Yesterday notices went up around the village appealing for information about a missing person. A Dutch holidaymaker left her hotel on the morning of 17th June and was seen in Frigiliana the same day. She never returned to her hotel and for the past ten days nothing has been heard of or from her. She has drawn no money from any ATMs; she has not used her credit card; nor has she spoken to her family. She should now be back home in Holland with her family. Instead, her family is here in Spain desperate to know what has happened to her.
Today the Guardia Civil helicopter spent close on two hours overflying the open country of the Natural Park which lies to the east of the village. It has gone now. Whether the crew had any succes in their search or not, I do not know.
Of course for so long as she remains unlocated any speculation as to what might have befallen her is exactly that; speculation. Nevertheless it set me thinking. As I described in a recent post, El Parque Natural de las Sierras deTejeda, Almijara y Alhama is a wonderful area of mountains, narrow, steep-sided valleys, springs and rivers. It is on the doorstep of Frigiliana. It is close to Nerja, ten or fifteen minutes from the beaches. At this time of year the sky is an amazing blue, the sun shines from dawn till dusk. You could be in paradise.
You are not in paradise, though. Close as it is to the coast and to ‘civilisation’ the Natural Park is a wild and empty mountain region. For those of you who know the northwest of England and the Lake District here is a point of comparison; the altitude above sea level of my roof terrace is 67 feet higher than Shap Summit on the M6 motorway, and we aren’t even properly into the mountains yet.
Speaking of the Lake District, in my travels to different parts of the world I have yet to find maps that are as detailed, accurate and easy to follow as the Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer range. Maps of this area are not in the same league. Nor are the books and pamphlets of walks in the sierras sufficient in themselves. To explore this area - well worth doing, by the way - you need to be properly prepared. You need adequate footwear, particularly for ankle protection; on steep, uneven ground with loose rock and stone it’s all too easy to put a foot wrong. So you are also well-advised to carry at least one walking pole to aid balance and stability. You need appropriate clothing, including at this time of the year, a broad-brimmed hat that will protect you from the power of the sun’s rays (so don’t forget your factor 20, either!). You will sweat, often profusely, and so you need a good supply of water with you, as well as some high-calorie snacks. Hand-held GPS and a mobile phone are useful, though in many places you won’t get a signal, so don’t rely on them.
Finally, it is a very bad idea to go alone into the mountains unless you are extremely familiar with the area. And if you go in a group, one at least should have that familiarity. If that sounds an impossible ask, then you have two options. Either stay out of the mountains, or sign up with one of the guided groups which are available. That’s for your safety, but it’s also a useful plug for a fellow expat, John Keogh. A link to his website is part of this blog.
After all that, let us hope and pray that Mary Ann Goosens is found soon and that she is safe and well.