On this December 26th, I wake up among lemons. It is still dark. And I will have a long day …
Already in a few kilometers, after Albuñuelas, will start a stretch of unpaved road. The same kind of small road indicated on Google Maps that caused me misadventures a few days ago, turning into a steep and rocky hiking trail improper for my bike. This time, because I’m going this way of planning again, I cross-checked with the Google satellite pictures alongside with the SIGPAC that Loic showed me in the camping of Laujar de Andarax. The road seemed wide, white and correct, hence a good option for a path crossing a region ignored by the roads. Indeed, to go from the Alpujarra towards the west, there are no straight roads. One must go either north through Granada or south by the coast. As I just want to go straight and avoid the cities and the coast, this is the perfect solution, but a suspicious one.
I buy bread in Albuñuelas and make the feast of the warrior before the combat. I already gained 200 m of elevation since I got up 5 km ago, and there should be more to come. This village is a dead-end for the paved road, its streets are just wide enough for a small car to pass in and are paved with stones. Very pretty and picturesque, including super steep streets making sharp turns.
This is during one of those turns that I notice something amazing: the sky is now cloud free and the Sierra Nevada is just there, big and capped of white. Like if it just appeared during my sleep, as I was too close to it and the sky too dark yesterday. When it was raining on me yesterday, it must have snowed up there.
Searching within these gorgeous views, I find my secret road and start the 11 km stretch. The road is actually of a astounding quality for a secret gravel road. It is even paved with concrete on its steepest parts. I am first progressing among fields of olives and houses having a premium view on the Sierra Nevada. I then enter a pine forest and am really alone in the quietness. I even surprise a couple of deer eating by the road. I am very happy to face no problems on this stretch, even if I have to push my bike sometimes because of the steep slop. However, I wonder when it will stop ascending. I am 1300 m, that is already 800 meters above where I started, and I didn’t foresee such a thing.
The road finally joins the paved ones at a crossing, and I am almost at 1400 m. I had no clue I would end up on a high plateau, but the views are so nice it largely compensates my slowness and sore legs.
There I see a sign of a European fund for the maintenance and improvement of paths against forest fires. This initiative is also very helpful for bikes. Being higher than anything else I can see, I have to go downhill now. And it’s not a random descent, it’s an amazing one. I have an extra wide panorama on the national park of Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama, a small lake and an immense area of olive tree plantations. It’s so stunning I feel like taking a picture every second.
It gets tough when I have to cycle up again after the descend. The road around here is never flat, and each time it ascends a bit, I feel that my legs are weaker and weaker. They didn’t forget Alpujarra, the scenery had a price. I continue through the postcard landscape until the town of Alhama de Granada.
Actually, 3 km before the town, I see the signs of the GR 7. The GR 7 is following all the Mediterranean cost until Gibraltar and I meet it regularly, just like I was playing hide-and-seek with the camino de Santiago in the middle/south of France. The path here seems wider than a hiking path and for only 3 km, I give a try on the trail.
That’s another lucky decision since the bicycle-proof path is taking me through a canyon. It is very beautiful. I read about a legend of a horse falling the cliffs and the horseman surviving thanks to a prayer to Maria (hence the little chapel there), and I exit it with a view on Alhama de Granada.
Just like Alhama de Almeria, Alhama de Granada is a small thermal town and it has spas, balnearios in Spanish. I don’t want to stay in one but I have read there are natural pools of hot water, so I go and have a look. The actual balneario is closed and looks either in renovation / perdition, but a few people are bathing in the warm pools just alongside the cold river. I have still 2 hours of daylight available but since my legs are in need, I decide to stop here and bath until it’s time to look for a tent place.
The water is very relaxing (and incidentally cleaning me). I stretch and massage, and then look for for where to stay overnight. Climbing a bit over the hill takes me to a gravel road and a sign reading “Caves ►”. There is a cave inside the hill cliff with a wide opening and enough space inside: that makes a perfect house for the night with a 5-star balcony over the fields and the sky. The moon is full and I can cook at its shine.
I have taken many pictures today (which means I need more time for sorting and post-processing), and after crossing the dry region of Almería, the Alpujarra, I can say Andalusia has brought me every day wonderful roads and landscapes for cycling.