Picos de Europa are unknown mountains in Northern Spain. It is a gem for trekkers. It has a beautiful canyon trek, not to be missed.
Beware: wolves are endemic there.
Another Spain beautiful trek is the Sierra Nevada crossing, starting from Grenada centre to the Mediterranean Sea.
My 10 Best Treks >
From Granada to Orgiva
I have often seen the impressive Sierra Nevada during my many shuttle flights from Morocco to France, during the 70s. This huge white wall always looked higher than the plane, as if it wanted to stop us.
It s not easy to separate the summit Mulhacén at 3478 m, from the other peaks, that's what gave the impression of a big wall protecting the most fertile part of Spain from the deserts of Morocco. My curiosity was satisfied in 1992, when after a very formal visit to the Sevilla Expo, I chose to sight-see nearby Granada to change my mind. Bored by the hyper touristic city, the crowded Alhambra,... I took my backpack to reach the nearby steep slopes, without a map or a plan of any kind.
I was surprised to be able to reach the mountain in just 1 hour.
I will spend 5 days in and around the Sierra, surviving by eating local fruits.
As I climbed the slopes to approach Mulhacen, a heavy downpour surprised me without proper equipment. Slippery slopes along the cliffs made the trail very dangerous, especially in the wild Southern part. The Northern part, full of ski resorts is less interesting.
After a night at mid slope, I happily went down in the South valley, to discover a marvelous abandonned garden, with a mosque, a forgotten trace of Islam, maybe 1000 years old [Muslim Spain: 711-1492]
The trees around were full of fruits: Pomegranate, barbary figs, apples, ....
They were welcome, as I didnt bring food at all. I camped there, in the mosque garden. In the few following days, I visit
ed Andalusia remote villages, eating food from the mostly abandoned countryside. By seeing all the ruins, I had the feeling, that a few centuries ago, it was possible to hear the muezzin here, and that the local muslim population has been very happy here.
This small trek in magic Andalucia has been one of the happiest in my life.
from Potes to Cares Gorges
Before the start of my Silk Road trip in Oct 2003, I needed a warm up, and decided to try the unknown Northern Spain Picos de Europa mountains.
After a bus dropped me in Potes, in the Eastern part, I hiked through the central part of the chain, encountering only a few shepherd and no wolves. The daily issue was to find water, not always available even in the bottom of valleys. At night, I used to sleep in my tent, not in the foggy valleys, nor on the windy mountain crest. I had to find a place, near a shepherd hut, usually built at mid-height.
Scared by the many wolves stories, I had difficulties to sleep. I didnt see 1 wolf, but many blue sheep.
One morning was very foggy, I lost my track, and so, used my compass to cut through the range to reach Cain, the start of the famous Cares Gorge trek. I had to climb down cliffs, and found myself in a wild valley with absolutely no track.
At this point, I lost one my shoe sole, destroyed by the sharp rocks, and went down with one shoe, it took me 6 hours to reach Cain, where I trashed my shoes. I went down the Cares Gorges trail barefoot.
At Poncebos, without 1 Euro left in my pocket, I tried to draw money from the only ATM in the village.
Although a bit dizzy, I entered the code right, but my card was swallowed by the machine without warning.
It was Friday evening, the start of long week end, in a very remote part of Spain.
Desperate, I stopped every hiker I could find to ask them to help me, at least 10 euro, to be able to take a bus.
Luckily, a pretty French girl, living in Chile, gave me a whopping 50 Euro. It was a bit short to reach Paris, but we made some part of the trip together.
She was not a hiker, but a climber. I guessed by her tone, that she despised a bit the old-fashioned hikers.
Her boyfriends have always been climbers, she told me. In France, I always resented this animosity between hikers and climbers. Now I knew it was an international thing.
She also told me that the Torres del Paine tour was the best trek she has ever done.
I was "high" because of all what happened in the day, and during our trip back, I was dreaming of doing the Chilean famous trek.
Since then, I have been dreaming a lot about her also...
Without enough money, I had to spare all for transport. I had also to eat bread, usually the cheapest available food in Europe.
I also remembered what a relative told me: he crossed Europe once for free by hitchhiking and begging for bread near local bakeries.
That's what I did, and at the end of each day, some bakeries gave me their stale bread.
I eventually made it to Paris. A few days later, I will happily meet again my benefactor to reimburse her. She offered me some climbing lessons in Fontainebleau. Wrongly taking this proposal as a flirting hint, I accepted
The day after, I went to my bank agency to complain about thes debit card issue in Spain. "Imagine if this happens in remote India". I told them. They pretended that I cancelled the card myself, and offered no apologies. I had to change bank before my next "big jump": the Silk Road.
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