The second night with JR is approaching. We are sitting on the terrace of a mutual friend (haven’t seen her for about 40 years). Her villa is accessed through a series of coded gates. I have the rented car for one more day and I haven’t formed a plan. “Where are you going next?” says she. Out of nowhere I say “Grazalema” (except, I actually said GrazaMela). “You must stay with X who has a B&B and organizes hikes.” She shoots off an email, I call him half an hour later and ask him if I can come and stay. He sounds very polite but very hesitant. It turns out that he hasn’t run a B and B for 15 years …..might be a little difficult to have me to stay. I’m mortified! He tells me where to stay in Grazalema, instructs me to come to his house for a coffee and he will give details about the walk I should take. All sorted!
I go round the roundabout at Ronda 12 times. Both satnavs are going and I still can’t get the right turning. A little frustrating! He is waiting for me on his motor bike at the bottom of the village and leads me through more streets the same width as my car and I get some more scratches. After coffee and instructions (he says something about branching right at a “can”). When I leave his beautiful village house, I immediately get stuck in a ridiculously small street I wasn’t meant to go down and embarrassingly have to ring him to back me out. I am only 10 feet from his house. Then I meet a lorry unloading water and have to back into another street the same width as my car. More kissing the wall!
I arrive at the Puerto de las Palomas where the walk starts. I talk to some northern lads who are biking 100 miles in one day and then I set off on the path less travelled. Not travelled at all. There is no-one there, no sight of habitations, stony ground which makes the gammy knee groan and no sign of the crucially important can which tells me where to branch off. The views are stunning.
I pull down my dungarees to do a pee, straighten my knee bandage and sit on a rock and take photos. I’m slightly alarmed at the emptiness of this place. I’m still looking for the can when I come across a fork in the path and a cairn. The penny drops!
I walk on for miles and miles, through prickly ilex bushes. All is not well, the path literally disappears. So I scramble upwards through heavy undergrowth and vow I will not go beyond the next corner. This is a fortunate decision as I find myself toppling on the edge of a gully about a mile deep. I retrace my steps and to my delight come across another human being. Dirk the German is doing a gentle trek as he has a compacted disc. He has all modern equipment, knows exactly where we are on the map, recommends always walking with two sticks, has wet gear on this sunny day and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was suppressing a tent under his jacket. Half way back to the car park we bump in to X. It wasn’t part of my master plan to cause him any more trouble. He looked mildly irritated when I confessed that I had lost the path.