Such a Perfect Day (December Reflections 3)

Today’s prompt is: Best Day of 2019

I am fortunate now to have an excellent life. There are no bad days, only good. This prompt might have caused me some thought in other years. This year I might have expected automatically to be writing about my lunch in Modena, at what has been twice labelled “Best Restaurant in the World”.

But I knew without thinking which day I wanted to consider because only a few days ago I remarked that my day had been one of the best days in my life.

Unfortunately, for us and for this exercise, it was also the day on which my camera failed me. My brain must do most of the work but at my age, my memory is not all that trustworthy!

19th November 2019: Villargordo del Cabriel

We had overnighted at Kiko Park Rural, a most unusual campsite on the site of an old village. Reception and Restaurant are in the old church building and the street of houses now form holiday accommodation. It is utterly charming.

The restaurant has good reviews and we had hoped to eat there but we arrived to a notice saying that the restaurant was closed today. On enquiry we were told that yes, it would be open tomorrow.

Best laid plans…

We woke to a frost on the ground but the day was bright, still, and blue. The sun was warm. Our plan was to rise early and to make a circular walk of the two waymarked routes that went into the local town – a projected 10 Km or so, but very hilly. We were allowing four hours and wanted to be back in time for lunch in the restaurant as dinner service starts at 9pm (far too late for us.)

It seemed sensible to do the outward leg on the hardest route (blue) and to take things easier on the return leg (yellow route).

A false start

Blue route runs straight off the campsite, we passed through a gate close by Reception and were able to let Nell off the lead immediately. We rounded a corner and saw the first waymarker – complete with sign warning of Peril from flood. Should have thought twice about matters at that stage…

We had progressed only metres before I realised that I was completely out of my depth. The path went down steeply and then went more gently downward but along a very narrow ridge. The drops on both sides were steep and I was terrified. My ankle was still heavily strapped after my fall on the day that we left home and I was finding it difficult to manoeuvre through the rocks and shrubs.

But it was beautiful The scenery was striking, with some amazing Geology. The clear air with the nip of frost and the total quiet – apart from the cry of a distant eagle – it was all stunning. I was so enthralled that I was actually able to stand on the narrow ridge alone, with my camera out, whilst S went and scouted the path ahead to assess if I would cope. He returned to confirm his suspicion that the path went straight down the side of the valley to its bottom, to run along the dry river bed (you know the one that is prone to flooding). It would later take an uphill route towards town.

The day previously we had studied the profile for the walk and the latter part was even steeper than the beginning. I was already terrified at the prospect of scrambling down the steep hillside, so the notion of working my way up a steeper path with my sprained ankle was not appealing. The worst possible scenario (for me anyway) was that I would find the uphill impossible and have to return the way that we had come. I knew that I did not have that in me.

I felt guilty and was very apologetic but I just couldn’t tackle it. We decided to turn around and follow Yellow route instead. Now, had we realised at that point that the hardest part was already behind us and that we had been reading the profile back to front (it was drawn from the town end, not from the campsite) I would have felt far guiltier about wimping out!

Another beginning

Yellow Route started out well. We crossed over the railway bridge and found ourselves on a forest track. It climbed continuously but the gradient was not overly challenging. After a while the waymarker took us off the forest road and led downhill again. We found ourselves walking through olive groves and past patches of vines. It was perfectly gorgeous.

Downhill through the olive grove

I turned from taking this shot of the olives to capture the view across the vines and… my camera failed.

Of course, town lay in an upward direction… we knew that there must be another uphill stretch ahead of us.

A waymarker soon showed us the way, taking us from the farmer’s track and onto a rough (very) path that went rapidly upwards. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves traversing a hillside where the path had slipped away. The ground was of clay and there had been recent rain. Our shoes became clogged and our feet felt leaden. It was very difficult progress and I found, once again, that I was quaking with fear. I had to hang on to shrubs to keep myself from slipping off the side.

We talked about turning back but I was feeling dogged at this point. Well, to be honest I really did not want to go back the way that I had just come… So, I just made myself cross. Once I had reached more solid ground I was attempting to clear some of the clay from my feet, concentrating on finding some sharp-edged rocks to use as boot scrapers and moving to a new one each time the one that I was using was caked in the thick red clay. I heard S exclaim “Oh, my god!” He is not one to call upon mythical deities in times of stress, so I jumped – wondering what on earth was wrong.

An aspiration fulfilled

Nothing was wrong. Something was very right indeed. There were eagles overhead and at close quarters and my camera had failed.

All that we had was S’s phone camera (not a very sophisticated one) and neither of us knew how to work it. This is what we got.

They came right over our heads
We think perhaps Booted Eagle?

Whilst I had been looking down, battling the clay on my boots, all that had been going on overhead! I clung on to a Rosemary shrub for safety and just watched the breathtaking sight. I counted at least eight of these magnificent birds,

Eventually the eagles flew off to hunt elsewhere down the ridge, giving us opportunity to admire the scenery. We were up quite high and the views were terrific. I reached for my camera, intending to make a panoramic shot and… my camera had failed – I had forgotten.

After the difficult scramble it was a great relief to see that just metres further on the path became a proper path again. In fact we crested a small rise and could see the town. The wide grassy path took us to join a dirt road that clearly ran into town in one direction. We surmised that in the other direction it would take us back to where we had crossed the railway line.

Somehow by this time neither of us felt any need to look at the town so we turned down the road and established that it was indeed the one that we had started uphill on. We could simply have stayed on it and missed out all of the scary bits – but then we would have not had the views or have seen the eagles. They were my first eagles (if you don’t count The Eagles) and it was an experience that I have wanted all my life.

I was exceedingly hungry by now and delighted to find that the route home was in fact really a short one.

On our return I decided to check on the restaurant’s status as I noticed the “Sorry we are closed” sign was still up. Yes,. The Restaurant is open today. Service begins at 9pm. ARGH! No lunch.

We returned to the van and I made a delicious risotto.

In the afternoon

After we had eaten we took Nell out for her afternoon walk and this time we took Dusty with us too. We put his walking jacket on him, popped him in his backpack, and walked off the campsite before taking him out on his lead. It was his first walk out on the lead and he did very well indeed.

Dusty’s first leashed walk in strange surroundings
He wasn’t looking much like a domestic moggy
– I think that he was feeling the call of the wild

We found a pitch of open rough ground and decided to try him off the leash. He quickly disappeared down into a gully and was off into the scrub. S had to go and retrieve him… I used my time to admire the views.

…and he’s off. Time to retrieve the cat.
Have I mentioned the stunning scenery here?

Once back on the lead we went across the railway bridge again and turned down a tarmac road that we knew went nowhere other than to the far end of the railway tunnels. We walked perhaps five kilometres and Dusty appeared to love every moment of his outing. We saw only one car in all the time we were out. It was very peaceful indeed.

My Best Day

A failed beginning, an arduous climb, some very wobbly moments, a broken camera, a missed lunch. Sounds horrible doesn’t it? But there was absolute peace and gorgeous views and eagles, all topped off by the huge surprise of Dusty taking to walking on the lead as though he had been doing it all of his life.

On our way back to base, I squeezed Mr L’s hand and told him that this had been one of the best days of my life.

Some memories

I took my other camera out with us in the pm. Here are a few more of the many shots that I took.

Walking like a pro
On the beam
The long and winding (though empty) road
The road doesn’t really go anywhere
Dusty found some grass that he found really exciting – almost as good as catnip
We were almost home again when Dusty decided that he had walked far enough and lay down for a rest on the railway bridge.

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