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Walking Holidays in Spain: Andalucia

Wed, 13 Jul 2016

Walking in Competa 26 April 2012

In the hill country beyond the coastal resorts close to Malaga lies the small town of Competa, some 700 metres above sea level. This was the base for 51 ramblers to explore the valleys, hills and ‘white villages’ of the Sierra Almijara.

Our excellent leaders, Wendy, Bob and Alison, organised five days of superb walking with a choice of two grades of ramble each day. None of the walks were for the faint-hearted (or faint-footed) as there was very little flat ground to amble along.

However, our physical endeavours were rewarded with stunning vistas of the surrounding mountains, the highest peaks sprinkled with snow. To the south, at times, we also had enticing views of the ever-blue Mediterranean.

The area was rich in fruit trees: oranges, lemons, pomegranates, figs, custard apples and avocados. There were also almonds, olive trees and grape vines.

A collection of flora and fauna

Our walks often went through old villages, many of which were built in traditional Arabic style, such as Archez and Salares. The latter provided a lunch break at Bar Theo, where we feasted on tapas, chicken and paella followed by melon, all washed down with local wine and sangria. Another lunch took place in Achebuchal, a once deserted village, now much restored.

Food was also a highlight at our spacious and comfortable hotel, the Balcon de Competa. Most of the balconies and terraces had wonderful views down the green hillside to the sea and the garden bungalows had a certain rustic charm.

As may be expected with a West Essex group, the happy sound of chatter and laughter at dinner was, at times, overwhelming.

Overnight mountain snow sits beneath the clouds

A mid-holiday change in the sunny weather did not dampen our spirits. On the free day some headed down by coach in the rain to Malaga to enjoy its various historic and cultural attractions.

When the heavens opened, the steep cobbled streets in Competa old town were turned into mountain streams and waterfalls. Several of us visited the excellent local museum. The bars and restaurants did well that day. Luckily, a day or so later we were walking in the hills again in warm sunny conditions.

The botanists and birdwatchers were kept busy on the trip. A wide range of wild flowers were identified and several species of orchids were observed in various locations.

A couple of hoopoes and a number of bee-eaters were seen and a short-toed eagle was spotted in the distance. On our walks we also came across two ostriches, many goats and a few mules.

Poppy fields

One day the whole group went by coach to Frigiliana (another attractive white village in the hills), where a number of options were on offer. Some went to the nearby Caves of Nerja where the experience of walking underground was a strong contrast to our normal activity. Others took to the imposing Rio Higueron Gorge, where over 80 stream crossings had to be made.

On reflection, it’s hard not to speak too highly of the accommodation and the leaders on this holiday. At the hotel Pepe and his delightful and hard-working family and staff made every effort to make our stay enjoyable.

Similarly, our three Ramblers Worldwide Holidays leaders must be congratulated in their role in making the trip a truly happy and memorable walking experience.

West Essex Ramblers walking up a mountain trail

Photographs by Harry Hawkins of West Essex Ramblers