Tag Archive | country walks

A Hike in the Rain in the Montes of Malaga

A few weeks back I mentioned in a post about rain how sometimes we go for a hike in the rain. So here’s our latest rainy weather adventure.

Montes de Malaga Spain

This is a short and easy walk in the Montes of Malaga that’s accessible to anyone in good walking condition. There are practically no climbs or descents at all. And you don’t need a car to get there. The city bus can take you there.

So since we have no car, the city bus is precisely our only means to reach it. We take the number 2 bus upwards to Ciudad Jardin all the way to the end and get off at the last stop.

Right in front of us, the street veers left and heads out of town towards the countryside. We grab that street. It’s a residential street full of beautiful single family homes.

A lovely place to live, in fact, and so near the countryside—if only it weren’t so d*** far away from everything! Basically, you do need a car if you live here.

We continue walking down the street. It crosses an overpass that goes over some sort of major freeway out of Malaga. You can catch glimpses of the Botanical Garden on the other side.

We still continue walking and it’s not long before urban concrete gives way to countryside and greenery. Here’s a pic from a few years back of this part of the way.

Montes de Malaga Spain

Yes it is foggy there. Don’t ask. Sometimes it’s foggy here. This might be Malaga but sometimes we have fog too. All the same it was 30 degrees that day (Celsius). Doesn’t seem that way but it was.

Soon we reach an intersection. The left turn dives under a tunnel and leads to the door of the Botanical Garden. We don’t want to go to the Botanical Garden, so we veer right.

The right-hand road climbs upwards for a while. But not to worry, it’s not a steep incline. When we get to the top of it we find a cluster of country homes. Just before these houses begin, there’s a fenced-off area. The path to the Roman aqueduct begins just beyond the fence.

Bridge

But please don’t go there or if you do, and you still insist on crossing the Roman aqueduct anyways and you fall off about 10 or 12 4 or 5 storeys to the terrible ground below and break a few bones, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you! (You can see there is no railing, and plenty of vertigo-inducing places.)

Anyways. Long story short. Don’t cross the Roman aqueduct.

Nope. The proper way to get onto the trail is to just keep walking up the road, past all the lovely country homes and haciendas and ranches. (We didn’t know that the first time we went this way so we rather pigheadedly insisted on crossing the Roman aqueduct. Don’t cross the Roman aqueduct!)

Roman Aqueduct Malaga

(The way back, incidentally, that first time, before I learnt about the proper way to access the trail, since I was adamant that we would nevermore cross the Roman aqueduct again, in the end the only means we could find to return to civilization required us to, of all things, plunge our feet into the coldest, iciest, shiveringest water you will ever find and cross a watering canal instead. And, you know, this being Spain and not merry ole England and all that, we don’t go for country walks with wellies.

But I preferred frozen shins to broken bones.)

Well, as I was saying. Soon you’ll come to a gate which indicates that that is where the trail begins. You can follow the indications on the sign at the gate. Or you can just angle downwards towards the stream. There’s a path that’s easy to see, before you enter through the gate.

Once you reach the stream, you can have the time of your life. If you’ve got kids they can go mad jumping in the water and trying to build log bridges and whatever else it is that kiddies do in streams.

Kids Playing in a Stream Malaga Spain

My kids look pretty tame, don’t they?

The first time I went there with the kids that is what they did. But the last time I went, I only managed to drag the eldest, “Ermenegildo”, along. The little one, “Lucrecio”, was convalescent at home.

Convalescent from what, you might be wondering? Well, from his PE teacher’s vain attempt to turn the whole class into parkour ninjas and instead of flying up a wall, Lucrecio crashed down on his ankle instead.

We just followed the stream up a ways as long as the daylight allowed. We’d left home after lunch (we’re not particularly inclined to catching the early worms nor, for that matter, the late worms either, we don’t like worms very much) so that wasn’t a long time.

Even though it was raining (okay sort of raining) it wasn’t the least bit cold. So no raincoats (not that I have any), parkas or anoraks required.

Ermenegildo in the Rainy Forest

We chanced upon a pack of wild dogs so kept a prudent distance from them. Luckily they chose to grapple their way up the mountainside and disappear. Didn’t occur to me to snap a few Polaroids. Dawggonit.

In all reality, the river goes on and on and on, I have no idea how far it reaches but probably too far for anyone except a seasoned hiker (ie. not us) to walk. One day, when we have the whole day free and manage to crawl out of bed before sunset, we might actually decide to tackle it and follow it down a significant length before turning back.

And since I’ve written a few books I’m not going to deny that I’d feel real chuffed if you’d check them out. As someone I know once told me, trying to urge me to check out some books: They’re thrillers! Grab all the deets here.

Rainbow After the Storm

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Walking in the Rain

Rainy Day in Malaga ForestI LOOVEEE to walk in the rain.

If you’re British you probably think I’ve gone off my rockers and I’m totally bonkers and I need to see my psychiatrist PRONTO!

But do understand, I’ve gone from a land that is buried in 3 feet of snow during 8 months of the year to an absolute desert. So where in this formula does rain factor in at some point?

 

 

The saddest life is one that is lived from cradle to grave without any rain, methinks.
(Tweet that, as someone I Follow likes to say.)

I talk to my friends in Canada right now and ask them about the rain and they say: What do you expect? Snow snow and more snow! Snow up to our eyebrows. When was the last time we saw rain?

And here in Malaga it’s two thirds of the same. Except here we’re not up to our eyebrows in snow, of course, but rather in endless blue skies.

When I first arrived in Spain I thought: oh wow, sun! It’s hot and sunny every single day!

A few weeks later I started to wonder: oh, so when does it rain here?

Well to the land’s credit, we do have 3 months of drought every summer. And we’d arrived just before summer. So it was fairly normal that we didn’t see rain for a while.

But at the time we arrived here, I didn’t know that.

Normally the storm clouds finally, thankfully, roll in come September and we finally get some relief from the endless scorching and searing and sunburning.

Now, for those of you who hate rain, I must ask you: If there were no rain, what would we drink? How would plants be able to live?

THIS is what the world would look like if there were never any rain. Day after day after day after day the whole year round:

Desert at Almeria

Okay okay, I realize that’s not quite fair. I realize that’s a beach, not a desert. But that’s still what the world would look like if there were no rain. It’s great for a week. For a month. For 3 months. But for a whole year, year after year after year?

And it is the desert: that’s Almeria, which is almost a desert. Do you happen to notice any greenery in there?

So, *ahem*, as I was saying, that, friends, is why we need rain.

Which takes me back to the (almost forgotten) original subject of this post: walking in the rain.

As I just mentioned, I love to walk in the rain. And I also love to take photos.

So when I walk in the rain I take photos.

So this is a collection of photos that I’ve taken, on different days, at different occasions, as I walked in the rain.

I love the beach in the rain because it’s completely deserted.

Beach in the Rain Malaga

In fact, for that matter, the beach when it’s raining is absolutely, scrumptiously INCREDIBLE! There’s no one there. When else on the entire Costa del Sol could you ever expect to find the beach so empty?

I often go to the beach when it’s raining, so I have quite a few photos to fill up quite a few galleries. Here’s just a short selection of them (because it takes me so &$/*^# long to edit them, d*** blast it!).

Rainy Beach Malaga

Paseo Maritimo in the Rain Malaga

There’s nothing I love more than to leave work and be greeted by a sudden rain shower or rather, a torrential downpour that lasts for about 4 hours. Because that’s how it rains here: no rain for 30 days, then suddenly we get half a year’s worth of rain in one evening.

Malaga Neighbourhood in the Rain

But that’s what I love.

Walking in a drizzle (which I also do) is a bit boring, actually.

No. I much prefer wild, out-of-control, inundating tropical madness. The kind that makes your eyes sting and fills your mouth with sweet water.

The kind where the rain hits you so hard you feel like you’re drowning.

The kind where you can walk around and no one knows you’re crying hehe.

Sometimes we go out hiking or for woody walks in the rain as well. I love hiking in the rain, there’s no one else about and we get the whole countryside all to ourselves.

Rainy Walk in the Woods

Roman Aqueduct MalagaThis aqueduct is AMAZING. I have no idea how it got there, when it dates from and most of all, why it’s so abandoned all alone out there!! What a way to treat ancient Roman monuments (if indeed it is Roman).

We’ve crossed on it a couple of times but I wouldn’t recommend it and most especially not with kids. It’s very high up and there are no railings or any sort of security at all. In fact, now it’s fenced off. But since we discovered it before it got fenced off, we knew how to wind our way through the woods to find it again. (Pic below taken on a different day hence why it’s so sunny.)

Roman Aqueduct Andalucia

Path in the Woods SpainWe don’t know what this is and speculation runs wild between my son and me. “Maybe it’s to hide from the rain,” suggests “Ermenegildo” as he glares balefully at the chubby raindrops pelting against him.

“Try hiding in it,” was my response. A bit too small for him I do believe. “For hunters,” Ermenegildo concluded.

Who’s right? Well, we’ll leave it up to you to decide.

Walk in the Woods Spain

Just a tiny pic of Ermenegildo. He hates me putting up his pics. So here you can’t see him very well.

People ask me if I don’t get frozen in the rain. I never wear a raincoat — in fact, don’t even own one for that matter. So since I’m also quite anti-umbrella (for my use, not for my kids’ use haha!) I suppose it would stand to reason that I could get rather cold and miserable.

But then again, this is southern Spain! Not northern Scotland. It’s warm all year round.

So the rain is usually warm and toasty too. And who doesn’t enjoy a toasty warm sprinkling?

Rainbow After the Storm

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The Carratraca Trail And a Water Party

We just had the most HYSTERICAL day ever!!!!!!! I had SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much fun!!!!!!!!!!! It was AMAZE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Carratraca

My kids don’t quite agree, especially my youngest son who even had a temper tantrum, and he’s 11.

We went out hiking with a hiking group in Carratraca. We had a greeeeeeeaaaaaaat time. (Pics at end of post.)

However my youngest son isn’t used to walking anywhere at all, and he wailed and complained and I majorly worried he’d just sit right down on the path and pout and refuse to continue! Or his little legs would get so weary they’d just rubber out on him.

Fortunately even though he had a couple of meltdown moments, in the end he still gamely went on till the end. Which is a good thing cuz we didn’t have any willing males to carry him on his shoulders like some of the other kiddies did.

Carratraca is a tiny village in the interior of Malaga province near Álora, Tolox (which is also famous for its spa) and Alhaurín El Grande. It’s only got one main street and a couple of smaller lanes. It’s one of those typical whitewashed villages that are scorching hot in the summer and probably quite chilly in the winter. It doesn’t look like there’s much to do there or many things to see or places to visit, except for walking around the countryside.

After the long walk we enjoyed the highlight of the day: a feast with a WATER PARTY!!

The feast was okay. The food wasn’t that great although there was plenty of it and you could eat and drink as much as you wanted. They had sangría, and I had that of course. The kiddies had soft drinks. They put out apéritifs that they said there would be deli meats but there was only potato chips, bread sticks and olives. But the sangria was far out!

The route wasn’t really that long or bad, it was only 4 km. But you have to take into account what is the height as well, because it’s not the same to walk 4 km. but climb 2 km. haha as it is to walk 4 km. and only climb 100 m.

The walk was up to the top of a mountain and then walking all the way around the mountain. It was quite pleasant and not very difficult, but the main problem was having to carry my youngest son’s bag with its 1,5 litres of water and tons of food!

Anyways after that they served 2 humungous paellas. There was plenty of food and we were full, but in my opinion the paella wasn’t all that tasty. I guess they were counting on that we’d all be starved and we wouldn’t notice the less than ideal flavour haha!

My son loved it though.

After that they turned on the water hoses and you can NOT avoid them. They said the party was at this place called the bullring so I thought it was the local bullring. But turns out it was a very large open air bar CALLED The Bullring.

Anyways so since it was outdoors there were lots of water hoses and lots of fun with them. My oldest son used to enjoy doing silly things like this but now that he is going through a teenage phase of wanting to look elegant all the time (he told me he wanted a pretty sun hat this morning, not a plain, ordinary kiddy sun hat but a really fashionable one) he didn’t volunteer for much running around underneath the hoses. Didn’t matter, if you didn’t go to the hoses the hoses went to YOU.

My youngest son sat and sulked in a corner cuz he doesn’t like anything exciting. He even hates the amusement park. Didn’t matter, the hoses went for him too haha.

In Spain since it’s so hugely hot in the summer (temps over 40 every day) lots of water activities are scheduled haha.

I didn’t take any photos of this section of the day, I put the phone away in a safe, dry place and let the guy with the HD underwater camera do all the honours.

One thing I really love about Spain and Spanish culture is that people aren’t going to go, ew we don’t want you you can’t take part cuz we don’t know you. In Spain people go, come on the more the merrier. So you don’t have to feel like you don’t belong and can’t take part in activities. I’m usually a lurker and an onlooker, but it looked like soooooooooooooo much fun that I tried to get in and everyone was so nice and amazing. They had all sorts of silly games and activities (underneath water hoses of course hehe). They even had skip rope.

After that there were door prizes. I was so excited, we won a prize!!!!!!! My son’s wishes came true and we won a sun hat with the name of the hiking group emblazoned all around it. I gave it to my son of course.

When we came home there wasn’t much to eat in the house: a pack of eggs, some grains like pasta, couscous and rice and flour and an aubergine. I was too tired to make fried aubergine. Then I had an inspiration! I made garlic soup.

Garlic soup is the fastest and easiest thing in the world if ever you’re pressed on time, you have an empty house and you’re tired. Here’s the very easy recipe:

Fry a bit of garlic in oil at the bottom of a large pot. Then fill the pot with water and put in chicken stock, salt and pepper. When it boils throw in some small kind of pasta (like not large pasta like macarroni or spaghetti, something small like alphabet letters). When the pasta is ready (always keeping lots of water in relation to the pasta, or it wouldn’t be a SOUP haha) carefully upend an egg into it. The egg will cook and the yolk will be a nice round raw yolk. Serve a bowlful with the yolk. Then put in another egg for the next eater etc.

My kids fell like stones into bed.

We went to a shrine, a religious Catholic shrine, at the top of the mountain. They say the villagers wanted a shrine so they built it. On the very day it was supposed to be inaugurated a bolt of lightning arched clear out of the clear blue sky and struck directly onto the shrine and burnt it up. No more obvious indication from the heavens that G-d did NOT want a shrine built there. So they didn’t rebuild it.

This little village (with only 1 main street) apparently was some sort of spa and lots of manors sprang up to handle all the health tourism. We actually peeked in at one of the spas, it sure looked luxurious inside. Anyways the biggest manor of them all has been converted into the Town Hall.

Just a coupla landscape pics.

Carratraca

These really large eolic things were all over the place. In the photo they look so tiny but in real life they are really humungous and impressive towering over ya.

Carratraca Molino Eolico

Coupla pics bout town.

Dunno why the last photo came out so fuzzy. Maybe it’s heat waves haha.

I’m only putting up one photo of the water party because they were taken with an HD waterproof camera and they are not mine.

Carratraca

Photo credit: Las Rutitas De Los Domingos

I just had to laugh thinking about some elderly people who came to the water party. Water parties round here are NOT a spectator sport haha. These weren’t members of the hiking group, they were I guess just villagers who decided they’d drop in and have a look round. They thought they could just sort of hide in the corners and observe. Well as for observing – no way! The water hoses attacked them just the same. The fact that they were elderly didn’t in any way provide them with immunity haha.

One couple just decided that what the…… Since they were there they might as well join in the fun. The other couple, they were so funny. They didn’t like getting attacked by water hoses and just sat in a corner and SULKED. They just happened to end up sitting next to my youngest son who was also SULKING haha.

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Abandoned Sugar Refining Factory at El Tarajal, Malaga

Sugar Factory Tarajal Malaga

I first discovered the old, historic, abandoned Sugar Refining Factory of El Tarajal, Malaga, when I was sent to work at a nearby industrial park.

Sugar Factory Tarajal Malaga

I love photographing old, abandoned historic places of interest, such as the Old Provincial Prison of Malaga. So I couldn’t wait to get in a photo report about this new discovery.

Sugar Factory Tarajal Malaga side

On the chosen day I set off with my oldest son. The factory is surrounded by a wall, but I hoped someone would come along and open it.

Interior Courtyard Sugar Factory Tarajal Malaga

Here is a photo with open doorways, but they’re not open to the exterior. They look out onto an inner courtyard that you have to climb into through a hole.

Sugar Factory Tarajal Malaga

Sure enough, we were lucky and as we arrived someone else arrived too. It was a group of farmers, they are using the factory now as a stable and dozens of horses live in it now.

Interior Sugar Factory Tarajal Malaga with horses

At the beginning of the twentieth century Spain provided practically all the sugar that was consumed in Europe, so sugar production became a major industry in Spain at that time. Sugar factories were erected all over the country.

Water Tower Sugar Factory of El Tarajal Malaga

Interior Water Tower Sugar Factory Tarajal Malaga

This was the water tower, where water for the factory was stored.

Chimney Sugar Factory Tarajal Malaga

The Sugar Refining Factory of El Tarajal was built in 1931 (and if there was any doubt about that, the date is inscribed into the chimney along with the name “AMET”, which I assume is the company that probably built the factory).

Graffiti on the Sugar Factory El Tarajal Malaga

Graffiti on the side wall of the sugar refinery of El Tarajal, Malaga.

Interior Sugar Factory Tarajal Malaga

Once considered an architectural wonder with walls dressed in sumptuous tiles, displaying a rather formal, stately classical air, the factory was built by the influential Larios family, the family that gave their name to Malaga’s main street.

Back of Sugar Factory Tarajal Malaga

After the Second World War Europeans began to import sugar from Central and South America because it was cheaper, and no one wanted Spanish sugar anymore. So all the Spanish sugar refining factories were closed and left alone to their devices. To the ravages of time, abandonment and vandalism.

Latrines Sugar Factory Tarajal Malaga

We assumed that these were the latrines. They were sooo indescribably disgusting, we didn’t want to step inside to find out!

Interior Sugar Factory Tarajal Malaga

You can be sure this is not a place where you would want to touch anything! We made sure to touch as few things as possible. When climbing inside (through the holes as there were no open doors) we did have to touch the icky walls a bit.

Sugar Factory Tarajal Malaga

I went with my oldest son, which was great, because he was able to chat with the farmers while I took photos. Farmers are very laconic and don’t think about things a lot and don’t spend a lot of time wondering about things and pondering over things. (Or at least it seems that’s what they’d like us to believe).

Back Sugar Factory Tarajal Malaga

So they didn’t think very many things about the factory. They didn’t know much about it nor did they have any interest in its history. They told my son: “It’s just a big stable!”

I’m not too sure what sugar cane looks like, but it would only make sense that it would grow near a sugar factory, right?

Sugar Cane at El Tarajal Malaga

My son told me it had been a bit boring. So I took him for a Coca-Cola to reward him afterwards for being such a game haha!

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A Treasure Huntin’ We Will Go

A Treasure Huntin’ We Will Go

The other day we went Treasure Hunting. That is easy when you live near a Treasure Cave!

Treasure Cave

Our Treasure Cave, La Cueva del Tesoro, is in Rincón de la Victoria right next to Malaga city. We go there every year, actually, but always when the weather is hot. (I won’t say in the summer, because it could be in October, and of course, technically, October isn’t summer – but the weather is still hot.)

This year my son, of the Wild Ideas of Hermenegildo fame, wanted to go there in the winter to see if it would be warm in the cave. You see, I had told him that Cave Homes, like the ones that Granada is famous for, are naturally conditioned and they are cool and fresh in the summer and warm and comforting in the winter, so you don’t need heaters or air conditioners if you live in a cave.

So we hopped on a bus for our annual pilgrimage to the Treasure Cave in Rincón de la Victoria. Whether you go there by bus or car, it’s easy to arrive – once you know the way. The problem is that the route isn’t mapped out or indicated with signposts anywhere (that I’ve seen).

Anyways, to get there, you take the big winding main road that passes through La Cala del Moral and Rincón de la Victoria, the coast road (not the autoroute). After La Cala del Moral this road will start winding its way up a large mountain, you will know it is the right place because it is very spirally and coils around a lot.

When you reach the top of this winding mountain road, at its highest point, that is the place to hop off the bus, if you are taking the bus in from Malaga. (Most buses that head eastwards out of Malaga will stop here for you.)

If you are taking the car, take advantage of the fact that you have a car and don’t hop out of it! Instead, veer to the left onto a road. I don’t know the name of the street, and there are no signs to indicate that it’s the right street. It’s just the street at the top of the winding mountain road where there is a traffic light (there aren’t any other traffic lights nearby). Very useful information, right?

When you get onto this street, just keep climbing and climbing and climbing…… and climbing. It’s great exercise for your legs, or for your car motor, if you come by car. You will come to a roundabout. Go around the roundabout and keep climbing.

Even when you arrive at the cave it is very easy to miss it. There is no sign or anything there to point out to you that you have arrived at a cave.

Treasure Cave Entrance

This is what the cave entrance looks like. As you can see, there is no way that you can tell that there is actually a cave somewhere in there!

The lighting was also pretty lousy, because it was, as usual, raining. A Cuban acquaintance once told me, “I dunno why they call this the Sun Coast. They oughtta call it the Always Cloudy Coast, or the Rainy Coast. Now Cuba, that’s a whole different story. In Cuba it is sunny all the time.”

However, one of the reasons I chose Malaga is because it does rain. If I had wanted perpetual sunshine, I would’ve headed off to Almería, which is a desert.

Shapes and Shadows

Anyways, the entrance fee is very cheap. And if your kids are members of the Club “La Banda” and have their membership card, entrance is free for them.

The only way to see the cave is with a guided tour. Guided tours are very frequent and run every half hour or so. Take care though, as they do close for lunch and the last tour in the wintertime is at 5 o’clock. (In the summer, I believe it is open an hour later. Which is good because at 5 o’clock in the summer you will die from sunstroke.)

Okay, well I’m not going to wax informational and spit out information that you can read on any website or tourism pamphlet about these caves. I’ll just mention a few bare facts.

This cave is special because it was an underwater cave, and it was formed entirely from the erosion of seawater on the rocks. After the seawater withdrew and the level of the sea went down, this cave emerged. There are only three underwater caves in the world (that is, caves that used to be underwater and are now above ground) and this is the only one in Europe.

It got its name because of the legend that this Roman guy hid away in it for eight months escaping from his enemies, and left an enormous treasure behind inside this cave. Many people have gone a-searching for this treasure, but they’ve all left their fortunes, energies and the health of their backs in the process (I mean, after all, excavating isn’t supposed to be exactly the most beneficial exercise for your back, right? If you want to strengthen your back, I would recommend you take yoga classes rather than spending all your time digging in a cave), without any luck.

Eagle

The first cavern you will enter is called the Eagle Cave (la Sala del Águila). This is because of this rock formation which looks like an eagle’s back and head. (Sometimes the photos didn’t come out too well because we couldn’t use flash.)

Cave of Noctiluca

The next cavern is the Cave of Noctiluca. Noctiluca is the goddess of the night, the full moon and fertility. In prehistoric times, people made offerings of the sacrifices of small animals to her. They slaughtered the animals and dribbled the animals’ blood into a basin below her “statue” (in reality, a natural rock formation).

Cave of Noctiluca outlined

In case you can’t distinguish her silhouette too well, here it is in outline. (At least that’s the way I see it. You know, these things are like constellations, you have to throw in a lot of imagination to see what people say they see.) The large round hole above her head is supposed to represent the full moon.

Cave Crystals

These are some crystals glistening in the cave walls.

Cave of Lagoons

This is the Cave of the Three Lagoons, because it has three natural lagoons in it. (The photo isn’t very clear because these guided tours run around as if they were some sort of marathon instead of a touristic stroll. I usually like to take several shots of everything and then choose the best shot, but in this case, they wouldn’t let me, because they were all galloping about as if the cave were about to crash down upon us or something.)

Lagoon Cave of Lagoons

This is a cave which is still in the process of erosion, because rainwater continues to seep into it and form little streams and, of course, these lagoons.

More Shapes and Shadows

I had the pleasure of translating the tourism pamphlets for the City of Rincon de la Victoria, and if you go to the Tourism Office in that town, you can read my translations in English. They also offer a free audio guide in English that you can download to your iPhone or SmartPhone and if you do that, you can listen to me, since I did the English recordings.

However, apparently Management at the Treasure Cave didn’t take advantage of my services and had their information panels translated by someone who was obviously not a native English speaker. The result is that you can read such strange headlines such as “The Geological Training of the Caves” instead of “The Geological Formation of the Caves” (La Formación de las Cuevas).

(Oh that is so not nice of me to laugh at someone else’s bad work, isn’t it?)

Hole in the Ground

This is one of the many openings that the cave has into the ground above.

The Cave of the Three Lagoons is the last cavern to be visited in the guided tour, which is fairly short.

And as to the answer to my son’s question, as to whether caves are warm in the winter? Well, we still had to keep our jackets on during the frenzied relay race er, I meant, guided tour. The only area where it was warm enough to walk around in T-shirts was in the deepest cavern (not shown in this post), the Volcano Cave.

Well, just had to end this post with an outdoors pic, instead of yet another dark, lugubrious, underground photo. This is the coastline at Rincon de la Victoria.

Rincon de la Victoria

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CBBH Photo Challenge: Reflection

I don’t often get around to rummaging through old photos and picking out specific themes. But I felt like taking up the challenge from Marianne of East of Malaga today and putting up some photos with the theme of the month.

I’ve seen some neat galleries on other blogs, but I don’t know how to set up a gallery here so I guess I’ll just bumble along with the old traditional way: plunking down photos one by one!

Ciutadella Barcelona

This was from our trip to Barcelona. Seems such a long time ago!

Calle Larios Malaga

Larios Street (calle Larios), the major pedestrian thoroughfare of downtown Malaga, is so beautifully lit up at night.

Chunky Statue

Thought this was a most unusual perspective on reflections, this statue, in Torremolinos, is polished so smooth you can even make out the details on the building it’s reflecting.

Malaga Street

These nocturnal alleyways are lovely in black and white too, and more mysterious at that.

Nebulous Reflections

I’m not going to tell you what that one is! I’ll leave it up to your imaginations!

Rio Chillar River

This was a scenic gorge you can wade through on the Chillar River near Nerja.

River Malaga

Shadows in the Water

This could be any city, any riverbank, any reflection.

Well, I would like to link to Toby at Travels With Toby, who reminded me about the CBBH Photo Challenge. She’s travelled a lot, and with any luck, one day she’ll be my neighbour here in Spain!

Then I’d like to recommend another blog even though it isn’t really related to travelling, photography or Spain, A Sprinkle of Al Sharq. What Sprinkle and I both have in common is we’re both single mums! I know lots of single mums but even with that, I think we’re still a minority.

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Foray Into Black and White

I was just thumpin’ around today with the nigglin’ itch to keep blogging even though I’ve already beaten my record for frequency of posting these past couple of days. Didn’t know what to do, though, so I thought I’d flip on over to Patrick Latter’s photography blog and browse around for some inspiration. So here is the inspired blog that follows.

I was so totally entranced by Patrick’s black-and-white photos that I decided to try a hand at black-and-white as well. Obviously, there’s no way I can compare to Patrick. As you can see, it’s clear I’m just a fooler-around, definitely not an expert or a professional like Patrick is. But come on, give a girl a break! After all, these are the first black-and-white photos I’ve ever made!

Park Pond

Although it’s quite clear that this is a park, most of the photos in this post were taken in private gardens belonging to friends.

Private Garden Tree

Private Garden

Well, this isn’t exactly a “private” garden, since anyone can visit it and if you live ’round here I’m sure you’ll recognize this very famous park in Torremolinos which, as I mentioned in a previous post, is one of my favourite towns anywhere.

Parque de la Bateria Torremolinos

Now back to gardens again. Wild, overgrown and definitely not very English orchards dominated by orange trees.

Orange Tree and Cat

Nature is very beautiful in black and white, too.

Lone Surfer

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Sierra Nevada Revisited

Snow on Sierra Nevada

Signs that you live in a tropical clime:

When in order to prepare for an excursion to a ski resort tomorrow the following events occur:

    • when no matter how hard you look you just CAN’T find any scarves, gloves, hats or mittens, even when you can swear that you kept a special drawer in your apartment JUST to keep strange garments like scarves, gloves, hats and mittens, but when you look in that drawer the only thing you find is an enormous square black cap with a large golden tassel that your son wore for his graduation, ie. his graduation from kindergarten, not his graduation from university, and also 2 Santa Claus caps (probably got them at some party)

View of Sierra Nevada

  • when your son needs to take a crash course to learn how to put on the gloves that his grandfather bought him specially for his trip to the snow, because he just CAN’T figure out how to get one finger inside each glove finger, the reason being that he has never worn gloves before in his life
  • when your kids have to wear rubber rain boots to go to the snow, because they have nothing else to wear

When we first moved here from Barcelona we did decide to keep the winter gear because we said, you never know when it will come in handy. Who knows maybe one year you will do just exactly what we’re going to do tomorrow and take an excursion to a ski resort.

Or maybe one year you just might decide to go on your Christmas vacations to New York City or England or Canada. But of course we never went skiing, and we never went to NYC, England or Canada on our winter holidays.

So the winter gear started disappearing, and getting stuffed further and further back, or moved out of the way. And in the end it all disappeared forever.

Well as you can see, last month we returned to Sierra Nevada.

Sierra Nevada Granada

For those members of the expedition who were expecting to see snow for the very first time in their lives (ie. my youngest son) the trip was quite clearly a disappointment.

For the rest of us (or rather, for me, who absolutely HATES the cold, the wind, the frost or anything that you won’t find in the tropics!), it was quite a splendorous revelation and a very relaxing outing.

Because we didn’t find any snow.

Shadows on the Mountains Sierra Nevada

Except, of course, the artificial variety, absolutely vital in a touristic ski resort that depends solely and entirely on the presence of snow.

So now, here we have yet another sign that we live comfortably ensconced in a tropical clime, here on the south coast of Spain. As we crossed over the mountains that separate our particular Shangri-La from the cold wild north, my sons exclaimed:

“How come there are no leaves on the trees, Mami?”

Because, of course, on the Costa del Sol, trees merrily conserve their leaves all year round, and these leaves remain green.

Green forever.

Bare Trees on Sierra Nevada

So that pretty much summed up the point in going to the bother of travelling to Sierra Nevada. Because we certainly didn’t do it for the snow.

As you can see, the mountaintops were as bare, as they say here, as a bald man’s pate.

Valley Sierra Nevada

I had been feeling quite distressed because, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, we had been unable to dig up any winter gear. I was expecting to endow the African vendors up on the mountains with a small fortune investing in hats, scarves and mitts from them.

Corner of Pradollano Sierra Nevada Granada

Instead, the only thing I purchased was a set of sunglasses. Very fortuitous, as it just so happened that I had forgotten mine at home. However, the friendly African merchant was on the verge of setting up an ice cream stand, so so much for that.

Telephone Sierra Nevada

Now, we really don’t know what in the world this was! But it looked so forlorn there, as well as useless, my son tried to hang it up but it kept falling down again. So we gave up on it.

Pradollano Sierra Nevada Granada 2

Truth is, Pradollano is actually quite a lovely, quaint and Swiss-like village. Its only problem is that (from my point of view, of course) it’s too cold! Most of the time, that is.

Although perhaps not this year.

Pradollano Sierra Nevada Granada

In order to find a little bit of the powdery white stuff, we had to journey up to the ski slopes, where artificial snow machines kept the ground nicely padded.

Ski Slopes at Sierra Nevada
Skiing at Sierra Nevada

And my kids could finally throw a few snowballs.

Throwing Snowballs at Sierra Nevada

Down in the village, we roasted ourselves in the sun a bit. We engaged in my favourite activity, people-watching, and observed that most were wearing T-shirts rather than anoraks.

Footpath Sierra Nevada Granada

And we also noticed that any little vestige of snow that happy skiers proudly brought down with them from the slopes, promptly formed puddles on the ground without any further ado.

Blossoms on a Tree Sierra Nevada Granada

Now, do these flowers in bloom look like something you would expect to see at the beginning of January at a ski resort, or what?

Mountain Sierra Nevada

So, I fear that, unlike in our previous journey to the mountains of Sierra Nevada a few years back, my youngest son was unable to learn the delicate art of forming snow angels. He had no experience of slipping and sliding on wet and icy mounds or trying to learn to get his “snow feet” under him.

I guess all these experiences will just have to wait till another year.

Sierra Nevada Granada 2

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Sierra Nevada, Granada

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.

Sierra Nevada Mountainside

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.

Sierra Nevada PradollanoWell, 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.

Sierra Nevada

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.

Sierra Nevada Tracks in the Snow

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!

Sierra Nevada Bare Mountaintop

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.

Sierra Nevada Rocks in the Snow

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.

Sierra Nevada View From Pradollano Resort

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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Foray Into Black and White

Chillar River, Río Chillar

Right now that it’s raining and raining and raining, seems a nice moment to remember bright, sunny days and hot excursions to the countryside and the mountains. Not that I have anything against the rain but quite the contrary, I LOVE rain. Which is why I could never live in a desert.

Waterfall Chillar River

However, the rain does make fun excursions and hiking hard. So now is the moment to curl up under the quilt and nostalgically relive old photos of fun times from the past – that is, this summer.

One of the places we visited this summer is the CHILLAR RIVER near Nerja, in the south of Spain.

Bridge Over Chillar River

Lots of people go there, it’s quite a popular spot with both locals and foreign tourists. Well foreign tourists who don’t mind a little bit of roughing it out in the country, that is. No relaxing and romantic joyrides in horse-drawn carriages here!

Entrance to Bridge Over Rio ChillarIf you have a car, you are really in luck! You can drive right out to the beginning of the trail and save your energy for enjoying the beauty of the area.

And if you don’t have a car, then cry!

Okay, then after you’ve had a good cry, you can still be glad that this is one route you don’t have to miss just because, unlike about 90% of the population, you are not fortunate enough to own a vehicle of your very own. You can still go there by foot.

Which is what we did.

Banks of the River Chillar

Either way, the way to arrive, is:

From the town of Nerja, walk towards the river. The river is at the entrance to Nerja if you are arriving from Malaga. It is very close to the bus stop, so even if you must use your little legs, they won’t get very tired.

If you are lucky enough to count on the services of your very own car, please do give me a call, and give us a lift the next time we go out there to the Chillar River!

Although the very most fortunate among us could probably hitch a ride with one of these horses!

Horse 1 River ChillarOkay, on a more serious note, if you arrive by car you can also go down to the dirt road that follows along the river, on the Nerja side.

Either way, all you have to do is go up this dirt road. It’s very clear and straightforward, no danger of getting lost. The road winds along the river all the way to the top. By car it’s maybe 15 minutes. But if you’ve got to patter patter it all the way, it takes about an hour.

You will know that you have arrived when you reach a very large clearing where, chances are, a ton of cars are already parked. Here you must get out of your comfy vehicle and start fording the river. Fording the river is lots of fun and the only way to walk along it, so I thoroughly recommend that you come with water shoes. Plastic open sandals, that still wrap around the foot and therefore don’t fall off, are ideal.

Road Along the River Chillar

Now all you have to do is go up the river and enjoy the scenery.

An Archway by the River Chillar

Along the way you might encounter a variety of mysterious tunnels and archways.

Tunnel by the Chillar River

This, on the other hand, is actually a garden on someone’s property, though it might be hard to believe or discern.

Garden Rio Chillar

The “parking lot” is actually nestled within the confines of what was once a lofty and powdery white marble quarry, although I believe it is no longer in use as such. At any rate, you can see the very high mountains of powdered alabaster soaring overhead and engulfing the entire clearing with its bright shadows.

Marble Quarry Chillar River

These quaint steps carved into the stone lead to a tiny shed, I have no idea what this shed is used for or what it is.

Carved Steps by the River Chillar

And now, at very long last (or at least you can say at very long last if you arrived by foot, of course if you drove your vehicle up to this point, it would have been nothing but a short breeze for you) we reach the entrance to the actual river itself, the entrance to the Chillar River.

Entrance to the Chillar River

Clearing Rio Chillar

Following the Chillar River

This, I believe, is or once was some sort of rustic hydroelectric power plant, although it’s very small. Perhaps a water mill would be a more appropriate name. At any rate, we didn’t climb up to have a good look.

Electric Plant Chillar River

Archway Over the River

Yet another mysterious tunnel. My son actually went in there, he’s a little mite!

Secret Tunnel in the Chillar River

Clear Waters in the Chillar River

Here you can see that the water is so crystalline clear (but I wouldn’t drink from it!) that it looks like a spotless white immaculate path. But actually, all that is water underfoot.

More Chillar River

When you reach this gorge it’s a magical moment: because it’s the moment when…… your son’s sandals break! Which was very opportune, however, as it was getting late.

Gorge Rio Chillar

Time to return home, as you can tell by the inexorably lengthening shadows in these last photos.

The Sunlight Through the Trees by the Chillar River