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