April 17 Beas Granada -> Nerja -> Beas Granada

The Costa del Sol beckoned and we were away by 9:00 am, but were to be disappointed. Much of the once rugged and lovely coastline is now stacked with nondescript blocks of hotels and apartments for sun and fun-seekers or with exclusive resorts where the only views of the Mediterranean are from inside the walls and gates. Still, there are stretches of the old highway, now mere turn-outs, where you can find spectacular views of the old XVII century fortified watchtowers built for protection from the Barbary pirates and lovely secluded beaches at the base of the cliffs (the long climb down and back-up helping to preserve their quiet beauty and peaceful character). Turning inland, just past El Peñoncillo, we followed well maintained, but steep and narrow roads snaking along poppy lined roads, through orchard and terraced hills, spotted with white- washed homes and villas at the end of impossibly steep cement drives (the drives have deep, rough grouves parallel to the slope, presumably for traction). We continued our 600m ascent to Cómpeta  at the base of the Sierra de Tejeda National Reserve before descending again to Vélez-Málaga, passing the white washed villages of Árchez, Corumbela, Daimalos Vados, and Arenas. Beginning another long steady 900m ascent, we passed the Viñuela Reservoir and the village of Pilarejo to the precipitous and rocky Zafarrayea Pass to Ventas de Zafarraya. Emerging onto the high plateau and the agricultural fields of the plain of Zafarraya we climbed another 250m before descending through Alhama de Granada to the vast rolling fields of the Granada plain. We followed the Rio Cacin to Moraleda de Zafayona and the Rio Genil back to Granada.

April 18 The Alpujurras

Hoping for better light, we headed out relatively early to skirt the northern foothills of the Sierra Nevada before heading up and over to the southern slopes, the Alpujurras. The day started with lovely light but it faded quickly. As we turned south to La Calahorra and the mountains, we were surprised the small renaissance Castle de La Calahorra. Built in the early 1500s to control the pass over the Sierra Nevada, its cone topped turrets and blank walls did not appear to be occupied. We saw no tourist signs, no accommodation pointers, or any other indication of importance but it seemed to in excellent condition and was apparently open for prearranged guided tours. We were a little intimidated by the road sign "PELIGRO Firme en mal estado” (Danger, surface in poor condition) at the start of our climb on the A-337 over the Sierra Nevada, but we headed up anyway. Actually the road was well surfaced and in very good condition, it just happened to be very steep, very narrow, and much to Sheila's chagrin, lacked roadside barriers at the sheer drops. At times we drove across dry, pine clad slopes, through rocky defiles, past shear drops, and were engulfed in dense closed forest. Despite the relatively high elevation (2000m at the pass) the weather was pleasantly warm and there was no evidence of snow. Disappointingly, but there were few wild flowers. The landscape and views were pleasant but despite some impressive solar arrays visible on our ascent and a lovely view of Bayárcal on our descent, the views were unspectacular. We made the ascent and descent without incident before beginning the long, slow, winding, traverse of the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada and the Alpujarras. We meandered our way across the dry rocky landscape of steep hills and narrow valleys, small white washed villages with their terraced orchards and gardens perched above and below the road along our route. With a few notable exceptions we followed the contour, ranging from about 1000 m to 1500 m  up and down the valleys. The hill villages, white washed and prominent against the dull green and brown hills were visually impressive but lacked significant architectural character and had they been painted terra cotta or olive drab would have been unremarkable. Still, driving through them we got a significantly different feeling than from the lower more accessible villages. Even the remotest villages seemed to have benefited from a government program to install rather sophisticated outdoor fitness parks with all-weather fitness machines for local use. The villages seemed more self- reliant and laid back, removed from the rat race and not yet catering to tourists. That is until the villages of Bubión, Pampaneira, and especially Capileiria. Here, despite it being the off season, people in florescent vests directed traffic, guiding cars to parking lots, controlling traffic while the tour buses turned around for the descent, and clearing paths for local traffic through the crowds of tourists. Whatever the origins of the village, it had lost the character of small rural village and become a tourist destina- tion. We parked quite some distance from the smaller, less trafficked village of Bubión and hiked back up the hill for lunch. We found a small restaurant with a pleasant, arbour shaded patio. While waiting for service we were enter- tained by another patron trying repeatedly to feed a local cat with his leftovers. After reject- ing several offerings, the cat eventually sat at his feet and groomed itself. Despite the cat’s opinion of our neighbours leftovers, our lunch of tapas: a lovely almond/garlic soup (a subtle blend of garlic, almonds, ham, and chorizo in a vegetable stock, with deep fried croutons), Merluza (fried hake with roasted vegetables and patatas fritas), and a local red was excellent. Our return to camp was uninspiring and retraced much of our route from the previous day.
A Sense of Place:  Travel, Photography, and Photo-art
by David E. Moon
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
Slideshow Slideshow Route Map Route Map
Approaching Salobreńa, on the Costa del Sol Look out above Playa de Maro, near Nerja View from the A7202 Daimalos Vados Heading south on A-92 towards the Sierra Nevada Castle de La Calahorra Climbing the Sierra Nevada from La Calahorra Traversing the Alpujurras Laroles, the Alpujurras Bérchules, the Alpujurras Bayárcal from  the south slope of the Sierra Nevada on A-337 Capileiria, filled with souvenir shops, restaurants, and tourists, even in the off season. Castle de La Calahorra
A Sense of Place:  Travel, Photography, and Photo-art
by David E. Moon
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved

April 17 Beas Granada -> Nerja -> Beas

Granada

The Costa del Sol beckoned and we were away by 9:00 am, but were to be disappointed. Much of the once rugged and lovely coastline is now stacked with nondescript blocks of hotels and apartments for sun and fun-seekers or with exclusive resorts where the only views of the Mediterranean are from inside the walls and gates. Still, there are stretches of the old highway, now mere turn- outs, where you can find spectacular views of the old XVII century fortified watchtowers built for protection from the Barbary pirates and lovely secluded beaches at the base of the cliffs (the long climb down and back-up helping to preserve their quiet beauty and peaceful character). Turning inland, just past El Peñoncillo, we followed well maintained, but steep and narrow roads snaking along poppy lined roads, through orchard and terraced hills, spotted with white- washed homes and villas at the end of impossibly steep cement drives (the drives have deep, rough grouves parallel to the slope, presumably for traction). We continued our 600m ascent to Cómpeta  at the base of the Sierra de Tejeda National Reserve before descending again to Vélez-Málaga, passing the white washed villages of Árchez, Corumbela, Daimalos Vados, and Arenas. Beginning another long steady 900m ascent, we passed the Viñuela Reservoir and the village of Pilarejo to the precipitous and rocky Zafarrayea Pass to Ventas de Zafarraya. Emerging onto the high plateau and the agricultural fields of the plain of Zafarraya we climbed another 250m before descending through Alhama de Granada to the vast rolling fields of the Granada plain. We followed the Rio Cacin to Moraleda de Zafayona and the Rio Genil back to Granada.

April 18 The Alpujurras

Hoping for better light, we headed out relatively early to skirt the northern foothills of the Sierra Nevada before heading up and over to the southern slopes, the Alpujurras. The day started with lovely light but it faded quickly. As we turned south to La Calahorra and the mountains, we were surprised the small renaissance Castle de La Calahorra. Built in the early 1500s to control the pass over the Sierra Nevada, its cone topped turrets and blank walls did not appear to be occupied. We saw no tourist signs, no accommodation pointers, or any other indication of importance but it seemed to in excellent condition and was apparently open for prearranged guided tours. We were a little intimidated by the road sign "PELIGRO Firme en mal estado” (Danger, surface in poor condition) at the start of our climb on the A-337 over the Sierra Nevada, but we headed up anyway. Actually the road was well surfaced and in very good condition, it just happened to be very steep, very narrow, and much to Sheila's chagrin, lacked roadside barriers at the sheer drops. At times we drove across dry, pine clad slopes, through rocky defiles, past shear drops, and were engulfed in dense closed forest. Despite the relatively high elevation (2000m at the pass) the weather was pleasantly warm and there was no evidence of snow. Disappointingly, but there were few wild flowers. The landscape and views were pleasant but despite some impressive solar arrays visible on our ascent and a lovely view of Bayárcal on our descent, the views were unspectacular. We made the ascent and descent without incident before beginning the long, slow, winding, traverse of the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada and the Alpujarras. We meandered our way across the dry rocky landscape of steep hills and narrow valleys, small white washed villages with their terraced orchards and gardens perched above and below the road along our route. With a few notable exceptions we followed the contour, ranging from about 1000 m to 1500 m  up and down the valleys. The hill villages, white washed and prominent against the dull green and brown hills were visually impressive but lacked significant architectural character and had they been painted terra cotta or olive drab would have been unremarkable. Still, driv- ing through them we got a signi- ficantly different feeling than from the lower more accessible villages. Even the remotest vil- lages seemed to have benefited from a govern- ment program to install rather sophisticated outdoor fitness parks with all-weather fitness machines for local use. The villages seemed more self-reliant and laid back, removed from the rat race and not yet catering to tourists. That is until the vil- lages of Bubión, Pampaneira, and especially Capileiria. Here, despite it being the off season, people in florescent vests directed traffic, guid- ing cars to parking lots, controlling traffic while the tour buses turned around for the descent, and clearing paths for local traffic through the crowds of tourists. Whatever the origins of the village, it had lost the character of small rural village and become a tourist destination. We parked quite some distance from the smaller, less trafficked vil- lage of Bubión and hiked back up the hill for lunch. We found a small restaurant with a pleasant, arbour shaded patio. While waiting for service we were entertained by another patron trying repeatedly to feed a local cat with his leftovers. After rejecting several offerings, the cat eventually sat at his feet and groomed itself. Despite the cat’s opinion of our neighbours leftovers, our lunch of tapas: a lovely almond/garlic soup (a subtle blend of garlic, almonds, ham, and chorizo in a veget- able stock, with deep fried croutons), Merluza (fried hake with roasted vegetables and patatas fritas), and a local red was excellent. Our return to camp was uninspiring and retraced much of our route from the previous day.
Slideshow Slideshow Route Map Route Map
Approaching Salobreńa, on the Costa del Sol Look out above Playa de Maro, near Nerja View from the A7202 Daimalos Vados Heading south on A-92 towards the Sierra Nevada Climbing the Sierra Nevada from La Calahorra Traversing the Alpujurras Laroles, the Alpujurras Bérchules, the Alpujurras Bayárcal from  the south slope of the Sierra Nevada on A-337 Capileiria, filled with souvenir shops, restaurants, and tourists, even in the off season. Castle de La Calahorra