Steve (with the 25 dogs) pointed out some landmarks from our vantage point up by the Ermita de las Tres Cruces: El Chorro, a gorge to the north west, and El Torcal, a high, rocky mountain range due north. Rather than daring a descent northwards down the arroyo, we drive the long way round to Àlora, through Estaciòn de Càrtama, passing by the launderette, a timely reminder to pick up our washing before leaving the area!
We park at the bottom of Àlora and walk up a very steep road, through the gypsy quarter to the castle. We’d been warned by a Spanish guy to watch our pockets and cameras, but we find a sleepy and peaceful town. The only beings not asleep seem to be about 50 cockerels, crowing from every corner of the town. I imagine it will be hard to get a moment’s peace in this town, what with cockerels crowing all day and dogs barking all night. On the town square we see a young man with his cockerel. Maybe there’s some cockerel fighting going on nearby…
The view from the top of the Castle is stunning – a big valley in front of us, framed by hills and high mountains. Emma is a tiny spot down by the river. The railway looks like a model railway from up here.
We drive on to El Chorro. The road gets narrow and bumpy and squeezes through a few rocky gorges. When we start to think we’ve gone wrong somewhere, missed a turning, we arrive at El Chorro. There is a railway station too, in case you try to get here by public transport. There is a stunning path that runs along the mountain side and across the gorge, called El Caminito del Rey , known to be one of Europe’s most dangerous paths before its restauration. Unfortunately it is currently closed for repairs, but we sneaked up there anyway and had a look. We couldn’t get on the ‘aerial walkway’ though, as there were workmen repairing it.
Up above the path, there are a few caves, some of them inhabited too. It’s paradise for rock climbers here. We meet Christof, from Austria who is waiting to meet his mates to go climbing in Morocco. The next day he says he’s leaving to go North instead – to visit two climbers who fell and both broke their spines. We can see that despite his youthful enthusiasm for the adrenaline of climbing, the news of such an accident has rattled him.
We move on, driving through a road ostensibly closed for work but luckily we can get through, as otherwise it would have meant a 20km detour. The landscape is beautiful – there are numerous caves and big round boulders looking like giant pillows, set in a mix of pine, oak and olive trees. When we get to the top, we reach the first of three reservoirs. Beautiful, green, cold water, which we try out the next morning. It’s a question of in-and-out before you freeze!
Many pine trees have procession weavers’ nests, and I’m a little concerned about going barefoot in sandals, in case I come into contact with the hairs of the caterpillars…
The three reservoirs are an incredible feat of engineering, with the road leading across some very impressive dams. The landscape becomes quite wild now, with very impressive high rock faces on our right as we drive towards Antequera. After a quick stopover in Antequera to pick up food and water, we climb our way up to El Torcal , an area of limestone rocks at more than 1000mtr height which have been eroded to create the most unusual shapes.
We spend one afternoon climbing around in the rocks, making friends with a mountain goat and coming upon perfectly shaped Ammonite impressions in the rocks.
Amazing to think that all of this once was at the bottom of the sea, and to think of what powerful earth movements must have happened to force all this stone up while keeping the layers horizontal!
The night is starry but very windy up there, rocking our Emma to and fro, but we are toasty warm, thanks to our lovely stove.
The next day, we wind our way back down and over to Colmenar and Riogordo, two Pueblo Blancos. The landscape keeps changing, all very impressive, with high mountains and wild, boulder landscape changing into farmed land, enveloped in the sweet smell of almond blossoms. Riogordo is a very narrow town. In fact so narrow that we don’t find anywhere to park, and we get quite seriously stuck between parked cars and jutting balconies, having to ring a number of doorbells and wake up someone from their Siesta to move their vehicle. Somehow, we manage to drive through Riogordo 4 times, mainly because we can’t believe that there is no space for us to stop and park. But there really isn’t. We move on northwards, cutting across the mountains and into the Granada area of Andalucia, stopping for the night in a town called Loja.
The last three days have been quite intense: the landscape has been stunning, we’ve gone up closed paths and roads, jumped into ice cold lakes, spoken to climbers, workmen and farmers, received ‘Spanish directions’ (when guys don’t want to admit they don’t know the way and send you on a wild goose chase instead), got very nearly stuck in a Pueblo Blanco, tasted local foods, met fellow travellers and exchanged stories. We will stop in Loja for a few days: Frank wants to see the Rugby games, we want to dance Tango tomorrow night, we need to do some admin and want catch up with news from family and friends….
To see the photos we took for this chapter, go to flikr
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