My last posting was written on the basis of very little fact and much speculation, never a wise combination. So today I return to the topic in order to set the record straight. The missing Englishman, who sadly is still missing, is no stranger to these mountains after all. He is a keen climber who has been coming to Nerja for the past seven years or so, and has often gone walking in the sierras. He knows the routes and the paths well. On Saturday last he set off on a challenging journey up the valley of the Rio Chillar, intending to go as far as an abandoned farmstead, El Cortijo del Imán, about 15 to 20km inland, and in fact very close to the area where the Dutch tourist became trapped for 18 days last year. He told his wife what he was doing and where he was going. He was properly equipped with appropriate footwear and clothing, a backpack, food and emergency rations, maps, mobile phone and a GPS device. He also hired a mountain bike so that he could cycle into the mountains as far as possible. He then intended to conceal the bike in the undergrowth and continue on foot to his destination and then pick the bike up on his way back. He expected to sleep out on Saturday night, since he knew he could not complete the trip in a single day. I owe him an apology for having assumed he was an innocent in the mountains. He had planned the trip carefully and had done everything by the book. But it still went wrong. Searchers have been in the sierras for four days now on foot, in helicopters, accompanied by search dogs trained to track down people but there is no sign either of him or of his bicycle. We are at that time of year when state of the art technology can be thwarted; we are all used to seeing the telltale heat blips in the dark on the popular police programmes, but here in July the ground is at least as hot as the people on it. No telltale blips because there is no differential. Today I read that the search has been extended in a new direction across into the sierras of neighbouring Granada Province. His route should have taken him nowhere near the Granada border, but apparently there was fog in the mountains on Sunday morning and searchers are not ruling out the possibility that he became disorientated and set off in the wrong direction. ¡Ojalá! as the Spanish say, “Please God.....”
We’ve had the Guardia’s search and rescue helicopter down on the plaza a couple of times this morning. It is, sadly, that time of year again. A 63 year old British holidaymaker went for a walk up the Rio Chillar on Saturday and has not come back You may remember that I blogged about a Dutch woman who did the same thing in June last year, finished up spending 18 days lost in the mountains and was found alive by the merest good luck when a party of highly experienced mountaineers chose to follow a route of the high sierras that took them close by where she was trapped. Will our British walker have similar good fortune? Time will tell. The mountains that rise up behind Nerja and Frigiliana are beautiful and awe-inspiring to look at, but they are not for the amateur - and that includes me. They are so close to the coast that their height is deceptive; they are much higher than they look. But what can go wrong with a simple walk along the bank of a river? A number of things actually. Firstly, there are two rivers not one, though they join just before reaching the outskirts of Nerja. To get to the Rio Higuerón, which offers the prospect of a strenous but relatively safe route up to Frigiliana (though you would be better advised to get the bus up to Frigliana and then follow the river back down to Nerja if you are not a seasoned walker), you have to ford the Rio Chillar, and of course, you have to know where. That’s not easy this summer as we had a pretty dry winter, so there is no water in the Higuerón right now; no opportunity, therefore, to say, “Oh, look, there’s the other river, over there.” So you will keep on walking up the Chillar. Then you have your second problem. There is always water in the Chillar and as the valley narrows so the availability of dry land to walk on dwindles away until you have no choice but to walk in the river itself, which of course is rocky and uneven and many of the rocks are loose and/or slippery, so you may fall. And you may break an arm, a leg, an ankle or a couple of ribs - or a combination of the above. To avoid the river bed, you may choose to follow a path that you see which will take you up to dry ground. Sadly, it may not be a path. It’s much more likely to be a track worn by the mountain goats as they move around their territory. They are far more agile than your average middle-aged, occasional walker, with a better sense of balance, a better head for heights, and two extra legs. But by the time that you suspect that you may have made a mistake, you have the problem of retracing your steps without any clear idea of which choice to make when, as it will, the track forks and forks again. Since you only set out for a simple stroll along a river bank, it’s odds-on that you haven’t any spare clothing, water supply or high energy food, all of which you may now be needing. You have now arrived at the point where your only hope is that sufficient people will leave all the other things which they really ought to be doing, to come out and find you before you need to be brought out in a body bag; if they ever do find you, that is. Alternatively, at the foot of this page is a list of links including to experienced guides who offer walks into the sierras from which you will return under your own steam.
It seemed at first in June as if summer had arrived early. Temperatures climbed into the mid-thirties and nights were hot and sweaty. Time to turn on the air conditioning. Then it eased off again, as it often does, but has remained much more tolerable into July. Daytime shade temperatures are mainly around 31 or 32 degrees maximum, whilst in the evening the temperature drops to a very pleasant 21 or 22 degrees, making sleep comfortable and easy. Now I see why. I was watching the news on BBC last night and when the weather forecast came on at the end, one of the charts showed the jetstream. At this time of year it should be tracking somewhere between Scotland and Norway, allowing warm air to spread north into the UK. Not last night! Last night’s chart showed the jetstream tracking across the southern half of the Bay of Biscay. North of it, as the people of Britain well know, one low pressure system after another rolls across the British Isles dumping record-breaking quantities of rain every few days, and causing widespread flooding and disruption. On the other hand, here on the Costa del Sol, the hottest of the tropical air is being held at bay by the very same jetstream. It looks as if we are having the summer Britain hoped for.