Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Alpujarras

Alpujarras region of Spain is on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains. After the riding from Ronda-Granada we thought of ourselves as “seasoned hill climbers” and looked forward to the promising scenery and mountain scapes.

Sundays & public holiday fear – this is our fear of everything being closed…that we can’t just buy a loaf of bread in the next town or that ‘god-forbid’ we have to go without eating a single meal… hence we panic on Saturday afternoons and top up the ‘pantry’ just to be sure. The timing was not the greatest – cycling mountains and hauling extra food supplies!

The first thing we noticed about the Alpujarras was that everything was going to be on a slope. Finding a flat campsite was harder than finding an area suitable to camp. Fortunately we had some great campsites (see pic)

The height and mountain location meant that it is the perfect environment for curing jamon – The regions specialty. My Spanish is laughable… more so the pronunciation and complete lack of grammar (like my English skills many would argue!) but it was satisfactory to understand the process required to produce jamon. Soaking fresh legs of pork in repeated salt baths for 9 days, hanging them in the well ventilated ‘apartment blocks’ and painting them with fat every month. The best jamon is aged for 2 years this way and the original leg of pork is eventually reduced to half its original weight… but worth its weight in gold! The smell, standing in a room of 50+ curing legs of jamon… incredible!

Mountain life is very traditional in many aspects, they don’t introduce machinery due to the steep terrain - was still a shock to see a farmer ploughing a paddock/terrace with a horse and plough. The other thing we loved was the water oozing from every pore in the mountain-side. These springs flow down through channels (known as acequias) which were originally built by the Moors. They are vast, complicated and essential to farm irrigation in the Alpujarras. Most acequias culminate in a village water fountain which is quite drinkable (potable) water. We spent an enjoyable dinner next to a waterfall spring and were told the water was potable. Fortunately tasted it before filling all bottles as it would have been only potable to plants maybe… unless you like the taste of liquid rust! Perhaps I was correct to be suspicious when it was staining the creek red!

Terraces and small mountain villages made up the vistas – hard work to make a living farming in this part of the world.

We came across the most incredible road yet of the trip. I was green with envy of every motorcycle as the road was switch-back and hairpin bends through beautiful coloured rocks and great views. Made even better by the fact we were going downhill… not UP!

We made our way down to the coast again and stayed in Almeria with Martin and Maite, another cycling couple who rode from the most southern to northern points of Europe last year… we picked their brains on the best routes and prepared our own journey northwards.

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