Tue Jul 31 2007: Sierra Nevada

Got out of Ronda pretty late this morning: 10:30AM. Neda has her new mesh suit so she should be okay with the heat now. Today was all about twisty roads. We went north into the mountains, stopping through Antequera for groceries along the way in the morning.

Embalse de Vinuela: a dam on the other side

Leaving Ronda to Antequera

This was crazy, the road was closed somewhere between Antequera and Malaga, so we took a detour on a tiny, twisty road - quite nice really. There was a mini-Laguna Seca-type blind corkscrew in the road without any signage, and this truck took the hill too fast and overturned! Thankfully a motorist flashed his lights at us before the turn or we might have ended up like this as well!

After loading up on water and stuff for a picnic, we headed down into the coast towards Nerja, bypassing the popular tourist city of Málaga. There's a fabulous coastal road between Nerja and Motril that all the local motorcyclists rave about, so we had to try it. We missed it the first time because the GPS routed us on the Autovia, so we actually did it twice: backwards and forwards! The first time round was a scoping run and we noticed a nice beach, which we stopped at the second time round. There was a pretty serious hike down the hill and once we got to the beach we regretted not bringing our flip-flops as the sand was hot! And we didn't bring a beach umbrella either, so we got burnt just a little... Next time, we'll find a way to fit that beach umbrella on the bike.

Coast just outside of Málaga

Parked the bikes at the edge of the cliff and climbed down to the beach below

Jellyfish! AHHHH!

Picnic on the beach

Had a picnic, had a dip: bit of public nudity getting into our bathing suits, but hey, we're European now... Jumping into the Mediteranean was so refreshing, except for the hundreds of jellyfish floating around the coast. There were people trying to bat the jellyfish away from them using their flipflops! There were just too many of them to actually swim. It was a bit later when it dawned on me that we were just a couple of hundred kms away from the northern coast of Africa!

Love this shot! Taking the highway from Motril up to the Sierra Nevada mountains

After lunch we headed up to the Sierra Nevada mountain range. There was an amazing uphill climb through tiny towns set against the side of the mountain. Nice, smooth, new pavement boasting 20-30 km/h roads, all 2nd and 3rd gear for over 200kms. We started late, so only got halfway through the Sierra Nevada. We were getting tired, so I pulled into the first hotel I saw and we asked for a room there. It was only a couple of hours later that I actually found out the name of the town: Bérchules.

Hotel Bérchules. This was actually taken the next morning

View from our room. The road below is the one we were on for over 200kms. The >180degree hairpin is typical for this road

I met Alejandro and Andrew from the hotel, and I got to know Andrew very well as I helped him troubleshoot the wireless Internet setup he had for hotel guests. It was kind of weird having my "old life" return back to me for a moment. That good deed earned me a free beer over dinner. Andrew was a bigwig TV producer for British television channel Sky One, when he decided the stress of the job wasn't worth it and he decided for a lifestyle change, opting to help out Alejandro with his hotel in the Andalucian mountains. He told me that the hills around the Sierra Nevada are quite popular for walking (British term for hiking), and that the most popular time is the Spring or Fall when it's not too hot. He showed pictures of the wintertime around the Sierras and the narrow roads are covered in snow a couple of feet deep! I can't imagine how they shovel the roads up there!

Me, Paul, Andrew and Neda.

Neda is reading an Andalucian book from the hotel library and Sammy, Alejandro's dog, is taking a late afternoon siesta

Lola, Alejandro's other dog, couldn't keep away from our food during dinner and had to tied to the table!

Over dinner outside in the patio, we met Paul, who is an old childhood friend of Andrew's. Paul is from Manchester and he visits Paul every year for his vacation away from England. It's funny, we've met so many Brits on this trip. The lack of a language barrier makes it a lot easier to connect. Stumbling on this hotel in the middle of nowhere, quite by happenstance, in the Sierra Nevada was actually one of the highlights of the trip, due to the people that we met and also the room that we got overlooking the mountains. We had to keep the terrace doors open because there wasn't any airconditioning, and I spent the last few minutes before falling asleep staring at the light of the full moon streaming into the room onto my pillow.

This was literally taken from my pillow pointing outside the terrace doors, which had to be kept open to allow the cool breeze into our room.
This is the last thing I saw before I fell asleep. Life doesn't get any better than this!

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