Paseo de los Pinsapos, near Estepona, Spain

This past weekend, we decided to stay a bit closer to home, and take a little tour through the local mountains. We started the day by heading down the coast towards Estepona (about 15 minutes away), and then turning inland to climb the towering mountain of “Los Reales.”

When the Vuelta de España cycling tour passes through here, this mountain is categorized as a first category climb. It’s big. There’s 20 km from Estepona to the top of Los Reales from the main road, and then another 5 km on a tiny road to the very top, where there’s a small “Refugio” built. I’ve climbed this mountain on a bicycle before … once.

About 2 km before the refugio, there is a footpath known as the Paseo de los Pinsapos. The path goes out and back, through some beautiful forest of Pinsapo trees (evergreens, like pines) and is about 3.5 km long. We walked this with the kids for what seemed like forever, but when we got back to the car, I checked the map, and it looks like we did about 1/10th of the path. Oh well.

We then drove the last 2 km to the top, where we found a small group of British painters who’d come up the mountain for some landscape painting. Rare for the summertime, there was a lot of cloud cover, so the Brits had to be content painting pine cones.

My big disappointment of the day came with the discovery that the kitchen at the refugio was closed. Last time I was here in the wintertime, it was open and was serving some hearty potato soup, iberian ham sandwiches and the like. With limited options, we sat down at one of the massive wooden tables, opened the cooler, and had some homemade sandwiches and fruit.

After lunch, we decided to head down the opposite side of the mountain (inland), and worked our way down to the mountain village of Jubrique. The scenery in this area is absolutely spectacular. Leaving Jubrique, the winding road eventually heads up an unbelievable climb to the small town of Algatocin. (Just outside Jubrique, we passed the Venta San Juan, where we should have eaten. We stopped for a coffee, and man did that barbecue smell good!)

From Algatocin, we continued upward to Gaucin, a bigger (though still in the category of “small”) town, which seem to be oddly populated with foreigners. We stopped at a park in Gaucin, where the kids played, and Daddy smashed his head on the top of a swingset that was just under six feet tall. (Don’t they have standards or something for this kind of thing?)

Leaving Gaucin, we worked our way down and around towards Casares, a “mountain” town one arrives to about 10 minutes from the coastline. We stopped off in Casares for another coffee, and let the kids spend some quality time terrifying some poor cat.

By this point in the afternoon, I was pretty tired, but we decided to stop in Estepona, and let the kids play on the massive playgrounds they’ve constructed along the boardwalk.

Just when I thought we were finally going to head home, my wife got the idea that we should make a final stop at Agro Jardin — sort of a Home Depot of gardening located between Estepona and Marbella. The kids joined in, and quickly let me know I’d have a mutiny on my hands if I didn’t stop.

In addition to plants, terrace furniture and garden tools, Agro Jardin also sell all sorts of living things — dogs, fish, mice, lizards, scorpions and tarantulas. After scaring off an iguana, and then getting terrified by a giant squawking exotic bird, the kids went off to play on the two-level enclosed indoor playground. (The playground is situated next to a bar. Agro Jardin make sure there’s plenty to entertain dad and the kids, so mom has all the time she needs to buy boatloads of plants.) It’s interesting to observe the social rules and patterns that emerge when about 15 kids of various sizes and ages end up together inside an enclosed plaything like that.

Got home around 8:00 pm or thereabouts, eventually put the kids to bed and sat down to decide between GTD planning, or watching some tube. The TV won out.

Agree? Disagree? What do you think?

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