Lessons learned and trip summary:
- “Hola” = “Hi” (informal)
- “Buenos días/tardes”= “Hello”/”Good afternoon” (formal)
- There’s enough water on the trail
- Filter (purify) the water!
- Download offline maps – Mapy.cz
So…it seems we are finally standing on the official GR240 trail! It is 4 p.m. and we depart from the first notice board in the direction of Trevélez. The sun is shining and burning us alive. It feels more like a midday. The first 500 m is a road walk. We are meeting 2 Spanish old men and 1 old woman on the way. They greet us with a friendly smile. “Hola, hola”, I reply enthusiastically. A moment later I realize that a more suitable greetings of a person who is about 2 generations older would probably be: “Buenos días/tardes”. “Hola” is a bit too informal perhaps….Well, I hope I did not offend them. Worst case they will think: “What a dumb tourist!”.
When we arrive on a branch, I’m really glad that we are leaving the road. Nevertheless, my excitement fades away the moment I notice what is in front of us…..Ascent…what else :). The hill is luckily quite short though. The terrain is soon getting flatter again and we are getting further and further away from the road and the civilization. The trail turns into a pleasant forest path, the inclement sun moves behind our backs and suddenly it just feels really good to be here.
We do have unwanted companions though. Companions called the „Worries“. More precisely Worries of water scarcity. By now, each of us has about a litr of water left. But in the hot weather, the water disappears quickly. Worries joined us already on the way to Pampaneira when we were looking out of the bus window, observing the southern hillside of Sierra Nevada which seemed pretty dry. Even cactuses that we saw were deadly black and torrid. “It seems that it doesn’t rain often here, right?“ I said. Truth is we underestimated our pre-departure research in this respect. We just looked at the map and saw many streams and rivers, therefore we assumed that water should not be an issue. The possibility that the water sources might actually be dried out after 3 months of sultry summer did not occur to us. Well, we will soon have a chance to see with our own eyes whether water might be an issue. The map says we should encounter a small stream in about 4 km. And yes! The stream is there. Exactly where it is supposed to be. I calm down a little and say good bye to Worries for now: “Bye girls, don’t come back…” There are two good news: 1) It seems that Maps.cz are reliable and 2) streams are not dried out, so there should hopefully be enough water.
I found out another unpleasant surprise of the day – the leftover water that I had stored inside my backpack spilled and I have many wet things now (including the feather jacket which will be definitely needed soon)….Yeaaah! It’s becoming really cold as the sun goes down. We filter the water from the stream and fill our bottles. I’m a bit tempted not to filter (we are in the mountains after all, no? The water should be clean). But eventually I do filter. After tasting the water later on, I’m really glad that I did. It tastes a bit…muddy….Furthermore, as we find out later on, these mountains are full of cattle and other animals that like to poop all around. And when I say all around, I mean ALL AROUND (into the water sources too). I would definitely recommend everyone to ALWAYS filter or somehow purify the water before consuming it. Even the purest-looking water can be contaminated.
We are observing a beautiful sunset. It is 7 pm, the day light is disappearing quickly and cold is coming. Few minutes ago I was sweating heavily in a top and shorts and did not know how to cool myself down and suddenly I’m forced to put on my hoodie, my feather jacket as well as my hat and gloves….Crazy! We should quickly find our camping spot for tonight. As we don’t want sleep close to the stream, we continue a bit further…
Very soon we have to take out our headlamps. It would not occur to me that right on the first day will we experience a night hike :). We find a spot right next to the trail. In my country (Czech Republic) I never ever camp right next to the path but I think here we can afford it. We haven’t met anyone since we left the road. There are small rocks covered in small poops in close proximity to our chosen camping spot. “Whose droppings are these?” I’m thinking. „Rats’? Hopefully not…“Anyways, there are hundreds of them…So I hope that their producers won’t come visit us during the night. We decide to take that risk and decide not to build a tent (partly due to a laziness and partly because I want to stargaze). We unpack our sleeping pads and sleeping bags and begin our first official cowboy camping. As we are falling asleep, we hear cowbells. There must be a herd nearby, which makes me a bit nervous frankly speaking. Cowbells are ringing and going quiet, ringing and going quiet in quite regular intervals. Whenever they start ringing my heart starts beating fast and my half-asleep, half-awake mind wonders whether the herd is coming closer or not. The moon shines like crazy. The night is very bright and my sleep very light, fitful and poor in quality.