Take a second look at SIERRA DE LAS MAMBLAS
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
On (I think) the second day we lunched in the shade of a large rock at the top of a ridge and I looked out on the opposite ridge line, with other ridgelines in the distance (I guess that's the "sierra" bit of the region), and I also saw the broad strip of patchwork farmland in the lower part of the valleys, and saw a sheppard with his/her flock. I loved seeing the overall pattern of the natural and human landscape. I saw it several times over the week, and from more spectacular viewing points, but that first time impressed me the most.
What did you think of your group leader?
Bob knows the area well, has obviously done his research well and has walked every trail and path in the region. He was always able to explain where we were in relation to Covarrubias (home) and other sites we had visit or were yet to visit. He also pointed out opportunities for short cuts home, so it was good to know that there was a lot of flexibility in our route (if say, a massive storm came through). He also has a very good approach to briefing: we were absolutely clear about what was coming up for the day (unlike other wonderful, charming, and more charismatic leaders I've had with Exodus in the past who kept describing the day's landscape as "undulating" regardless of whether that was flat-undulating or mountainous-undulating, hehehe). I think Bob's approach is ideal for people who prefer the security of knowing exactly what's coming up in terms of physical effort or the most minor of expenses. Despite that, he also kept a couple of nifty "surprises" up his sleeve, which were fun too. What Bob lacks in charisma, he more than makes up for in knowledge and anticipation of the group's needs.
Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Water: The tap water at the hotel is drinkable so don't waste your luggage space with water purifiers. Laundry: I couldn't see any laundry facilities available at all, so several of us did hand washing, but we were asked not to hang stuff on our balconies outside during the day. Paths: While the paths are mostly perfectly OK, there are a few paths on a slope with a bit of loose stone, so walking sticks are a plus if your legs are a bit wobbly. Additionally, on the routes Bob took on my week, there were two very steep, and potentially slippery bits of path. They needed all my attention for about 10 minutes each. Bob did warn us ahead of time that they were coming up, so it was possible to avoid them (and on one occasion, one person did take the shortcut home). Nonetheless, 99% of the walking was quite easy to moderate and at no point were we ever rushed. The pace was quite leisurely with plenty of breaks, which meant that the group pretty much stayed fairly close together; never more than a few hundred metres between first and last person. Nonetheless, that distance also provided enough space to get a bit of privacy in discussions too, if it was wanted.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
If you can possibly swing it, I'd strongly recommend going in May: the flowers and scented herbage are at exactly the right growth stage, the weather is warm enough but also cool enough for exertion Just for the record, on my trip, everyone in the group was really lovely and some were quite funny, and most were very interesting. I'm over 45 and was one of the youngest in the group. No one was a fuddy duddy (not at all!) but I guess that the nature of the trip attracts people like us. I suspect that a very modern-type of person in the 18-30 age group might find a group like mine a little boring, socially. I think the social side of these walking holidays is easily 50% of the fun (otherwise you'd do a self-guided trip, right?) so that might be a factor to take into account in selecting the trip.