turning left out of the finca gate the house is already a few metres below the camino, and terraces run up to the boulder peak on the right side. past my wall which has a concrete capping to prevent the wild asparagus pickers from knocking the dry stone wall down as they roam the sierra in search of the slender shoots. much of this camino has its 1000 year (at least) stone paving in place, and in the morning it is shaded by the encinas.
not far along it narrows and crosses a ravine where there is a small tumbling torrent after very wet weather. there are birds singing in the trees above the bracken; thrushes now, nightingales in the spring. above the back of a high rounded granite hill; below a horseshoe of terraced olive groves stretches down to the plain.
from here the way pulls upwards in a more determined fashion, long steep paved sections between stone walls and terraced fincas, ending in sharp bends which have wonderful views. high canchals or peaks, of tumbled rocks and encinas, the ilex oaks, and rusty brown deciduous oaks, surround one on both sides.
in between are grassy fincas, quite green after recent rains, some with cows and calves grazing.
my boots slip on the smooth stones of the camino, they are still damp and greasy after a cold night.
looking back down the path
this huge cork oak is a well remembered landmark, and presages the first view of the Moorish castle.
when the camino emerges after a climb to a more open section
then on to another steeper part, in grateful shade
and from the top there start to be views of the plain, here to the north. A pollution haze after several days without wind, the municiple dump just visible, and below rocky fincas and classic dehesa of open encina woodland before the flatter plain and a village.
a more dramatic view a little further on, as the camino winds its way upwards the line of sight turns eastwards. then up again, past a finca with a pretty gate
where further down they are chopping back the prickly pear which infests the rocky walls. looking over the wall I can see a small flock of sheep investigating the terraces, I can hear the soft tonk of their bell collars too. they look to have just been moved in; the sandy parts of the camino are imprinted by their little hooves
as we emerge onto another open stretch there is the castle again, much closer.
one can imagine the mule trains which used this path, stopping for water at the fuente in the big stone water trough, long enough for six at a time, next to my finca gate, then gathering strength for this long pull up to the fortified town, feeling that the journey was almost done as they saw the walls and towers. perhaps in Roman times as well as under the rule of the Moors. There are Roman foundations under the later building.
after a steep double bend, looking back across the paved way, the view is to the west across towards Alcuescar.
a little out of breath by now and getting warm, despite the cool air. the red tiled roof is the local study centre for the sierra, built over the past two years, but not yet opened.
and a pair of friendly burros, young ones, as the path turns yet again under their terrace. Tilda tries to be friendly and almost touches noses, but at the last minute a failure of nerve and she rushes away. they are still scary beasts to her.
another turn and there is the castle again.
a drinking place cut into the rock and the spring, with its beautiful arch built into the wall above, a pretty fuente, but the water level is well down.
the laid stone track rises up again, with a right-angled bend at the top.
from it another track, unpaved, runs back to olive groves high up in the sierra.
some of these fincas have huge rock terraces and tiny fields bounded by mazes of dry stone walls. all gated in various fashions, but hardly any have their original lintels and wooden gates.
one more climb under damp and lichen covered boulders supporting huge old cork oaks, and we are under the castle at last, as it perches on its high granite dome, seven hundred metres above sea level, about 250 metres higher than my finca. a stream rushes past its feet and several orange tree orchards, all spotted with fruit at this time of year.
and turning back one is rewarded with this view of the plain, and the sierra hazy with the damp morning air and bonfire smoke from pruning and clearing, the business of winter.