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2016 Spain

A Horrible Way to End a Really Beautiful Day

15 August 2016 | Mri Grout

mountains in the Sierras Natural de Tejeda Almijara y AlhamaDespite the forecast calling for two whole days worth of non-stop rain pretty much everywhere, I was still determined to find that last remaining bit of sunshine. Luckily though reading forecasts is like running statistics: if you search long enough, then you can find ‘evidence’ for anything. In our case it was that fifty minutes south of Granada, on the west side of the Parque Natural Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama near Otivar, there wasn’t going to be any rain…despite the entire south coastline predicting thunderstorms…

But whatever, I, like way too many found statistics, was very determined to ignore this major detail and pretend like it definitely wasn’t ever going to rain while we were out hiking. Besides, it was Spain; did it even know how to rain? Or was it just trying to trick us into changing our plans like last time? Hmmm?

So despite having waterproofs in the car, Rob and I headed off on our hike down and around the Rio Verde without them. We did take the stove though, surprisingly enough. My reasoning was that we had to somehow spend all day on a short 10km hike, so a long stop for lunch would help with that. Rob’s reasoning was that I wanted it and he’s just lovely like that. (: Though that is not to say he didn’t complain at the start. Lols.

Anyway, after parking the car at the trailhead of the Rio Verde hike in Parque Natural Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama, we had a brief conversation about whether we should dump all the bags out to show that we didn’t have anything of value… or rather, should we hide everything valuable in the footwells under a mess of bottles, food wrappers, and towels? But given I just spent all of yesterday morning cleaning it out and packing everything away and we were only going to be gone three to five hours max (i.e.: way before it got dark), we didn’t bother to do so. After all, we were in a small town and well away from the normal tourist areas of Granada and the Sierra Mountains. When does something bad ever happen in places like that? With obvious disregard to the redneck serial killers found in movies, of course.

And so Rob and I set off hiking up the beautiful, rugged terrain of the Parque Natural Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama.

wild cave on the Rio Verde trailLess than an hour later, we had woven our way down into the canyon of the Rio Verde (for canyon hikes are pretty much the only ones you can do in Spain without dying in the summer) and came across a secret cave hidden in the rock of the first waterfall. I had heard that there are many free caves found in the Parque Natural Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama due to the abundance of limestone, but was unable to find any exact (or even approximate) locations of any of them when researching this place, so stumbling onto this find was quite spectacular - especially when we encountered the clearest water we had ever seen. Unfortunately though, it tasted like (what I’m assuming to be) limestone - though that is not to say it tasted worse than the plastic-pipe tasting water we already had. Lols.

After taking my fill of photos concerning the mouth of the cave, Rob eventually convinced me to combine my two biggest fears into one: let’s explore the underwater section of this dark, (eventually) suffocating cave with non-waterproof flashlights. Oh, the things I do out of curiosity and a sense of adventure.

Luckily, however, the cave was fairly small and didn’t go much further than just around the bend and NEVER went fully underwater. For if it had, I probably would’ve died due to a combination of my stubbornness to continue and the eventual panic attack being in water and/or in dark places creates. Then again, my panic attacks make me bolt for the exit/beach so I probably would’ve just got lost and died of hypothermia given the absolute freezing temperature of the water - that is, if I didn’t get eaten by whatever monster was lurking in the hidden depths of that cave… Lols. Serious question though: why doesn’t knowing that the actual chance of ‘reason for panic attack’ is extremely low, stop said panic attacks from happening in the first place?

After exiting the cave, we decided to warm up on the rocks in front of the waterfall - mostly because there wasn’t much water to swim in than for the actual regaining of heat. But despite the waterfall being little more than a damp patch of rock, it was far, FAR away from being pathetic. The groves the water cut in the rock were clear and amazing indications of the sheer powerful forces this river occasionally erupted into. The numerous pools it created down the river and the three massive logs left behind in its wake…we just had to make plans to revisit this place when the river flowed high.

And those plans were only strengthened the further we hiked down the Rio Verde.

Unfortunately, however by the time we got to the jaw-dropping, most-paradisial, breathtaking wild swimming holes ever created, the clouds were starting to threaten rain and we were only half way around the loop. It’s easy to say after the fact that we should’ve taken the short cut to get back to the car quicker, but this canyon hike through the Rio Verde was so gorgeous and the full loop was only supposed to be another 6-7 kilometres - a length easily accomplished within an hour or two.

But alas, the trail had been remade some time ago due to the powerful forces of the river ripping away more than one bridge. So instead of finishing in a 10km loop back at the car, it ended up getting us lost without any GPS signal for us to figure out where we were. Mistakenly thinking we were closer to the exit than we were and a stubbornness to not go back the same way we had just come, these things turned the three hour hike into well over twelve hours. Rob’s feet ended up covered in blisters and I would end up bed-ridden the next day, but having not packed the tent or any other food, we were forced to carry on.

Eventually we managed to catch a lift with some other hikers and they cut off a good hour’s walk up hill, but it was the fact that they had a key through a surprise gate that really made us give thanks. Had they simply passed us by like most Spanish people do with hitchhikers, then we never would have made it out that night. As it was, we didn’t get back to the car until a little before eleven.

But though my initial reaction at seeing our vehicle was relief, it was quickly diminished by the realisation that the passenger window had been smashed into and all of our belongings, including the much desired food bag, had been stolen. I’ve been robbed many times before and had my apartment broken into during my time at university, but I’ve never lost anything on this scale. In one night, we lost over $10,000 worth of gear (paragliders are really expensive…), but the people who did this would be lucky to get $1000 for it. The size of my wing only has a market for about two people and one of them is me; it’s why I had to buy a brand-new one despite just getting into the sport. Rob’s wing needed to be replaced ages ago and I customised his harness and his pod to be bright red. All others are black so you can literally pick his gear out from over a kilometre away. My laptop was also literally held together with a piece of fabric and my snorkelling mask had prescription lens. Everything else was a consumable.

They had time to look through all of our bags, why not only take the stuff they could sell and leave all the rest (like the guy who robbed me in Australia)? For those that think we ‘deserved it’ for leaving valuables in the car, shame on you for wanting to kick someone who’s already down just to make yourself feel better or smarter or more of a cynical jerk. And for anyone who thinks we were lucky because we didn’t get stabbed or whatnot in the process, you have no idea what it feels like to be robbed of nearly everything. You have no idea what it’s like to lose so much and yes, it is all material possessions, but the act itself was more than that. It was the hardest blow we could take after an already terrible evening. It was a push to become overly paranoid and see the worst in people - a lifestyle neither Rob or I want to live. It victimised us and that is a label that is so hard to overcome.

But we will overcome it because from our travels we know that the majority of people are kind and helpful. From our experiences we know that misfortune can fall on people at any time at any place. And from our adventures we know that we are stronger than we think we are. So for those reading this and starting to fear the world of traveling, know that we aren’t going to stop just because some bastards decided to be bastards to us. We’re not going to be controlled by the fear of a boogy man. We’re going to keep living a life of enjoyment and not hide away in our apartment, scared of the outside world. We will somehow get through this and recover what we have lost and for everyone who’s already sent their wishes, my thanks can never be enough. Victimisation is a mind game and you’re truly helping us see past that already.

2016 Spain: July

2016 Spain: Picture Perfect

Guadalest Lake knight statue at Santa Barbara's Castle in Alicante Els Arcs Squirrel climbing on Lifelong Vagabonds at Reina Sofia park in Guardamar Santa Maria Sanctuary in Novelda

About Mri Grout

feeding giraffes at Orana Wildlife Park in ChristchurchI got fed up with the 'real world' after having my couch cushions stolen by my drug-dealing roommate's client after his actions already lead to the trashing of our shared appartment by the local gang. So after finally understanding the whole: 'you've got one life and you can die at any moment' thing, I packed my bags, dropped out of school, quit my job, and left to hang out with the homeless people of Australia.

About Rob Grout

feeding giraffes at Orana Wildlife Park in Christchurch

He's not much of a writer so I, Mri Grout, wrote this for him.

Despite having a comfortable life with an easy job and a cheap house to live in because he lived with my mum and gran, he left all of that behind for this crazy Asian woman that kept popping up at the house every few months, then weeks, then days, and then every minute. He'd never really been out of England at this point except for the occasional family holiday and then all of a sudden, with very little planning, he's living in a van half way around the world.

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