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.
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
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
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.
on ripe yellow wheat fields
poet’s pen drips gold
Montes de Málaga Natural Park