Tag Archive | country walks

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

What I Do On Weekends

My weekends are very varied, we have no “standard” weekend. However I don’t usually spend my Saturdays cleaning the house or pass the vacuum cleaner on weekend mornings and wake up hung-over neighbours. This past weekend, for example, we decided to go for a walk in the country.

Most of the day was spent listening to my youngest son complaining: “Aaayyy! My foot hurts!” “Aaayyy! I got some dirt on my leg!” “Aaayyy! I got a scratch!” “I’m tired!” “I can’t go there, there’s a bug there!” HE really needs a cure in the countryside!

My oldest son, on the other hand, is a real sport. I used to drag him out on hiking expeditions with friends while my youngest son played videogames in my ex’s home, hence my oldest is quite a bit hardened and tough.

Yesterday was really, really, really strange. We had a foggy and muggy day, very surreal and unusual for summertime.

It looks cold but really, it wasn’t. We were at around 30º (about 86º F.).

Here in southern Spain, unlike in the north we have 2 seasons: dry and rainy. Summer is supposed to be the dry season, so to see fog at this time of the year is something for the record books!

Very appropriate weather for a walk out in the country, nevertheless, and a perfect break from the usual searing temps and relentless sunshine of this period. We got lucky and even enjoyed a few raindrops! (Now I can          imagine any British friends out there shuddering, raindrops, lucky?!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the afternoon the sun returned, however, and we ran desperately for cover.