Key lessons learned and trip summary:
- The sun rises quite late in October (between 8-9 am¨)
- Don’t expect communication in English here. Even at the tourist information centre they did not speak English
- “Coto privado de caza” = “private hunting ground”
I open my eye. It’s pitch-dark again and the moon is shining bright above my head. “Well…I guess it’s like 3 or 4 am“. I blink at my watches with that one opened eye. “What? 7.30?” These late dawns here are fascinating. A cold wind blows. I’m muffled up in my stinky stuffed warmth inside my sleeping bag and I have absolutely no desire to get out of here. Tonight was the best night so far. Nevertheless, fot the very first time there is a slight condensation inside my bivy – probably due to a higher air humidity. (Note: bivy = bivouac sack – (hypothetically) waterproof sack that you put over your sleeping bag for additional protection and isolation while cowboy camping. Wondering why I say “hypothetically”? We will get to it later).
We depart (traditionally) around 10 am. The sky is perfect blue. Seems like there’s another hot day ahead of us. We’re walking through a comfortable path inbetween a lush green undergrowth. In general the vegetation is denser. The trees are encumbered with strange cobwebs full of crawling warms and caterpillars. It resembles a very decadent Christmas decoration. Everytime I pass beneath such nest, I feel quite anxious and wonder if it’s gonna fall on my head.
We stop by a crystal-clear lagoon to fill our water bottles. I’m considering taking a bath but as soon as I dip my finger in, my appetite for hygiene is gone. It’s ice-cold! Well…it has been 4 days without a shower so far. That’s still bearable. Very soon we’re stopping for lunch. We can feel the hunger already. We eat at an opened grassy glade where the sun is burning us the whole time. But that’s alright.
Just before 2 pm we reach a crossroad. Right at our branch there is a threatening notice prohibiting the entrance to the path. The reason is not stated though. It only says that it is “por su seguridad” (“for your security”) and that it’s valid today – 19th of October till 4 pm. Well…we definitely don’t feel like waiting for 2 hours here. For a short while we muse on what it could be – forestry machinery? Falling trees? Trees that would fall only in certain hours (from 8 to 4)? That sounds like a nonsense. I call „Centro de visitantes El Dornajo“ (one of the 3 main info points on the trail) hoping that I can get some information. A man’s voice answers to me.
- Me: „Hola, habla usted inglés“? (Hello, do you speak English?)
- Man on the phone: „No“
Awesome! I’m trying to describe our problem in Spanish. The chat goes like:
- Me: “We are hiking the GR240 – Sulayr trail, we are currently at the crossroad 6 km far from Fuente del Espino and there is a notice which prohibits the entrance to the path and we don’t know why.
- Man on the phone: „And what’s the problem?“
- Me: „Well, the problem is that there is a notice prohibiting the pass where we need to go and we don’t know what the reason for that is. Do you know?
- Man on the phone: „No, I don’t. ¨Try to call the other info point. Maybe they know.
He tells me the phone number of the other info point. That’s a typical scene from a Spanish language textbook – lesson 2 (numbers): „El número de teléfono es: nueve, cinco, zero, dos….“ (The phone number is: nine, five, null, two….). I fail to reach the other visitor’s centre though. Oh yeah, it’s already 2 pm. Clear that I won’t reach them – siesta. Whatever. Screw it! With eyes and ears wide open we continue further. We’re climbing a hill. What a spectacular hill! And we were supposed to miss out such views…?
After we reach the top of the hill I see a man in a reflective safety vest and 3 parked cars in the distance. I’m starting to realize. Thomas would just continue. But I’m a bit suspicious. I head towards the reflective figure determined to find out what’s happening here. On the way I google a Spanish expression for “the hunt”. Ah! “la caza”, that explains the ubiquitous notice boards “coto privado de caza” we have been meeting ever since we started the trail. We thought that these define the “private property” while they actually define the “private hunting ground“. Now I understand.
When I approach the man I overhear that he’s reporting me through his transmitter: “La mujer está aquí conmigo” (The woman is here with me). Pff! “mujer” (woman), I would opt for the denotation “chica” (girl) if I had the choice…Well, time flies…Anyways, I feel like an unwanted guest (likely rightfully). Disrupter. Civilian on a battlefield. I learn from the man that the hunt should end at 3 pm. That is in fifteen minutes. We wait patiently. Slightly after 3 pm the first car leaves. The other two depart only after another hour. We are quite pissed. We’re wasting our time here. But what can be done – safety first. The weird thing is that we haven’t heard a single shot the whole time we have been waiting here. Don’t take me wrong, I’m really glad for that. But it just seems a bit strange, given the number of hunters we see. At 4 pm, after the last car finally disappears, we are back on track.
“BANG!”, a sudden unpleasant sound resonates around us… “Did you hear that?“, I ask Thomas. “Were they not supposed to finish at 3 pm?”, we wonder. Mmm…perhaps it was just an illusion. We continue…left and right, step by step….”BANG!, BANG!, BANG!”…Three shots in a row. “Are they kidding me?!” There was a silence the whole time we waited and then suddenly one shot after another once we start moving thought the target area? We sit down on the ground and feel like soldiers in trenches. We have to wait a bit more. I don’t want to risk being confused for a wild goat by one of these dumb armed machos and shot down. I’m dressed all in purple at least but Thomas is all brown and green. We can’t risk that. And so we lose another precious time in our trench exposed to the boiling sun
After another 40 minutes we head down the hill. Luckily we hear no more shots. Only after we reach a wide gravelly road, I feel relieved. Well, that wasn’t a nice experience. I would also pass on the unwanted dose of adrenalin. Very shortly we meet another trail notice board summarizing the next stage. For the rest of the day we are hiking the wide road. It’s good for cutting the miles but we can’t find any convenient camping spot. We would prefer to sleep a bit further from the road – out of sight, out of reach. The situation starts to be a bit critical around 7pm – we are tired, hungry and still without a camping spot. Finally we find a relatively nice hill with a view further from the road. The problem is there is no single flat spot on it. If we want one, we will have to make it. After 20 minutes of desperate search we find 2 small spots. Even though we try our best to level the terrain as much as possible, we keep sliding down into the bushes underneath us all night long. What we don’t know yet is that sliding won’t be our biggest problem of tonight….