My occasional riding partner, Pepe, telephoned me yesterday to invite me to ride with a group to El Acebuchal. I was fairly sure I had the meeting time and place correct, but not so sure of other details because I find it very difficult to understand our local spanish dialect over the phone. But it was going to be an early start, as we were meeting at 09:00 and it would take thirty minutes or more to reach the meeting place, which meant leaving home at between 08:15 and 08:30, which meant that I would have to set my alarm for 06:00 so that I could feed the horse two hours before riding.
I couldn’t have an early night because we had arranged to go out with friends, but I was sure to only have a couple of glasses of wine – it is definitely not recommended to ride with a hangover!
So I was duly up and about at 06:00 this morning, fed Liana in the dark, and prepared for a long ride, taking a few items of ‘what if’ clothing, and my usual bumbag with camera, snacks, etc.
When I arrived at the meeting place, there was one guy already waiting, a man I see regularly riding past below our house every Saturday and Sunday on a huge coloured (brown and white) horse, not at all like the normal Andalucian horse, much heavier and thicker set. I asked him how many people were due to come and he said just Pepe.
I eventually heard hooves approaching and Pepe rode up over the brow of the hill, and then another horse followed, and another…..until eight guys on an assortment of horses joined us at the mirador. We set off along the road for about a kilometre – fortunately there was not much traffic as there were horses and dogs all over the place, and a lot of noise and merriment – even a bit of singing – and the zahato (traditional goatskin wine bottle) made an early appearance.
We soon left the road for a dirt track and made a leisurely pace in the glorious sunshine. I kept out of the way at the back of the group. The guys were in their forties and fifties and had ridden yesterday to Canillas de Albaida from La Herradura (translation – the horseshoe) a coastal town east of Nerja. They were making the return journey today, and I presume they had arranged with Pepe to show them the route through El Acebuchal to Frigiliana. There were a few in the group that wanted to gallop ahead and make a noise, but they were mostly well behaved and very pleasant.
It is an easy ride, the track is wide and fairly level with the mountains soaring on either side. A few cyclists passed by and the odd car made way for us, and eventually we reached the river at the fabrica where the horses were able to have a welcome drink.
El Acebuchal, otherwise known as the lost village, has a very interesting history as relates to the spanish civil war. Here is a link that gives a good description of the village and the area in general http://www.spain-holiday.com/Frigiliana/articles/a-visit-to-el-acebuchal-the-lost-village. It is a delightful village in the middle of nowhere with a fantastic restaurant. Take a look at the link – it is definitely worth a visit.
We tie up the horses and have a couple of beers in the restaurant. At this point I have ridden 13 km. I sit down with Pepe and the local guy with the coloured horse, who’s name is Fermín (the man, not the horse) and we swap telephone numbers as he says he will call me to ride some time. He keeps his horse on the edge of Cómpeta and lives in the village. He seems a very pleasant guy. We discuss which way we will return home, and decide on the long route that will take another three or four hours.
We all leave after 30 minutes – the guys from La Herradura head off towards Frigiliana and Pepe, Fermín and I take a track into the woods at the top of the village. Incidentally, my horse was called Frigiliana by the trader from whom we purchased her, simply because that was where she came from. I didn’t like the name, and shortened it to Liana which I think suits her very well.
It was a lovely ride up a narrow rocky track until we eventually emerged on the main through dirt track that runs from Cómpeta to Frigiliana, at a sign post that told us it was 15 km to Cómpeta (about 10 km the other side of Casa de la Mina). I am getting to know this end of the track quite well now, having joined it at various points on my walks and rides. There is a bit of an incline, but it is generally fairly level with the most stunning scenery on all sides. Today the sky was a fabulous bright blue, and the sun was sparkling off the sea in the distance – it was beautiful.
We stopped for a bite to eat by a stream that flowed down the mountainside and across the track. Fermín had a great chunk of bread and an uncooked morcilla (black pudding), which he kindly offered to share but I politely declined, and I nibbled on an apple and some almonds, whilst Liana did her best to clear the side of the track of grass.
Even though I know these tracks quite well, it is very difficult to judge distance. The other side of the valley can look relatively close, but you have to travel so far into the deep folds and gullies of the mountains that it takes forever to reach the other side.
We eventually reach Cómpeta and part company with Pepe at the top of town and I am instructed to carry on with Fermín, although I would rather go in the other direction, which would be a more direct route home for me. We work our way down through the steep winding streets of the village, down steps on slippery concrete and finally emerge at Bar Marcos. I think Fermín wanted to show me where he keeps his horse, but I end up adding another 20 minutes to my journey. But then, what’s twenty minutes when you have been in the saddle for almost eight hours?
So we are now on our own and we trot all the way home, where Liana has a very well deserved late lunch and I fall into an armchair for the rest of the afternoon.
My trusty steed has carried me for more than 35 km, but I am pretty sure she enjoyed it, and she still had plenty of energy at the end. What a star!