Snow capped mountains, falling cascade and Cortijo Opazo
Written and thought up by Oska.
I am five years old, but I will soon be six. My birthday is the 11th September, and I was born in 2011. Ella, the other dog I live with, she’s 12, which makes her older than me. Older but wiser? I don’t think so, does she have her own blog?
I came to the Alpujarras in January 2012. As a native of Madrid, I knew nothing of this area, its climate, its ways and its history. Andalucia was another world in the south of Spain, and the Alpujarras, a scarcely whispered region of the southern Sierra Nevada surrounded by tales of witches and moorish rebellion. Also, I was a puppy of barely six months, so I knew very little about anything.
So, what do I know about the Alpujarras now that I can share with an interested traveller? The visitor needs to arrive first in order to understand my impression, so this blog will be dedicated to arrivals. Firstly, you need to know that it is a long way up to the high Alpujarras. If you look at a map you would be forgiven for thinking it is just a little way inland and that you could drop in ‘en route’ from Granada to the coast. This is to underestimate the time it takes to drive along its serpentine road, from Lanjaron up to our village of Pórtugos. Bend after bend rises up in front of you as your car, or bus, sweeps around the broad contours of the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada. If a circle has 360 degrees then some of the bends beyond Lanjaron seem to spiral through at least 400 of them.
Orgiva comes as light relief to the clenched stomach passenger as though we might pause for respite, but no, without entering this well known town, we take an abrupt left turn and head on up, ever upwards. This is where the climbing really starts and we feel the ascent. Then add to this encounters hairpin bends and you start to regret that heavy oil laden toast you ate for breakfast in Lanjaron. Pass the mysterious looking Cueva de Sortes and the road evens out for a little, but the corners are no less forgiving. Later you enter the valley of the Rio Chico and the scenery starts to look seriously mountainous, a deeply cut V shaped valley spanned by two bridges offers promise of pine trees and remote walking. Up there somewhere can be found Puente Palo, starting point of high altitude trekking.
The entrance to the village of Carataunas is swiftly passed as you try to concentrate on the severity of the bends and the fact that drivers seem to be approaching you on your side of the road! Then comes the exit for the town of witches, Soportújar, with its pastiche model village replication on the side of the main road, as if trying to entice visitors to deviate. Next, Prado Llano - nobody seems to stop here although its location is good - and you pass the Minas de Fatima, then round the corner of the chapel of Padre Eterno and suddenly seem to enter yet another landscape. The views below become breathtaking as you stare down to the floor of the valley of the Gaudalfeo and Rio Poqueira rivers. Many handsome country properties can be spotted cascading down this green mountainside. It looks verdant and productive. Soon, the reason for the lushness is clear, the water of Los Sauces cascading from above the road and providing this flank with much appreciated irrigating water.
Onward to the most dramatic corner of them all as you enter the Gorge of the Rio Poquiera. In front of you are the tiny villages of Pampaneira, Bubión and Capileira stacked up one on top of the other, thrusting upward to the high Sierra Nevada and the dome like summit of Mulhacen. For those who live in the high Alpujarras this is the sight that strikes a note with the heart strings, that tells you that you are nearly home. The deep shade of the chestnut trees, the sound of water running in numerous irrigation channels and the big sky stretched out over the high mountain peaks. No wonder Lorca exclaimed, when visiting the Alpujarras: “I have never seen anything so exotic. I cannot believe that it is in Europe.”
The road swoops into this mighty gorge and zig zags back up through the rug bedecked balconies of Pampaneira. Impossibly narrow now you cannot believe that two cars can pass safely on the road, and then you encounter a huge lorry laden with air dried ham from Trevelez. At a corner that we call ‘space rock’ you can pause to take in this expansive view and try to spot where British author Chris Stewart might live in the deep valley below.
Another ten minutes that takes you through barren looking mountainsides and you encounter yet another landscape, the ‘happy valley’ than forms the gentle highland slopes of La Taha and Pórtugos. Numerous broad irrigated terraces occupy the more open landscape giving it a high plateau feeling, although one you start exploring on foot you realise this are is anything but flat. The valley below is now the Rio Trevelez and this hidden community is dominated and protected by the form of the Sierra de La Corona situated in a commanding position to the south. The builders' yard of the village of Pitres welcomes you and you can deviate up into the square of this small and friendly village, maybe there will be a bar open to refresh you but you will have to look hard to find the surprisingly well stocked supermarket.
A few more twists and turns on the road, cross the Rio Bermejo where water falls all year round and you come across the turning that for us is the last stretch, the steeply descending road to Atalbéitar that passes Cortijo Opazo.
These were my impressions of the Alpujarras when I first arrived, sitting on the lap of one of my human companions, and they will be yours too if you choose to come - though it is unlikely you will have the same comfortable seating arrangement. And if you come here once, the likelihood is that you will want to come again. In my next blog, I will explain further.
Yours, amongst Moors and Chrsitians,
Click here if you are interested in reading about the War of the Alpujarras
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