That’s not a gratuitously distasteful title: all will be revealed.
I sleep surprisingly well here: I’d like to put it down to all the exercise of striding mountain paths, but that’s not the case. Anyway, when I finally surfaced at nine, the sun was out and the great outdoors looked appealing.
After a meagre Spanish breakfast, I set out on the Siete Lagunas route. The weather forecast suggested the rain would arrive about one pm, so I was not intending to do the whole route. Soon after leaving the village I found myself caught up in a veritable traffic jam: two guys on horses, each leading two more all loaded with animal feed, seven dogs and a young woman on foot.
We all settled down to our own speeds, slowly strung out and continued up the steep stony track. I had a brief conversation with the young woman who – if I got the story right – was off to see her grandparents in their cortijo (croft / small farm). She asked where I was going and I explained it was a ‘there and back again’ sort of a thing, but I didn’t know where ‘there’ was. My limited Spanish meant my explanation to her was probably more prosaic than that. She warned me that rain was forecast for two pm.
She was only going to Cul de Perro (Dog’s Bum) and I recalled the route notes referring to this delightful placename. I’ve got an interest in both etymology and toponyms, so I found myself wondering about this particular placename. I reckoned I’d better not start asking the young woman as my weaknesses in Spanish might prove an embarrassment. Not that I’d have understood an explanation: her accent was strong and I’d not been sure I’d got the ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ story right, especially as she wasn’t dressed for the part and had no basket.
So it was around Cul de Perro that I separated from my cavalcade, but not entirely. Gratifyingly, the seven dogs had shown little interest in me, preferring to sniff each others’ culs. But, as I continued past Cul de Perro, one dog peeled out from the pack and followed me, sometimes rushing ahead or – as we climbed higher – rolling in the snow, panting.
Down in the village this morning there had been virtually no sign of snow, just little icy strips on wooden steps but all gone everywhere else. Looking at the hills opposite, one could see the snowline had lowered a bit overnight, but that was it. As I walked up out of the village, I had become steadily more conscious of dustings of snow and by the time I left Cul de Perro cortijo, I was walking in soft snow.
Conditions were good: I kept an eye on the weather, which was clear, sunny and windswept. I hadn’t taken my walking poles and I only had summer weight boots, so I carried on with care and the dog. Speaking of which, it seemed to be constipated, doing a lot squatting and straining. Unless, of course, this was some canine ritual linked to the current location. Perhaps I had stumbled on the roots of the cortijo’s toponymical etymology.
There were still occasional waymarks, which was helpful as the path wasn’t always clear in the snow, and the dog seemed to know where to go as well. We carried on steeply up through snow and the walk was definitely enjoyable.
After a total of about three and a half kilometres, I decided the snow was now deep enough to be a bit of a hazard: a firm crust which generally took my weight but sometimes ended up inside my boots. The dog and I turned round and headed back the way we had come, easily following my footsteps.
At one point a loud scrabbling noise, which didn’t sound like the dog, made me turn round and something I’m calling a mountain goat rushed past me, the dog in hot pursuit. I stood and watched the two of them thundering over the landscape, but it was clear the dog was losing the race as the goat bounded away from it. In no way abashed, the dog eventually came rushing back panting and we continued down the track.
Back in the village, I had a coffee in Mesón la Fragua whilst the dog waited patiently outside. Miguel’s brother laughed and shrugged when I told him. I think I’ll try to eat downstairs tonight, with the common people, rather than upstairs in splendid isolation. I might even be able to take part in a conversation, if they speak slowly.
The dog trotted along ahead of me and turned quite deliberately up the steps to the hotel. I wondered whether it had second sight or could just smell my scent from when I left this morning. Laurie Chancellor will say the latter is the more likely.
The predicted early afternoon rain still hasn’t arrived at 5:00 and I’m just back from a blustery and nippy stroll round the village, which is really a mass of little lanes and alleys running between the whitewashed houses of this pueblo blanco. My new canine friend was waiting patiently for me and wagged her tail enthusiastically at my approach.
Despite the forecast constantly delaying its prediction of rain, tomorrow still shows as sun and 5deg with a weaker wind than today. Emma and/or her husband will be transporting my case and currently the plan is that I’ll walk, but if the weather is poor I can either get a lift all the way or be dropped off for a lower level walk.
Mr Emma is English and a carpenter who works in the village and does all the maintenance work round the various Fragua properties.
Before I came out here I saw a promotional video on the Web featuring drone footage of the village and a heavy emphasis on the way a group of the local women were upcycling waste materials to make decorations for village celebrations. Naturally, there’s not much of that on display during this quiet period at the end of winter, but I have spotted one item: a length of alternating black and white patches neatly knotted on a cord, but admittedly showing the effects of winter
Photos will followhen I get a decent signal.