Of Mice, Men, Mountains and Motors

The Sierra de Contraviesa with its head in the clouds

AS the celebrated Scottish poet Rabbie Burns scribbled in the year 1785: “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley/an’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain for promis’d joy.” How true. In early July, amid the heat and dust of a Spanish summer, I made clear my intention to resume some serious mountain walking. Scarce had these words left my keyboard like chaff on the wind when the van broke down. It has been off the road ever since with a malady so incurable that four trips to the local mechanic have failed to address the problem. A shiny new set of spark plugs, replacement distributer cap, overhauled and retuned carburettor, and the testing of high-tension leads and various other parts, have failed to relieve its coughing and spluttering. Like Burns’ wee mouse it lies forlorn and incapacitated. But there is, at last, promis’d joy . . .

Every morning I raise my eyes to the mountains and yearn to be among them. Now the summer is drawing to a close, and the debilitating heat (more than 40C some days) has dissipated, fine walking weather can be sniffed on the breeze. Last week we had three days of rain, including a thunderstorm and hailstones as big as my thumb nail and as clear as glass. Seasons are changing.

I have a vague sort of plan to stroll up Cerro Salchicha, which at 1,546 metres (5,072ft) is the highest peak in the Sierra de la Contraviesa, and spend a night on its summit. I expect to enjoy uninterrupted views of the Sierra Nevada to the north, the Mediterranean to the south, and the Milky Way linking the two with its starry pathway. Sounds like an adventure. But, as I said, it’s a vague sort of plan and susceptible to the Burns factor.

The Sierra de Contraviesa from the summit of Sierra de Lújar

Almond blossom on the Contraviesa

Meanwhile, I have stripped the fuel pipes from the van and cleaned them (on the advice of friends), removed the petrol pump and banged it about a bit, and fitted a new fuel filter. This appears to have eased the problem, but I’ve ordered a new pump to be on the safe side, and once this has been bolted on I shall feel much happier.

Incidentally, I didn’t realise until typing these words that Burns’ oft-quoted line “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men” and the wonderfully-crafted “We, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie/O, what a panic’s in thy breastie” were integral parts of the same poem, To a Mouse. Apparently, he composed the poem in his head (or heid, perhaps), after cutting through a mouse’s nest while ploughing a field. An astute fellow indeed. If he was around today I’d ask him to take a look at the van.

Until the next time. Hasta luego.

About McFadzean

Alen McFadzean, journalist, formerly of the Northern Echo, in Darlington, and the North-West Evening Mail, Barrow. Former shipyard electrician. Former quarryman and tunneller. Climbs mountains and runs long distances to make life harder. Gravitates to the left in politics just to make life harder still. Now lives in Orgiva, Spain.
This entry was posted in Camping, Climbing, Hiking, History, Mountains, Poetry, Walking and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Of Mice, Men, Mountains and Motors

  1. Jill says:

    It’s those hippy flowers you painted on the van wot’s killed it Alen!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mjollnir MacAlba says:

    I’m sure Scooby and Shaggy could remedy the Mystery Machine and get you up the wonderfully named Sausage Hill! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. In 40 degree heat the petrol might be evaporating before it gets to the engine ! Try running it with the petrol cap off. Once took me weeks to discover a blocked breather pipe was stopping fuel flowing to the engine.


  4. Burns might well know what was wrong with the wee VW, but would you understand his diagnosis? Or buy a mule and a cart.


    • McFadzean says:

      Fair point, Chris. I’m sure he used to make up some of those words. I like the mule idea. It would be great to backpack in this area with a mule. But I haven’t a clue how to drive one.
      Cheers, Alen


  5. smackedpentax says:

    That is a superb post – hope you get the van fixed soon and off to those mountains 🙂


  6. Hope that’s fixed it. I’m going to give up any kind of plans for the future as my hip finally appears to have had it and only works on occasional days. Will have to be spur of the moment stuff in future…


  7. Gaslight Crime says:

    Terrific pictures too.


  8. rabirius says:

    Great landscapes.


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