Cortes de Pallas.
Cortes is hemmed in by cliffs and the lake. There is a great deal of mundane industrial infrastructure associated with the hydroelectric set up. The map showed several Kilometers of road walking, including tunnels, to get out of the vicinity. So at breakfast we made an arrangement with the hotel owner to drive us 4 or5 k up the road later in the day, there being no taxi in the village. Thus the morning was free. A small market with the usual stalls was occupying the plaza but was fairly quiet.
We stocked up with food for the next three days there and in the tiny shop. Relaxing over a coffee we people watched as the morning trade increased. Being a weekend the motor cyclists were out and a large group of gleaming Harley Davidsons were parked up. The bars were full of leather clad enthusiasts.
Back in the hotel bar we enjoyed a tortilla for lunch and then were driven along the road in the owners van. We had made the right decision as it looked quite dangerous for walking on. He took us further than expected, to where the GR7 left the road, and then refused any payment.
From the lay-by we were straight onto the route which on the map only looked about 8K for the afternoon. It turned out to be one of the toughest of the trip! The track quickly faded into a small path through the undergrowth.
The red and white marks were difficult to follow and quite a lot of backtracking was done. It was impossible to penetrate the prickly undergrowth. We were climbing quite steeply alongside a large rocky ravine, the map was of little help.
At one point we hit a forest road but it went nowhere, we had missed our turning onto a smaller track. The afternoon wore on.
We arrived at the rim of the ravine at a cave [Cueva del Moro] only to loose all waymarks. I scrambled/climbed up above the cave to find cairns on a forest track, but no red/white. Encouraging The Pieman to follow we were soon walking along the track. No waymarks appeared so we just kept going in the ‘right’ direction. Junctions were a point for debate/argument but eventually the Sierra de Martes was in view ahead and we had something to aim for. Amazingly after a couple of kilometers the waymarks reappeared from the right and goat tracks were followed into a gully and back up to the crest and a view down into the Gaeta Valley.
Venta Gaeta consisted of a dozen or so houses. We knew of a cafe here but it looked unlikely from above. We scouted for camping spots as we approached the village. The noise of Spanish families drew us to the restaurant in the middle of the place. A large crowd were finishing lunch in the square. Presenting ourselves at the bar/butchers we enquired about any rooms in the village. This produced much discussion amongst the regulars and we were soon trying to gain entry into the school room, the keys didn’t seem to fit.
Eventually we were installed in a large room which we soon converted into a dormitory. Rudimentary but it saved camping.
Dinner was arranged for 9pm in the restaurant. The village was originally a staging post on a route into Valencia. Now only 5 people live here permanently. The restaurant and attached butchers shop seems an anachronism but must get sufficient trade to exist. Apparently it is popular with the Valencians at a weekend who appreciate the locally selected meats. The bar was busy when we came for supper, the usual family groups watching the football.
We had the recommended house specialty. A starter of delicious fish flavoured mash, meatballs and mixed olives followed by lamb and various home made sausages with potatoes and egg. Filling!
This was washed down with a bottle of Utiel-Requena wine. This is the local wine made from bobal and tempranillo grapes.
The cafe was busy when we left at 11pm.
Quite a long short day.