Well now that it’s cold, dark, and the constant presence of school makes organizing long journeys a chore, seems like a good moment to reminisce on old times from the past, and some wonderful trips that we took back then.
So one fine winter’s day a few years ago, we decided to hop onto a bus (a bus because as I’ve mentioned in other posts such as this one about the Chillar River, I’m not lucky enough to own a car) and zoom off to Sierra Nevada.
Now, Sierra Nevada is a good 4 hours’ bus drive away from us, at least. So we do have to start off very early in the morning, I do say.
My son had been bugging me for ages and ages to see the snow, so at last I gave in. I myself, seeing as I hail from Canada, couldn’t care less if I never ever beheld a snowflake again in my life. But, you know, kids are kids and my son does NOT hail from Canada. So he had to go and see the snow.
Well, leaving this lush and well-nurtured south coast of Spain was a bit like leaving Shangri-La. As we crossed over the mountain line which shelters the coast from the mean icy winds of the north, the landscape changed most drastically. At first, you immediately noticed that the trees were sporting all different colours: golds, browns, flaming orange. In Malaga trees are green the whole year round.
Then you would notice that the ground is bare: there’s no grass! The ground is all frozen!
When you get out of the bus in Granada, where you change over into the Sierra Nevada line, the biting wind really catches you off guard. The high in Granada in the dead of winter is lower than the lowest temperature you could experience in Malaga.
My son, of course, loved it. He loves anything new.
Now, if you are fortunate enough to own a car, getting to Sierra Nevada is relatively a breeze. You just have to make sure that you have chains or some other sort of tires adapted to the snow, and take off on the highway.
But if you have to thumb your way over on a bus, like we did, well the easiest way to get to Sierra Nevada from the sheltered warmth of Malaga is by taking a bus on the regular Granada-Malaga line, and then catching another one to Sierra Nevada in the bus station at Granada. There are frequent vehicles on both routes, however.
Or you can do what we are planning to do this year, and sign up to an organized tour where a direct bus straight from the coast to Sierra Nevada is included in the package.
You can notice as you (or rather your bus) climbs up the altitudes: the air gets thin and frosty, the going gets rougher. If it’s a bad day, a regular snowstorm might even halt your progress. However, if you go when it’s bright and sunny, the temperatures might not reflect the grand and radiant sunshine, but you will have a smooth ride with no snow or ice on the road.
Sierra Nevada is a booming touristy resort in the middle of the mountains. The entire mountain range reaches up to almost 3500 m., but the resort itself, called Pradollano, is only about 2500 m. high. When you are up there, you can see all the wild mountaintops nearby, all empty and deserted and sheer and frozen, with nothing on them at all. Woe be it unto you if you should ever find yourself lost and stranded on one of those barren slopes.
I found it hard to believe that you could be so well taken care of and provided for if you remained within the resort of Pradollano, but take just one false step out of the area, and all of a sudden you could be fighting for your life in the midst of endless stretches of snow and snow and yet more snow.
So truly, this is one place where you must remain on the beaten track.
But not to worry. Even on the beaten track here, there are tons of things to do and see.
So my son and I threw snowballs. We climbed around and tried to construct a snowman (without much success, I might add). I pointed out how to make snow angels to my son, who had, of course, never seen one before. But he found it delightful to make a few. And this when as you can imagine he himself is no angel by far!
We also decided to hitch a ride up a ski lift to one of the popular slopes. It’s a great way to get a panoramic view of the whole resort and a glimpse of mountaintops hidden from the view of the resort below. You can also get to do a little tobogganing there.
Well, can you believe that when we arrived there, we had no winter gear at all. Nothing. Of course, considering that we live in Shangri-La, where cold-weather trappings are completely useless and would only occupy precious space in your wardrobe or drawer……
Fortunately, street vendors are keenly aware of the lack of preparation of Spaniards in general for weather that you must bundle up for, and you can find them everywhere, peddling off hats and scarves and warm fuzzy mitts.
Of course there is nothing like a mug of hot chocolate and a platter of steaming fries after a day in the snow. When you go to Sierra Nevada, the food is horrible and over-priced, but with all that cold, you do really yearn for something warm. So the best thing to do: bring your own sandwich, bagged lunch or tupperware, but save a little change for that steamy mug of chocolate, or rather Cola-Cao.
Although I might add that the temperatures, the day that we went, were actually quite balmy for a ski resort, seeing as they were a few degrees above freezing. Canada, where you won’t see the thermometers slip up even a tentative half millimetre over the freezing mark between October and April, this definitely was not!
So this year we will be taking it easy and hopping onto a pre-organized bus tour. My youngest son is coming along too, this time. He has never seen the snow. I might add that unlike his older brother, he has never bugged me to see the snow either. Just a different character.
Of course, perhaps the explanation stems from the fact that he was born in the stormy throes of winter and raised in freezing Barcelona (well freezing in the winter, anyways), whereas the oldest is a late spring lamb from the south. So I guess maybe the youngest already endured all the cold he could ever want to endure growing up in the cold climes of Barcelona, while the oldest enjoyed the heat of southern Spain during his first months of life.
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