Friday, June 10, 2016

The (other) Sierra Nevada, Spain: Journey's End

A couple of days ago we crossed the Sierra Nevada.  The one in California.  Yes, alas, we are home again.  It some ways it is nice -- to prepare a meal in an oven, to eat at a table with chairs, access to Trumpmania 24/7.  Just a couple of weeks ago we were on another continent, crossing the other Sierra Nevada.  The one in Spain. 

We were about four days ahead of schedule to get back to Málaga, where began this journey a couple of months ago.  The snow-capped peaks of Spain's Sierra Nevada are quite visible from Granada.  John pored over his maps, and found a route over the range that looked achievable. Just one 2000 meter pass (6562').  What what we found was a remote, challenging and unexpected landscape. 

The view from Granada of the Sierra Nevada...the mountains are calling.

Not only does Spain have a Sierra Nevada, it also has a Highway 395!

We followed a river canyon out of Granada, pleasantly level for the first 10 kilometers.  The geology changed from slate to limestone and the channel became narrow and steep.

Our gradual climb became steep and winding.  We were soon looking down on the sleepy village where we had just been an hour before.

We did not expect the landscape in the foothills north of the range to be so dry with the colorful geology so exposed.

End of the first day of our approach to the pass.  Our goal is clear.

On day two we were climbing all morning.  Looking down on the plain to the north is the small town with a fortress we passed through earlier.  What looks like a body of water beyond the town is actually a huge solar energy installation, and beyond that (not clearly visible), a wind farm.

The last few bends in the road on the way to the pass, our second day of 3000'+ of climbing.

Happy to be at the pass!  Now let's eat lunch!

No doubt, it was a glorious descent on the other side!

What we found on the other side were little villages clinging to the hillsides, connected only by a narrow and winding road.  Water was no problem.  Where it was not pouring down the hillside from a spring, it was captured and made available by a fountain in the center square of nearly every village.

Day three followed the southern flank of the Sierra Nevada through a series of valleys collectively known as Las Alpujarras.  What looked on our map like a curvy road that followed an even contour turned out to be a rollercoaster in and out of river valleys.  Often, as we dropped down to river level we could look across the canyon and see the road climbing on the other side.  The last river canyon to cross was the grand-daddy of them all, the Barranco de Poqueira gorge, with the three white villages of Pampaneira, Bubion, and Capileira clinging to the sides above it.

By the time we reached Órgiva we had dropped a couple of thousand feet in elevation.  The hills were lower and there were flat areas for orchards and pasture.  Evening entertainment from our campground was the goat herd passing by, eating everything in their path.  Just the sound of bells and munching.

Day four brought us to the major highway leading from Granada to the southern coast of Spain.  We would have had to find a way through this corridor had we opted for the direct instead of the mountain route.

We managed to stay off the major road the last few kilometers before reaching the coast on a route that followed the Rio Guadalfeo, through the unexpected and spectacular gorge between the Lújar and Chapparal mountains.  At one point we heard rockfall, looked over, and saw the disappearing forms of a couple of cabra de montaña on an impossible vertical slope.

The Mediterranean Sea, in our view once again.
The final stretch, with Málaga in the distance.  Just one last picture of John from the rear.

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