Long trip 2 Cabo de Gata
We stayed home after
the Extremadura trip just long enough to clean up, meet some friends and
prepare the next trip. This time we decided to go first to the national
park of Cabo de Gata, into los Alpujarras, across Sierra Nevada and to
Granada and the famous Alhambra. The trip lasted four days.
Along Costa Del Plastico
We started Monday the 31 of March. The first part of the
trip was transport only, going along the Costa del Plastico from Motril
to Almeria. The nickname is due to the enormous areas of vegetable and
fruit growing land which has been covered with plastic as greenhouses.
Some places you cannot see anything but plastic in all directions. In
the middle of this synthetic world we saw holiday villages. I wondered
if the plastic houses was there when the english and germans invested
in this area. To us it seemed incredibly ugly, and we passed it as fast
After a quick stop in Almeria, the capital of this fruit
growing region, we headed for the park. First stop was the park information
center to buy maps. Due to our ever so excellent timing, the offices had
siesta. Muy bien, we drove to San Jose on the east side of the sierra
to find a hotel for the night and decided to return in the morning. Unfortunately,
tourism arrives everywhere in Spain where there is water and sun. San
Jose looked like one big holiday home. In the Lonely Planet guide book
we found a recommended hostel just outside of town, on a dirt road to
the east and down to a beach called Cala Higuera. In this edition of LP,
they reported that the hostel had no name or telephone but had a very
nice owner and nice rooms. They where right about the owner and the rooms,
but now it also had a name and telephone number which will entered in
the next edition. The building was situated on a rocky coast a few meters
from the beach, and shaped like a semicircle with each room facing the
ocean. The rooms had big double doors that when opened left the whole
room open air. The first night was spend outside the room counting stars
and sipping beer. We were the only guests, the season started a week later
with easter. Its a great place to stay if you like the sound of wind and
the sea hitting the beach. We loved it there.
Exploring Cabo de Gata
Day two was 'explore Cabo de Gata' day. We packed the top box very light,
dressed light and headed towards the information center to finally get
a map. This time they were open and a very helpful young man explained
where we could go on the bike and where not. I had some problems in keeping
my attention due to a very hard meeting with the father of all mosquitos.
We had been driving that morning with the visors open, talking about this
and that when in about 80-90km/h something hit me very hard next to my
left eye. I pulled over, got my helmet off and squeezed out as much poison
I have several times confirmed that a bee or whatever poisonous
insect you meet, if he see you coming and realize there's no way out of
here, he will turn his ass and nail towards you and say 'I will not go
cheap'. Then, if he is lucky and finds a soft spot, he'll go down with
a reassuring smile on his face, well aware that he just filled you up
with poison and that he will be remembered much longer than his closest
friends. I'm writing this a week after it happened and the wound hasn't
healed yet. The third morning I had problems opening my eye. Visor down
from now on.
Bente had no problems with her concentration, and got the information
we needed for the day. With an excellent map, we headed south along the
coast towards the Salinas, a set of salt lakes where flamingos gather.
This was suppose to be a spectacle but was not. When we got there we saw
some flamingos about a light year away, and was confined to stay inside
a bunker with a hole to watch them, if we could see the dotted things
far far away. We said adios and headed further south towards the Faro
- the lighthouse. After a short stop we drove the coast road as far as
we could get before it was closed for anything with an engine. We wouldn't
upset the locals, so we turned. Just before the road ends we found a small
deserted beach where we spent an hour swimming and sunbathing.
We headed back the way we came, past the Salinas with the
distant flamingos, and into the back roads once again. This time we drove
through one deserted little town after the other, among them El Barranquete
and Los Albaricoques. Deserted because it was working hours and the people
worked in the mining industry in the area. We soon passed the last stretch
of paved road and was once again on dirt roads. The road led us past some
old abandoned gold mines and into the mountains. The quality of the road
decreased every kilometer and soon we were driving on dirt tracks, leading
past still more deserted mines. This time I was more experienced in driving
the Tiger on dirt roads and traveled with a light top box, and even though
the path was full of rocks and holes we weren't even close to dropping
the bike, very proud grin on the driver's face.
We finally came down to Rodalquilar, on the south side of
the sierra. This seemed to be a converted town, towards tourism of course.
On the local bar the language was german. We drank up and hit the road
again, this time straight back to the hostel. The way back was another
very windy drive in Spain, there's a lot of wind at this time of the year.
All in all, we were a little disappointed with Cabo de Gata.
We had expected more wild nature and deserted areas. Discussing it afterwards,
we concluded that we had build up too much expectance in advance. After
all, we are tourists like everyone else who are not living there, and
we have to admit that other people too want to see the same as us.
Crossing Sierra Nevada
The next day we decided for a route that would take us
through Los Alpujarras, the south east part of Sierra Nevada, then across
the sierra over Punto de la Ragua and continue to Granada for the night.
We left around 10 am and drove north to Nijar, a ceramic pottery town.
After a quick coffee, we scanned the shops for something small and easy
to carry, and preferable pretty too. We found nothing, and left. This
may sound like there wasn't much to see, which there probably is if you
spend some time. But we wanted to do some driving and headed south to
the autopista, west back to Almeria and up to Benahadux, where we took
off the main road and drove into the Alpujarras. There is a town called
Mini-Hollywod further north, an artificial town used for spaghetti western
films like The Good, the Bad and the Evil. We weren't too interested in
this, but understood why the area was used. It was like driving into a
western movie set, with wild and dry nature stretching in every direction.
The Alpujarras opened to us as a grand view as we went further
into this part of Sierra Nevada, very beautiful and big, with lots of
small villages hanging on to the mountain side or hilltop. The road quality
varied from excellent to 'good enough'. All the sierra roads are turns
and curves which make you feel you must soon be back where you started.
The Tiger is excellent on this kind of roads.
Past Bayarcal the road started climbing upwards towards
the pass. We drove along a deep ravine where you can see the main road
on the other side running parallel. That's the road we finally were going
to join and we looked forward to it. It looked wider and straighter than
the one we were on which were turning and churning so I hardly had time
to watch the landscape. This is fun for a while, but a change is good
too. After what seemed forever, we finally joined it and the climbing
started for real. Higher and higher, colder and colder. We had not brought
clothes for driving in 3-4º Celsius, and when we finally reached
the pass at 2000m above the sea, we were fairly cold and my hands hurt.
Well, nothing to do about it than to continue, and after
a short drive what seemed like the rest of Spain opened for us. The land
north of the sierra is very flat and we felt that we could see all the
way to Norway. It was a beautiful sight and worth the freezing. Going
downhill again, the temperature slowly came back up to 16-17º and
at the same time a perfect castle revealed itself in a distance, in the
town of Calahorra. The castle sticks out from everything very clear because
it's located on a hilltop in a otherwise very flat land. It has belonged
to the same family since it was built in the 16 century as a retreat house
for some guy with a lot of pesetas. Today it's in desperate need of attention,
since there has been no restoration for 400 years. Anyway, it was very
impressive, and must have been a nice little holiday cottage for a hard
working 16 century businessmann(or whatever he was). We drove up to the
castle, once again doing off road driving to see an ancient building.
The track up there was in as bad or worse condition than the road that
caused the dropping of the bike on our last trip. This time I had found
the right combination of using the rear brakes and the clutch and throttle,
and with a top loaded Tiger we climbed up and down with no problems. We
took the guided tour at the castle and were on the road again within the
Next stop was Guadix, the cave city. A lot of people still
live in caves which have been modernized to have regular house fronts,
electrically powered with water and every little thing you find in a modern
home. It's strange to stand on top of a small hill and see a forest of
chimneys coming up from the ground, knowing that we're actually standing
on someone's house. A family invited us inside to have a look. Inside
they had five rooms, small, low and very dark, but at the same time cool
and cosy, just like a regular home. We took some pictures, and paid a
little for the gesture before we said good-bye with the promise to send
copies of the photos.
Next stop was Granada for the night. We came into the
town from the east side taking a road that carried us over the top of
the town, presenting great views of the Alhambra and the snow covered
Sierra Nevada. We stopped for a drink in Albaicin, the old jewish quarter
of the town. This part of the town looked untouched by modernization.
The chaotic electrical cabling is the only proof of the 20 century. And
the cars, wherever there's a wide enough street for a car to pass, they
do. There are no pedestrian streets only. After taking the wrong turns
a couple of times, we found Plaza de la Trinidad, while we were looking
for Plaza Nueva. We were searching for hotels, and on Plaza Trinidad we
found hostel Zurita, with nice rooms and a parking house just up the street.
We unloaded the bike and I took it to the parking house after directions
from the receptionist. Even though my spanish is getting better, I must
have missed something crucial, because I was suddenly lost in a tangle
of one-way streets. Or that is to say, I did not think I was lost, so
why bother ask, just do a right turn, and then a left turn..., caught
in a dead end with an unloading truck behind me. When I finally found
the parking house and returned to the hotel, I smiled and told the receptionist
that I had been on my own little Granada expedition. This amused Bente
a lot, since she normally is the lousy navigator.
We were right in the middle of the shopping center, and in the afternoon
we strolled the narrow streets with shops and venders everywhere. After
a shower and dressing up, which meant trying to get rid of the worst dust
and dirt from the only set of pants we had, we walked over to plaza Nueva
to test the nightlife. Lonely Planet said this was a good place to start
as the bars fill up early in the evening. This was right, and along the
street of Elvira close to the plaza we found lots of nice bars. We wanted
to eat something as well, and this came out very cheap. Lots of bars in
this town give you a small tapa for each drink you buy. So after 4 drinks
each, small beers or small glasses of wine, we where stuffed and happy.
This is definitely the way to go if you're a student in this town. The
whole eating process cost us somewhere around 800 pts, or 6 USD, for the
both of us, and as a bonus we got a little drunk too.
Another goal for the night was a jazz/flamenco club recommended
in LP. This club is hidden in a back street to calle Elvira. After passing
it twice we found it with the help from the neighbour bar. It was now
1130 in the night and the music was scheduled to start an hour later.
The club was cave like and had a mixed clientele of students, music lovers
and hashish smokers. The couple behind the bar looked like they were the
suppliers of the hashish and had tasted every piece they passed on. The
bar woman, in her early forties, with tight and short skirt that did not
compliment her, was like a stoned robot who did not see our signals even
when she wiped the corner of our table. I said corner of the table, cause
that was exactly what she was doing, just sleep walking close to
the table while keeping her arm stretched. Half an hour after midnight
the show did not start, as we had expected. We relaxed, shared a scotch
and sucked in the atmosphere. Another hour later a guy came rushing in
carrying a guitar, stepped straight up on the small podium and started
to play flamenco guitar. This was my first live experience with this music
while Bente had seen it once before. In our inexperience he sounded very
good, and this kind of music is very passionate and intimate. We enjoyed
it. After an hour we returned to the hotel, slightly intoxicated, from
alcohol only, very tired and very satisfied with the day.
Alhambra de Granada
The next and last day was dedicated to the center of the
town and Alhambra. We strolled the streets once again and liked the town
more and more. After an expensive breakfast on one of the many plazas,
we walked for a couple of hours in the many shopping streets. The walk
resulted in a new pair of pants for me, the one that has detachable legs
so you can convert them to shorts. Very good for minimum luggage motorcycle
travel, was my idea. Sadly enough, they proved to be slightly to small
to be comfortable on the bike, but still very good for every day use.
We visited small shops where they made guitars, walked along the many
handicraft shops and listened to musicians in the plazas. The whole atmosphere
of this town captured us and later we agreed that this became our favourite
town in Spain.
The walk took us finally up to Alhambra. This is one of
Spain's greatest national monuments. A huge area inside walls consists
of up to one thousand year old buildings and palaces, mainly from the
moorish period. We walked the steep hill up to the western gate and entered
after being curious to why there wasn't anyone selling tickets. When we
tried to enter the Alcazaba, we were told to go up to the Generalife on
the eastern side of this great complex to buy the tickets. With no map
of the area we set off across the complex and was sent back by the next
ticket post. After some time we found the ticket office in the south-east
corner of the complex.
Now we were able to explore the area with no restrictions,
and impressive it was. Huge gardens, still very well kept with cypresses
up to 20-30 meters tall, fountains and labyrinths, and palaces of unbelievable
detailed carvings. Inside the palaces we found the most impressive building,
the old moorish palace with every inch of stone carved out carefully and
beautiful restored. Hordes of tourists walked the complex in this time
of the day, midday to five-six in the afternoon. Next time we'll go in
the late afternoon, with the best light for photographing and fewer people.
After more than three hours inside Alhambra we were exhausted , partly
because we had been walking in our boots which was the only set of shoes
we brought with us on the trip. Our feet hurt and now we were ready to
drive the last 110km back home to Nerja.
We got lost in the city streets for the second time, which
is a very warm experience when you're dressed for highway riding, but
finally we hit the road southwards to Puerto del Suspiro del Moro. We
took of the main road to drive the narrower back road down to Almunecar.
This road carries you over flat highland for a while before diving down
towards the ocean. The last part of the road goes trough a very cruel
and arid mountain landscape, that made my father express after driving
there once; 'Grand Canyon is nothing, and I've been there too'. Well,
we haven't, so we cannot dispute that, but impressive it is. We came down
just before sunset, with a mist in the air and a low sun, which made the
mountains look mystic and even more unforgiving.
When we came to the last pass, we could see the ocean ahead.
It did not look far, but the road took us in and out of valleys and ravines
as we slowly declined. The distance driven from the top was 40km, while
in a direct line it was probably not more than 12-15km.
After Almunecar, we drove straight home where we fell asleep
faster than we could say 'good night'. Another trip was over, another
set of films to be made into dias and sorted.
We were very satisfied with this trip also, even though Cabo de Gata was
a little disappointing, it was worth the visit. The Alpujarras, crossing
Sierra Nevada, Guadix with the caves and finally Granada were great highlights.
Now it was time for the 5000km service on the Tiger. On
this service I also lowered the bike on the front end by 15mm, stiffened
up the back suspension and ordered heavy duty springs for the forks. The
heavy duty springs has not arrived yet, but the other two changes made
the bike much more controllable in highway driving and the extreme diving
of the front when breaking is now reduced. I might lower it even more.
Next trip is not decided yet. It is now easter, with lots
of tourists everywhere, Bente is in bed with a stomach infection and I'm
looking at maps.