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        The Junta de Andalucia website     we gained height, we noticed the   Off once more, a brief uphill stretch
        describes the peaks of the 900     ubiquitous Mediterranean dwarf fan   took us to a signpost. To the left is
        metres high ridge of Crestellina as   palm had produced a good crop of   the Mirador and to the right the
        inaccessible and yet they look so   ‘date like fruit’ this year and the   continuation of our route. We made
        inviting, so ‘I’m here, climb me’ if you   vegetation became increasingly   the slight diversion to the mirador
        are that way inclined. Anyhow they   more like maquis.               just for the views. You can soon run
        proved irresistible to us two old   There were times we could stop for   out of adjectives up here. Roget’s
        codgers; Richard is 75 years of age   a breather without losing face. At   Thesaurus only gives me 21
        and carries a small paunch, I am 65   precisely 9 am the first of the scores   synonyms for spectacular; I will
        and carry a large one. The walk was   of griffon vultures we were to see   choose fabulous.
        entirely Richard’s idea. He had    that day glided down the valley   Back to the junction and forward,
        wanted to climb Crestellina since he   behind and below us. Silently and   heading for the saddle at the end of
        first saw it on one of his previous   without disturbing a feather this   the ‘U’ shaped valley. The track here
        visits to Andalucia.               majestic bird passed within 20    is wide, easy, and relatively flat. On
        At 8.15am on Friday 22nd           metres of us on its wingspan of 2.5   the left is the karstic limestone ridge
        September 2017, Richard parked his   metres, heading for breakfast at   of Crestellina while to the right is the
        hired Micra in the underground car   Casares perhaps. Within minutes   verdant green valley of the Arroyo
        park at Casares, and we caught the   another dozen soared out into the   del Albarran. In Autumn it is quite
        lift to the viewing platform above.   valley from over the top of    dry, but in winter the river is a raging
        From here Casares can be seen from  Crestellina itself outlined against an   torrent. Overhead there was a
        a different angle. The route       alpine blue sky.                  perfect blue sky with squadrons of
        continues through the town past the   Over to our left a family of ‘Cabra de   vultures gliding along. They were
        Fuente de Carlos III, through the   Montana’ decided we were getting   keeping an eye on a potential meal
        square with Unicaja Bank on the left,   too close for comfort, they had been   – us.
        past the House of Blas Infante until   settled down for the night just off the   Close to the head of the valley, we
        emerging on the road that runs to   path. They trooped off towards the   came to a sign labelled simply
        Casares from Casares Costa. Turn   top of the ridge. The old goat    ‘Crestellina’ pointing to the left. Some
        left and walk down the hill to the   bringing up the rear, probably the   wag had engraved ‘No Motos’
        bottom where, on the right, is the   alpha male, gave us disdainful looks   beneath. Our destination loomed
        sign to the Refugio Sierra Crestellina   over his shoulder as he shepherded   above us. The path is well trodden for
        pointing up a track. Within a few   his harem and kids along. He knew   the first kilometre and then gradually
        metres, the route diverges off this   we were no danger.             degrades to a goat track marked by
        track to the left, the way marked with                               cairns. As we ascended the maquis
        green and white splotches on handy   We soon arrived at the Refugio.   gave way to spiky, scrubby plants and
        rocks or wooden posts.             There, we met the only two other   the path became steeper. Stops for
                                           people we would see on the trail all
        The path took us steadily uphill   day. Two Spanish lads on mountain   breathers became more frequent. My
        through cork oak, wild olive and   bikes, apparently on their way to   old morale raising battle cries of ‘Just
        pistachio groves. Beside the path   work and heading down the path we   round the next bend’ and ‘Just over
        was the occasional autumn crocus   had walked up. They stopped to    the next hill’ fell on deaf ears. Richard
        with pale purple flowers opening to   briefly extol the virtues of Casares   has heard them all before. We
        the sun to reveal the five stamens   goat’s cheese and the wonder of the   reached a compromise; when we
        within, each touched with bright   landscape. It certainly beats fighting   reached the skyline we could see
        yellow pollen. It is from these stamen   your way around the M25 every   from where we stood we would
        that saffron is made; they are worth   morning.                      decide whether to take the next step
        more than their weight in gold. As                                   in an upwards direction.

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