The Alpujarras is a mountainous region located on the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada, an hour’s drive from Granada. This area was the last hiding place of the Moors, once Boabdil surrendered the city of Granada to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella a long, long time ago (January 2, 1492, to be exact). It was here we brought Tia S. who had come to visit us for a couple of weeks.
Steep mountain slopes, hairpin turns, a narrow river valley, farms, villages and small towns, Spaniards and ex-pat Brits, the smell of weed, the shimmer of olive groves, and the gurgle of acequias: these were a few of our favorite things.
One day we hiked the wooded trails that led to the summit of Mulhacén, the highest peak of the Sierra Nevada at 11,413 feet. We stuck to the lower elevations, passing fruit orchards and farms, stone houses, and meandering acequias. These irrigation channels, first introduced by the Arabs of northern Africa during their heyday in the Iberian peninsula, are a communal form of water distribution still in use over a thousand years later. At this point, we are undetermined whether you are bored or interested in this topic. You can always use the “Reply” button to let us know.
From friends in the Albayzin, we heard of a walk to an ancient Roman bridge from the village of Ferreirola. The town is easy enough to get to if you have a car, but you will most likely get lost along the way, no matter what.
We stayed in a stone house that featured a swimming pool, three large and lazy dogs, thirty-four chickens, lots of olive trees and an acequia outside our door. The nearest town was Órgiva, population 6,500. Besides brownies, tofu burgers and a road race that shut down all access into and out of the town for over an hour, we noted poetry on the city walls, as well.
What follows are all the photos from the Alpujarras that we wanted to include, but that did not fit in the narrative.
A week later, we headed to the Costa de Almería. All year we had heard of the wonders of Cabo de Gata from our neighbors Laura and Antonio. Now a national park, this area escaped the bull dozers of the Costa del Sol and remains, for all intents and purposes, an almost unspoiled slice of the Mediterranean Coast. We traveled there with Tia. S. to spoil it just a little bit. We drove a polluting vehicle, drank water from plastic bottles, and contributed to coastal erosion by hiking the lava promontories, but we did so with a tone of remorse, thereby neutralizing our guilty consciences. A. and J., unencumbered by adult concerns like finding a place to stay, arranging a rental car, and making sure the pizza did not include ham, simply enjoyed the experience.
The biggest town in Cabo de Gata is San José. From there we began a hike that skirted cliffs and dropped down into secluded coves. Destination: Playa de Mónsul.
We walked along the ledge to Cala de Los Amarrillos, crossed the beach at Playa de Los Genoveses, climbed up the cliffs and back down to Cala Chica del Barronal, and made our way along the narrow strip past Cala Grande to Playa de Barronal.
Many hours and naked people later, we arrived. It was then we realized that the car was 10 kilometers away in a parking lot in the center of San José. While M. hitchhiked back to town, friends from Granada — who had made the trip to San José for the weekend — drove along the rutted road to meet us at Playa de Mónsul where our kids gamboled on the beautiful beach.
The next day we visited Las Negras, a small fishing village that now caters to many a tourist, Spanish, German, and British. From Las Negras we walked the 6+ miles to Cale San Pedro, a beach accessible only on foot or by boat. This has not prevented many a free spirit from making it his or her home. In other words, even though it was the middle of April, the beach was packed.
Having walked 6 miles, and again without a car to take us back, we made our way to the end of the beach and hired a skiff piloted by a young man, intent on inhaling a joint, to take us back to Las Negras. With the gas gauge on empty, and the four of us hanging on for dear life as we cruised at lightening speeds, we were unable to snap any photos.
Far be it from us to tell you how to live your life. Base your decision to visit Cabo de Gata on your own desires, circumstances and proclivities.
(We rented an apartment in Hortichuelas, but recommend, instead, the village of Rodalquilar.)