Safety Tips While Walking in the Spanish Countryside
Essential items when preparing for a walk
-First aid kit - including an elastic bandage, gauze pads, antiseptic cream and antihistamine tablets.
Mobile Phones - Always tell at least one person where you will be walking and the estimated time you will be out. Mobile phone coverage can be unreliable in the mountains.
Water and Energy Food - Even though temperatures may be low it is better to carry plenty of water and juice. Food for energy is important not only to keep your stomach happy but also your mind. If your brain is lacking in essential sugars you cannot make correct decisions for your safety. Healthy foods such as nuts, fruit, muesli bars, (some chocolate) and sandwiches are a better type of food to take walking.
Footwear and Clothing - Wearing comfortable walking shoes or boots is important, especially when tackling difficult terrain. They are designed for comfort and safety and if looked after will last for many years. In spring you may start off walking in good weather conditions, but a gain in altitude of a few hundred meters and it will be a different story. Normally a medium weight sweater and a light wind/rain proof jacket should be sufficient.
Maps - Ordinance survey maps in Spain are not updated on a regular basis. Dirt tracks and trails that are marked on the maps may not have been maintained. Often the route is over-grown, ploughed up, or sometimes a fence has been erected across it. I would recommend that you don't rely on just one track or trail for your route, look for options before you set out on your walk, as dead-ends can be really frustrating. Some tracks and goat trails may not be marked on the maps. You can find a map shop in most major cities.
It is a good idea to start a walk in early morning or evening. Try to finish a morning walk by 12:00 at the latest.
Clothing and footwear - Shorts or lightweight trousers (to avoid scratches on your legs) and a t-Shirt or shirt with collar keeps you cool and the sun off your neck. A hat is important, even though it may be hot it's better than getting heat stroke. You may be tempted to use open footwear, however proper boots or shoes offer more support and comfort. Please forgive me if I state the obvious.
Skin Protection - High factor sun block is recommended. When you are out walking for several hours a slight burn on the shoulders, arms or behind the knees can rub on your clothing. Always carry extra sun block to top up after a while as sweat will wear it off.
Water - Take as much as you and your group can carry, especially if you are not sure how long you will be out walking. Take regular sips of water rather than drinking a lot every half hour. Take advantage of any natural springs to cool off your head and arms only drinking it if there is a notice clearly stating it is safe to drink.
At this time of year dressing in layers is better than wearing one thick sweater or fleece. Carry a waterproof jacket in case of rain. Take a spare pair of socks, a woolly hat, scarf & gloves. It is best to treat your walking shoes or boots with a waterproofing agent the day before a walk.
Water - Carry about two litres of water per person, you may not feel thirsty while you are walking but dehydration still occurs in cold, dry conditions. Past a certain point it is difficult to re-hydrate your body.
Dealing with dogs
While walking in the campo you will more than likely pass by a farm or two. Some people can be put off by the idea of a dog lurking behind a barn waiting to pounce on the "happy wanderer". If you approach a farm expecting to meet a dog it tends to take the shock out of the "bark". A lot of bigger dogs will be tied up, if not you must be confident and stand your ground. If the dog starts to advance stamp your foot and shout "FUERA", which means away or get out. Repeating this as you walk past their territory usually works quite well, if you still feel a bit un-nerved pretend to pick up a small rock while shouting "FUERA". If you are still not sure about passing through the dog's territory, find another way around the farm. Always walk away with confidence never RUN. I have found more often than not that if you show no fear and use an aggressive tone in your voice they will walk away.
In short, whatever time of year you walk in the campo/mountains ;
Wear the correct clothing and footwear
Always carry plenty of water
Make sure at least one person knows where you are walking
Carry first-aid kit and know some basic first - aid techniques.
Have a great time exploring Spain's Countryside!!
Steve Murray lives in Spain and runs an number a Adventure Sports Company Abdal Adventures
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