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Saturday, 27 October 2007

Istan to La Concha (6 hours)

Istan is a little white village set back about 17 kms from the coast overlooking the headwaters of the La Concepcion lake. To get to Istan, you turn off inland next to the mosque which is opposite Hotel Puente Romano. La Concha at 1217m is the summit of the Sierra Bermeja range of mountains just behind Marbella.

My walking friend Philip who you see in the picture and I had a long standing date to try a route that was new for us from Istan to the top of the La Concha range. This morning I looked up from my terrace just before setting off from home and the clouds which had been hanging over the range seemed to be lifting. We had scheduled this route two months ago so that seemed to be a good omen, I should have checked the weather forecasts before we left!

Setting off from the car park just behind the new Istan Hotel the path was reasonably trodden and marked with small cairns. Some readers might have done the route from Istan to Ojen (6 hours) up the ravine behind the polydeportivo, our path led off in a more south easterly direction to intersect with the top of the range.

A rare patch of sunlight lit up the Istan village in the photo above about half an hour after setting off. The Istan hotel can be seen in the foreground. A stream of clear water gushing from the mountain below us supplies drinking water to the village all year round.

After about 2 hours the clouds began to settle back down, obscuring the peaks. An hour later it was raining and there were clouds blowing upwards from behind us. When the path ended and the only further indications were cairns at intervals on a wet rock knife edge rising above us, with about 25 metres of visibility we took a reality check. I always advise walkers on La Concha to avoid the range when the summit is blanketed in cloud, it is easy to get lost and the work of the local rescue teams is complicated as a result. We turned back.

We'll do it again in the spring next year when we can see where we're going.

Update: October 2010 By the way, we did get to Marbella eventually but my very good friend Philip died from prostate cancer earlier this year. If you look at any of the hills or mountains in the Malaga province, you can be sure that we have walked them together over the last thirty years. Philip I am really going to miss you on those paths.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Spain now and then

Spain now and then seems to have been the pattern of my life recently.

Earlier this week I was in New Malden in London, teaching an 11+ exam revision course for the Extra Tuition Centre. I spent 3 days from 9am to 1pm helping well motivated young students prepare for their selective secondary school entry process and then from 2pm – 9pm each day I was with my 22 month old grandson. He is also selective about what he learns, preferring diggers and dump trucks to wolves sliding down hot chimneys.

On the way home to Marbella this morning, I enjoyed the BA check in procedure at Gatwick airport complete with touch screens and smiling, helpful ground staff and the leather seats, headrests and hot meals on board.

Last week I was in Essen over the weekend for a very pleasurable family birthday celebration. Taking the 6am Easyjet flight out of Dortmund on the way home I was back for in Marbella in time for my 1pm class at the hotel and tourism vocational training school. With 3 new classes starting next week, it’s going to be a little tighter to find time for European travel.

I always pick up my emails on my travels and so it was that last night from Battersea, London I replied to a gomarbella reader wanting to know if he could walk from the Los Boliches train stop to the Yaramar Hotel, Avenida Los Boliches s/n in Fuengirola. The photo above shows you the Los Boliches train stop.

To give him the best advice I thought it would be a good idea to check out the Los Boliches train stop personally and take the train from Malaga airport to Fuengirola train station on the way home today instead of the airport to Marbella shuttle bus.

In Gatwick’s carpeted North Terminal this morning the passenger assistance buggies moved sedately to and fro with blinking orange lights and muted bleeps. In Malaga airport later in the morning the buggies raced like Fernando Alonso along the marbled passages and honking passengers to one side.

Wouldn't Europe be boring if we all acted exactly the same way?