Theres no place like home: Mon, Aug 23, 2004

“There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home” repeated Tracy, with eyes tightly shut, as she tapped her feet together three times “Why, oh why didn’t I listen to Richard more carefully” she thought.

Let me explain…………………………

I had a party of 7 clients camped high on the Cerro de Caballo (3,001 metres) last Tuesday night. We had walked up that afternoon. The plan was for Tracy (who came along helping to carry gear etc) to return to her car early Wednesday. Her car was parked at about 2250 metres, some one and a half hours downhill walk away. Knowing that Tracy is not the best navigator in the world I had constantly shown her the route back on her way up that afternoon. A simple route back actually. Just a slow descending traverse along the left hand side of a ridgeline, a good path all the way.

Yes, I also knew that she couldn’t tell her right from left (or even possibly up from down?) and didn’t have much sense of direction, however a good straight path in glorious weather shouldn’t be much problem should it? My biggest mistake however was in forgetting the “BLONDE” factor! She left the campsite at 8am and should have been back at the car by 9.30am. In actual fact she finally arrived at her car at 5.30pm, some nine and a half hours later! This is her story……………….

She left the campsite with Cassie our brown, small ( and not very good) hunting dog, and initially all was well. However as she started down the left hand side of the ridgeline she met a small herd of some 15 cows. Cassie (the Brave) is scared of cows and wouldn’t go any further even if being carried. Tracy said that some of the cows were looking at her very aggressively (how do they do that?) so to avoid them she went right of the ridgeline. Cows, suitably by-passed, you would have thought she would then move back to the left and then contour round to regain her original path. No…not Tracy! Instead of regaining the route by trending left she went RIGHT! Unbeknown to her she headed away from her car in the general direction of Granada.

After three hours walking she realised she was lost so she rang me so that I could tell her where she was. I asked “Where are you?”, “No idea” she replied. I asked her to describe the view and forgetting she didnt know right from left asked her “Is there a river on your left hand side?”. “Yes”, she replied (when she really meant right hand side!). And so the conversation went on until all juice was drained out of both mobile phones. Now no communication was possible. She was on her own.

The hot afternoon sun beat down as she walked down through forest and meadow. No water meant dehydration was setting in and blisters started to appear on her feet. At a loss she realised at last that she could see Granada in the distance and that Granada was the wrong way to get to Lanjarón! Bright girl eh? So she retraced her steps in the general direction of Lanjarón. After some six hours walking she came across and old cortijo with an elderly woman tending the garden. The woman luckily turned out to be English and gave Tracy rough directions to her car. Unfortunately, the woman told her, the way was blocked by a herd of wild boar that had just been foraging at her potato patch. The bad luck continued. The wild boar had to be by-passed and this meant a long hot trudge up forest roads and trails for a further three and a half hours until eventually her car was reached.

Don’t think she’s going to win her Brownie Orientation badge do you? She now wants me to teach her to read maps …………….. might be a lifetime’s labour coming up!

Written by:
Richard Hartley

Richard is an avid blogger and the founder of Spanish Highs Sierra Nevada. He is author of the Cicerone Guidebook Walking and Trekking in the Sierra Nevada