Walking, walking, walking. We’re in the valleys of the Alpujarras region, made famous by Chris Stewart’s books, which nestle in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada to the north and the little sierras of Lujar, La Contraviesa and Gador to the south. It is a truly beautiful area for walking and we feel like we are on holiday!
Oh, I know that those of you reading this, especially if you’re reading whilst at work, will have just snorted, thrown your arms aloft and muttered a few expletives at that last statement but we’ve been pitched up, stationary, on a campsite for the past week tootling about the area on the bus, with warm weather, enjoying a laid back week. So, like a holiday!
We felt a bit flat arriving in Lanjaron on the west side of the Alpujarras after having had a great couple of days in Granada. We stopped at the tourist information office there to ask about walking routes:
‘Habla ingles’, I asked the lady behind the desk;
‘siyouwannamep’, she replied.
Before I could even decipher what she’d said, or think about an answer to her question, she’d ripped a map of the town off the large pad on the desk and was furiously circling points of interest whilst belting out a running commentary in such a thick accent, and at such speed, I almost felt physically assaulted! I looked at Tim with one eyebrow raised to infer ‘did you get all that’, but, judging by his smirk, I thought it was highly unlikely.
That little encounter picked our spirits up no end. We emerged from the office, blinking into the sunlight, grinning from ear to ear, each exclaiming that we hadn’t understood a word she’d said but what a nice lady she was! Along with the town map, with all its scribblings, we at least also came away with a leaflet detailing a couple of walks starting from the town.
We spent the next couple of days winding our way up the steep hillsides around Lanjaron marvelling at the views across the hills towards the coast.
The Moors, settling here in the 8th century, gradually transformed the landscape. Small hillside villages were created in a style akin to that found in North Africa at the time. Narrow streets with flat roofed houses, built in terraces, almost sink into the hillsides. It’s quite different to the Pueblo blancos we visited around Ronda but equally, if not more so, interesting and picturesque. Our second walk from Lanjaron climbed steeply up the hillside above the river before following one of the acequias for several kilometres.
The acequias, developed by the Berber settlers, are an ingenious and efficient water irrigation system. The snow run-off from the surrounding mountains in spring and summer provides the water that rises up into natural springs where it is then guided, via the acequias, to where it needs to be. The whole area is lush and green thanks to this ancient system.
For the last week we’ve been at the Orgiva Campsite about 2km south of the bustling bohemian town of Orgiva. I don’t think it’s too unkind to say that Orgiva is best viewed from the mountain road a few km above the town as, up close, apart from the 16th Century church, it’s none too pretty! The surrounding area is fabulous but the town is a bit unloved in places and only really appealed to us as a source for a few provisions and to board the bus that took us into the much more picturesque High Alpujarras villages.
A little more about that bus though. We thought we’d stay at the campsite whilst visiting this area, making use of the bus to get about, to give Tim a break from the stress of driving the narrow, winding roads that were sure to plague this region. We were right about the roads but I was wrong about the stress.
We boarded that bus in Orgiva, like lambs to the slaughter, brimming with excitement at a day out in the three villages of Pampaneira, Bubion and Capileira. The smile was soon wiped off my face as the driver took off up the mountain road like a rat up a drainpipe. The road up to these three villages, whilst not too narrow, was very windy, steep and, once we started to enter the Poqueira gorge, had near vertical drop offs at its edges.
I’m sure the bus driver knows the roads and knows his bus but he was driving twice as fast as I would have driven a small car on that road. Our previous days walk had involved high up vertical drops from the footpath at many places but, as I was in charge of my own legs, I didn’t feel in the least bit uncomfortable about it. I wasn’t, however, in charge of that bus and that kind of put the heebie jeebies up me. My mind started idly mulling over the statistics of fatalities down that gorge but, either it’s not a common occurrence, or the authorities clear the wreckage away promptly so as not to upset the tourists. It also didn’t help once I’d noticed the small crucifix gaily swinging to and fro from the driver’s rear view mirror. I sincerely hope the driver was absolutely confident in his driving abilities and not leaving the safety of himself and his passengers up to a higher source.
Well, I haven’t had a drink since my Sangria binge in Gibraltar but I sure felt like one after I got off that ruddy bus! Tim had no such qualms and enjoyed every minute of the journey grinning like a simpleton at my obvious discomfort. I could see the words ‘pay back’ written behind his eyes.
The friendly, colourful villages and stunning scenery were worth it though so I endured another two days on the bus. By the third day I was relaxed enough to almost enjoy it and trust the driver…….almost!
Here’s a sample of pictures from our walks over the week.
After reading the first three of Chris Stewart’s books some years ago the Alpujarras has lived up to my expectations. The walks we have done have been some of the best of the last year and we’d definitely like to come here again. Alas, our ferry from Santander back to the UK is booked for the 12th April so we need to press on a little north.
Next stop Ubeda.