Just behind the touristic Costa del Sol is another Spain: the Alpujarras.
Quiet, pure and beautiful.
It is also a wonderful area to ride through with small bumpy roads with nice stretches of asphalt. Vamos!
The road that goes to the reservoir of Béznar is an attack on the senses. The Yamaha Tracer900’s throttle revs open and closing, throwing the bike into corners going left and right. I have to park the bike for a while to be able to enjoy some of the views. Oranges, church tower and a dark blue lake are seen below. Just Beautiful. And we just got started going into the Alpujarras. As the asphalt is getting better my fear of having made the wrong choise of rental bike – if only I had taken that allroad motor – fades away, I enter Lanjarón. Just a quiz for the Spain connoisseurs. What is this village known for? Well? Indeed it is water. Available at every terrace and bars of the Costa del Sol. Normaly you can quench your thirst with this famous water, but it is also good for your body if you swim in it.
After all that bouncing on the bumpy roads, I’m ready for a different kind of wellness. Driving a little further. Above the lovely village Órgiva is where you enter paradise. A stretch of asphalt winds its way up. This is where the Alpujarras begins, a region sandwiched between the high mountains of the Sierra Nevada and the Mediterranean Sea. The landscape overwhelms me with large and wide views, with villages in the distance and amazing scenery.
A STEEP WAY DOWN
The Poquira Valley is one of those beautiful foothills of the high Sierra. The white villages are there in order of battle: Pampaneira, Bubión and Capileira. The tactic is as follows: drive into the valley first and pass through all the villages. And then going through some of them on the way back. Starting at the end of the ride in Capileira, where I come across Bar El Tilo right on time for a break: un cafe solo por favor! There is a view of the weekly market from the small terrace under the tall trees. Most visitors come from the village itself – recognizable by their large shopping bag. Oranges on the way to Lajarón. The reservoir of Beninar, an oasis in rugged mountain areas. Beneficial water in Bérchules. Small-scale hotels instead of large hotel chains. The smell of curing ham. Darrical, it all seems it got stuck in time. So, with caffeine rushing through my veins its time to go back in the saddle. To descend super steep to the square in front the church of Bubión. It is quite an experience finding your way through a labyrinth of streets, alleys and … stairs. Shit, how do I turn around on this sloped road without making the Tracer ricochet across the rocks? The presence of a lone motorcyclist does not go unnoticed in Bubión for long. People poke their heads out of the window, a lady ‘accidentally’ walks in and out of her house and an old man comes out enthusiastically, suddenly stops and then laughs: ‘My son has exactly the same motorbike, so I when I hearing that Yamaha I thought it was Pedro. Too bad…What a route! As if they paved it especially for me yesterday. The Yamaha bike is just as happy with it. It willingly is thrown into every angle and follows the commands of the throttle with great precision when it’s opened up.No, the Alpujarra does not have to rely on the major attractions.
SEARCH FOR THE SMALL JEWELS IN THE MOUNTAIN LANDSCAPE
It is more like treasure hunting for little gems in an unspoilt mountain landscape. Like the small hamlets under Pitges, where time stood still. Or the farmer on his field who is going home on his donkey at a pace like they did centuries ago. And then there is the lady in Trevélez who guides me through the Secadero, a space where hundreds of hams that hang to dry in the thin mountain air. Once they are “ripe”, they create a sensation as a delicacy in restaurants all over Spain. Trevélez, located at an altitude of almost 1,500 meters, is famous for its hams. People from all over Spain even come down to Andalusia for this. Of course the lady tells me to smell and taste the heaven of hams. Small ones hang there for about twelve months to dry, large ones may hang for more than twenty months. Although it is very tasty, I prefer to take the bike for a bit of cornering towards Juviles and Bérchules. The fresh wind from the high tops slips through the cracks in the motorcycle suit.
I stop in Yegen, where the British visit to reminisce about their writer Gerald Brenan who once lived there, and then of to visit Válor, once a hot spot of strong Moorish resistance against the advancing Christians. Ab’n Abu was the king of Alpujarra. The narrow streets, white houses and an antique bridge still remind us of that turbulent time.
CRAWLING BACK UP
To the Puerto de la Ragua, which forms the northern boundary of the region at an altitude of 2,000 meters. In clear weather there is a view up to the Cabo de Gata, where the dry land slides into the sea. By the end of this day, the panoramas are shrouded by the fog. Going up. I have no idea what corners I am driving.
Actually you have to drive a mountain pass to the top, but that makes no sense now. Yes, to take a picture with the sign. But I think that is sad just so you’ll be able to show social media ‘look where I’ve been!’. A beautiful day deserves better. So: first exit to Bayárcal, out of the fog and looking for a place to sleep. Fortunately, Laujar de Andarax is within reach. It will be the country hotel Almírez, where a group of lumberjacks, wildlife wardens and a policeman will hang around the bar. No Smoking? The room is blue. While the Dutch belly growls and is ready for a big meal, the Spaniards are busy with the culinary foreplay. There is wine drinking (also the police officer is pouring down generously) and small dishes with snacks such as olives, ham, cheese and bread. The real kitchen will open later.
A CIRCUIT FOR THE MOTORBIKE
A relatively straight road leads to Berja, center of horticulture. Agriculture, but with plastic greenhouses. Nice to be able to hang on the throttle for a while making good progress. Quick through the bustling center and then out of the valley. It is a real mountain pass, without signs on their peaks or names of cyclists written on the ground. There is new tarmac on the road. Hmmm. The motorcycle tires are thrown onto the edges. Turn after turn. Until a group of trees marks the peak. This promises a lot of good things in terms of adventure. Wide views, fresh green trees, bright red rocks, blue sky. The Beninar reservoir is nice, but the valley that follows is really spectacular. The gorge has eaten right through the rocks in front a village. Darrical. It has stood still in time. Nice to be part of that. Sit on a bench and then open your eyes and ears. Women do their shopping, men sit in the cafe, the old people have already taken their place on the benches. Sound is heard from the houses. shouting and laughter can be heard from the bar. The cliché of a living at a slower pace exists. But not in the saddle of the Tracer right now. On to the vineyards!
The landscape endlessly undulates through a world of old with olive trees, almond trees and – closer to the coast – vineyards. In the bodegas of Albondón and Albuñol they serve the best wines found on the costa. Unfortunately, there is nothing to taste today. Driving has to be done. But the descent also rises to your head at a lightning speed. Not able to sit still for a second. Until you are by the sea in La Rábita. Incidentally, this coast line is so different compared to the Costa del Sol and more autentic. Lunch with a bocadillo with serano ham from – yes – Trevélez, where I was yesterday. The road along the sea is also beautiful. Due to the lack ofelongated sandy beaches, everything here is still small-scale. This includes Castillo de Baños, from where the route goes back to the Alpujarra. It is unbelievable how fast the road climbs. But it is also hard work on board the Tracer. It’s amazing how your view from the saddle changes with every turn. On the horizon you can see high mountains, or no, the sea, no, still mountains, uh … When the Mediterranean Sea disappears from sight beyond Polopos, the pure feeling of the Alpujarra returns. One more time the route passes over a kind of mountain pass, the Puerto Camacho (1,219 meters). Below is the valley of the Guadalfeo and across the horizon, the horizon is defined by the highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada, which go above 3,000 meters. Get your hands on the throttle, and float to Órgiva, the capital of the Alpujarra. Looking for a place to crown the ride with a good glass, I remember the terrace in Pampaneira. At the foot of the church, under the trees. Beautiful! I don’t need a better excuse. Start the motorbike and open the throttle.
AUTHOR: Hans Avontuur As a travel writer and photographer, Hans shares his travel experiences with millions of readers of beautiful magazines such as AD Magazine, National Geographic Traveler, Wintersport Magazine, Moto73, Méditerranée and Life in France. Winner of a Canadian, a Spanish, a Caribbean and six Belgian prizes and at the ASP Award 2019 for the best travel story published in the Netherlands.
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