The Mountains and adventures of Andalucia

By Gerard Scholtz

(Scroll down for photo’s)

Andalucia has its plains, but then there are the mountains with big, fun challenges. Silver and Blue live for mountains and mountain passes. Over the years they have conquered the highest and most beautiful mountain passes in Europe. There was still one pass we wanted to do, the highest tarred road in Europe, the Valeta (3400m) near Granada. Our ‘international’ record for altitudes on scooters stands at 3422m on the Hehuanshan Pass in Taiwan. That day on which we nearly froze and there was barely enough oxygen for the engines of the first Silver and Red.

Valeta

Excitedly we took to the road on a brilliant, beautiful day. The Sierra Nevada with its snowy peaks towered over the city. And there waited the Valeta. The pass isn’t as dramatic as other passes and it was an easy ride to the ghost town, Valeta. Hundreds and hundreds of flats in complexes stood locked up, because it isn’t ski season. Not even a bar was open for coffee. Not even a dog or a cat to be seen. Just the two of us and the engines’ roar reverberating against the slightly run-down buildings.

The GPS took us higher and further to a parking area with a few cars and motorcycles scattered about. Ah, there was coffee and something to eat. Hikers and runners came and went and we climbed the hill to some monument or other (actually it was Mary of the Snows…) for a little exercise. The thin air and lack of oxygen had us puffing, but we made it.

Then the big moment arrived and we would ride the road on our bucket list on Silver and Blue. Just a few hundred metres further, around a bend, the road was closed, at 2533m. With winter being so late there was still too much snow on the road… Yes, it was rather a big disappointment. Gliding 30km downhill into Granada was, however, worth while. We switched off the engines and enjoyed that wonderful feeling of flying, turning, whistling wind. And the silence of heights.

Montes de Málaga Natural Park

The Med was so close that we decided on instinct to ride from Granada in the direction of Malaga, dip our feet into the water and then continue to our next destination. Again we travelled along back roads. The landscape changed quickly. Oh, just to get those mediterranean smells again. Pine and thyme. Rockroses.

rockrose between stone
mediterranean white
bleached limestone

We didn’t notice that we were slowly climbing because we were so engrossed in the beauty and silence around us. The next moment we went through a portal. And that is a  sight I will never forget. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing. We couldn’t believe that a road had been built through that karst.

small white seashell
one million years ago
today a mountain of karst

journey to Valhalla
where the loftiest halls await
dizzying

Caminito del Rey

We tried long in advance to book tickets to walk the 8km route, of which long sections of wooden walkways run 100m high against the rockface. You literally hang in the air with frightening sheer drops under you. But, it was fully booked. We could try queueing at the ticket office from 08h00 onwards to see whether we would be admitted.

So, we were up in the dark and intense cold and left Antequera and raced the 50km in record time on Silver. Anuta on the back and clinging for dear life. At times I pushed Silver to 100kmph. The Caminita website wasn’t very clear and we still had to walk 2.7km to the ticket office. Got there to find a horde waiting with us to be admitted. At last the official opened the gate and started counting heads – we were the last two allowed through. And the oldest!

At one stage there was a slightly younger woman who froze and clung to the rockface, unable to put another foot forward. And the hanging bridge still lay ahead. I think she has turned to biltong by this time. I’m not going to write any more. Take a look for yourself…

The trip back to Antequera was magical. Our heads were still in the heights. The rolling ripe wheat fields with splashes of poppies, against the background of golden mountains.

Andalucian light
on ripe yellow wheat fields
poet’s pen drips gold

 

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Magnificent broom bush – cytisus scoparius. 

 

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We stopped every few kilometers to take a look, and to see if the clouds would lift.

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The deserted town, Valeta

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The higher we went, the colder it got.

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We were hungry and cold. There were no shops or restaurants open in Valeta. Luckily we found this café high up in the mountains for hot chocolate and a toasted sandwich.

 

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Anuta on her way. An observatory in the background.

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The highest bride in Europe!

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At 2533m the road was blocked. What a disappointment.

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All the clouds are gone. Veleta (“Weather vane”) or Pico del Veleta is the third highest peak of the Iberian peninsula and the second highest in the Sierra Nevada. 3398m (11,148 ft).

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The native mountain goat. Just too late for a good shot.

Montes de Málaga Natural Park

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We left Granada early on a Sunday morning on quiet backroads to get to the Mediterranean. Slowly me moved into the smells of pines and thyme.

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The familiar rock roses – cistus

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After many kilometers of soft landscapes we came through a portal, and suddenly this breathtakingly beautiful wide landscape was there. Wild rugged white mountains.

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We just stood there. Couldn’t believe our eyes. The beauty. The expanse. The altitude.

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We switched of the engines. And just glide and glide through the wildness and beauty.

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The road carved into the limestone.
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Looking back. We couldn’t believe that we did the descend.

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Terraces for olive groves.

Silver and Blue at the Mediterranean again!
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But so ugly with all the soulless developments. At one stretch we battled through more than 30km of uglyness.

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Suddenly a Roman aquaduct

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Lunch under an olive tree

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Inland again. Still just olive groves.

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There use to be old Jewish settlements all over the place. Unfortunately this walled graveyard was closed.

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The ever-present broom with its sweet perfume.

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Just beautiful mountain and farming views all along the way.

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We took the road to El Torcal with its wind-shaped rocks.

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A visitor. A beggar.

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Our next destination for a couple of days. Antequera.

Caminito del Rey

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We started the Caminito del Rey with a brisk 2.7km walk through a pine forest.

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The forest opened up and we got an ides of the topography.

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The start to the walk was dramatic enough…

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See the walkway just behind and above us.

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The narrow section of the gorge

20180610-IMG_2541Just an idea of the feat of constructing this wonderful walkway
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Sometimes the drop below the walkway was around 100m, but the rise above it much, much higher.

An old, disused bridge crossing the gorge
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Those potholes are really far below you.

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Then the gorge opened up for a while before entering the final stage.

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At one stage the route takes you through a section of the old water channel.

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The couple ahead of us were trying out the balcony which we later discovered to have a glass floor!

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Here one can see the rusted old walkway below and the new one above. We loved the colours of the rock.

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Spot Anuta.

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Completely distrusting of walking on glass at this height!

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Just had to put on a show…

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The gorge at its narrowest with the railway line on the left and the walkway on the right. See the wonderful vertical rock formations.

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And to think that it’s so safe that you don’t even walk with a guide.

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The final bridge to cross just ahead

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Spot a tiny bit of the railway line going through the rockface

And then you have to accommodate a photographer on top of it all…
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The tenacity of nature

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The last stretch included some stairs which we found much worse than the rest – probably because they are open stairs.

Looking back, we couldn’t believe it all.
By |2018-06-25T14:10:44+00:00June 25th, 2018|Reis|