Monday morning dawned bright and clear. We really ought to have had an 'alpine style' start, striking camp just before dawn and reaching the summit of San Juan as the sun was rising. However we were on holiday, and neither of us had the energy for cold early morning starts. Our shepherd friend had been right about the cold, although this it is Southern Spain, the temperature does drop overnight even in the height of summer, but of course as soon as the sun comes over the horizon it sheds its warming rays very quickly - not conducive to steep uphill walking with big packs. After a breakfast of hot oats and coffee, we refilled the water bottles and set off. The eastern slope of San Juan had looked rather daunting, as we had descended to the col the previous evening, and we were not really looking forward to tackling it! However it's bark proved much worse than it's bite, and steady walking with a few short breaks soon saw us at the summit and enjoying the morning flapjack snack we had promised ourselves. At the summit (2786m), the remains of candles suggested we had followed in the steps of pilgrims who had we assumed walked to the summit to celebrate San Juan the previous weekend. An hour or so on, at Piedras de Pelegrina, we found ourselves walking through a herd of cows. I am quite taken with the way cows appear to thrive in the Sierra Nevada. Despite the altitude, they look much healthier than their British counterparts, and are not threatened by walkers. Just before Penon del Puerto (2754m), we saw a second shepherd and wondered if he was their owner. Again he made a point of approaching us and asking where we had come from. He thought we were very hardy, having walked from La Ragua. I commented on the difference from farmers in the UK, who would more often than not want to avoid walkers, seeing them as a nuisance when approaching stock, rather than fellow travellers to share experiences and the time of day with. Soon after we found a good lunch and rest stop amongst the rocks of Penon del Puerto. We have discovered the delights of dry cured sausage, olives, Spanish dried breads, 'squeezy' cheese and a fruit and nut mix, as a nutritious and relatively light to carry lunch. With a few minor variations, this was our lunch most days on the trip. We soon headed off again following the rise and fall of the ridge. Mike had looked at the map, assuming that it was only an hour or so to our proposed campsite, but became extremely dismayed to discover we had 4 peaks and a long ridge to tackle that afternoon; we needed to head on!
A steep climb led us to the summit of Puerto de Jerez (2919m) and then on to Cerro de Trevelez (2877m). Despite a few paths heading up from the valleys of the Alpujarra, the mountains had an increasingly remote feel, and we met no-one else until arriving at the popular camp site of Siete Lagunas the following day. Our second night was spent at the head of the Rio Trevelez (2780m), a place which we had visited twice the previous summer and thought would make a really good camp site. This proved to be the case; we found a soft flat spot, with lots of rocky boulders to use for our camp kitchen. We were really close to two springs, with lots of water and flowers. The stream stretched down the valley to Spain's highest village far below and nearer to hand we saw what we took to be cows. As darkness fell, and we zipped up the tent, we began to hear the tell tale sound of bells, getting gradually louder. Cows do wear bells in the Spanish mountains, however somehow these creatures didn't sound like cows. Eventually Mike put his head out of the tent, to find us surrounded by horses, both young and old. Though I certainly wouldn't describe myself as a 'horsey person', I normally don't dislike horses, however somehow a lot of the creatures so close at hand, and in the dark, felt quite threatening, so not the best of nights sleep!