Spain – diary 2009-10-24 to 2009-10-28

2009-10-24 to 2009-10-27
We left Cordoba at 8am so that we could make our way to Trevelez – Spain’s highest settlement. The scenic drive through the Granada Province was that of 150 million olive trees, planted in straight rows, and the unmistakable fragrance of olive oil.
The Rough Guide to Spain told us that ‘if we see one city in Spain, it must be Granada. For here, extraordinarily well preserved and in tremendous natural setting, stands the Alhambra’. The Alhambra was the palace and fortress of the Nasrid sultans, ruler of the last Spanish Moorish kingdom. Walking through the Alhambra was a surreal experience. The buildings are so well maintained that it feels like we were living in he times of the Moorish rule. The Palace stands in contrasting strength to that of the Alcazaba (The military defence/watch tower). It is the most ruined part of the fortress but still impressive. Its tallest tower stands 130 meters high and overlooks the entire city of Granada. The Generalife was a shaded, leafy garden refreshed by running water and elaborate water fountains. The grounds consist of a luxuriantly selection of shaded patios, enclosed patios and walkways. We unfortunately didn’t get the opportunity to visit the inside of the palace as all of the slots were booked up. None the less, we enjoyed the elements of the Alhambra that we did see.

We continued our journey to Trevelez on precipitous, windy roads. We climbed to 1500 meters before eventually reaching the quintessential Spanish village of Trevelez (pronounced Trebelth), which is nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The reason we ascended to such heights was in order to get some altitude training in before the big climb in Morocco. Trevelez is traditionally the jump-off point for the high Sierra peaks and that is exactly what we tried to do – get to the top of Mulhacen (3 481m). We were welcomed warmly into the village by the very helpful locals. As you know, between Kirk and I, our Spanish is extremely limited; we needed to get some beers and bread before settling in at the campsite. We made our way to the information kiosk and were pleasantly surprised when greeted by an expat who was now residing in the village. He was helpful in pointing us in the right direction to a supermarket. Mvubu negotiated the steep village roads to a car park in the middle of town. Kirk and I then went on foot to seek out the supermarket. We were taken back with the helpfulness of the locals. They may not be able to communicate in English but went out of their way to make sure that we had everything we needed. A little old lady escorted us to the Tabac to ensure that Kirk got his cigarettes, smiled and went on her way. Really lovely people. The campsite was great. It is run by Ricado and his wife Alex. They too were very helpful in that he is a professional Mountaineer. They had recently submitted Jubal Toubkal in Morocco and gave us some very valuable insight into what to expect and how to negotiate the climb.
We attempted to summit the highest peak in the Sierra Nevada but fell short by 250 meters. Kirk and I had done quite a heavy hike the day before (we found out only after that this walk was more difficult that the highest peak) and were feeling rather exhausted. We managed to get to 3150m before making a wise decision to turn around so to avoid doing the last bit of the descent in the dark. Along the way were some truly spectacular sights. The peak still had some snow on it from a recent snow storm and waterfalls cascaded into nearby rock pools. This provided the backdrop for our lunch break. We arrived back at the campsite at sunset truly exhausted but satisfied with our attempt. We had walked for 11 hours!

We left Trevelez after 3 days of heavy exercise and decided that a rest on the coast would be a good idea. We headed south but before hitting the strand decided to pop into Mijas on Sally’s (our neighbour from North End Lane) behalf. It is a beautiful village set in the mountains with the most exquisite views of the Mediterranean Sea. Junior had the opportunity to pose with the donkeys and Mvubu basked in the glory of being photographed with Mijas in the background. We headed to Marbella, renowned for the rich and famous, booked into the local campsite and caught a bus into the town centre and met up with Dan and Natalie for dinner. We were treated to spectacular tapas, seafood paella and great company right on the beach with the Mediterranean lapping at the shore. Thanks guys!

We visited Ronda on recommendation and were very impressed by its beauty. Ronda is split in half by a gaping river gorge which drops sheer for 130m. Still more spectacular is the Eighteenth Century Bridge, Puento Nuevo, which straddles the gorge, while tall whitewashed houses lean from precipitous edges.
We visited the bullring and again were taken back by its beauty and history. This particular bullring is recognised as the first purpose-built space for fighting bulls in the world. The Ronda bullring is considered one of the most picturesque. The first fight took place in 1785. It is an elegant building highlighted by the two-storey arcaded of Tuscan columns.
The beach was calling and so we started the journey to Tarifa where we plan on spending the next 5 days chilling on the beach and working on our much needed tans. Tarifa is renowned for its wind! There are amazing wind farms that stretch for kilometres into the valleys. The wind turbines have a strange air of elegance about them. Windsurfers and kite surfers from all over Europe come to Tarifa to surf in the Atlantic Ocean where the wind never seems to stop. We have been very fortunate with the weather. Spain is experiencing some unusually hot weather for this time of the year. Perhaps it is preparing us for what lies ahead.
With the silhouette of the Atlas Mountain range during the day and the city lights of Morocco shining at night, just across the straights, reality has set in that the true African adventure starts on the 2nd of November when we submerge into Africa and arrive on the coast of Morocco.
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2 Responses to “Spain – diary 2009-10-24 to 2009-10-28”

  • Adrian Says:

    Really nice post guys – feels like you are settling right in. Loving the descriptions of the people, places, sights and sounds!

  • Patrick Kayton Says:

    Sounds like you guys are gonna chop a few inches off the waistline the way you’re summiting peaks left, right and centre!

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