Today is a warm up day – The Three Villages Walk – we’re expecting a 6 mile walk, but the elevation changes could make that seem a lot longer. The weather so far has been ideal, warm (say 75 F) in the daytime but cooling off quite a bit at night.
We start out right from the hotel with a moderate uphill climb (I’m a bit worried, as I’m out of breath in 10 minutes) but then we quickly head down through olives and almonds to the village of Archez, famous for its beautiful decorated Madéjar church.
Stopping mid morning for a coffee, Andrew relates a surprisingly huge knowledge of the history of the region, dating back to the Phoenician, Roman and Moorish rules. It quickly becomes apparent that he is somewhat of a Renaissance man – working as a mountain guide part time and an artist the remainder of the year. His knowledge of the flora and fauna of the region is only surpassed by his enthusiasm. My initial concerns about the difficulty of the walk evaporate, as he paces the group and stops frequently to point out herbs (wild thyme and rosemary) and fruit (avocado and pomegranate) and we taste our way through the countryside.
It’s then a climb on past terraced hillsides to the pretty white village of Còmpeta with the backdrop of the Sierra de Tejeda. We stop in the village square (dominated by the 16C church – stunning views to the Mediterranean) for a tapas lunch at picture postcard pretty outdoor café dotted with blue umbrellas. As long as they keep bringing the food, I’ll keep eating it! Love this way of leisurely snacking – a few bites at a time for an hour or so.
It does take a bit of dedication to keep going, although Andrew has promised a long, flat and steady mule track across to the village of Canillas de Albaida. We pass locals riding donkeys along with their produce on packs and old women dressed entirely in black (a tradition for widows). The mountain irrigation system is extensive (Roman origins) and we get a chance to fill our water bottles with sparkling, crystal clear water from the aqueduct.
Canillas is charming, with winding narrow, tiled downhill alleys past flower filled verandas and heavy wooden doors. As we reach the outskirts of the village we are serenaded by the lively dialog of an African grey parrot (check out the video, yes! it is a parrot).
On our final stretch (the Hotel Finca is so close, but SO far away) is completely downhill and then a strenuous zig zag straight uphill. We arrive around 5pm, ready for a hot shower and late afternoon rest before another fabulous dinner (at a local restaurant in Compèta). By now, we’ve bonded as a group, so the discussion is lively (US politics dominates – seems everyone worldwide is following the soap opera) and the wine is free flowing!