At the beginning of May 2018, we were the first Germans to complete the Desafío Patanegra. In contrast to ambitious "finishers", we divided the entire tour (about 120 km including small detours) into seven stages of between 10 and 22 km per day. This left us with plenty of time to enjoy the route and the landscape, to take pictures on the way, to admire plants and a partly unknown fauna. We discovered that the Desafío Patanegra can not only be completed as an athletic challenge, but also as a hiking tour focusing on the enjoyment of a beautiful mountainous landscape that is obviously in ecological balance.
We were particularly surprised by the abundance and diversity of nature. In contrast to their surroundings, the Sierra of the Aracena is relatively densely populated and used for agriculture, the individual villages not being far apart from each other. Nevertheless, one wanders almost continually through the beautiful nature without long stretches through the localities. This is due to the very well-designed route that avoids long sections along roads or through towns and villages and yet combines all the highlights of the Sierra and passes through very different landscapes. Another surprise was the excellent attention provided by Juan Antonio Jara, the initiator of the Desafío Patanegra, who not only gave us a good introduction to the track on the eve of our start but also kept contact with us during the entire walk in order to provide tips and to answer questions. He speaks not only Spanish, but also good English.
The Sierra de Aracena offers not only beautiful nature and pleasant small villages, but also physical pleasures: very good food. We especially liked the products of Iberian pork (not just the legendary ham), the variety of excellent omelets with mushrooms from the Sierra, and the simple pastoral meal Migas. We also liked the accommodations that we had booked. Some of them were excellent.
For experienced hikers as we are (with experience of the Way of St. James and other longer hikes), the Desafío Patanegra is not difficult to handle – even at an advanced age (we are between 68 and 70 years old) and even if one does not make use of the offer of luggage transport. The route profile shown on the website looks very demanding at first glance. But this is just an effect of scale: in fact, all ascents and descents are moderate. There are never more than 300 vertical meters to overcome at one go. Orientation with the provided GPS device is unproblematic, even without GPS experience, once you have adopted the GPS logic.
Already on our way we were so enthusiastic about the hike that we thought again and again, to whom of our friends we might recommend this round trip (which is still an insider tip). If you are an enthusiastic hiker and speak at least a little bit of Spanish (since other languages are hardly spoken in the villages), you will enjoy the Desafío Patanegra as much as we did.
Gaby Heine, Michael Heine and Bernd Reissert (Berlin, Germany)