PERCHED on a pinnacle of rock. Sniffing the scents of wild lavender and rosemary drifting through woods of sessile oak and pine on an afternoon breeze. I can also detect something else familiar – perhaps wild mountain thyme, like in the song.
I’m having a Robert Louis Stevenson moment high on the northern ridges of Lujar beneath a hot Spanish sun. For Stevenson it was chestnut woods, orange groves and star-filled nights amid the hills of the Cevennes that awakened the mystic in his soul. For me its acorns, olive groves, herbs and wide blue skies.
I sit on my pinnacle and soak in the views of the Sierra Nevada and the bright town of Orgiva – thousands of feet below – reflecting the sun from its white walls. And the villages clinging to the distant terraced slopes of Pico del Tajo de los Machos and Mulhacen – Cañar, Soportujar, Capileira, Bubion, Pampaneira. And I think to myself: God, isn’t it just wonderful to be alive and wander among these mighty mountains? And to walk along dusty paths that wind beneath stunted oak, and to smell the tangy pine resin and the rosemary that brushes your legs. And to sit here on a rocky pinnacle, as small and as insignificant as a cricket, and gaze out upon distant peaks and dark folds of shadow.
Across the valley, a long, long grey ridge rises from the forests above Capileira to the summit of Mulhacen – the highest mountain in mainland Spain. Up this ridge I shall be striding with sack and trekking poles in a couple of days’ time. It’s a long hike in thin air. Not an inviting prospect.
I’ve just decided to abandon my third attempt at Lujar. I sit on my rock and chew chorizo and dry bread, reflecting on the wisdom of setting off up a 6,000ft mountain at 11.30am. Robert Louis Stevenson would have persevered, I’m sure, and climbed the last few hundred feet of rocky, tree-clad ridge – battling through prickly shrubs – to the very top. But he didn’t have a wife dolling herself up to go out for a meal. Or perhaps he did and that’s why he travelled a lot.
I clamber down from the pinnacle and retrace my steps along mountain tracks, smiling at the irony that Sierra de Lujar, the smallest mountain I have ever attempted to climb in Spain, is the only one that’s beaten me. Not just once, but three times.
- FOR details of Casita La Luz, the perfect base from which to explore the Sierra Nevada and Alpujarras, click here.