Up the creek

It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted here. Not much has changed since Freedom! which turned out to be pretty limited. The heat is back on after 10 days of rain and cooler weather so I’m up early these days for a run or a bike ride.

Yesterday my ski touring buddy François de Pfyffer gave me a buzz and said “Come on man, this is so boring not doing anything exciting, give me some ideas or I’m going crazy here on the mountain”. Well it’s not a mountain I always correct him, François lives on the side of a hill surrounded by donkeys and wild goats with amazing views towards the distant hills of the Bolonia coastline.

The best and worst times on a real mountain I’ve had with François. The worst being caught in a horrific storm while doing a full winter traverse of the Penibetico mountains. The best was skiing off the top of Djebl M’goun in Morocco’s Central Atlas. We’re no strangers to a bit of excitement. However about the best I could summon up seemed pretty timid by comparison. “Ok we’ll evade the Guardia Civil and the Park Rangers and visit that super remote vultures colony up in the Alcornocales Nature Reserve”.

Untrammelled by visitors and with no public footpath or vehicle track the colony sits high up on some limestone crags with incredible views over the Barbate reservoir, the headwater of all the fantastically fertile arable land between Benalup and Vejer. I’d visited years ago with a biologist friend by canoe who also showed me neolithic tombs and remains of ancient settlements. Unfortunately I’d forgotten the exact route up the hill and I dragged François up a steep rock assuming we could get down easily the other side. Not so.

An ancient cistern carved out of the rock possibly between 2100BC and 1800BC

We almost fell in to some prehistoric cisterns and then got torn to shreds by spiky palms trying to get off the rock. The Griffon vultures were there, circling above and we saw white furry babies ducking their distinctive beaky heads in and out of the nests. We didn’t disturb them any more than necessary and after a shambles of a down climb enjoyed a picnic and a swim before heading back.

Other than a lot of Retinto cattle enjoying the shore grazing we saw not a soul all day, the promise of a fast chase ‘a la Bond’ across the lake seemed remote. We headed home happily without a fine for breaking the law or trespassing the reserve. We promised each other to return another day to enjoy watching the the youngsters flying overhead.

“I think it’s a baby!”