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Hiking on the «camino mozárabe»
Tertulia, vol. 46
Hola. This is Barbara, your curator of cultural news from the Spanish-speaking world. As promised almost a month ago, I’d like to share the highlights of our hike on the Camino mozárabe (Mozarabic St. James’s Way) today.
What is the «camino mozárabe»?
This camino consists of several paths in Andalusia, starting either in Málaga, Granada, Jaén, Córdoba or Almería. They converge with the Via de la Plata, which we partially walked last year, at Mérida. The camino derives its name from the people who inhabited this region of Spain and maintained their Christian faith under Arab rule. They, known as Mozarabs, were the ones who opened these pilgrimage routes. For a long time, these routes were forgotten, but have recently been revived to promote rural tourism and take advantage of the overall popularity of the Camino de Santiago.
It was clear that we could only get one week off over Easter, so we had to decide which part of this Camino we should take. We finally went for the route from Granada to Baena:
Track 1: Granada - Pinos Puente
Track 2: Pinos Puente - Moclín
Track 3: Moclín - Alcalá la Real
Track 4: Alcalá la Real - Alcaudete
Track 5: Alcaudete - Baena
This route offered us everything we wanted: a captivating starting point, reasonable daily walking distances that allowed us to cover roughly 100 km in five days, charming villages along the way, and adequate accommodation infrastructure. Unlike last year, we did not have to make any changes to the route suggestions provided by Gronze. Have I ever said, that Gronze is the ultimate planning companion for the Spanish Caminos? I highly recommend the site. We downloaded their GPS files to use them in our Outdoor Active app. We were extremely satisfied with their instructions and recommendations.
Since we got into quite a hassle last year with spontaneously booking train tickets and accommodation during the Easter week, we booked everything in advance this time: the flight tickets from Zurich to Málaga and back, the train ticket to Granada, the bus ticket back from Baena to Málaga, and all hostels. By the way, we envy Spain for its high-speed trains. With respect to logistics, everything worked like Swiss clockwork so we could fully enjoy our walks.
Highlights of our Camino
Again, we fell in love with Granada. We returned to the Alhambra and visited the Generalife and its beautiful gardens. On Holy Saturday, we attended the nightly Easter celebration at the cathedral. It was spectacular to see how all our little candles were lighting up the dark building.
Moclín is a hidden gem. It is situated high up on a mountain in the Comarca de Loja, overlooking the town of Olivares. On clear days, you can enjoy breathtaking views of Granada and the Sierra Nevada. Naturally, there is a castle perched at the highest point of the village. The castle played a significant role in the defense of Moorish Granada, but it was ultimately captured by Christian troops in 1486. It was from Moclín that Isabel y Fernando eventually set out to conquer Granada approximately six years later, in 1492. Traditionally, the town relied on the cultivation of wheat and olives for its livelihood, but it is now trying to become a destination for hikers due to its captivating surroundings. During the week, the village has a tranquil atmosphere, adding to its charm. Nevertheless, this charm comes with a downside. There is only one food market and one bar open during the week and both establishments close quite early. During our stay, we had the pleasure of lodging at Ian’s and Andrew’s B&B Casa Higueras, which we highly recommend.
We encountered the same group of pilgrims repeatedly during our hike. Most of them had already started in Almería and intended to continue until Córdoba. Based on what we heard, the route from Almería to Granada is highly impressive and seems like a good option for another spring hike. In total, there were only a few fellow pilgrims traveling with us, let’s say around 10. They were from the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Belgium, and had primarily chosen the Camino mozárabe due to the moderate climate in April. None of us anticipated temperatures reaching 30 degrees Celsius!
After traversing the dusty field trails, we greatly enjoyed Malaga’s city beach at the end of our journey and relished our first swim in the Mediterranean Sea this year.
We immensely enjoyed the vastness and emptiness of the country. However, it was disheartening to witness the drought Southern Spain is currently experiencing. The earth is cracked open due to the lack of rain, and even the olive trees have to be artificially watered. Perhaps one day these parts of Andalusia will turn into a desert.
Nevertheless, The people already have a plan B if the land can no longer be used for agriculture: We have never seen so many solar panels on empty land. We appreciated this, especially because we often encounter skepticism about renewable energies here in Switzerland. Andalusia demonstrates that renewable energies, when implemented properly, do not spoil the landscape, they become part of it.
For us, Spain has always been the land of bars and small restaurants. Therefore, we were quite surprised to find it challenging to locate food or drinks in this sparsely populated area of the country. My reading of La España vacía should have warned me. In smaller villages, there is often one remaining bar, if any, and unfortunately, you may encounter closed doors on the bar's designated day off. Many restaurants are only open from Thursday through Sunday. Fortunately, the locals provided us with helpful advice enabling us to purchase food supplies whenever we had the chance. Generally, if you do find a restaurant, it can still be somewhat difficult to find good vegetarian options on the menu («¿ni siquiera puedo echar un poquito de bonito?» 😀), but we managed to survive without gaining weight from consuming excessive fatty carbohydrates.
This is all for today. Let me know about your feedback. I’d also appreciate your suggestions concerning the Camino de Santiago.