to 'acidic.' Read about it for yourself. I have 1/2 tsp in a small amount of hot water every morning and I doubt if it will do me much harm, if nothing else. So, onward and upward is the motto!
That darned fox...
02 January 2013
Posted at 20:44 Comments (1)
Well, that was an adventure!! Our New Year 'walk' went according to plan, more or less...and there were some stars...but scary moments too. We had trouble starting the car (frosty morning at 1200m on Monday 31st) but Steve used the VFR and we got away about 10am, later than planned, so we didn't leave Frigiliana until midday or thereabouts (coffee first etc). The walk in towards Cortijo de Iman went well and we've done some of it before, but we missed the path cutting upwards into the hills from the Rio Chillar, and eventually found ourselves at the impassable point where the fabulous rock cliffs become smooth and steep and narrow and wet...time to turn back and rethink our strategy! So we started up a barranco that might get us up there...an hour or so later we reached another impassable point, having battled through thorny bushes, rosemary and oleander galore and some treacherous rock faces. The light was beginning to fade, so we dropped back down to the Chillar and found a good place to bivvy.
By the time we'd cleared stones and set out our sleeping kit, it was dark. Steve lit up the stove and we dined off noodles and tea and some choccy baubles sent from Aberdeen (thank you Cam & Jo); we looked up at the stars, enjoyed the owl hooting and the rush of water nearby, and turned in. Of course, Steve was doing Sudoku at 2am when the moon woke me up, as he only sleeps in 4 hour stints, but somehow we both managed to be awake at 5am when the rain began to fall...Hastily, boots were turned over, socks and down jackets were stuffed into waterproof bivvy sacks, and we prayed for this to be a light shower. I wondered how we would fare if vast amounts were falling in the sierras to the north...our river might turn into a raging torrent and there were plenty of boulders and wrenched-out trees to show what the forces could be like when that happened!!
We were fortunate. The rain stopped and by 7am I was able to snooze while the Man made some tea...we breakfasted hastily and by 9am we were back on the trail, so to speak. In fact, we decided that the only way now to reach Iman was straight up. We picked another barranco and set off, going steeper and steeper, clawing our way over treacherous limestone rock (don't ever risk all your weight on these seemingly safe lumps, some of them just come away in your hand/foot) and hanging onto various shrubs...all very risky and we should not have done it at all. But we made it! The land began to level off, we could see the roof of the Cortijo above us and some of its ancient olive trees...and then we were there! I was very relieved.
It's in a fabulous location, very remote but with a view straight down to the distant sea and not another building in sight. We decided to sleep in the old bread oven, complete with its domed roof, out of the gusting winds, and made our arrangements accordingly. We sat in the afternoon sun and pottered about, looking for the real path so we could get out in more safety (and we found it...). As evening drew on we lit a fire inside one of the old roofless 'rooms' and drank some limoncello liquor left by a previous hiker - whoever you are, that was a great bequest to everyone coming after), toasted the stars and each other and 2013, then we crawled into our 'beehive' and slept well. Sometime in the night, Zorro visited and, sadly, removed some of Steve's stuff sacks for his sleeping gear. These were near the little doorway and the fox must have nosed them out. If you see him running around with them on his back or in his teeth, we want them (small reward says Steve)!!
In the morning we admired the views, the dawn and the light, shouldered our packs (under 6kg each, including sleeping kit, water, food etc) and set off along the correct path, back towards civilisation. If you do this walk, don't miss the right-hand path about 1km beyond La Presa, where there are now some re-built and clear cairns...opposite 3 huge grey boulder rocks on the other side of the river. It will save you a lot of hassle. We reckon 6 or 7 hours to walk in and 5 to 6 hours back. There was no water up at the Cortijo, so you need 2 litres per person for an overnight stay or in hot weather. Amazingly, we saw no one on the way in, but met over 50 people on the way back after leaving the river, during the final couple of hours! We were very pleased with our tubos de cerveza when we reached Frigiliana!
So...if you plan a walk in that area...don't miss the turning, allow lots of time, it's better to plan to stay the night at altitude...and enjoy the remoteness, the isolation and those craggy mountains. Be sure to take adequate warm clothing for cold winds and just watch out for Zorro!!
Laughter is better than tears :)
30 December 2012
Posted at 14:45 Comments (3)
So...the world did not end on 21/12, it rained on Christmas Day...and 2013 is looming...how to celebrate Old Year's Night and New Year's Day is the question. Earlier this week we took a VFR bike ride down from Granada (Suspiro del Moro) to Otivar and Almuñecar which was just fabulous, and having looked across at the mountains there, we hope to be sleeping under the stars somewhere between Frigiliana and Competa tomorrow night and Tuesday to. A bit less sparkly than the usual all-night village festivities, but the delicious instant soup and pot noodles should be a compensation :).
I have had some fun with an Amazon parcel that had gone missing...it turned out to have been delivered to, and signed for by, someone called Julio Garcia on 12 December...but who was he, where was the parcel and why did I know nothing about it? In fact, Amazon were great and instantly credited me for all my costs, then we went to the Lanjaron office of MRW who informed us that the parcel had been left at a local hotel. 'Why had they not bothered to let me know?' Well, the driver must have tried to ring me and then given up. Interesting! Went to the hotel and there was my parcel, propped up in the bar, as it had been for 2 weeks...and graciously handed over by Julio Garcia, who actually lives 10 minutes away and could have dropped it in to me himself. I just love the Spanish 'insouciance' when it comes to this sort of thing. Of course you will get your parcel, of course everyone is honest, of course it is around here somewhere...And now, of course, Amazon has to re-charge me all over again as I finally have the goods. It's Christmas!!!
Right, time to go and pack my rucksack...2 nights, jolly cool after sundown, no more than 5kg weight if possible, mustn't forget the TBags...Happy New Year everyone and make sure your Resolution includes LAUGHING a lot. Very beneficial!
20 December 2012
Posted at 21:28 Comments (1)
We put the thermometer out early afternoon yesterday and got +38C in the sun, +22C in the shade, and then at 18.30 hrs about +12C. Not bad for 19 December! That's at over 1100m above sea level too. Today was a bit cooler but that didn't stop me from going riding with a friend, Steve chain-sawing the dead chestnut, an eagle from flying low overhead and several of us having a pre-Chistmas drink in the bar later on. Two of our cycling neighbours, both strong youngish men, returned from a spin around the Trevelez area clad in the blue and gold of their cycling club, and we all agreed that the world WILL NOT END tomorrow! Not least because we all have some festive eating to do next week and we'd rather wait until the sun burns up the earth in 6 billion years' time.
Enjoy your festive celebrations everyone! I may well post again before 25th but if not, HAPPY CHRISTMAS!!
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