School Trip to Las Alpujarras
Sierra Travel Blog› entry 9 of 62 › view all entries
Finally I had the chance for some adventure after the first week and I went to Las Alpujarras.
The school arranges trips every weekend and you can choose which ones you want to go to the price includes the ride, the guide, and entry fees to places.
Granada is a very beautiful place and has the mountain range the Sierra Nevadas at its doorstep. They are the highest peaks in Europe but not in Spain. The highest mountain in Spain is in the Canary Islands. From Granada it is a 20-30 minute drive to the ski fields. They are on the north side of the city. At this time of year (May) which is the last month of spring they still have a good coating of snow and last night on the news there was a story about a big fall overnight.
Our guide is Juan. He is a former history student is his 40´s I would say who became a guide. A great sense of humour and very experienced at giving a talk in Spanish for foreigners learning the language. Just the right pace with plenty of interaction and a helping hand to understand what he is saying. He will say the same thing about a plcae 2 or 3 times in different ways so that you get a chance to understand it. Our group had some good speakers of Spanish plus a few others, like me, who were starting out.
There were only about 14 of us were in the minibus including a couple from another school. It does not take long to drive to the other side of the mountain range and begin our ascent. The bus winds up narrow roads. You go up one side of a valley and then 5 minutes later you look across and down about 150 meters and see the road you came up on the other side of the valley. I am surprised at this height to see cactus growing on the side of the road cuttings. There is a small wind farm to remind me of Palmerston North. The wind mills are about the same size as the big ones above Palmerston but not the same type.
The landscape has some similarities to the gorges in Central Otago New Zealand but not quite the same.
Our first stop is the village of Lanjarón. There is a popular bottled water in the shops from there. This was a taste of 4 villages we went to in the day each one very different but with similar themes. This is the village where it seems there are the hotels for the tourists but you can wander the back streets down cobbled roads seeing wonderful old stone and plaster houses.
However we had classic John Cleese moment.
We went into a church that had been surrounded in the civil war very dark and you can see the bullet marks in places.
From there we moved much higher up the mountains to a valley that has village names which the guide said are like Portugese. Apparently this is because of people from Galicia moving down, not sure when. In this valley we can now clearly see the snow of the mountains and the air is cooler. The highest peak Mulhacén is 3479m. In this valley you can see other villages below and another above. As the sides of the valleys are very steep the design of the streets and houses becomes very different. The streets are very steep and narrow in Pampaneira. Down some you can almost stretch your arms out and touch both houses. There is a footpath but down the middle is a drain with water constantly running down it.
We stopped at a little bar to try some of the local produce.
We tried 2 wines one dry and the other sweet like a maderia. And yes it was a bit rough on the palate. The shop had hams hanging from the ceiling and many products for the tourist to buy. We also tried a local chorizo which had a nice flavour and was much redder than the chorizo type products in NZ shops. The ham or jamon was sliced very fine and was very soft and gentle in taste.
We had short stop in the square which had a church and places to eat, a mule and vendors grabbing the tourist trade as best they can.
Next we drive on to another valley and stopped at the highest village in Europe (Juan suggested) and maybe in the world (at 2,500m) - Trevelez. A bit colder now and the jerseys come out for everyone.
We have lunch in a large restaurant with hundreds of hams hanging above us. There is a little plastic cup to catch the drips from the hams. My first meal out in Spain -- hmmm I choose the migas and hope that it is not too much. Migas is fried breadcrumbs that becomes something very like couscous. Well there is a pile of the migas with a bit of vege, one chorizo, one morcilla (like black pudding) and one whole fried trout on the plate. Every thing is delicious, the trout soft tender, the morcilla softer than our black pudding and less spicy but very nice, but the portion size was immense.
We then have a tour of a secadoria. We found about the whole process of making the hams and the difference between serrano and iberico the latter is very expensive about NZ$80 per kilo. The pig dines on acorns and the fat is marbled through the meat rather than surrounding it fully on the outside. This factory had so many hams in various stages of production. At this height they do not use as much salt as at lower altitudes due to the nature of the air - cold and dry.
We went to another village in the other valley (Capilera) which was high up and cold with very steep windy alleys. The guide pointed out the place where Chris Stewart lives - the author of a famous Spanish travel book "Driving over lemons" about starting a new life in rural spain.
It was a great day.