Walking in the Axarquía area, Andalucía – May 2015
Day 2 – Málaga to Cómpeta
We had breakfast in the square near the old town – lots of orange juice and coffee, then showed John, Susan and Roger the way to the Cathedral and the Picasso Museum before heading up to the Castell Gibralfaro – a stiff pull up the path but worth it as the view got better and better towards the top. Yesterday a huge cruise ship had been in the port; today it had been replaced by just a very large ship! The passengers were tendering ashore, and many of those not on organised excursions were going the same way as us – onwards and upwards. The weather was fine and warm and an entrepreneurial local was selling bottles of ice cold drinking water half way up.
After enjoying great views of the port, the bullring, and other features of the city from our vantage point, it was a disappointment not to have enough time to go into the castle area, but as we were being picked up at midday we reckoned that we’d probably have to leave only a few minutes after going in, so we made a gentle way down again, encountering two black (or at least very dark brown) squirrels on the way.
I’d stopped at an ATM to get some money out, when an Englishman, probably from the cruise ship, asked me if the machine was English-friendly, but I misheard him and thought he’d asked if the English were friendly. I was tempted to say something like ‘Not where I come from!’ but thought better of it, then helped translate the Spanish instructions for him. So the English are friendly then.
Back at the hotel we picked up our bags and went to the nearest cafe to wait for our minibus. The idea was that Spanish Steps had arranged to pick up another group, coming from Gatwick earlier this morning, then collect us and take us all to Cómpeta together. The Gatwick group, later known as the ‘B’ group (we were the ‘A’ group of course!) were to walk the Silk Route, staying in three or four different places including Canillas de Albeida and Frigiliana.
Through the outskirts of Málaga, then along the coastal motorway towards Nerja before turning off at Veléz Málaga and heading inland into the mountains. The road snaked up through Algarrobo and Sayalonga, heading higher and higher with many a twist and turn (Linda feeling more and more queasy) until we arrived in Cómpeta’s tiny square – the Plaza Almijara, to be welcomed by Peter Strange, the proprietor of Spanish Steps. He and his wife Sue know Ian and Jackie well – Ian has helped them with baggage transfer in the past as a kind of extended holiday – and soon we were shown to the house which we would all share. It’s a very Spanish house with over 20 rooms, lots of places to bang your head, and about 18 bottles of wine in the wine rack to keep us going through the week.
We were soon allocated bedrooms, then off to the Bar Perico in the square for a late lunch before having a free afternoon to explore the village. The streets are narrow (most only wide enough for pedestrians and mopeds) with the houses almost touching at roof level; very, very steep and of course, very white. The Moorish influence is strong here (even though the last of the Moors left around 500 years ago) making Cómpeta a real pueblo blanco, looking like it could slide off the side of the hill at any moment.
In fact the village has experienced two devastating earthquakes, destroying the church tower each time, as we learnt from an information board by the main square.
Cómpeta is now so popular that 43% of the population is non-Spanish. Peter told us that when he arrived in the early 1990’s there were very few outsiders, but understandably its popularity has grown and grown, as our exploration of the surrounding area would show over the next few days.
In the evening we ate in the Square again, with Peter, Sue and their son Andy for company, learning about the area, their business, and the walks we would be doing during the coming week. It sounded so good, we all had to finish with a Benedictine!
I’ll tell you about the first walk in the next episode.