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Setting off in mid-March?

apoivre

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Mozárabe de Almería in March 2019
I meant to start the Mozárabe later in the year but the way things look now I'm more likely to be in the region in mid-March, flying into Málaga on the 13th. I will only have less than 3 weeks so I can only do one a part of the walk and then come back later in the year. The question is, which part, given the weather?

Ideally, I would like to start in Santa Fe de Mondújar but I'm a bit worried I could have snow or worse higher in the Alpujarras. Looking at this thread, Erik Anderson ran into heavy snow around Huéneja later in March in 2017.

My plan B would be starting somewhere warmer and further down the road, probably closer to the Guadalquivir valley.

Granted, I could always wait until I arrive and then check the weather forecast. From Málaga I could easily reach Almería, Granada or Córdoba to start the walk. But I'd love to be able to do some planning beforehand.

So, does anyone have experience with walking the camino this time of the year? And which parts do you old hands think might be a problem in bad weather? I don't mind some snow every now and then but I'd rather not walk for days in bad weather higher in the mountains. So the bit after Peza and especially around the Blancares de la Rambla looks like the one to avoid. Anywhere else?
 

Raggy

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozarabe Almeria (2017)
Cherhill to Canterbury - Pilgrims' Way (2018)
Via Francigena (2019)
Santa Fe de Mondújar is an interesting starting point. You will avoid the walk through the outskirts of Almeria and some of the river-bed walking which is hard work. (Although there are a couple of stretches of river bed after that).

On the way to Granada, the places where you're most likely to meet wintery conditions are Alquife at almost 1,300m, and (as you surmised) the peak just before you descend to Quentar is around 1,400m. That said, I would not miss these areas unless the weather reports are bad - They're the most beautiful stages of the camino. The way out of Granada is, in my opinion, the least attractive stage. If you're avoiding Almeria out of dislike for suburbs, then you might consider taking the bus from Granada to Olivares.
From Olivares, there's a steep climb to Moclin, which is at 1,000m. That might get a bit wintery. I have a feeling that the stage from Santa Cruz to Cordoba might also be one to look out for - not because of high altitude but because it is very exposed.

I've been following (on Facebook) a Belgian pilgrim who walked Almeria to Granada from 4/Jan to 14/Jan. She experienced some chilly days but she found it rewarding. The ever-helpful association came to her assistance when she reported that the heater wasn't working in one albergue and the shops were closed because of the epiphany holiday. As far as I can see from her photos, she didn't come across snow on the path, but plenty of snowy peaks in view on the Sierra Nevada. But weather can change and mid March could be different.

By the way - Perhaps you're already aware that there is the option to start in Malaga, but that will not take you through Granada. The Malaga way merges with the routes from Almeria and Jaen at Baena. Magwood has blogged about the Malaga and Almeria routes.
 
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apoivre

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Mozárabe de Almería in March 2019
Thanks a lot, Raggy, this is reassuring. I think I'll message the amigos once I'm in Andalucia and see if the weather's cooperating.

And thank you for the heads up on the stage before Cordoba - I haven''t even thought about it as my focus was on the mountains. Let's see if I can walk the 36 kms straight from Castro del Rio if this route is less exposed.
 

Raggy

Active Member
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Camino Mozarabe Almeria (2017)
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The way out of Granada is, in my opinion, the least attractive stage.
BTW - There is an alternative route from Granada to Pinos Puente - the "Variante Pedro Ruiz." It might be a little less ugly than the main route. From the centre of Granada, head for the river Genil and follow it for most of the way to Pedro Ruiz, where you turn right to reach Pinos Puente. Since this "variante" follows the river, I imagine that it's relatively easy to follow, but I doubt that it is well marked. (Even the signage for the main route through Maracena and Atarfe is subpar in places. The territory of the wonderful Almeria association stops at Granada).

Let's see if I can walk the 36 kms straight from Castro del Rio if this route is less exposed.
Perhaps I was just unlucky to walk on a particularly blowy day. I think you'll find yourself on the same windswept plane above Cordoba whether you go directly from Castro del Rio in one stage or go the longer way via Espejo and Santa Cruz.
The direct route from Castro del Rio takes you past a Roman archeological site - Yacimiento Arqueológico de Ategua. The other way takes you through the pleasant town of Espejo and the smaller settlement of Santa Cruz. Unfortunately, Santa Cruz is the more logical place to stay from a distance point of view. It has a roadside hotel, a couple of tiny shops, and a disused grain silo that some locals would like to convert into an interpretation centre for the decisive Battle of Pharsalus in 48BC, in which Julius Caesar defeated the massed forces of Pompey The Great.
Espejo has been identified as the true site of Robert Capa's famous Civil War photograph "The Falling Soldier." At the time it was published, the location was erroneously identified as Cerro Muriano, which is a later stop on this Camino.
Plenty to think about on either route.
 

apoivre

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Mozárabe de Almería in March 2019
BTW - There is an alternative route from Granada to Pinos Puente - the "Variante Pedro Ruiz." It might be a little less ugly than the main route. From the centre of Granada, head for the river Genil and follow it for most of the way to Pedro Ruiz, where you turn right to reach Pinos Puente. Since this "variante" follows the river, I imagine that it's relatively easy to follow, but I doubt that it is well marked. (Even the signage for the main route through Maracena and Atarfe is subpar in places. The territory of the wonderful Almeria association stops at Granada).
I know it's too early to think about it but I meant to check out Medina Elvira, the archaeological site in the hills above the main route to Pinos Puente. I know there's a new team working the site now after a hyatus of many years and I'm trying to get in contact with them to see if I can pop in for a visit. This is a Visigothic/early Islamic precursor to Granada so it should be really interesting.

The direct route from Castro del Rio takes you past a Roman archeological site - Yacimiento Arqueológico de Ategua. The other way takes you through the pleasant town of Espejo and the smaller settlement of Santa Cruz. Unfortunately, Santa Cruz is the more logical place to stay from a distance point of view. It has a roadside hotel, a couple of tiny shops, and a disused grain silo that some locals would like to convert into an interpretation centre for the decisive Battle of Pharsalus in 48BC, in which Julius Caesar defeated the massed forces of Pompey The Great.
Espejo has been identified as the true site of Robert Capa's famous Civil War photograph "The Falling Soldier." At the time it was published, the location was erroneously identified as Cerro Muriano, which is a later stop on this Camino.
We are spoiled for choice now, are we? Espejo sounds interesting but so does Ategua. It's 36 km in one go that I'm worried about. Let's see how my legs fare by the time I get to Castro del Rio.
 

Raggy

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozarabe Almeria (2017)
Cherhill to Canterbury - Pilgrims' Way (2018)
Via Francigena (2019)
I know it's too early to think about it but I meant to check out Medina Elvira, the archaeological site in the hills above the main route to Pinos Puente..
The site didn't look that special from the road side, since the area is in a mess, but the description on the sign highlighted its importance. I hope you can connect with the people who are working the site. If you visit, please share some photos and description here. Some of my friends in the facebook group "Amis du Camino Mozarabe Via de la Plata," would also be very interested. (You are welcome to join the group. Most members are French speakers but anyone with an interest in the Camino Mozarabe is welcome).
https://www.facebook.com/groups/693727244143968/

I'm sure that you could get a bus to Atarfe (or a tram to Maracena) if you prefer to skip over the outskirts of Granada on the way to Medina Elvira. Here's what awaits if you choose to walk it:
1. A long, pedestrianized, urban-park with monuments to Colombus, Lorca etc.
2. Modern, residential, streets to the Corrida
3. Scrappy concrete footpath through a few kilometers of light industrial sprawl
4. Maracena; with a few handy shops where you can buy food for lunch and ask directions to Atarfe.
5. A bridge over the motorway, where you get the first glimpse of the hills ahead
6. A small but pleasant park in the centre of Atarfe. It's the only nice place for a lunch break today.
7. Abandoned building sites from the 2008 economic slump and older, industrial, ruins
8. Medina Elvira

Folowing Medina Elvira, you'll see a heavily-graffitied, industrial, ruin (a derelict concrete works?), a sign advertising hot spring pools (only open in the summer months), and a few hairy kilometers alongside a busy road. You can avoid the highway traffic by walking on railway ballast - It is torture but it's probably safer than being on the road. While Pinos Puente is nothing to write home about, it was home to a great writer; Federico Garcia Lorca. There's also a kind of "Dick Whittington," story (minus the puss-in-boots) that connects the town to Christopher Colombus.

The good news is that the scenery improves after Pinos Puente, and it gets very pretty after Olivares.
 

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apoivre

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Mozárabe de Almería in March 2019
Of course I will share pictures if I can get a tour. For what it's worth, the site might not be that interesting for a casual traveller, though.
Did you have a look around the site or just see it from the path? As I understand it, the foundations of the citadel are in El Caballito del Rey, quite a way off the camino.

Thanks for the detailed description of the way to the site, now I know what to expect. (Oh, and the Facebook group. I only knew the main Amigos group and this one looks as interesting).
 

Raggy

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozarabe Almeria (2017)
Cherhill to Canterbury - Pilgrims' Way (2018)
Via Francigena (2019)
Did you have a look around the site or just see it from the path? As I understand it, the foundations of the citadel are in El Caballito del Rey, quite a way off the camino.
Regrettably, I hadn't done my homework and I didn't detour to explore. If you do go up there, you might look into the possibility of cutting across the hills to Pinos Puente. If it's possible, I think that it would be better than doubling back to the CO-31 highway and railway tracks.

Some of the facebook group members are very interested in the archeology and ancient civilisations that one encounters on this Camino. The founder of the group, Michel Cerdan, organized a touring exhibition titled Camino de Piedras last year. The exhibition used stones and other objects that he collected along the Camino to illustrate and commemorate the different people who have migrated along these old routes through history. You might be interested in the digital version of his project:
http://www.caminodepiedras.com/es/

I expect you're aware of the La Mata Bronze Age site that you'll encounter later on this Camino? You can't miss it as you walk from Campanario to Magacela. When I passed, there was an archeology student manning the office who kindly answered my questions about the Tartessian civilization.
 
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apoivre

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Mozárabe de Almería in March 2019
BTW - There is an alternative route from Granada to Pinos Puente - the "Variante Pedro Ruiz." It might be a little less ugly than the main route. From the centre of Granada, head for the river Genil and follow it for most of the way to Pedro Ruiz, where you turn right to reach Pinos Puente. Since this "variante" follows the river, I imagine that it's relatively easy to follow, but I doubt that it is well marked.
On the other hand, I did some research and it looks like if one is to cheat and and take a bus out of Granada, the next village past Pedro Ruiz, Fuente Vaqueros, is the birthplace of Lorca and there's a casa museo that sounds quite interesting. It's only 6 km from there to Pinos Puente along what looks like country lanes. Decisions, decisions.
 

Raggy

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozarabe Almeria (2017)
Cherhill to Canterbury - Pilgrims' Way (2018)
Via Francigena (2019)

apoivre

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Mozárabe de Almería in March 2019
Just a quick update that the weather is gorgeous. Sadly for the good folks working the fields, it last rained in November. Or so I was told by the helpful mayor of Santa Cruz de Marchena who drove to town to open the albergue for me yesterday.
I am in Ocaña now and so far things have been really great.
 

apoivre

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Mozárabe de Almería in March 2019
Another quick update on the one site I really wanted to see, the Santuario de Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno in Fiñana, which is the former mosque. It is either Nasrid (after the dynasty that ruled Granada, nazarí in Spanish) or Almohad (which would make it the only extant Almohad mosque in the peninsula). I was told I could see the inside in the afternoon only and it’s the local sacristán that’s got the keys. To find him, just ask in the square, they said. Well, yesterday Real was playing Celta so everyone in the village was glued to the screen in the main bar. (Strangely enough, everyone in the area seems to root for Real Madrid). So I had to make do with what you see through the glass in the front door. Which is a shame as I’d love to see that stucco work in the mihrab from up close.

I will upload some photos when I’m not on mobile.
 

Raggy

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozarabe Almeria (2017)
Cherhill to Canterbury - Pilgrims' Way (2018)
Via Francigena (2019)
everyone in the area seems to root for Real Madrid
La Liga looks like a two horse race to me. I have the impression that in any region without a top flight club, Madrid is everyone's default team to support. This is on my list of similarities between Spain and Japan - It used to be said that all Japanese people loved "The Giants (baseball team), Taiho (sumo wrestler), and Tamagoyaki (Japanese rolled egg dish)." I'd like to introduce a similar fake saying into Spain, that all Spaniards love "Real Madrid, Joselito, and Tortilla." Then I can "discover," it one day as evidence of a connection between distantly related tribes of Iberia and Yamato.

Sorry to hear that you weren't able to visit the church. I've just looked it up on YouTube. Amazing. I wasn't aware of it, but I noticed a sign to arab baths in some places around there. (Fiñana? Jerez del Marquesado?)
 
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apoivre

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Mozárabe de Almería in March 2019
I noticed a sign to arab baths in some places around there. (Fiñana? Jerez del Marquesado?)
There are ‘Arab baths’ in Ferreira, I just passed them in the afternoon. But it was after a lazy Sunday lunch at the local asador so I was already pressed for time. Barely made it to Alquife before sundown.
It is quite chilly here, what with the altitude and all. The owner of the albergue says they normally have snow at this time of the year. But this year "is not normal”.
 

Raggy

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozarabe Almeria (2017)
Cherhill to Canterbury - Pilgrims' Way (2018)
Via Francigena (2019)
There are ‘Arab baths’ in Ferreira, I just passed them in the afternoon. But it was after a lazy Sunday lunch at the local asador so I was already pressed for time. Barely made it to Alquife before sundown.
It is quite chilly here, what with the altitude and all. The owner of the albergue says they normally have snow at this time of the year. But this year "is not normal”.
I think there are more "arab baths" in Jerez del Marquesado, which you'll pass through tomorrow.
Amazing to see the traces of muslim architecture and think of the violent transition that the region went through in centuries past. The people of the towns in the Sierra Nevada mountains rebelled against the new Catholic rulers after the reconquest and wound up being expelled and replaced with people from other regions.

EDIT: Just checked. There are arab baths in all the old pueblos - Dollar, Ferreira, Jerez del Marquesado. The remains of the baths in Jerez are in the 16th century church.
 
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peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
By the way - Some pilgrims a little ahead of you made. detour to visit an archeological site near Baena, which looks amazing:
Too late for me, but I see that Baena has a museum that has many artifacts from the site and others. I had no idea it was there! I am not as learned as you guys in archaeological history, but I do enjoy visiting sites and museums. It is a good way to spend the post-walking hours, learning about the area you have walked through and all the many civilizations that have been here before you.

 

apoivre

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Mozárabe de Almería in March 2019
Thought I'd follow up with my stages and some brief notes.

I did not walk all the way to Cordoba as I had planned, mostly due to several miscalculations on my part earlier in the walk. Ah well

Day -1: Arrived in Almeria late in the evening, had a coffee with Nely from the Association and chatted a bit about the camino.

Day 1: I hoped to start at Los Millares, the super important Bronze Age site across the rio from Santa Fe de Mondujar. The problem is, the site closes at 2 pm and the first bus from Almeria only passes it at 13:34. They did not let me see the sight so I had to make do with the small museum at the entrance. There are several outlying forts around, I tried toscramble up to the biggest one, Fort I, but it's fenced off at the top of the hill so I didn't get a good look.
Los Millares to Santa Cruz de Marchena: 18 km, 5 hrs. Should have probably pressed on to Alboloduy.

Day 2: Santa Cruz de Marchena to Ocaña: 25.6 km, 7 hrs.

Day 3: Went off the camino to climb into the hills before Abla and follow the crest, entering the town from the other side, the long (10.6 km) and picturesque way.
Ocaña to Huéneja: 30.7 km, 7.5 hrs.

Day 4: Huéneja to Alquife: 19.4 km, 7 hrs.

Day 5: Alquife to Guadix: 23 km, 5.5 hrs

Day 6: Veered off the camino in the hills after Guadix to explore the badlands of Purullena. There are several viewpoints on the edge of the cliffs less than a km off the camino.
Guadix to La Peza, 23.2 km, 5 hrs.

Day 7: La Peza to Quéntar (with a detour via Tocon to check out the new albergue): 28.8 km, 8.5 hrs.

Day 8: Quéntar to Granada: 16 km, 4 hrs

Day 9 in Granada

Day 10: I was too late leaving Granada to get to the Lorca birthplace (they close at 2 pm) so I had to take a bus to just before Pinos Puente and walked to Moclín from there.
Pinos Puente to Moclín: 16 km, 4.5 hrs.

Day 11: Moclín to Alcalá la Real: 22.5 kms, 6 hrs

Day 12: I went off the camino for two days (see here). The first day to Priego de Córdoba went off as planned - only I should have left earlier to be in Almedinilla before 2 pm, when the Roman villa closes. Priego is by far the loveliest small town I've seen on this walk, with several beautiful churches to explore.
Alcalá la Real to Priego de Córdoba: 23 kms, 6 hrs

Day 13: Spent the morning exploring Priego, The route I had planned was a bit off so I ended up on private property high in the hills and was advised by a ranger (?) to come down from that hill and walk along the road instead. With all the backtracking (and the very late start from Priego) I was 9 kms short of Baena at sundown. Unsure of my route now, I decided to spend the night in Luque, splurging for a big beautiful old house that sleeps 10 or 12, the only accomodation option Google Maps had for the village (75 euros).
Priego de Córdoba to Luque - 21.5 kms, 6 hrs.

Day 14: I spent most of the day reading in the garden before walking to Baena to catch a bus to Córdoba as I had a train out of there the next day.
Luque to Baena: 9 kms, 1.5 hrs.

All of this time I had perfect balmy weather, with some light drizzle early one morning (that I waited out before starting the walk in Moclin). The trees were in bloom and I met no other walker on the road. Up to Huéneja I had all the albergues to myself before catching up to a Dutch couple that had been one day ahead of me. I would later meet them every night in the albergues up to Tocon de Quéntar where they were the first people to ever stay at the new albergue.

All the distances are what I actually walked as measured by ViewRanger, the app I use for navigation and recording my tracks. Times normally include lunches and clara breaks at every village. If anyone needs a GPS track, please let me know.
 

Raggy

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozarabe Almeria (2017)
Cherhill to Canterbury - Pilgrims' Way (2018)
Via Francigena (2019)
Thanks for your report from a unique camino. Your report offers some great pointers to places of interest on and off this camino!
 

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