The true tale of a challenge that maybe just went a little too far ?
We live in the pretty village of Canillas de Albaida and look towards the very impressive Mt Maroma and all its stunning scenery. It is to here that my brother and his wife recently came to stay for a week for the first time since we have lived here in 5 and a half years.
My brother , who has just turned 55 and recently retired from the Fire Service has always been keen on keeping fit and into nature, particularly birdwatching, so when he arrived at our home his gaze was well and truly fixed on the mountain. Conversation soon turned to what type of birds would be found on the mountain and how long did we think it would take to get to the top!
Despite our best efforts at trying to put him off with “you don’t have the right gear” or “what if you have an accident ?” and “there are wild boars up there you know!”. Even with his wife using their children as a heart wrenching distraction, this man was not for turning! In his own words “ but I like a challenge!”
So on Saturday 5th September he was raring to go. My husband drove him, at 7.15am, to the foot of a fire break for him to commence his climb, wearing only trainers, shorts and vest, binoculars , a small rucksack with 1.5 ltrs of water, a packed lunch, baseball cap (which he insisted was not necessary) and a fully charged and credited mobile phone. I would like to add at this point that he does have the same size feet as my husband but refused to borrow his walking boots for fear of blisters and wouldn’t take a walking stick with compass because this was too much to carry! In fact, he didn’t even want to take the packed lunch because he would be back before he became hungry!! Prior to him leaving he promised faithfully that he would keep in touch with regular texts informing us of his whereabouts. We, in turn, set up the telescope to enable us to see his progress.
A few hours after setting off we received the first of many texts informing us he was at the top of the firebreak and sure enough, through the telescope we spotted him, waving his arms around, not that he could see us of course, we were merely a small dot of a village in the far off distance!
And then he disappeared over the brow of the first hill into the unknown.
Much later we actually received a phone call from him on his mobile to say he had reached the saddle of Mt Maroma and surpassed it. This proved a lot more difficult to see through the scope as without a actual landmark to go by we were literally looking for a needle in a haystack (or more likely, a reckless wandering brother who obviously had had more sun than he should have since he had arrived 3 days earlier!). The heat haze through the scope vision made everything wobbly so therefore what we would thought we could see was probably moving rocks, or something!
Meanwhile, whilst all of this was going on, my sister-in-law, or said very irate wife who could barely bring herself to speak to him in the morning, went to the coast with our daughter for a spot of retail therapy, well you do have to take your mind off things!
At about 13.50pm I received a phone call from my older brother, who should have known better, to inform me he “ had made a bit of a pigs ear and gotten lost somewhere!” What!!! Rewind. Lost? Somewhere? If he didn’t know where he was, how were we to know?!!! He told me he had come across some Squaddies on the mountain that were there for a week on a training survival course and tagged along with them for a bit, well you do don’t you, on a mountain, in a foreign country, whilst out for a stroll! Unfortunately, this was to his downfall as he realised they were going inland and away from where he needed to head, which was back home to us in Canillas. So he left them and realised then he was unable to find the path back. A bit like Hansel and Gretel really, only he didn’t put bread down to follow his route back! He also said he had met a Spanish couple, who didn’t speak any English and he doesn’t speak Spanish, but somehow managed to make him understand that if he carried on walking for about another hour - away from the coast - he would come across a tented campsite and could get help there. How they worked this out between them all is still a bit of a mystery but nevertheless he was heading inland and would call me again when he reached this campsite!! Oh, and a final request from him “don’t tell Gaynor (wife), don’t want her to worry about anything!”
And then he was gone.
Now what do we do? I can’t tell his wife. She thinks all is well with him as she received a text saying he was on his way back down from the mountain (he did leave out a minor detail to her - exactly what side of the mountain he was coming down on!). We can’t go looking for him as we don’t know where he is. We did wonder about ringing for air and sea search rescue but where we would have sent them?
Eventually, another call was received from him saying he had no idea where he was but he had come across another Spanish family - who could speak English and offered for my brother to stay with them for the night. Whilst having this con flab, as you do in the mountains - the local fire service appeared! Don’t ask why because none of us know why either! Anyway, my brother was handed over to them to be taken to the nearest point of habitation. The Fire Service tried to make an incident out of it but as my brother wasn’t injured and was able to make his way home (really?) by taxi or bus they couldn’t get involved. Did I also mention that my big brother, who really should have known better, also didn’t have any money on him? I don’t know of any taxi or bus that will give you a free ride from, wait for it....... Alhama de Granada!! Yep, that’s right, my brother had left the province of Malaga and was visiting the province of Granada by foot. He had been dropped off at the Hotel Los Canos de la Alcaiceria in Alhama. The barman there was giving my brother Euro coins so he could ring us and arrange to pick him up as at this time he had lost all signal on his mobile.. So, out comes the old trusted map and casually inform his wife of his little adventure. Well, we knew he was safe now, or at least until he got home!! That was going to be another story between my brother and his wife!!!
My husband and daughter went to find him and much to their relief it wasn’t too difficult, although they said at times when driving through the mountain range they didn’t think they would. Sitting outside the Hotel was a very relieved and somewhat tired bigger brother, who really, really should have known better! The journey to pick him up and get back home was 120km round trip, not bad for a “walk in the park” so to speak!!
In his defence though, he did bring us all a small piece of rock from the top, just so we could see what it looked like and with Mt Maroma being 2080m high, the highest peak in the area and taller than Ben Nevis in Britain, I think we could safely say he did get to achieve his “challenge”.
Lorraine Ford - younger sister - who really does know better!!