Leaving Laroles, the GR7 runs straight North through a pass in the Sierra Nevada National Park. Immediately upon leaving Laroles, there is a steep climb up the embankment to the small town of Bayarcal. After a bit of road walking, the path turned into a single track trail. This trail, leading all the way to the summit of the pass, was technical and slow going. In places, the trail was rough and in bad shape. There was one spot in particular where the trail had collapsed, and instead of fixing the trail they bolted in a rope system and a nice sign that said “Descenso Peligroso” (Dangerous Descent).
There was also one spot where the trail ran through the property of a recently closed/abandoned lodge, and I had no choice but to hop the fence to continue. Upon reaching the summit, there was a water spout and campground spot that was well occupied by passing drivers, cyclists and motorcycle riders. The descending trail into the town of Ferreira was in better shape, and had sweeping views of the agricultural valley below. Ferreira was a nice, but quiet town. Here the path briefly merges with the Camino Mozarabe de Santiago for the three kilometers into La Calahorra. This is the pilgrimage way from Almeria across Spain to Santiago de Compostela. Once you get anywhere near La Calahorra, the imposing red castle with domed minarets comes into view. La Calahorra is very picturesque, but also very quiet. The castle is a must see, not just for the castle, but for the views of town and the Sierra Nevada mountains, which still had snow on top.
The next day, it was about 20km out of La Calahorra to the town of Charches. This stretch was across very flat farmland. While this kind of walking is easier on you feet and energy levels, it is quite difficult mentally. It’s flat, so you can see the next town the entire time, even though that town is 4.5 hours away. Also, there were a few sections of road that were dead straight for 3-4km. This type of walking gives you nothing to focus your mind on, and that is hard. Stopped for a quick coffee at the only open business in Charches before going about 10km past Charches into the neighboring hills to camp for the night. It was only 2°C at night, which made sleeping difficult.
After a bad night’s sleep, it was about 32km through the mountains and pine forest to Baza. This was a long day, with steady climbs and some sections of trail with loose rock. I did see a group of 7-8 Southeastern Ibex, which is a species of mountain sheep. Stopped for a quick break at the only inhabited place on this stretch, which was an Andalucian government nature office. The staff was nice, and they had many good maps and nature displays to learn about the nature parks and wildlife in the area.
Baza is a sizable town with only a few sights, and it is completely off the tourist track. Having an overdue rest day here before continuing on to Zujar and Benamaurel tomorrow.
Walking days: 23
Total distance walked: 609km (378mi)