Sep 8, 2011 by

We drove up into the mountains to look for the best spot to view stage 4 of the Vuelta. We had chosen a Category 1 climb and were hopeful that the riders would be spread out, giving us a good view of our favourites. As we drove up into the mountains, the desert-like conditions were left behind and we saw goats and trees. There was ample parking and shade at the top of the climb and we settled down to wait for the riders. I was surprised to see a couple of publicity cars throwing out goodies to the spectators but have to admit it was not exactly the extent of the Tour de France.

We didn’t have too long to wait before the first group of riders came along, quite a large group and moving pretty fast. We were able to identify a couple.  Only eight minutes later came the remainder of the pack and that was that! We were pleased to have been there but a bit disappointed it was over so quickly.

After our picnic we set off to drive through the Alpujarras to the hotel where we were to stay for the next two nights. The road was quite windy but good and the scenery amazing. Parts of the road had broken away and there had also been some landslides so you had to keep your wits about you! There was only one place where the Tom Tom sent us into a tiny village and we had to reverse out!

As we wound our way up into the mountains, we could see the village of Capileira perched high up on the hillside. We made it to our hotel Finca los Llanos to have a dip in the pool just before it closed and had our supper in the restaurant, which served a range of local dishes.

In the morning three of us went for a horse trek into the mountains from Bubion, using the Rancho Rafael Belmonte. This is a brilliant way to explore the area. Rafael makes sure riders are ready to go out on a trek with lessons in the schooling ring first. Some of the tracks were narrow, steep and rocky but we had confidence that the horses knew what they were doing.

It was certainly cooler at the higher altitude but far too hot to walk during the day. We did a village walk when the sun had gone behind the mountain and it was interesting to explore parts of the village which have remained unchanged for many decades and where I don’t think many tourists go.

The next day we decided to get up and go for a proper walk before breakfast so that we could get out before it got too hot. In the quiet of the morning, we followed a track out of the village which passed cortijos (small holdings), many abandoned. Winding around the cliffside and down into the valley, we glimpsed the river below as the sun crept up over the mountain. We arrived at Poqueira Bridge within half an hour and savoured the peace, thinking of the different groups of people who had farmed this area over hundreds of years. Climbing back up to the village it was already getting warm and there were amazingly some muddy sections. We even saw an ibex cross our path.

Gerald Brenan’s book ‘South of Granada’ was good preparation for visiting this area, describing as it did customs and traditions of the village Yegen, where he lived in the 1920s. I would love to return at a cooler time of year to walk in the mountains some more.

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