La Línea de la Concepción to San Martín de Tesarrilo (28kms) to Los Ángeles /Jimena de la Frontera (20 kms) to El Colmenar
The route from La Línea to Seville is 234 kms long. We've planned two weeks walking with the intention of making a full set of walking notes available at the end. Therefore these blog posts are just my thoughts as we go along - the details will come later. I promise!
For the last few years I've been exploring walking routes in the South of Spain. In Andalucía in particular. Málaga and Córdoba to Merida, Valencia north on the Camino Levante, walking along the coast line of the Costa del Sol. I find the people extremely friendly, the weather fabulous if at times too hot and the scenery stunning. In particular I love the Pueblos Blancos, the villages which seem to grow out of the hillside where every house is painted white. Some even have elevators to help the locals come and go.
As well as maintaining the guidebooks which the CSJ publish to raise funds I've been thinking about how to make some of the lesser known routes more accessible to more pilgrims. When my friend Alan told me about the Via Serrana from La Línea to Seville I was hooked.
Leaving wet and cold Galicia everything seems to change arriving in the South. However despite the better weather I find La Línea de la Concepción a depressing place. It is like a run down commuter town, which I suppose it is since a large percentage of the population work in neighbouring Gibraltar.
The route to San Martín de Tesarrilo is some 28 kms with about a third on the road. Also for a first day is has a couple of nippy little elevations. The 28 kms is easily cut down to size if you wish by walking the first 8kms to the village of San Roque and bussing or taxi back to La Línea to resume next day.
Overall for these first stages the waymarking has been good and we've only had to search for the next arrow once or twice. The local Amigos have done a great job. The first tile is on the wall of the modern church of Santiago in La Línea and soon the arrows point the way out of town to the first little white hillside town of San Roque. The patrón Saint of pilgrimage!
Soon the countryside opens up to orange groves and lush fields. Whilst Andalucia can be a dry arid place in the height of summer at this time it is abundantly green as far as the eye can see. Looking back above San Roque the Rock of Gibraltar still punctuates the horizon and in fact even today in the hills high above Colmenar it could be clearly seen.
Accommodation in the village of Secadero next to San Martín de Tesarrilo was just excellent. Spotlessly clean rooms in a modest hostel with private bath for 15 euros. Dinner in the local bar was potato salad, green salad, pork chops, chocolate cake, wine, water and bread for 10 euros.
Moving on early next morning the air was cool and crisp and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Soon I became aware of the sounds of this Camino, the chorus of bells from the herds of deep brown dairy cows grazing in the fields, the neighing of the many beautiful horses we passed as this is equestrian country where polo is the local sport. As we rose higher I was struck by the sheer luscious greenness of the hills and deep valleys. This could be Scotland - albeit with different vegetation. As the day passed we saw Jimena de la Frontera on the hillside. A perfect Pueblo Blanco topped by a moorish style castle. At night it is lit and shines across the campo.
We are basing ourselves here for three nights to walk the next stages and return by train. These etapas are tough and staying in one place means we can carry less making taking notes, and walking up stiff elevations easier.
One point to make is that there are few points to stop for coffee or top up with water. Pilgrims on this route need to plan ahead.
Today walking from Jimena de la Frontera to El Colmenar was tough however the rewards came early with beautiful views of the white town sitting in the sunshine in all its splendour. Soon we were into proper mountain walking as we rose up and up. There were fantastic panoramic views which were the reward for two stretches of 200 m ascents in 2kms. There was some shade afforded by trees which also housed hundreds of chirping birds. After the first ascent as I stopped to draw breath high on the mountain a tale wagging dog approached accompanied by a deeply bronzed leather skinned shepherd. I don't know who was more surprised but I got the distinct impression he thought we were crazy as he pointed the way... Arriba, arriba, arriba...up, up, up!