The Alarm went at 5.37am!
It seemed a good idea last night to ascend La Maroma. As I dragged myself out of bed the wisdom of that decision seemed less obvious.
In the depths of my Alcohol addiction there wouldn’t have been a chance that I would see this time of day….unless I hadn’t gone to bed!
Having packed our rucksacks and grabbed a coffee on the go…we headed for our 7am rendezvous with our other intrepid climbers.
Inevitably we arrived slightly late…..fortunately so had the others. We climbed into a car together and headed off.
La Maroma is the highest peak of the Sierra De Tejeda and the mountain onto which we look at every day when relaxing at the pool or eating lunch in the walled garden of Camino Recovery Centre.
If we didn’t appreciate its size from the pool we were regularly reminded of it when snow could be seen on its summit in March.
There had only been snow on it a couple of weeks ago.
Full of enthusiasm and desperate for another caffeine hit we drove into the local hills and through ‘horseshoe pass.’
The drive was stunning and reminded a couple of us of our time spent in Cape Town and the beautiful drive along the Garden Route.
Having established we were close to our starting point our final coffee before embarking on our adventure was paramount. We were in the sparse countryside, we passed only one cafe, the ironically named ‘the brilliant café’. Its name was only partially visible through the wear and tear years of extreme weather had caused to the facade. Its dust laden windows confirmed there would be no coffee to be had here…Brilliant or otherwise.
Just as we had given up hope and as we approached the dust track that took us to our starting point a hotel emerged on the horizon…We had become cynical of the Spanish countryside at 8am on a Saturday morning and didn’t get too excited…It would surely have suffered the same fate as the earlier establishment.
As we walked up to the door and reached for the handle we were pleasantly surprised as the door opened into a large bar. At one end was a splattering of locals enjoying a tipple from the extremely well-stocked bar. We wondered if they had been there all night. Their bright demeanour suggested not.
Finding a table we ordered ‘dos café con leches and dos doble expressos’ for the hardened coffee connoisseurs. As if it was the last meal of a dying man we ordered Churros….a traditional Spanish breakfast….essentially elongated donuts and a sickly rich chocolate sauce in which to dip it. Not Sure it was the diet of the finely-honed athletes we perceived ourselves to be. Nevertheless we all dived in when it arrived at our table!
We could put it off no longer and returning to our car we head for base camp! As we did I noticed what appeared to be an isolated building. The Church of San Marcos (if that’s what it was) seemed under utilized but guessed it must provide a valuable service….was it for us to say our prayers before climbing the 2056m summit? I was too busy taking a photograph of it to ask for any divine inspiration.. Not sure that was wise.
Making sure our rucksacks were packed with only essentials and that our attire covered all eventualities in regards to the weather we headed off only stopping for the obligatory ‘before’ photograph.
The pace was enthusiastic and the scenery breathtaking…The path took us through stunning woodland as the sun broke between the trees. It was one of those moments when you remember how grateful you are to be sober…Something as simple as a days walk in the mountains with friends would have been unthinkable and certainly not desirable in my drinking days.
Nature provided obstacles along the way…The first was a fallen tree which blocked the well trodden path that directed us. With varying degrees of style we clamoured over the tree and continued on.
As we began to ascend, the terrain got more challenging and the gradient steeper. Inevitably the views became more stunning and after 45 minutes we came to a clearing which revealed the distant Sierra Nevada. Its snow capped Summit flickered through the morning mist and we all took a moment to soak it up.
The climb was to provide many other opportunities to view the Sierra…each slightly more defined and colourful than the previous as the mist lifted, sun shone and the rolling landscape came into focus revealing a patchwork quilt of natures colours.
As the day progressed and the sun got hotter the breaks became more regular and protracted. At one point we took 10 minutes to meditate as we surveyed yet another landscape. Despite the passing plane and the cacophony of hill runners that passed by the silence was deafening, peaceful and liberating. You couldn’t help but forget what we had left behind.
Tanya decided to perform ‘Natarajasana’ on an elevated rock. Clearly her experiences as a yoga teacher at Camino Retreat meant she was well equipped to do what looked a precarious and risky exercise.
The rest of us grabbed the opportunity for a sandwich. The serenity was disturbed when a bunch of hunters wandered up the path, dressed in camouflage gear and each carrying a rifle…the moment was lost and we continued on our way.
We were told by fellow walkers on their way down there was only an hour to the summit. We had hoped for less as our legs became weary.
The terrain was to change. Suddenly the gentle gradients that framed the endless vistas became sheer drops… and my vertigo kicked in. In desperation I ventured further away from the edge and off the natural path, clambering through the undergrowth as my comrades teased the drops and took every opportunity to hang over the edge…recording it for posterity on one of their smartphones.
As we spotted the peak the terrain changed again and it again reminded me of Cape Town. Table mountain is renowned for its flat surface. La Maroma was the same…it almost felt surreal.
We had only passed about 20 people on the 4 hour ascent to the top and it was almost as deserted. We took in the views and worked out the topography from the turquoise lake of Vinuela, the large town of Velez Malaga where Camino calls home, the urban coastline of Torre Del Mar and the mountain retreat of Competa where our journey had begun at 5.37 earlier that day.
The day ended relaxing our exhausted bodies and minds in the nearby hot springs at Alhama De Granada. The overwhelming feeling was of gratitude…not only at spending the day with friends in the stunning mountains of Andalucia but probably more was that we had all developed an ability to appreciate nature for what it is. Profound, unique, challenging and ultimately rewarding.
In the dark days of drug addiction a day like today was not on the agenda but now it feeds us physically, spiritually and mentally. There was a time when a day free of alcohol and drugs would fill me with dread and fear….instead of joy and freedom that today brought.
At Camino Treatment Centre we like to address our clients issue through the physical and mental exercise and excursions play a large part in the process and Andalucia provides many opportunities to do this in nature.