We rode south in may 2002. I wanted to see the Cabo de Gata,
the easternmost point of Andalucia. A barren region,
with a beautiful rocky coast without high buildings.
For the rest, we would just see: roam about through Andalucia.
So we rode through the eastern part of the Alpujarras, through the Sierra Nevada, arrived in Guadix, where we slept in a cave, discovered Alhama de Granada, admired the renaissance buildings of Ubeda, and had a view at the marvelous castle of Velez Blanco.
May is the perfect traveling-month for Spain, and the eastern part of Andalucia proved to be the perfect environment for two motorcyclists who like curves, unpaved paths, and Andalucian villages, towns and bars...
On this page, you find a summary of the trip. The trip is described from day to day in Dutch, with lots of photographs.
Traveling from Holland to the south, through France, means that the landscape becomes more and more attractive for motorcyclists. The Morvan never fails to please me, and neither do the rocks of the Massif Central.
Unfortunately, we had rain every night while traveling south. Of course, Andalucia was warm and sunny all the time.
No matter how beautifal France seems when traveling from Holland; motorcyclist's life begins in Spain. The Pyrenees were covered in mist, further on it was raining cats and dogs, but a Spanish bar makes up for everything.
We took the N340 along the coast, to make up for the time spent by getting lost in the rain in the dark. I must admit I liked the road: tacky restaurants ("man spricht Deutsch, on parle francais, english spoken", camping grounds without any privacy for anybody, villages with churches and Spaniards doing Spanish things (sitting in bars and walking on the streets and looking at each other, that is) in between, and from time to time a view of the sea.
Spain became spectecular in the Sierra de las Estancias and the Sierra de las Filabres. Very green rolling hills, scattered white villages surrounded by fruit trees and vegetables grown on terraces, goats, poppies, tarmac loved by the motorcycles, and all that in the light of the setting sun. Stunning.
The Cabo de Gata is the easternmost cap of Andalucia. The climate is very dry: inland, you find a desert-landscape, which is unique for Western Europe.
The coast is spectacular, with dramatic cliffs, sheltered beaches and picturesque fisherman's villages. The cape has always been a shelter for pirates because of the abundance of hiding places not reachable over land, and somehow, you sense those ages of lawlessness everywhere.
The Playa de Monsul in San Jose is the most beatiful beach I know. It is layed out in a half-moon form, with overhanging black rocks (the origin of Cabo de Gata is volcanic) that give shelter and protrude into the sea at some points. On top of that, the beach is sandy...
La Isleta del Moro is the place where we found our temporary home in the form of a hotel. A village of fishermen, with (in may) about one tenth of the population existing of tourists, one tenth of builders of houses (for holidays I guess), and for the rest of people who have always lived there.
This ratio proved to be the optimum ;-)
The inlands of Cabo de Gata are barren. As the origins of the cape are volcanic, the rocks are full of minerals.
Here, In Rodalquilar, are abandoned mines, were people used to dig to gold, silver, copper, etcetera. The rocks are coloured in every colour imaginable.
A bit further inland is the Sierra Alhamilla, with white villages like Huebro and Lucaineno de las Torres on its slopes.
These mountains are layed out as a ridge from east to west, with the southern slopes green and fertile, and the northern slopes barren and dry (which is counterintuitive as I realize now). The land on the northern side of the Sierra Alhamilla is a real desert.
This desert land offers a spectacular landscape, reminding of the famous landscapes of Utah or Arizona.
There are unpaved paths through the Sierra Alhamilla, offering views towards both sides. Highly recommended!
The Utah-Arizona landscape has been discovered by moviemakers. You can visit Hollywood Texas and Mini Hollywood. Among the movies that have been shot there are the spaghettiwesterns of Sergio Leone.
The Eastern Alpujarras are less known than the Western part of the Alpujarras. As you can see, there are roads that are just incredibly pleasant to ride.
The landscape of wild mountains is combined with white villages and terraces with vineyards and other fruits and vegetables.
Laujar de Andarax is the most important town in this area. Relatively important that is: in Dutch terms, you would call it a village.
A very pleasant village, that's for sure. Plenty of bars, a very cosy hotel, a beautiful Plaza mayor with the Ayuntamiento, a friendly old church, spring water running from lion heads in several places in town, a ruinous convent (I hope there will be money to restore it!): this is a place where I could live.
You can cross the Sierra Nevada unpaved. There are relatively good roads everywhere, for foresters and farmers. Being high in the mountains always feels great, but being there unpaved feels superior!
We rode north from Laujar de Andarax, and eventually hit the road towards Lacalahorra..
The following day we explored the Sierra Nevada near Granada, taking the old tramway up (very very narrow, very very steep), and the circuit-like road towards Granada down.
When you cross the Sierra Nevada using the A337, from south to north, you will see the castle of Lacalahorra when you descend. It is a strange, sturdy castle, high above the village.
The patio is, according to my travel guide, an exquisite example of Italian renaissance, which contrasts enormously with the sturdy round walls. Unfortunately, the castle was closed. I was told it is open during a couple of hours on wednesday or something...
A strange situation, because when you descend towards Lacalahorra, you expect bustling souvenirs shops and touristy restaurants and such: the castle is such a pecular site. But none of that. Lacalahorra is a village where most of the streets are made of mud, and there is no souvenir shop at all.
However, there is a really pleasant bar-restaurant-hotel, in a street with a couple of churches and a magnificent view on the castle.
And whether the castle is closed or not, the ride up is always rewarding!
More photographs, and links, of Lacalahorra, on the Dutch nl day 9 .
Guadix is surrounded by canyon-like landscape. This stone (or is it clay?) easily forms natural caves, and people have always used these caves for living.
Living in a cave has many advantages: the temperature never turns very high or very low.
The town has more to see: there is an alcazar and a cathedral and some beautiful other buildings, but the cave district is the most intriguing.
The fronts of the caves are of white stuco, often in round forms. The hills are rounded as well, as are the "chimneys" (for ventilation
purposes) that you see sticking out of the hills everywhere.
These round forms reminds one of Hobbiton. When you take into account the fact that the people living here are the purest form of Andalucians (with a high percentage of gypsies who are responsible for much of the "Andalucian" character) which means they need the slightest excuse for a party, playing music, drinking and especially eating, you will become certain, like us, that Tolkien got his inspiration from Guadix.
The landscape around Guadix, with water coming to the surface everywhere, making it possible to grow almonds, peaches, grapes and other fruits and vegetables on terraces, adds to the fertile Hobbiton-feeling.
We slept in a cave (decorated in pink and gold). It was colder than I expected, quite damp and very dark. A great experience!
Our plan was to sleep in the parador in the Alhambra of Granada, but didn't succeed: the parador is always fully booked.
We tried to find something to sleep in the neighbourhood of Granada, didn't succeed either, and ended up in Alhama de Granada, which I wanted to visit anyway, because there are Moorish baths there that are still working.
We found a very pleasant place to stay in hostal San José.
Alhama de Granada is perched on a rock, above its own gorge, which you can explore on foot. The town itself is Moorish in origin: the winding streets tell you that.
It is a very agreeable place to stay a while, even when the baths are closed (as in our case).
More photographs, and links, of Alhama de Granada, on the Dutch nl day 11 .
Ubeda has an old town centre with buildings from the renaissance. In one of those buildings, a parador is housed, and this is a splendid place to spend the night.