Snow and paella

Day 10 – Monday 6th April – Sierra Nevada (82km) – [MAP]

Sierra Nevada is the second higher range of mountains in Western Europe, only surpassed in height (by quite a lot, granted) by the Alps. It is quite an interesting fact when you consider its location, by the sea, in the south of Spain, quite close to Northern Africa. It leaves the Pyrenees in 3rd place by a meagre 78 metres, the 3,482m of Mulhacen against 3,404m of Aneto, the highest peak in the range that separates Spain from France. Being a mountaineer I find this fact a tad annoying, since it was possible to almost drive to the top of Mulhacen until 1994, when the road was closed to preserve the area, and still today its ascension has little to no difficulty, while the climb to Aneto is a long and technical affair requiring experience and physical preparation.

On the other hand, this meant that on this particular occasion, being on holiday as a biker and not as a climber, the range offered the opportunity to go from the warm and sunny bar terraces in Granada to the point where the road was closed, well above the snow line, in a less than an hour ride on a road that the Top Gear guys ranked along the Transfagarasan road and the Stelvio pass as one of the absolute best in Europe despite the fact that it led nowhere.

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The main road leads to Sierra Nevada ski slopes, which were still open at that time of year, and just before reaching the town of the same name at the foot of the slopes, a smaller road starts to the left, next to a car park for one of the ski lifts, which winds up the mountain to reach a Guardia Civil mountain station, where a boom across the road prevents unauthorised traffic to go any further. At this height, even if the boom had been lifted it would have been impossible to ride any further, as the road had not been cleared past that point and was covered in snow.

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We stopped there and walked up a bit further on the snow to see the sights of the ski slopes to one side and a breathtaking landscape on the other, stretching north as far as the eye could see.

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After taking some pictures we hopped on the bike again and rode back down to Granada to find the motorbike shop that worked with the transport company that was going to take our bike back to Barcelona. I tapped the address into the GPS and an hour later we stopped at their door, the temperature much higher than in the mountains.

The place was called JMoto, and it was a Triumph dealer. Javi, the guy who ran the place, was really nice, and he let us get changed in the shop, as the plan was to send the riding suits, boots and helmets in the motorbike, take our luggage and fly home in civilian clothes. Imagine trying to board a plane in riding gear while carrying a helmet! I had to remove the sun visor from my new helmet and take it with me in my suitcase, but in the end everything fit in the top case and panniers. We signed some papers, gave Javi the keys, thanked him and said goodbye to our bike. It was now time to take a bus to the centre and find a good place to have that paella I had promised Nat.

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The good thing about a city like Granada is that, unlike Barcelona, it is quite difficult to go wrong when it comes to eating out. Make a mistake in Barcelona and you can easily end up in one of the many tourist traps that offer crap food at outrageous prices, but here everything was so good and so cheap, that any place seemed to be a safe bet. We found a nice restaurant with a terrace by the river, from which we had a nice view of the Alhambra while we ate, and spent most of the afternoon there.

After lunch we killed some time walking around the old town one last time and then headed to the centre to taste one last thing before heading to the airport: the local sweet specialty, a cake called Pionono.

While having cakes and tea I took the opportunity to bring my writing up to date – I had been writing very little in the previous days – and also to find out how to get to the airport. The taxis were bound to be expensive, and we discovered there was a shuttle service with a stop quite near where we were, so it was settled. We took the bus and 40 minutes later it dropped us at the airport.

The flight back to Barcelona was fast and uneventful, and the only thing I regret is that by the time we took off it was 10 pm and it was already dark, so I could not get one last look at Granada from the air. It had been 10 days on the road this time, I had seen some new places I knew little about, and in one way or another, each one of them given me great memories.

See you all on the road.

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