A Day of Two Halves - Afternoon
Having found our way back to a main road after our trek across an agricultural wilderness, we head out past Motril - not a photogenic town from a distance. This part of the coast is lined with crop fields wrapped up against the winter elements and marauding wildlife, and there are large expanses of grey-white giant cloches that tend to mar what is, effectively, an attractive landscape. Once you get beyond the port area and a few uninspiring coastal towns, the road suddenly finds itself curving around rugged and majestic cliffs as the foothills of the Sierra Nevada come rushing down to the Mediterranean. Around each bend, you can look down (if you have a head for heights) to see lovely coves being lapped by crystal clear, turquoise water. We settled on a small coastal town called Castell de Ferro for lunch, but arriving by the beach, we felt we had hit a ghost town! There was no sign of any life. We left the car and walked along the promenade hoping for some chiringuito, or any promising bar that served food. All closed.
Feeling slightly dispirited, we continued a little way further and, eventually, we saw a few bright table clothes and signs of humanity. It transpired that the beach here was rather pleasant. We wouldn’t say spectacular, but it was expansive and clean, and all but empty.
Of course, as confirmed by the waitress at the restaurant, the season is now well and truly over and these towns just get abandoned. Yet, when the sun came out the temperature rose and the sea was warm. We were alone on our stretch of the beach, after lunch, apart from just two other couples who sat some distance away. The sea was divine. So clear and certainly not freezing cold; the pool at home is chillier!
A swim led to a snooze and we both agree that we have never slept so well on a beach before. The temperature was perfect and the gentle sound of the waves hypnotic. There was no other noise. The afternoon had more than made up for the less than auspicious morning.
We decided to drive home through the mountains up to Órgiva, the gateway of the Alpujarra, and little did we realise how spectacular that drive would be. The road runs northwards away from the coast near La Mamola, and a series of hairpin bends rapidly take you higher and higher. It was at this stage that Andrew noted that there was a red dotted section marked on the map, along our particular route. Looking at the map’s key, the red dots indicate a dangerous or unsafe section of road! Great!
Set aside all such fears, as this drive is worth every red dot. There are some landscapes that actually bring tears to my eyes as a result of their sheer scale and beauty, and this was one of those parts of the world. It is just vast, and the light was magical, a lazy afternoon sun creating hazes that blurred the bottoms of each layer of mountain creating an effect like some Japanese painting. As we rose further, the mountainsides were a patchwork of almond trees, heathers, gorses, grapevines and stunning, expansive views. It is not a particularly forgiving drive, crossing the western side of the Sierra de la Contraviesa, and the driver will not have much opportunity to take in all the views, unless they wish to end up a part of that view as they sail the quick way down the hillside. Our recommendation would be to take the time to make use of the many lay-bys provided for the photo op. There are also a couple of very welcoming ventas, or roadside bars, along this route and we rather wish we had stopped off at one or both of them, just to soak up the amazing space through which we were driving.
I’s very hard to describe the magnificence of this route. Suffice to say, it has inspired us to trek further into the western reaches of the Alpujarras.