Feb-May 2014, Hiking in Spain

map of what was hiked

Planning/maps

See the GR7, GR8 and GR10 trail guides for current GPX tracks and also the main Hiking in Spain guide here. These guides will be updated as time passes, and so may not reflect what I actually used on this trip, which was as follows:

Fri, 17 Jan 2014

Not even two weeks back in Reno and I'm already hankering to be on the move again. To move is to be alive, while stuck in one place is like being in prison. A comfortable prison, but prison nevertheless. I already knew this, but it's worth recording my mood anyway to help me remember. Maybe someday I'll finally learn to reduce these rest stops in Reno to the bare minimum. Still have some chores to perform plus waiting on some items I ordered via the internet.

Sun, 2 Feb 2014

After much consideration, decided to ditch the IGN 1:200K paper maps and create electronic trail guides complete with overview maps for all the long-distance hiking trails in Spain which interest me, suitable for use on ereaders and smartphones. Lots of work, but worth it. Still 110g of paper maps for which no GPX tracks yet available. Hopefully, I'll get those GPX tracks knocked off this trip.

Thought about getting a newer model smartphone, then decided to postpone until at least May. The Nokia N8 is working fine and there's always the potential for problems with anything new. Aside from a better browser, a large-sized smartphone would replace my spare ereader, for perhaps another 200g of savings. (Electronics can break and getting replacements while traveling is a problem, which is why I carry spares for everything that is essential, and that includes the ereader these days, even though I dislike the extra weight.)

I'm spending whole days at a time on the computer/internet, but this is not wasted time, since I'm actually getting things accomplished, as opposed to passively consuming junk food for the mind.

Sun, 16 Feb 2014

Before I leave, I should note that this six week hiatus has been very enjoyable, partly because I'm becoming psychologically more adapted to the motel-living lifestyle, partly because I'm now in a more expensive motel, and partly because this motel has been mostly empty (and thus quiet) the whole six weeks (emptiness and quiet both related to being more expensive, since the noisy low-lifes seek out the lowest possible rent). Last night it was full, but the walls are well-insulated, so I wasn't bothered by sound from the adjacent rooms too much. I think I'll make a habit of spending four to six weeks here each winter. That will be my time for taking care of business, especially business that involves mail-ordering things followed by possibly returning them for some reason, such that the total turnaround time including backorders and shipping problems and whatnot could be a month or more. A big block of time would also be useful for working out the kinks when I upgrade to a bigger smartphone, and for designing and making new equipment.

Thu, 20 Feb 2014 (zero day)

Flight to Spain was $952 round-trip. Arrival at Madrid airport at 7:50pm, then another two hours to retrieve baggage, pass through immigration and take the subway downtown. Lodging previously arranged with AirBnB. $31 plus $4 Airbnb service fee plus 3% currency conversion fee, or about 26€ at 1.37$/€. This is about the going rate for Madrid rooms for rent with shared bath and has the advantage that it is pre-arranged. Without my cellphone activated (which I can't do until tomorrow), I would have a problem finding a cheap room in the late evening.

Fri, 21 Feb 2014 (zero day)

Slept well. I had been mulling over various possibilities for where to start hiking, but postponed a final decision until this morning, when I finally settled on Ronda. I'd read reports that the GR7 in Cádiz province is mostly road-walking, which is why I didn't start at Tarifa. Train was 71€, which was more than I expected. For buses, price is the same regardless of when the ticket is purchased, but apparently there are substantial advance purchase discounts with trains. Paid 22€ for a nice single room with bath at Hotel Andalucía, right across the from the train station in Ronda.

Sat, 22 Feb 2014 (26 km)

Went to bed early last night and slept a long time, in an effort to overcome jet lag. Ronda is a major tourist destination. Walked around and saw some of it and got my obligatory photograph—"did the town" as people who go on package tours would express it—then hurried away. Terrible trail, mostly on paved roads, including a particularly nasty stretch of highway beside some sort of car racing resort. A place for rich mafioso types to pretend to be formula one race car drivers. Eight foot fences with barbed wire on the top surrounding the establishment, with nasty warnings to the effect that the property was monitored 24 hours/day by armed security guards. Deafening noise from the unmufflered race cars, audible 10km away. In other words, over 300 square kilometers polluted by noise from this resort. Later, the GPX showed the trail running through a wooded area with a Ronda Golf sign out front. Appears to have been abandoned partway through construction. Easy to get past the fence, but I couldn't be sure as to the fences on the other side, so I stuck to the highway. Saw some waymarks a kilometer later, so evidently the GPX I'm using is wrong. Will replace with my own recording.

Many other fenced estates besides the race resort and golf development. South of Spain is notorious for corruption. Rich mafioso types allowed to buy up the land, fence it off so no one else can access it, build it up so as to destroy the natural beauty. My great worry is that this sort of thing might eventually happen to all of Spain. The Spanish lack the strong communal values of the northern Europeans. That is, they resemble the United States more than say Sweden in their attitude towards private property. Andalucía, from what I can see, corresponds to the former slave states of the United States: totally lacking in communal values, rich allowed to run rough shod over the poor, no sense of noblesse obligé in the rich, whole society poisoned by get-rich-quick mentality. Definitely glad I didn't start in Tarifa. Maybe things will get better when I get to Granada province. I hiked the Alpujarras region some ten years ago, and don't recall it being mafioso-dominated.

Sky is blue, but puddles on the ground in places, so evidently there was recent rain. Glad I missed it, since that would have been the straw to break the camel's back, and make for a truly a miserable beginning to my hiking trip. Camped in an olive grove near Cuevas del Becerro.


east side of ronda

Sun, 23 Feb 2014 (13 km)

Very windy. Trail better today, though still more highway walking than I'd prefer. Feeling tired, so cut day short. Camped between Serrato and Ardales in area of scrub mixed with young pines. Short of water. Should have loaded up in Serrato.

Mon, 24 Feb 2014 (16 km)

Rained for several hours last night. And to think that I had considered not setting up the tarp, due a clear sky yesterday evening! Weather in Europe is not predictable like in the American west—need to remember that. Whole body feels sore, especially buttocks, either from muscles developing or maybe residual stiffness due to sleeping in the airplane and train while sitting upright. Gloomy thoughts about all the open land being sold off to crony capitalists and then fenced off in the future, with the commoners herded into slum-like cities to slowly starve to death. Modern enclosure movement. Won't happen immediately, so best enjoy the world while it is still possible. Of course, humanity has always been dancing on a volcano, so to speak, though that expression is also literally true in places like the American west, where there is geothermal activity and thus the possibility of a supervolcano. Supervolcanos, huge asteroids, black holes, sun swelling to the size of a red dwarf—all sorts of ways of ways for the earth to be destroyed, and one of them is eventually inevitable. Anyone who lives too much for the future is a fool. And anyone who doesn't make any plans for the future is also a fool.

Camped after Ardales, on an abandoned forest road. Considered staying at the hostal in Ardales, but that would have made for a very short day. Also, I'm eager to camp, after over a month cooped up in motels back in Reno.


along the road to ardales, almond trees in blossom


campsite on abandoned forest road

Tue, 25 Feb 2014 (27 km)

Trail to El Chorro very rugged, especially the descent. Sign at bottom saying trail was open to mountain bikes. Must be some very strong riders here in Spain. El Chorro some sort of rock climbing mecca, due to the sheer limestone cliffs above the town. In Valle de Abdalajís, paid 25€ for solo occupancy of rustic hut, with double bed, bath with shower, patio, at Hotel El Refugio de Alamut.


between ardales and el chorro

Wed, 26 Feb 2014 (24 km)

Slept well and woke up at 8am, so jet lag apparently finally over. Nasty walk past the Antequera Golf Resort. Eight foot fences on either side of the road, labelled every ten feet or so with security guard signs. Like walking through a prison complex. But who are the prisoners? Me and the others outside the fence, or the golfers inside? 20€ for nice room at Hospedería Colon in Antequera. This price is normally for a single room without bath, but they gave me the price for a room with full bath and 3 beds because no single rooms available.

Thu, 27 Feb 2014 (16 km)

Sleep poorly, perhaps due to jazzing myself yesterday evening with too much internet browsing. Getting out of Antequera much more pleasant than getting in, but still lots of highway walking. And very few waymarks. Waymarks I did see steered me towards a busy highway, whereas the GPX track was along a quiet dirt road. Upped my water carrying capacity to five liters, by adding two generic one liter bottles. Windy day (from west), with not a lot of campsites and too much highway walking. Also, GPX led me across a muddy plowed field. Very glad to spot a hotel at Villanueva de Cauche. 20€ for single occupancy of nice room with full bath, pretty view.


looking back at antequera


resting for lunch

Fri, 28 Feb 2014 (24 km)

Not much heat in room, so used my camping quilt instead of the blankets supplied by the hotel. Very quiet indoors, but howling wind outdoors. Horrible trail today, just horrible. No waymarking, no trail, cross-country over rugged terrain, six barbed-wire fences to crawl through, several hard-to-open gates, a ditch, then finally I emerged onto a dirt road. Big E-4/GR7 signs at several places on today's route, so I'm clearly near the GR7, but not a well-worn trail, that's for sure. 32€ for single room at Hostal La Era in Riogordo. Stores all closed due to Día de Andalucía festival, so ate biscuits for dinner instead. Wind furious all day, mostly from the northwest. Knocked about at higher elevations, so hard to stand upright at times. Not many good camping opportunities today: not enough shrubbery to be stealthy, few flat spots, everything exposed to that furious wind. Weather like this to be expected in early spring.


view from riogordo, quite a storm moving in

Sat, 1 Mar 2014 (12 km)

Slept well. Hips finally feeling back to normal. Drizzled all day. Found a nice campsite and so decided to cut the day short. Really nice that I have that ereader and thus something to do while lying under the tarp in the afternoon listening to the wind howling and the rain pattering down on the tarp, feeling warm and dry undern my quilt. Both pants and stretch-knit pullover soaked and I didn't feel like drying them with body heat during the night, so I'll be frigid when I put them on tomorrow. Some mild discomfort in exchange for the joy of being outside in nature during a storm. I definitely needed to camp, since too many days in hotels in succession is wearying, even nice and quiet hotels like those of the past four nights. Spotted another E-4/GR7 trail market on the trail itself, as opposed to signs at the edge of towns. Maybe I've left Málaga province and entered Granada. Rain slackened in the evening but wind picked up. Tarp well-positioned and ground is dense clay, so stakes should hold. Reading "Sailing Alone Around the World, 1895-1898" by Joshua Slocum. Would truly hate to be at sea with wind like I experienced high up today and yesterday. Then again, with no wind, a sailboat can't move. I'm not made for the sea, that's for sure. Wind picked up as the night progressed and I had to get out and lower the tarp to storm height, as shown in the photo below.


tarp as initially set up, with foot pointed into wind and sheltered by vegetation


tarp after lowering it, so as to reduce force of wind against side

Sun, 2 Mar 2014 (20 km)

Wind and drizzle continued all night and into the morning, clearing towards mid-afternoon. Pensión Quiero Te Ver in Ventas de Zafarraya was full, and no answers from the other pensións for which I had phone number, so I continued down the road and camped amidst some scrub oak. Started drizzling again when the sun went down, but only mildly.

Mon, 3 Mar 2014 (17 km)

Starting to see occasional red and white GR-style waymarks, but then they led me into a mess of barbed wire fences and barking dogs. Should have followed the GPX track. Immediately after this, entered the first decent hiking area since I started back in Ronda. Dirt road through a built-up area, but at least it wasn't a highway or plowed field or scrub vegetation mixed with barbed wire fences. Paid 20€ for single occupancy of double room at Pensión San José in Alhama de Granada. Feels good to wash clean of all the mud I picked up hiking today and yesterday. Carnival week, so lots of festivities in the plaza. Reading "Inland Voyage" by Robert Louis Stevenson, which Slocum praised. Also, read another chapter of Casanova. How many more years allowing his voice to worm its way into my mind, putting myself at risk of being made thrall to the same inner demons which possessed him?


tajo or canyon of alhama de granada, note the houses built into the limestone cliffs on the right side

Tue, 4 Mar 2014 (17 km)

Forecast for sunny and mild for next two weeks. Nice route today over a mix of trails and dirt roads, just one brief stretch of highway with no cars on it, peaceful and sunny skies. Mild enough to require rolling up my shirt sleeves by noon. Camped in an old almond grove on the way to Arenas del Rey.


looking back at alhama de granada

Wed, 5 Mar 2014 (27 km)

Sky completely overcast in the morning, with mist and light drizzle, then sun came out later. Possible reason I was misled by waymarks into that mess of barbed wire a few days back is that yes and no signposts are identical other than for a label pasted on the top, which has fallen off in many cases. Very stupid design. And waymarks are needed, because GPX track I'm following is clearly wrong today. Used the maps on my GPS to navigate until I interesected with the waymarked path. I'm currently reading a dozen books at once, a delightful way to read, and something that would be impossible without the ereader, unless I wanted to turn myself into a pack mule. Crossed paths with a Belgian/Dutch couple hiking another trail which coincides with the GR7 for a ways. There is only one hotel in Jayena and I knew they would try to stay there as well, so I hurried on ahead to make sure I got there first. Felt ashamed of myself afterwards, since I have camping gear but they don't. Fortunately, there were rooms for both of us. 23€ for room at Pensión La Almijara in Jayena. Took advantage of the radiator to wash my stretch-knit pullover, which was starting to smell.


looking east towards the sierra nevada

Thu, 6 Mar 2014 (19 km)

Slight headache, probably from caffeine-withdrawal. Tried to stay off the chocolate but fell prey to temptation for several days in succession and became addicted again. That stuff is poisonous. Not sure what to replace it with. During previous Europe hiking trips, chocolate was about 25% of my calorie intake. Peanuts would be my preferred replacement, but quality dry-roasted peanuts are hard to find here in Spain and I don't want junk peanuts. Olive oil would be perfect, but I've experimented with carrying oil in the past and it is a nuisance. I'm already eating a half pound of cheese and don't want to increase. More bread would overload me with carbs. Not a problem and indeed advantageous to have plenty of carbs if I'm exercising heavily enough to burn them off quickly. But when only walking under 4 hours, such as today, I prefer more fat in my diet. Camped in the pines.


sierra tejeda

Fri, 7 Mar 2014 (33 km)

Heavy dew on the tarp in the morning. 20€ for single occupancy of double room at Pensión La Fonda in Dúrcal, which is slightly off the GR7 (and with quite a happening dessert bar down in the lobby). Longer day than I would prefer, but the area is congested and built up, so hotels are mandatory (at least for me). Could have found a hotel somewhere prior Dúrcal, but this way I'm positioned for a string of towns in the Alpujarras with budget hotels.

Sat, 8 Mar 2014 (14 km)

Passed a young Czech couple going the other way on the GR7. So already, counting that Belgian/Dutch couple a few days back, I've seen more thru-hikers here in Spain than all of last year (when I saw zero). There appears to be something wrong with the GPX track I am using. It shows me going way up into the mountains, whereas I think the GR7 should head down to Lanjarón. Because I wasn't certain and there aren't a lot of good campsites, I decided to cut the day short.

Sun, 9 Mar 2014 (9 km)

Truck with two men in it drove up and parked in an almond grove about fifty meters from where I was camped amidst pines. Probably hunters. They didn't see me and I packed up and left as soon as they moved away from the truck. Even less stealthy a site than I had thought! GPX is definitely wrong. Had I known how short the distance was to Lanjarón, I wouldn't have camped yesterday. GPX may have been following the GR-240, the circular route around the Sierra Nevada. 25€ for single occupancy of nice room with bath at Hotel Manolete. Called a number of other hotels, but no answer. When I walked by these hotels, it was evident they are still in business and merely closed because this is the slow season.

Picked up a Sunday paper (El País). Business and economy section appears little changed from last year. Which confirms my anecdotal observations that economic conditions are similar to a year ago. Political scandals also appear similar, or maybe they are identical, dragged out with endless legal proceedings. Also picked up a free English language paper, intended for the sizeable British ex-pat community in the area. Lots of ads for buying, building and renovating real-estate. Editorial content includes serious stories about (mostly British) con men preying on elderly British retirees, problems with real-estate titles, ex-pats with bad titles facing loss or destruction of their houses (built on land zoned by the national government for conservation purposes with illegal building permits granted by corrupt local officials), talk that the age of offshore tax havens is coming to an end, plus humorous columns focused on the themes of infidelity and boozing. Gives you some idea of what goes in the lives of these ex-pats. Let's imagine a typical afternoon get-together. The liquor is flowing liberally, noise level rises as conversation turns to the killings to be made buying up cheap Spanish real-estate and flipping for capital gains, then a sudden hush when someone mentions that so-and-so is going to have their house knocked down because it was built illegally. The swings in mood from greed to fear combine with the alcohol to leave the elderly dizzy and desperate for something solid to cling to—and here we have the signal for the con men to move in. Meanwhile, the younger couples whoop it up with naughty jokes about wife-swapping or tales of overweight middle-aged British women flying to Gambia (poorest country in Africa) to pick up "beach bumsters", who provide sex in exchange for money, visas or work permits... The thing that surprises me is all the ads for English language "international" schools and discussions of the pros and cons of enrolling the children of ex-pats in the local schools. How do these ex-pats with children earn a living? Perhaps the explanation lies two pages further on, where we find a long discussion of possible changes to the British disability benefits system. Apparently, disability is a booming industry in Britain, just like in the United States. Once benefits are approved, the disabled and their children can move to the sunny south of Spain, where money goes a lot farther than in Britain and it is easier to engage in vigorous outdoor activities or start up a business without attracting unwanted attention from the authorities and risk being kicked off the disability rolls.

Mon, 10 Mar 2014 (22 km)

First really splendid hiking day of this trip, a mountainous trail for most of the way, otherwise dirt roads. Pretty mountain villages, beautiful views. Definitely skip Málaga province next trip, land of mafiosos and the whores who love them, where those who walk are despised as peasants, and the manly thing to do is race around in a car without a muffler. 25€ for very nice room at Hostal Barranco del Poqueira. GPX file has me going to Mulhacén, which is snow-covered now. Fortunately, waymarking is pretty good in this area, so I should be able to follow the trail without GPS. Big problem is keeping these trails cleared of thorns. They are doing an okay job now, but all it would take would be a single year of neglect and the trails would become impassible.

Tue, 11 Mar 2014 (27 km)

Another good walking day. Passed a troop of German day-hikers between Pampaneira and Bubion and then a lone woman day-hiker later. Later, a trio of beautiful puppies followed me from a corral where the shepherd had evidently left them. Like Alaskan huskies, with long white and black fur and clear blue eyes. They appeared well-fed, so it wasn't food they wanted, just to be close to a human. Nothing I did would persuade them to go back to the corral. Finally, I was able to ditch them at a stream bridged by a fallen log, which they couldn't cross. They whined and barked as I walked away on the other side. It would have been wrong to help them over the stream, since then I would have to lead them all the way to Trevelez. And if they had gotten tired along the way, I'd have to carry them to Trevelez. But I felt bad abandoning them. A while later, I met a pretty young British woman thru-hiker heading the opposite way. I told her about the puppies and where they came from. Maybe she'll be able to guide them back to the corral. Or maybe they'll find their way back on their own. Adult dogs would have no problem getting back, by simply following their scent, but puppies is a different story. 25€ for single occupancy of double room with bath at Hostal Fernando in Trevelez.


along the road to trevelez, view of the sierra nevada

Wed, 12 Mar 2014 (23 km)

For Tímar to Lobras, use the sendero local Acequias los Castaños: steep descent from Tímar, thereafter level path. The GR7 between Tímar and Lobras is terribly eroded, difficult and of little scenic or cultural interest compared the Acequias route. 20€ for single occupancy of double room with bath at Pensión Nueva Cadí in Cadiar.


between juviles and timar

Thu, 13 Mar 2014 (25 km)

I'd been kicking around the idea of spending June in Morocco next year, so as to extend my trip to Spain by a month, but today I read that Morocco is seismically active, which made me have second thoughts. I doubt those traditional Moroccan brick and stone buildings are properly designed to withstand earthquakes. Even here in Spain, I have my doubts about older buildings. Just because they've held up so far proves nothing. Anyway, now that I'm back traveling, I no longer feel such an urge to continue traveling. A side-trip to Morocco in June would probably be just a nuisance, since I doubt they have hiking infrastructure there. Better idea would be to hike the Tahoe Rim Trail in mid June, in case I get antsy then. Main thing is to avoid being in any one place for too long.

Caught in a rain shower on the way to Válor. Poncho kept my upper body and pack dry, but boots are soaked. Definitely need to add back the foot powder to the packing list to keep them from stinking, at least a 30ml bottle.

30€ for single occupancy of room in Válor. This hotel living is starting to grow on me. Indeed, if with a girlfriend I'd stay mostly in hotels. But even then, camping gear would still be advisable. First, a foam pad or similar is essential for morning yoga, since floors in Spanish hotels are usually tile. But the foam pad is the bulkiest part of the camping gear, so if I'm going to bring that, might as well bring everything. Also, even if staying only in hotels, sleep quilt useful to supplement blankets in winter, since hotels in Spain are typically poorly heated when there is only one room occupied. Finally, the tarp, bugbivy, stakes and rear pole together weigh under 800g and take up little room, so might as well bring them along in case of emergencies, even if not planning to camp. Camping gear would likely prove far more useful in a real emergency than the first-aid kit most people carry.


between berchules and mecina de bombarón


near yegen

Fri, 14 Mar 2014 (21 km)

Distance from Válor to Laroles was only 13km, so I decided to press on and camp between Laroles and La Calahorra. Otherwise, tomorrow would be a very long day. Camped on the trail itself, since there weren't many good campsites otherwise. Thorns are absolutely horrible in this area. Trails have been cleared, but just barely. Without regular clearance, getting through would be impossible without a machete or similar tools.

Reading the New Testament again in Greek. Hard for me to completely understand the sense of guilt in those first-century Jews, though I'm aware it's just a different version of the guilt that is pervasive among modern Americans. The uneasiness with normal body odor, for example, or the shame at eating a can of beans in the public park like a hobo the way I do, shame at living in cheap motels, shame at walking like a peasant rather than driving. Let's try to imagine ourselves as Saint Paul, wracked by guilt and shame and sense of personal dirtiness, altogether ill-at-ease within our own skin, feeling ourselves to be harshly judged and gossiped about by the community in which we live, and condemned by an all-powerful and all-knowing Father God. A day comes when we can no longer tolerate the suspense. Better to be punished now and get it over with, than continue to endure this worry about future punishment. And that is effectively what embracing Christianity did for Paul—provoked punishment in the present and so eliminated worries about the future. Sort of like someone with a sense of shame about their naked body pulling their pants down in public: "I did it! I pulled my pants down in public and nothing happened! Yes, people laughed and the police reprimanded me, but that was nothing compared to what I expected to happen. I had been worrying that the whole world would come to an end if I pulled my pants down, but it didn't."

The feeling of freedom from guilt must surely be exhilarating, though probably this feeling doesn't last long, meaning stronger and stronger doses of the same medicine will be required as time goes by. Initially, our Christian pulls his pants down (so to speak) at home, in front of family and friends: "I want to confess to all of you that Jesus Christ made an appearance to me in the form of a ball of light and spoke in my ear, and I have accepted him as the son of God and as my personal lord and savior". Later, he pulls them down on a busy public street. Later still, he pulls them down on television, so the whole world can behold the spectacle he is making of himself. Needless to say, after having pulled his pants down in public a few times, there can be no turning back for our Christian (or other religious nut), since the original shame would then be augmented by the shame of having pulled his pants down in public, and that much shame is a burden few can bear. My monk cousin, the one who wrote a letter to the whole family telling us how Jesus knocked on his door one night when he was having doubts about the monastic life (he knew it was Jesus or else the Holy Ghost or the angel Gabriel delivering a message from Jesus, because when he went to the door to answer, there was no one there), a signal to my cousin that he was on the right path, is a fine example of how this works out in practice. No way he could renounce religion now. The shame at having spent thirty-plus years making a fool of himself would be too horrible to contemplate.

Nothing in the above is meant to suggest that aren't some sublime things in the New Testament. The authors were confused men, but what is confusion but the mixing of ideas? Mixing means cross-pollination, which generates abundance of new ideas, sometimes startling insights and evocative metaphors, sometimes rubbish. The trick is to separate the dross from the gold.


camped on the trail, for want of any better location

Sat, 15 Mar 2014 (25 km)

Temps slightly above freezing, little wind, blue skies in the morning. Discovered a hostal exists, on the GR7, about 5km north of where I camped, Posada de los Arrieros. So that would be an alternative to camping next year. Two of the hostals I called in La Calahorra were full, but I was able to get a nice room with bath at Hostal Manjón for 25€, even though it was apparently closed for the season. Very happy I didn't have to camp, since otherwise a big nuisance waiting until 5pm for the stores to re-open (I need supplies for several days to get to Baza), plus I'm unsure as to camping spots from here until I reach the mountains about 30km away. Maybe I'm getting soft and accustomed to hotel living.


young jabalí, or wild pig, in the middle of the photo


la calahorra, showing the castle on the hill

Sun, 16 Mar 2014 (33 km)

Clump of pines on the GR7 about 12km past La Calahorra is only stealthy camping spot until after Charches. Guardia Civil on motorbikes stopped me and asked what I was up to. Let me go when I said I was on the GR7 heading to Baza. Not a lot of good campsites in the southern section of Sierra de Baza along the GR7. I was worried about forest rangers stopping me, since camping is not allowed. My plan was to say I was heading for the refugio, but that would have been 10km further on and it was obvious I'd never get there before sundown. Ran into woods and hid from two trucks, another crept up on me and running would have awakened suspicions, so I played it cool and kept my head down as if examining my GPS. Trucks was full of construction workers, very unlikely to care about what I was up to. To avoid problems, best to leave La Calahora early (I dawdled until 10:30 eating breakfast outside the panadería), then make rapid progress (I dawdled again for a leisurely lunch), then stop early. Early start, early stop is always best, since this also allows for situations where the hotels are all full, so that it will be necessary to continue on and find a campsite. Anyway, eventually found a nice campsite on a hillock. I left Charches with 5L water, but that was excessive, since I passed some fuentes along the way.

Read another chapter of Casanova. The description of Mademoiselle Dubois makes me think maybe I should get a girlfriend—first time I've actually envied anything in Casanova's life. Provided I spent most nights in hotels rather than camping all the time, a girlfriend might actually be manageable, at least for the hiking in Spain trips. Too bad getting a girlfriend not like picking out a cat at the animal shelter, or just putting out a food bowl and picking up a stray like I did back at that apartment complex I lived in a few years ago. Though people did have mail-order brides at one time. Maybe a girlfriend who doesn't speak English and I don't speak her language, so we don't chatter all the time. Had to stop reading when Casanova goes on a gambling spree after giving up Mlle Dubois and once again plunges from riches to ruin. The endless parade of lovers is tiresome, but the volatility of pecuniary position is what I find most disagreeable about Casanova's life. That says something about me, and what it says is not very admirable...

So after putting Casanova on hold, I turned to the Septuagint. Yahweh (the fellow who supposedly created the universe) looked favorably upon Amaziah and allowed him to prevail in war against the children of Seir. Ten thousand slain on the field of battle. Another ten thousand taken alive, dragged to the top of a cliff, then pushed down and broken to pieces on the rocks below. Alas, Amaziah also captured the household gods of Seir and set them up in his own gods, whereupon Yahweh got angry and decided to bring about Amaziah's death. I'll read the gripping conclusion of this holy tale tomorrow... And to think that otherwise intelligent people take this rubbish seriously. (By rubbish, of course, I mean the part about Yahweh being the cause of what happened—no doubt the part about throwing captives off the cliff is only too true, though the numbers might be off.) It really impresses on you the fact that humans are basically naked apes, with ape-like brains, capable of believing anything.

Mon, 17 Mar 2014 (41 km)

No frost and no ice in bottles, but I still slept a bit cold. Either I'm getting soft in my old age or from living too much in hotels, or else I'm not getting enough to eat and my metabolism is low. I suspect the latter. Nothing but biscuits today. Supposedly, there is a hotel in Las Juntas de Gor. If so, then I could lie about planning to stay there next trip, in case questioned by Guardia Civil or forest rangers about my plans for the night. More fuentes on the way to Baza, so 5L definitely excessive coming out of Charches. On the other hand, trying to get from La Calohorra to Baza in too days also excessive. Split up into 3 days. Maybe camp about 20km from La Calahorra, first wooded col with flat spots after entering the mountains, then half-way through the mountains. Paid 20€ for single room with bath at Hostal Case Grande. Lots of bad reviews on the internet, but the place seemed fine. Either these reviews are deliberately falsified, trolls or other hoteliers trying to hurt the competition, or some people are really spoiled. The only thing I noticed to complain about was the plastic cover on the mattress. I used to remove these because of how they make the bed hot, but now I no longer bother. My camping pad is plastic foam, and I don't mind that, so why do I care if the hotel is equally uncomfortable?


looking back south towards the sierra nevada

Tue, 18 Mar 2014 (28 km)

Yesterday's hike was 8 hours of actual hiking plus several hours resting, and yet I felt exhausted at the end. How did I ever manage to walk 8 hours or 12 hours a day on the Pacific Crest and Appalachian trails? How does anyone manage to work 8 hours/day? I can understand long days working on the computer, since that seemed more like play than work to me, but most jobs aren't like that. Plan to take it easy today. I worry about getting soft when it comes to things like endurance of cold and need hotels rather than camping, but I want to be soft when it comes to hours spent moving. That is, I want to get away from the ants-in-the-pants can't-sit-still mentality of most hikers/bicycle tourists. Camped about 5km after leaving lake, at so-called siphon. Not many other camping opportunities. In the future, as the recently planted pine plantations grow up, should be many good camping opportunities. Something of a bird paradise at this campsite. Probably they are attracted by water in the irrigation canal plus variety of trees along the canal.

Beautiful metaphor in "Inland Voyage" by Stevenson (1904), which I paraphrase somewhat: "If a man knows he will sooner or later be robbed upon a journey, every bit of spending on the luxuries of life is so much gained upon the thieves. Likewise, every bit of joyful and healthful living is so much gained upon the wholesale thief that is death." This metaphor should not be interpreted to mean we should spend all our money before dying ("can't take it with you"). Money does not have to be spent to give pleasure. Money in the bank is security and latent power—a person can derive a great deal of pleasure from these abstractions. Conversely, lack of money in the bank, independent of any reduction in material standard of living, means insecurity and powerlessness, which few find enjoyable. And while it is true we can't take money with us after death, it is also true we can't take life itself with us. Life itself is what we should really focus on trying to enjoy while we can.


cerro jabalcón near zújar


camped near irrigation canal

Wed, 19 Mar 2014 (24 km)

25€ for single occupancy of double room with bath at Hostal Montecarlo in Cúllar. Caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror at the bar of the hostal while checking in. Looked like a stereotypical Ozark mountain man with my floppy hat, shirt and pants rolled up, high top boots, homemade pack, black beard and scowling face. No wonder even big dogs run in terror when I turn and charge at them with my stick. I'd be scared of being chased by someone who looks like me too!

Thu, 20 Mar 2014 (28 km)

Boots and feet are both stinking, as if fungus-infected. Really need to bring foot powder, at least a 30ml bottle. Essential repair item. Walked barefoot twenty minutes and also sunned my feet at lunch to try to clean them. 25€ for single occupancy of luxurious room at Hotel Rural La Morata in Orce, which is old seignorial mansion converted to hotel using rural development board subsidies. As I've said before, some great deals here in Spain in the spring. I'm aware that most young people can't afford to travel like I do, even though I have a low budget, but lots of middle-class retirees have an income plenty sufficient for this sort of travel, even if they stayed in hotels every night. All they need to do is lose some weight and build some muscles. Fell prety to temptation and had a bar of milk chocolate in the evening, on an empty stomach and not having touched chocolate in weeks. Sugar plus chocolate rush was super-strong.


camino from cúllar to orce


orce

Fri, 21 Mar 2014 (19 km)

Feet smelled clean this morning, but just to be sure, did some more barefoot hiking and exposure of the feet to sunshine during rest stops today. 25€ single occupancy double room with bath at Hostal Ruta del Sur in Huéscar.

Sat, 22 Mar 2014 (28 km)

GR7 follows a paved road north a few km from Huéscar, but it is a very pretty and quiet single lane road, running between rows of cedar trees, so pleasant enough. Cooler temperatures today, with clouds and cold air blowing in from the northwest. Very nice hiking weather. 20€ for single room at Hostal Puerta de Andalucía in Pueblo de Don Fadique. Stinky from perfume.


north of huéscar

Sun, 23 Mar 2014 (26 km)

Had two beers at the bar last night, for some reason, and slept poorly and woke up with headache. Alcohol is even worse than chocolate. All stores closed and I was out of food, but I was able to pick up three loaves of bread, plus some sardines and fried tomato at the gas-station mini-mart. Again walked barefoot and sunbathed feet, even though I noticed no smell during morning yoga (when I bring the soles of my feet close to my nose). Crossed into Murcia today. GPX appears to deviate from true GR7, based on waymarks. Camped amidst pines, after picking up full load of water at Cañada de la Cruz. Probably won't need it all, but you never know.


cañada de la cruz

Mon, 24 Mar 2014 (29 km)

Slept well. Feels good to camp after so many days in hotels. Cool but above-freezing temperatures in morning. In fact, I don't think I've encountered below-freezing temperatures this entire trip so far. That is unusual for a spring hiking trip to Spain for me. Bought a bunch of food for tomorrow, then devoured most of it today in the town park. Must have lost some weight yesterday.

Tue, 25 Mar 2014 (16 km)

Met a British guy hiking the opposite direction. Said he started in Elda and was heading for Tarifa via the GR7 southern variant (same variant I followed, through the Alpujarras). He camps almost exclusively. Apparently, he is using an electronic tablet of some sort to hold his maps. Forgot to ask how he charges the thing if mostly camping. Or how he cleans up. Feeling lazy, so cut day short. Really, 3 hours/day is plenty enough hiking for me to feel like I've gotten sufficient exercise for the day. I've been going too fast of late. Camped amidst pines at end of dead end road at Río Alhárabe.

Wed, 26 Mar 2014 (17 km)

Sleeted heavily during the night, with accumulations on the ground in the morning. But no ice in bottles, so evidently temperatures didn't drop below freezing. Very strong wind all day. Paid 20€ for single room with double bed and shared bath in Moratalla. A dump compared to the nice rooms I've been staying in (sewerage smell comes in through the open window along with noise from boob tubes in other rooms, ceiling light went out so only light was small table lamp), but clean enough. We get accustomed to a standard of living and then resent it when we are forced to drop down a level, even though it makes no real difference. Still, I'll try to find a nicer place next time. I think my laziness yesterday is due to lack of food. Removing chocolate is taking like 800 kcal/day from my diet.

Thu, 27 Mar 2014 (31 km)

Internet addiction no longer troubles me so much, now that I access daily but in limited quantities. Frequent small doses of the poison less sickening than occasional huge doses. Guardia Civil stopped me and asked to see passport, waved me on after inspecting it and listening to my story of being on the GR7. 10km east of Moratalla on the GR7 is a grove of pines on level sandy ground, far from the roads. Perfect campsite if I can't find a better hotel in Moratalla next year. Another possibility is some pines about 5km west of Calasparra. Wind from yesterday is gone, mostly blue skies, calm and mild temperatures today—another lovely springtime day in the south of Spain. Not too many campsites east of Calasparra. Finally found a spot in a dry wash.


camped in the bottom of a dry wash, not a good location in the event of heavy rain

Fri, 28 Mar 2014 (28 km)

Heavy cloud cover in morning, but no condensation on tarp. Not many good campsites due to rugged terrain. Finally found a spot about 4km before Cieza in a gully. Not so nice as last night, but stealthy and flat enough ground to be comfortable. Should have hauled more water out of Calasparra, since no sources between there and Cieza. Because it was fairly cool yesterday and today, 4 liters was just enough, but 5 liters would have been better. Ate all my food as well.


road to cieza

Sat, 29 Mar 2014 (26 km)

Cieza a much bigger town than I expected. Should be some accomodation possibilities here. Couldn't find a water fountain during my walk through town and so bought 6 lites at the Mercadona store. Lots of benches and parks, just no water fountains. Camped about 20km past Cieza, on a clearing evidently made by a previous hiker, perhaps the one whose GPX I am following.

Sun, 30 Mar 2014 (30 km)

The gas station at Venta Roman is closed, apparently permanently. I was able to get 3 liters water from a faucet outside the building, but this might not be possible in the future. Better to haul lots of water out of Cieza, probably 6L in cool weather, 8L in warm weather. Walking through vast groves of olives, almonds and grapevines. Saw a lot of Moroccans back in Cieza. I take it they do the labor on these farms. Feeling bored again with long days. 4 hours/day is plenty. Beyond that, hiking becomes tedious. I also probably need to eat more, insufficient food could be another reason I'm feeling tired of hiking. Water fountain in Torre del Rico was malfunctioning. Camped a few km past there, near an almond grove. Not very stealthy, but I doubt anyone will care.

Starting to have doubts about my studies of ancient Greek. Progress slow because I simply don't apply myself, and I don't apply myself because what is the purpose with a dead language? Back when I learned modern Greek, I had a reason. Namely, to support my hiking there. But there are good translations of everything in ancient Greek that I plan to read. Modern Greek was easier because the syntax is the same as modern English, whereas ancient Greek is jumbled, with strange idioms and huge numbers of irregularities in the verbs. Maybe I'm just in need of a break.

Mon, 31 Mar 2014 (25 km)

Pinoso (or El Pinós) is a major producer of polished marble. Did a poor job collecting hotel info, though I thought I did a great job. These hotel websites are such a mess that it is often impossible to get the information I want using my smartphone. I also should have been collecting location information (waypoints) for hotels, stores and fuentes using my GPS. I'll start doing this henceforth. Camped between Pinoso and Elda, on abandoned terraces in a saddle between hills. Good campsite, and no others available before this saddle, other than very exposed locations.

Tue, 1 Apr 2014 (17 km)

Dog barking during the night, from nearby farmhouses, marred what would otherwise have been a perfect campsite. 27€ for single room at Hotel Santa Ana in Elda. Feels good to be clean again. Replaced my socks, the pair I started with, already showing wear at the start of this trip. Never expected to get over a month of additional usage.

Having put aside the study of ancient Greek for a while, and thus the Septuagint, I turn to Thomas Paine's "Age of Reason". Demolishes traditional religion and then sets up his own absurd replacement, based on the premise that creation necessarily requires a creator. But doesn't that just bring up the question of "who then created this creator?" A bigger problem is that there is no obvious relation between material world universe and moral values, which is the real concern of religion. Maybe an evil entity created the material world. Are we to embrace evil moral values then? I don't think I'm the most intelligent person in the world by far. My years in the technology industry along with my experiences managing my stock/bond investments has made it quite clear that I'm intelligent but hardly exceptionally intelligent. On the other hand, sometimes when reading philosophy and religion I wonder if maybe I am some sort of genius. The only man who ever lived who was capable of thinking clearly about these subjects.

Wed, 2 Apr 2014 (27 km)

Slept well, which is the best possible recommendation for a hotel. Paine on Edmund Burke's prose style: "Like a windmill seen through a dense fog, could be anything the imagination can conceive." Paid 25€ for single occupancy of very nice room at Casa Rural Ca Sole in Castalla.

Thu, 3 Apr 2014 (20 km)

Slept well again. Cloudy skies with forecast of possible shower. Camped at Mas de Tetuan, abandoned farmstead with terraces. Camping in prohibited here. Should have proceeded another 4km, where there are some stealth sites on abandoned terraces, past the Sancturary and just after leaving the road.


between castalla and alcoy


near alcoy

Fri, 4 Apr 2014 (16 km)

Paid 33€ for single occupancy at Hostal Savoy in Alcoy. To get from Castalla to Alcoy in one day would be 36km, so I'm glad I split into two by camping. Though about continuing on rather than staying in Alcoy, but why, when a hotel is available at a moderate price?

Spent some time watching youtube videos made by some guy named Andy the Hobo traveler and nearly split my gut laughing. I would agree with him that luxury travel can be sterile, at least if traveling alone, but I think these third world backpacker types make a mistake in going to the opposite extreme. Also, where is the physical challenge? The whole point of my own travel is to get some physical exercise in an organic way. If all I wanted was mental stimulation, I could just stay home and read travel books or watch the travel channel on television. Maybe these third world backpackers lack physical energy. Or maybe this Andy guy does have physical energy, and the reason he sounds so crazy is that he doesn't have an outlet for expending it. He also appears nature deprived. Living in a West African concrete jungle, bombarded by traffic noises and bad music, all because it's cheap. He insists he's not into paying women for sex, but then he has several pages of discussion of the difference between GFE and PSE ("girlfriend experience" versus "porn star experience") and how African women of easy virtue offer the former, and the protocol for giving them "cadeaux" (French for gifts), and how he's not a "whoremonger" but rather a "rogue". I began to tire of the videos after a while, and so didn't get the full story, but I get the impression that he had a few experiences with these women, was excited by these experiences for a while afterwards (he even mentioned plans to marry one of these women in his blog), then he got bored with it all.

His video of his aborted American tour is particularly noteworthy. Though he lacks the self-awareness to see it, the real problem was obviously that, far from impressing other Americans with his tales of traveling all over the world, to them he's just another middle-age loser with no job, not much money, living in a van with no built-in toilet (as opposed to a true motorhome) and so having to use Walmart restrooms to relieve himself, and otherwise one step above homelessness. So what if he's had a lot of adventures in the developing world? Homeless guys also have exciting adventures: run-ins with the police, run-ins with other homeless people trying to rob them. In other words, in the United States he's a nobody, whereas while traveling in the third world, he's an exotic guru, whose every word is treated like divine revelation by an adoring fan club. Delusions of grandeur. The SEO (search engine optimization) videos are also interesting. I was genuinely impressed that he manages to make a living from allowing advertising on his websites (or maybe I should write managed, since he appears to be having money problems right now). There are some things in common between me and this Andy guy. Men in their 50's following a different drummer. Maybe people reading these trip reports of mine nearly split their guts laughing at my delusions of grandeur.

Figured out three ways to get extra calories to replace the chocolate. First, Consum and Mercadona both sell packages of cashews, hazelnuts and peanuts. The Mercadona peanuts are from China, and I absolutely do not trust Chinese food products, whereas those from Consum are from the United States and appear dry-roasted. The cashews are from India and roasted in oil, but they don't appear to be using garbage oils, and so are probably okay. The hazelnuts are from Turkey and dry-roasted. All of these nuts I can eat at the rate of 200g per day (size of the plastic packages they come in) without getting sick and they can be carried easily as trail food. Second, Mercadona has pints of ice cream without any worrisome ingredients. (The ice cream at Consum contains vegetable oil to supplement the dairy—I don't trust that.) Obviously, ice cream is not a suitable trail food, but it is an easy way to regain lost fat. Ice cream has always been a favorite bulking up food on the long-distance trails in the United States, but pint containers are not that common in Spain. Finally, fresh olives. Again, not a good trail food, but easy to obtain even in small towns and the fat is very healthy.


alcoy, barrac del cint in the background

Sat, 5 Apr 2014 (25 km)

Camped about 5km before Bocairent. Tired and too much hassle dealing with a hotel tonight. Will camp again tomorrow between Bocairent and Vallada.

Sun, 6 Apr 2014 (28 km)

Slight headache from heat and sun today. Need to dampen hat with water more frequently to keep cool. Camped on the trail between Bocairent and Vallada. William James: "Proof of religion or any other system of ethics is whether it makes us happy. If so, it is true. If not, it is false." Quote is from "Varieties of Religious Experience" (1902). Too bad James has such a long-winded prose style, because he's clearly worth reading.


camped on the trail itself

Mon, 7 Apr 2014 (15 km)

Paid 50€ at for apartment at Apartmentos Giners in Vallada. Loaded up with food and water, in preparation for the long trek to Cortes de Pallas.

Tue, 8 Apr 2014 (34 km)

Stumbled on some blackberry vines and fell after taking the photo below, slamming the back of my Nokia N8 smartphone against a rock. No damage. That is one well-built phone. I still want to replace it soon, because lack of apps and inability to handle all websites is becoming increasingly problematic. Sadly, every other phone seems a step down from the N8 in either sturdiness or camera quality.

Trail horribly overgrown in barranco south of Caserío Benali, but at least well-waymarked. There is an inhabited house in this barranco section, but I would be hesitant to rely on it for water, since the owners might be away and the yard is full of big dogs. Experimented eating a prickly pear cactus fruit, and discovered why they are called prickly. Scraping with a rock helped remove some of the thorns from my lips and fingers. Fortunately, these thorns are not that painful. And the fruit was indeed tasty. I'm assuming that they are edible after peeling. I'll know tomorrow if not.

Campsite right next to forest road, so not stealthy, but road is little used so I don't foresee problems. Also, even if Guardia Civil were to come by, I have the excuse that camping is the only possibility in this section. Other than lack of stealth, a nice site amoung the pines, protected from wind, flat ground, birds singing.


dry canyon

Wed, 9 Apr 2014 (34 km)

There are some concrete fire-fighting water tanks in this section (labelled "depositos incendios"), plus some mud puddles and natural springs, which may or may not be running. Any of these could be used by those in dire need of water. I carried 6L out of Vallada, after fully hydrating there in the morning. That was enough to get me to Collado Caroche with .5L to spare (56km, lots of ascent and descent). Next time, I'll take 7L, just to be on the safe side. Camped in the valley north of Collado Caroche, amidst pines. I don't like these long days, but slowing down would require carrying more water and food, which I also don't like.


ruined farmhouse in the distance


valley north of collado caroche

Thu, 10 Apr 2014 (20 km)

Collado Caroche to Cortes de Pallas 32km, so total distance Vallada to Cortes de Pallas is 88km. Paid 30€ for single occupancy at Hostal Chema in Cortes de Pallas. Rained in the evening, but I was inside the hostal when this happened.

Fri, 11 Apr 2014 (22 km)

Didn't sleep well, not sure why. Banging doors and shouting from other rooms (workers at electric plant, perhaps), dehydrated, bad bed. Skipped most of my morning yoga and cross-legged sitting and still left late. Picked up some bread and cheese at the store, but probably not enough. Why am I so reluctant to carry extra food? It really doesn't weigh that much. Trail horribly overgrown south of Venta de Gaeta. Ate lunch at the restaurant there (8.50€) and also picked up water at the fuente. A meat meal, so I found walking afterwards difficult. Camped at the edge of a field, only decent flat spot I could find. Deserted area.

Sat, 12 Apr 2014 (34 km)

Rained off and on last night, but total amount of moisture that fell was small. Clear skies in morning. Trail clear for a change, other than a few brief spots, but often difficult descending (gravel on hardpan on steep slope) due to how motorcycles have chewed up the trail. No vacancies at the El Rebollar rest stop and I didn't feel like going into Requena. Loaded up with supplies at the rest stop store (bread, cheese, friend tomato, nuts, oranges, bottled water since the fuente at the town of El Rebollar was broken). Camped 4km past the rest stop amidst some trees. GPX track is for the old GR7, which has been re-reouted because of a hunting preserve. Waymarking appears good for the re-routed version.

Sun, 13 Apr 2014 (32 km)

Lost the GR7 waymarks for a few km, then found them again. Mild temperatures in shade but mid-day sun is exhausting, especially when heading uphill. Both Las Nogueras and Villar de Olmos have fuentes. Nasty stretch of overgrown trail ascending from the Río Reatillo canyon to the plateau. Camped among pines.


río reatillo is dry most of the time, just some puddles here and there

Mon, 14 Apr 2014 (31 km)

Getting tired of these long days. How did I ever manage the Appalachian and Pacific Crest trails, I wonder? Left Villar de Olmos with 5L water and arrived at Chelva with 1L to spare. Could have picked up water at Benagéber (about 1km off the GR7) or perhaps some streams along the way as well. 27€ for single occupancy of double room at La Posada de Chelva in town of that name. Put a micropur tablet in each bottle, first time on this trip. Thinking of staying here an extra day. I need a break from this constant hiking.


mountains


more mountains

Tue, 15 Apr 2014 (zero day)

Decided to stay another night and rest up. Aside from allowing me to rest up, this positions me better for the dreaded Semana Santa. Watched some more of those Andy the Hobo videos. Definitely he has delusions of grandeur about some things (like being well-prepared for hiking the Appalachian Trail—more likely, he'd crap out with blown knees on the approach trail and never even make it to the starting point) but saner than average about other things. Altogether fascinating, at least in small quantities. Think I had a mild cold this past week (blocked sinuses, sneezing, etc) which may have contributed to my feelings of weakness, though insufficient food was probably the main problem.


looking down at the old medieval town of chelva

Wed, 16 Apr 2014 (19 km)

Plan is to go slow for a few days. Enough of these long days. Very good thing that there aren't a lot of ticks in this part of Spain, because once again the trail was overgrown, and a damp area too.

Read some really bad personal finance advice yesterday while surfing the internet, advising people not to wait to enjoy life. Fact is, once you drop out of the workforce and live like me for a while, there's no going back. Your skills will deteriorate, no one will hire you. Maybe if you have just a menial job, like grocery store clerk, you can get another similar job after traveling for a while. Still, returning to wage slavery after experiencing freedom will be psychologically difficult. Also, many menial jobs will be eliminated in the future due to robotics. For those in high-paying professions, much better to have enough money saved up before taking early retirement that you never have to work again. Learn to live cheaply, reducing the amount of savings you need to be financially independent.

Thu, 17 Apr 2014 (18 km)

Store at Andilla was closed. Camped on abandoned terraces between Andilla and Abejuela.


andilla in the distance, gr7 is on well-preserved medieval road

Fri, 18 Apr 2014 (21 km)

Ate lunch at multiservicio in Abejuela, bought some fresh fruit from traveling vendor. Had to be careful about campsite location to get away from sound of windmills. What a blight on the landscape those things are. I don't know the full story about thorium reactors, but I get the impression the real concern was they might work only too well and destroy the fossil fuel industry and that's why they were never developed. Surely if we were able to get the original reactors working in less than ten years after the idea of nuclear weapons/power was first seriously pursued, without the aid of computers or electronics or all the other technology we've developed since 1950, then getting thorium reactors to work should be easy by comparison. Maybe there will be issues that make thorium reactors unworkable, but we won't know until we try. It seems crazy not to even attempt the idea. So instead we get these damned windmills. At least you can look away from visual blights, or close your eyes, but who wants to plug up their ears while outdoors?

Reading "Travels in the Great Desert of the Sahara, 1845-1846" by James Richardson. Excellent, another treasure from the Gutenberg library. Still have some peanuts from Chelva. They are very salty, especially the ones at the bottom of the bag. What I do is pour them in my cup, then put water in the cup, then pour the water out to remove the excess salt.

Thinking some more of those sacrifices of the ancient Jews. That temple must have stunk something awful, like a slaughterhouse except worse because of how Yahweh wanted the blood poured right there on the ground. Not a lot of rain in Jerusulum to wash all that blood away either. Ground must have been absolutely soaked with blood, with scraps of meat chased after by rats and carrion birds, plus swarms of flies buzzing about. Like a scene from a horror movie. No wonder the rules about sacrifices were supplemented with more rules about burning incense all the time.


ruins of the tiny hamlet named casas del medio


camped on the trail again

Sat, 19 Apr 2014 (24 km)

Cool in morning for a change. Lost the GR10 on the way down to Arcos de las Salinas (the GPX I was following is wrong) and descended about 200m along a newly built logging road before I realized my error. Rather than ascending 200m to where I lost the trail, I decided to bushwhack my way to what appeared to be the trail in the distance, and which was the trail, except I couldn't reach it by the route I was following. So then bushwhacked my way up the 200m to avoid backtracking. Finally got back to where I started and found the missed turn-off. Bushwhacking in rugged terrain like is not advisable. Absolutely exhausting, steep slopes, vicious thorns. Only by miracle did I avoid tearing my clothes. And fortunately no ticks, otherwise I'd have been covered with them from pushing through all that brush. Always better to backtrack on a good trail, no matter how long the distance, than bushwhacking through rugged terrain. Ate lunch at one of the bars in Arcos de las Salinas. Very busy due to this being Semana Santa. Camped on abandoned terraces along the PR-TE7, on the way to Torrijas.


arcos de las salinas


sheep grazing

Sun, 20 Apr 2014 (26 km)

Rained off and on during the night. Partly cloudy and cool in morning. PR-TE7 heavily overgrown between Los Villares and Collado Paso. 20€ for room with shared bath at Hostal Manzanera in town of that name. Only guest in hostal. Everyone going home since Semana Santa is now over.


near manzanera

Mon, 21 Apr 2014 (23 km)

Street party until past midnight caused me to sleep poorly. But that should be the last hurrah of Semana Santa. Next week is Puente de Mayo and after that no more of the holidays. Lost PR-TE7 for a few km, due to following waymarks for GR231 instead. South of Caserío La Escalaruela, the PR-TE7 is horribly overgrown. Better idea is the ecosenda. I'll make a GPX file for both. After first following the PR-TE7, I backtracked using the ecosenda and camped beside the river, near where I made the photo below. Tomorrow, I'll retrace my path along the ecosenda and then resume with the PR-TE7 at the Caserío. Rained off and on during day, light rain.


canyon of the río albentosa

Tue, 22 Apr 2014 (30 km)

Lowest price in Rubielos de Mora was 50€, which seemed high. I was looking for 35€ or less. Rubelios is very well-preseved and worth visiting, for those who like old towns. Reminds me of Albarca in Salamanca province. Proceeded to Nogueruelas, where I paid 25€ for single occupancy of very nice double room with full bath at Hostal Crucica. Has a sort of faded elegance to it, wall paper peeling in places, tear in the lampshade, one of the lightbulbs burned out, but still very nice. I took some pictures below. Places like this are common in small towns of Spain, at very good prices. The bed is not the greatest, sagging mattress and lumpy pillow, but doesn't matter to me since I'm used to sleeping on the ground. The important thing to me is noise, and the place was dead quiet at night. It helps that there were few or no other guests.


17th century bridge over rio mijares


bedroom


view from bedroom, notice the small balcony outside


entry hallway with closets, separating bedroom from bathroom

Wed, 23 Apr 2014 (27 km)

Today is some sort of holiday, Saint George's day maybe, so most stores closed in Mora de Rubiolos. Managed to pick up some bread and cheese, however. Camped on overgrown and abandoned road about 10km before Alcala de la Selva. Partly cloudy and mild day.


outside nogueruelas, showing the ermita and vegetable gardens

Thu, 24 Apr 2014 (30 km)

Woke up feeling like a truck ran over me. Once again, I'm not eating enough. Still haven't adjusted to removing chocolate from my diet. Occasional hail and drizzle, alternating with sun. Cooler and windier than yesterday, but very nice spring day overall. Much of the day over 1500m, very pretty upland pastures and lush evergreen forests at that elevation. 30€ for single occupancy of apartment at Hostal Ramiro in Cedrillas. Would be 50€ for double occupancy.


alcalá de la selva

Fri, 25 Apr 2014 (35 km)

Windy and cold in the morning. Must have rained last night, because ground very wet. Bought some chocolate for breakfast, since I was desperate for easy-to-eat calories to get me started. Used poncho as a wind-breaker, since I was feeling cold with just the stretch-knit pullover. Contraption I added last year (webbing loop on rear hem, with cord running between my legs and hook to the hip-belt of the pack) works great to keep rear of poncho in place in strong wind like today. 20€ for room with shared bath at Hostal Aragon in Teruel. This place is starting to feel like a second home, I've been here so many times, all of them for multiple days at a time.


stone waymarker (only one like this I've ever seen) for the pr-te8 between cedrillas and teruel

Sat, 26 Apr 2014 (zero day)

Noticed a bump on my tongue back in Manzanera. My first thought was tongue cancer. Decided to use this as a reason to visit Thailand, which I've always planned to visit at some point, and see a doctor at the Bumrumgrad medical tourism hospital. If they can cut the cancer out, fine. Otherwise, I'll commit suicide. But forget chemotherapy. Then I did some research on suicide and it appears it isn't so easy as it seems. In particular, lots of people who try to blow their brains out with a handgun flinch at the last minute and so end up blowing their nose or jaw off without killing themselves. What a mess that would be! The survival instinct strikes again... Anyway, the bump is almost gone now, so this is all a moot point. Probably I just bit myself or cut my tongue on a piece of sharp bread. Decided to stick around here another night, since I'm tired of hiking.

Sun, 27 Apr 2014 (zero day)

Thinking again about a bioterrorism bunker in the desert or mountains. Doesn't need to be fancy. No plumbing, in particular. Just haul water and bury waste, same as when camping. Does need to be partially buried, well-insulated, and with passive heating/cooling, so as to keep temperatures mild year-round. Or maybe an industrial building right in the middle of the city. Problem with isolated locations is the possibility of unwanted visitors. I know I've talked about stockpiling guns and ammo, in addition to food and water, but is this really going to help in isolated locations? A determined robber could easily pick me off from a distance. Guns in the city would actually be useful, as a way of holding down the fort until the police arrived. Police will quickly silence snipers in the city.

Teruel truly a wonderful city, my favorite in Spain, after Santiago de Compostella. Just a podunk provincial capital of maybe 36,000 people, and yet so rich in history and architecture, and in such a beautiful setting.

Mon, 28 Apr 2014 (34 km)

Used the PR-TE6 to get from Teruel to Valacloche. From there, I'll follow the GR10 to Camarena de la Sierra, then the GR8 to Villel, then a combination of the GR10 and PR-TE1 through PR-TE5 before returning to Teruel via the other half of the PR-TE6. If all works out, I'll have a full set of GPX tracks for all these PRs by the time I'm finished. Camped today same place as last year, about 2km east of Valacloche on abandoned terrace. Sky overcast all day and occasional drizzle, but not enough to justify poncho. PR-TE6 poorly waymarked, but I managed to find my way. GPX definitely needed.

I've switched to white bread rather than whole-wheat bread. Makes a perceptible difference in my energy. Whole-wheat bread is evidently much harder to digest than I realized and so I was wasting energy that way. Back when I was eating chocolate, I could afford to waste energy, but not now. White bread in Spain has enough fiber not to be constipating, especially if I supplement the bread with whole-wheat biscuits and fruit, and if I only eat with Spanish cheese. Emmental cheese (swiss cheese in the United States) is what must be avoided, since that is very constipating unless eaten with whole-wheat bread. Compare this Spanish white bread with white bread in the United States, which lacks fiber entirely.

Tue, 29 Apr 2014 (29 km)

Feeling very lazy this morning. Heavy dew everywhere, sky clear. Camped a few km past Riodeva, in high pastures. Dry and clear sky, little wind.


los amanderos del riodeva, salto yeguas waterfall on the left, pool below the waterfall on the right

Wed, 30 Apr 2014 (30 km)

Should have bought more bread back at Villel, at least 1kg and preferably 1.25kg. Bread easy to carry. Camped about 2km past Rubiales.

Thu, 1 May 2014 (38 km)

Sandwiches at bar in Jabaloyas, then used the PR-TE5 to get to Tormón, then counterclockwise past Alobras and Veguillas de la Sierra, camping a few km past the latter. Tormón has albregue with bar that serves food.

Fri, 2 May 2014 (26 km)

Lots of dew on the tarp in the morning, whereas dry yesterday morning. Another sunny day. Picked up some food at the store in El Cuervo. Took the Río Ebrón canyon route to get from El Cuervo to Tormón, rather than the remaining segment of the PR-TE5. Lots of tourists in the canyon, which is not surprising, since this is Puente de Mayo weekend and the canyon really is spectacular. Then back to Jabaloyas. I dislike this PR-TE5 loop, precisely because it requires repeating the section between Tormón and Jabaloyas, though that section is not long. 25€ for single occupancy of a nice room at Hostal Casa de los Diezmos in Jabaloyas. Feels great to be clean again. I went much too long camping.

Reading "To the Gold Coast for Gold, a personal Narrative" by Richard F Burton (1882). He didn't much care for the culture of West Africa: "yankee-doodle niggery" (freed slaves from the United States who had been shipped to Liberia supposedly had "all the vices and none of the virtues of civilization"), "nigger-digger delight" (dilapidated mine-worker village in which every second shack was a "shebeen", Irish slang for unlicensed pub). It seems west Africans had the same attitude problem as the Irish peasantry prior to these latter being disciplined by the potato famine. Namely, "unwilling to work unless the lash is used liberally, alas slavery has been outlawed." And when they did work, they immediately squandered their earnings on the cheap thrills of booze, rather than scrimping and saving like good little bourgeoisie. The work was mining, in an era where everything had to be done by human labor, backbreaking and dangerous, hellishly hot and humid working conditions, in the world's most pestilential climate: malaria, yellow fever, river blindness, sleeping sickness, guinea worm, umpteen types of venomous snakes and venomous spiders, clouds of mosquitoes and biting sandflies, vicious ants capable of killing a grown man who carelessly falls asleep on the ground, and who knows what else. West Africa used to be nicknamed the "white man's graveyard", though apparently even the natives found the conditions difficult, since Burton remarks that all of tropical Africa was lightly populated and apparently always had been. Ten hours per day, six days per week for a salary of a pound and a half of rice per day plus a pound of rotten beef on Sundays plus a small amount of cash pay (promptly spent at the shebeens, as noted). Burton's recommendation was to import Chinese coolies to replace the uppity natives.

Though what I've just written is scathing in tone, I'm actually sympathetic to Burton's views as to the superiority of Anglo-Saxon versus African and also pre-famine Irish peasant culture. The willingness of past generations of bourgeois Anglo-Saxons to postpone gratification is what eventually allowed the Anglo-Saxon countries to emerge from poverty, whereas the spendthrift mentality of Africans largely explains why Africa continues to be mired in poverty and a prey to exploitation by the developed nations. On the other hand, postponing gratification is not an end in itself but merely a means to increase future gratification. To postpone gratification forever is madness, but that is what was happening in bourgeois Anglo-Saxon culture in the 19th century. What is needed is a happy medium between the two extremes.

Burton's political incorrectness doesn't bother me, but the endless recitation of geological facts does. Of course, this isn't Burton's fault, since the book was written while he was a naval officer and reporting geological facts was the whole purpose of his trip to West Africa. In any case, this is not the best introduction to Burton for average reader. I just thank my lucky stars I'm not living as a poor person in the 19th century, and doubly thank them that I wasn't born poor in West Africa, either then or now.


estrechos of the río ebrón


natural bridge over the río ebrón


cascada calicanto, near tormón

Sat, 3 May 2014 (12 km)

Feeling lazy in the morning, probably after-effect of that long day Thursday. Much cooler today, with brisk wind from the northwest. Cut day short and camped amidst junipers, between Valdecuenca and Saldón.

Sun, 4 May 2014 (18 km)

Ran out of food, so had lunch at a restaurant in Albarracín. Heavy meat meal, but not a problem since I didn't plan on further hiking after this meal. 25€ for single room with bath at Hostal Los Palacios. Room on the ground level with a window opening onto the street and the door near the reception, where the managers stayed up until midnight shouting at one another. Never stay here again.

Mon, 5 May 2014 (26 km)

Slept well enough despite all the noise. Glad to get out of that place though. Reception still closed at 9am. Evidently, they were sleeping in after all that shouting last night. Though perhaps the term "shouting" is misleading. What I call shouting at one another, typical Spanish would call ordinary conversation. Even the cheapest Spanish pensions are usually spotlessly clean, and always much cleaner than cheap hotels in the United States or France. Unfortunately, the Spanish have a very high tolerance for noise. Personally, I'd prefer dirt (other than bedbugs and fleas) to noise. Only sure-fire way I've figured out to avoid noise in Spain is to travel in the winter, when the hotels are mostly empty.

Camped between Bezas and Gea de Albarracín. Flies a damned nuisance, though they don't bite. Should have brought my headnet. Foolishly removed it from the Europe packing list to save a mere 25g. The flies only bother me when I'm moving and thus covered with sweat, whose smell probably attracts them. After I sit down for a rest stop and the sweat evaporates, they leave me alone.

Tue, 6 May 2014 (24 km)

25€ for single occupancy at Mesón del Gallo in Albarracín. Very nice room with bath, except sink was miniscule. Had to wash my shirt and pants in the shower instead.

Wed, 7 May 2014 (26 km)

Woke up feeling like I'd been run over by a truck. Usually, this feeling is due to running down glycogen stores. However, I didn't exercise too heavily yesterday and ate my normal meals, so I don't think that is the problem. Skipped most of my morning yoga, other than the warmups, for the first time in months. Felt fine once I got moving.

Noticed an advertisement on the town hall of Torres de Albarracín for a delivery service operated by the hypermart in Teruel. Order online with a computer, and then have everything delivered once a week. Local stores already face competition from traveling fresh fruit and bread trucks, additional competition could spell doom. Lack of such stores will make hiking like I do more difficult.

Camped above 1500m between Tramacastilla and Villar del Cobo. Everything so fresh and clean at these higher elevations, with none of those annoying flies.


albarracín


torres de albarracín

Thu, 8 May 2014 (20 km)

Picked up food at store in Guadalaviar. Camped in the big valley of the río Tajo, at about 1550m elevation. Even more beautiful than yesterday's camp.


salto de pedro gil

Fri, 9 May 2014 (28 km)

20€ for room with shared bath at La Tosca de Calomarde in Calomarde. Ate there as well, since I'm out of food.


barranco del hoz, near calomarde

Sat, 10 May 2014 (19 km)

Very quiet, because pension empty except for me. Picked up groceries in Royuela for today and tomorrow, plus some extra for Monday just in case. Two women and some children in the store talking in French. Almost everything about them seemed superior compared to the Spanish—prettier language, prettier women, prettier clothing on the women and children. The children themselves were no prettier than Spanish children, so it's not superior genetics, but rather superior culture. Maybe they're higher class French staying in a casa rural and that's why they appear so superior. I have little experience with the higher class Spanish. The French definitely make an art of life in so many ways. Though there are areas where Spanish culture is superior: cheese (most would disagree with me about this, but the Spanish cheese has grown on me over the years); music; newspapers (as I recall, French newspapers were terribly boring back when I was hiking in France, whereas El País, in particular, is very lively). If we include Latin America, Spanish culture completely blows away the French in music (add salsa and other Afro-Cuban music plus tango to flamenco and Spanish classical guitar) and also literature since 1960 or so. The original French development pattern (tightly clustered villages) was similar to that of Spain, but that pattern has been destroyed to a much greater degree in France than Spain by the automobile, so this is another area where Spain is superior. Finally, I prefer the spring weather and natural environment in Spain, and that is the main reason I hike there rather than France.

Another beautiful day. Guyline on tarp broke while setting up camp. First guyline breakage in many years. I'm very impressed by the durability of this 2mm dacron braided polyester cord I'm using. Probably should replace all the guylines at some point, though I do carry spare cord and also cord is easy to find while traveling. Forgot to record where I camped.

Reading "Destruction of the Indies" by Bartolomé de las Casas (1542)—Lord have mercy! These conquistadors make both the Nazis and the Jews of the Old Testament look like nice guys. Very fond of cutting off noses and lips for the slightest disobedience, burning people alive, killing and chopping up Indians to feed to their massive attack dogs ("Amigo, are you going to kill one of those Indians today? If so, give me a leg to feed my dogs and I'll pay you back when I kill one of my Indians next week"), etc. What I find most interesting is that the Indians just gave up and allowed themselves to die after a while—for once, people wise and brave enough to choose death over a life of misery. Can't believe I've never read this book before. The Spanish have definitely mellowed out over the centuries since then.

Sun, 11 May 2014 (22 km)

Paid 33€ for room with bath and half-pension (dinner and light breakfast) as Hostal Isabel in Bronchales. I didn't really want the half-pension (I thought I had agreed to pay 33€ for the room alone), but somehow they shoved it into the deal. Took a walk around town after checking into the hostal and showering up. Overheard a group of young people talking in English with a British accent at some tables outside a bar, another group of young people talking in German. So evidently this is a hot tourist spot.

"There are no differences but the differences of degree between different degrees of difference and no difference." In order to better understand Hegel, William James did some Hegelian-style philosophising and writing while under the influence of nitrous oxide. The preceding quote is a sample of what resulted. As James notes, it does sound very Hegelian. Brings back memories of my studies of philosophy as a boy, trying to understand life. Ended up more confused than ever. James has some interesting things to say and obviously he has a sense of humor, but his prose style is incredibly tedious. A man in love with the sound of his own droning voice. His brother, the novelist Henry James, is even worse in this respect. Long-winded tediousness evidently runs in the family. Hate to think what the father of these two was like.


view from bronchales

Mon, 12 May 2014 (24 km)

Noisy neighbors, but all least the noise was confined to 9-10pm and then again 7-8am, so slept well and wasn't too bothered. Because of all the sweating I'm doing now that temperatures have warmed up, I find myself needing hotels more. Unfortunately, this same warm weather is causing occupancy rates to go up, so more chance of noisy neighbors. Definitely want to keep my travel to Spain between mid-February and mid-May, and avoid running into June. Camped between Calomarde and Moscardón.


lush fields near calomarde

Tue, 13 May 2014 (32 km)

Picked up some fresh fruit from a traveling grocery truck in Moscardón, plus bread and fried tomato from the panadería in Terriente. Hostal in Jabaloyas closed, so camped outside town on terraced pastures.


masegoso

Wed, 14 May 2014 (35 km)

Checked into Hostal Aragon in Teruel (20€/night). Someone in the building playing dance music past midnight. Not loudly, but audible through the wall next to the bed and hence annoying. Put in my earplugs.

Thu, 15 May 2014 (zero day)

Feeling lazy in the morning, partly from being kept up by that noise last night, partly because I just need a break from hiking. Spent longer than normal in the headstand during morning yoga. Headstand is the most "stilling" of the poses I do and my body evidently needs some of that as I transition back to a still life.

Travel can easily become an all-consuming addiction. I note this as a warning for anyone reading this trip report. Post-hike depression is frequent for thru-hikers coming off the Pacific Crest and Appalachian trails, and to many the obvious cure is to simply repeat the trail. If that is not possible for some reason, then they spend all their free time hanging out on the trail forums. Camino de Santiago here in Spain is what got me started, over twelve years ago. I no longer have post-trip depression because the trail no longer ends for me. Rather, I merely take rest breaks now and then.

Festival of San Isidro today, some sort of big-shot saint here in Spain. Plaza crowded with people eating brunch.

Fri, 16 May 2014 (zero day)

Slept poorly again. Takes a while to adjust back to the stationary life. I feel like an animal that has been caged up and denied its daily exercise. So why don't I take a good long walk around town? Because my mind rebels against pointless exercise. But isn't this whole hiking trip pointless as well? Yes, but for some reason my mind doesn't rebel against that. Instead of flying around the world to get myself into a situation where exercise is required, doesn't it make more sense to fix my mind so that I no longer rebel against supposedly pointless exercise? Other people don't seem to have my problem. Some of them even enjoy walking on a treadmill. Talk about convenient. No long airplane flights, no living in hotels with noisy neighbors. Lock myself into a sound-proofed mausoleum and then walk on a treadmill all day to give myself something to do. Why do other people travel, I wonder? To see the world? They can see it in the comfort of their own home courtesy of National Geographic, either the magazine or the television show. To experience different cuisines and cultures? Even medium-sized cities in the United States now have plenty of ethnic restaurants, and I have my doubts as to whether people truly want to experience different cultures, given how most travelers stay in fancy hotels expressively designed to isolate them from the local culture. You really want to see an alternative culture? Do some volunteer counseling at a maximum security prison—now that's a different culture. The travel industry seems like a giant fraud, in other words. I tell myself I travel to avoid going crazy with boredom, but I wonder if I'm not just as deceived as everyone else. Perhaps I should have developed an interest in gardening or animal husbandry of some sort. My sister also retired early, moved to a farm in the country, and now she raises goats as a hobby, or so I've been told, since we had a falling out over my father's estate and don't speak any more. These shepherds I see here in Spain seem to have a pleasant enough life. Maybe it's not too late to change. Buy a big piece of land and become a "gentleman farmer". Something to think about.

Spent several hours using my existing smartphone to read about newer and better smartphones (speaking of treadmills...). Later, learned that artificial intelligence and big data technology are improving to the point where it is becoming next to impossible to distinguish postings generated by "bots" (robot computer programs) from those of real humans, at least in certain contexts. This will spell doom for forums which allow anonymous participants, since a single troll—and there will always be at least one troll out there—can use bot technology to effortlessly flood millions of forums with posts which cannot be detected as spam, but which make the conversation useless for real users (or perhaps worse than useless, if the conversation is turned into subtle advertising or propaganda). Requiring real names would fix the problem, but at the cost of further incentivizing identity theft. Which makes me wonder, who would I rather have as an email correspondent? A flesh-and-blood human who misconstrues everything I say and annoyingly disagrees with me, or a bot which flatters my every whim and feeds me back exactly the words I want to hear? Similar to the question "is sex with a flesh-and-blood woman that much better than masturbation?" which I long ago answered in the negative, though doubts continue to plague me on this score. The libido is powerful and will not submit easily to the rational mind. Which also explains why I don't commit suicide, though both reason and the Buddha tell me the best day of a man's life is the day he dies, and the worst is the day he was born—the survival instinct is even more powerful than the sex instinct.

Bought my bus ticket. Originally, I had planned to leave Sunday and then spend two nights in Barcelona, allowing me one day for walking around the city before my flight back to the United States. But the Sunday bus leaves in the evening and arrives at midnight, so I changed plans to leave on Monday. One bus daily from Teruel to Barcelona versus three daily to Madrid, plus the Madrid trip is shorter (four hours versus six) plus flights are slightly cheaper to Madrid than Barcelona plus I'm more familiar with Madrid—lots of good reasons to both arrive and depart from Madrid next year. I can always follow the GR7 into Catalonia if I want to visit that area, then use the GR8 to finish up in Teruel.

Sat, 17 May 2014 (zero day)

Spent last night kicking around the idea of becoming a "gentleman farmer". Sounds dreary. I hated yard work as a boy, I still hate the idea of it. Surely a conditioned dislike, since I clearly don't dislike physical exercise, but I suspect it was conditioned at such a low-level that eradicating it will be impossible. Being a homeless person (or pretending to be one, since I'm not fool enough to give up my storage locker or investment accounts) sounds much more interesting. Seriously, I sometimes envy those guys who ride around Reno on junker bicycles carrying plastic bags full of aluminum cans, which they scavenge from the dumpster then sell at the salvage yard. I remember when I was young, I would sometimes take the street-car downtown on Saturdays and look at the bums sprawled out on the sidewalk in the skid-row district and say to myself: "that's what I want to be when I grow up". And whenever I heard the word "drifter", it made me tingle with excitement. And then there were the hobo camps in the woods along the river next to the railroad tracks which always fascinated me. And behold, here I am, age 53, more or less having realized my boyhood dream, a true self-made man. Though of course I'm careful to temper my homelessness with hotels, fresh food from the grocery store, trips to Europe each spring and the other luxuries money can buy. Pretend homelessness, in other words. Compare with the guy walking around here in Teruel right now trying to sell small packages of tissue wrapped in plastic, the sort of thing they sell for a dollar a dozen at the grocery store. I declined when he approached me two days ago, turned away when I saw him yesterday and today he turned away, as if embarrassed to see me yet again. Pretend homelessness is not the same as the real thing.

Sun, 18 May 2014 (zero day)

Guy in room next to or below mine still playing his dance music from 1-3am, probably after he gets off work at a bar. Doesn't bother me anymore. Put in my earplugs when it starts, take them out when I wake up a few hours later. Room dead quiet most of the day and I spend much of the morning and evening lying in bed, so plenty of opportunity to catch up on sleep. Also, knowing that I'll be leaving soon and have the option to request another room takes most of the sting away. Voluntary suffering is almost always tolerable (Hanged Man of the Tarot). Spending huge amounts of time on the internet. Doesn't matter. All my time is wasted now that I have no goals in life, other than to be happy while waiting to die. Happiness comes from doing what I want in life, and evidently diddling on the internet is what I most want to do right now.

Finished reading Thoreau's "Canoeing in the Wilderness" (1857). He was there between July 20 and August 3 and had problems with mosquitoes, black flies and midges. A month later would have been much better, based on my experience hiking the Applachian trail in August in Maine. He mentions that he and his companion had veils, which presumably means loosely-woven fabric headnets of some sort, whereas the Indian guide did not, but instead slept near a smoky fire with his head buried in his blanket for protection from bugs. I have no interest in canoe travel myself. Maybe if I were forced to live in Maine or elsewhere with lots of lakes and rivers it might be worth trying.

Mon, 19 May 2014 (zero day)

Bus to Barcelona. 30€ for room with shared bath at Hostal Sans. Sign on counter said "no vacancies" but they gave me a room anyway and apparently there were several other rooms also available. Unfortunately, the room I got was smoking-allowed, since in the confusion about whether there were rooms or not, I forgot to ask for non-smoking. Considered going down and asking for a change, but decided it would be too much trouble. Didn't unpack, since I didn't want to contaminate my gear with smoke smell. Splitting headache, same as at the end of last year's Spain trip. Can't be caffeine withdrawal, since I haven't touched chocolate or tea in over a month. Thus must be either motion sickness or psychosomatic. Filled the toilet with foul-smelling semi-diarrhea and later vomited into an opsak in my room (didn't want to make a mess in the toilet or sink). Washed up afterwards and felt better. Fell asleep early then woke up at 3am, with headache gone and stomach and intestines feeling purged. Neighbors still making noise, but quieted down shortly thereafter. Blissful silence for two hours after that, then the building began stirring again with the usual morning routine of running sinks, flushing toilets, slamming doors and shouting in the hallways.

Tue, 20 May 2014

Woke up rested and refreshed. Carried the vomit-filled opsak outside and threw in a dumpster. Long tedious flight from Barcelona to San Francisco, with a change of planes and layover in New York. I truly hate these long flights. But what alternative is there? If I stay home, I go crazy with boredom. If I limit myself to short flights, then I can only hike in the United States. Four days suffering, two days getting to Spain, two returning, in exchange for three months of happiness—a worthwhile tradeoff.

Woman sitting next to me on the plane had just finished one of those two-week package tours of Spain. Had a great time, she said. I could imagine enjoying a package tour or cruise as part of a couple in love, but not as a single person. Briefly described to her my own trip, hiking and alternating between camping and hotels. She wrinkled her nose in disgust: "We're quite different. I only stay in multi-star hotels." Today's reading matter was "The Road" by Jack London (1907). Makes me shudder to imagine the hard lives tramps had back then. Maybe what I think about these tramps is what the woman of the multi-star hotels thinks about me.

Customs and immigration in New York stamped my passport. Agent said this has always been their procedure for American citizens flying in from a foreign country. But I've never had my passport stamped at San Francisco, Chicago or Dallas, which are the other points of entry I have used in the past. Took the subway to where my friend lives, with whom I had arranged to stay a few days.

Statistics

1937 km (1203 miles), according to GPS, in 79 days hiking, for average of 25 km/day (15.5 miles/day), or about 5 hours/day. Additional walking around town during 10 rest days.

89 nights in Spain, of which 43 nights wild camping (48%), 46 nights in hotels (52%).

1130€ total hotel costs, so average of 25€/night for the 46 nights in hotels, or 13€/night for the 89 nights total, since all the camping was free.

I spent 56% of my nights in hotels last year, and wrote in my trip journal then that I expected to stay more frequently in hotels in the future. In fact, I stayed less frequently in hotels this year, even though I felt as if I were forcing myself to stay in hotels rather than camp. Camping is just easier and more natural for me at this point and hotels are what take effort. So 50% of the nights in hotels, 50% wild camping will probably be the norm henceforth. Last years average hotel bill was same as this year, 25€/night, and distance hiked per day of hiking was almost the same. The big difference is that I took 18 rest days last year but only 10 this year. I did feel a bit rushed at times this year, but not so much because of insufficient rest days as because of a few days when I hiked more than 30km. Long days are what I plan to work on avoiding in the future. Ideally, average distance per hiking day would drop to about 20km, or 4 hours/day.

Total amount withdrawn from ATMs was 1900€. Add to that about 100€ of currency I carried with me to Spain, less about 20€ I carried back, and total expenditures were about 1980€, or 22€/day for 89 days (or $31/day at an exchange rate of 1.38 $/€). This is significantly less than last year, partly due to fewer nights in hotels, partly because I didn't buy any books and only a few newspapers (because I am now carrying an ereader and hence don't need to buy reading material), partly because my preferred food is getting simpler each year and thus cheaper (no more chocolate and less beer and wine, for example). I'm not really trying to economize. But it is hard to spend money when living the simple life I prefer. Airfare was slightly higher ($952 this year vs $906 last year).

See last year's trip report for further discussion of costs of hiking in Spain.

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