A chilled start to the day. We headed downstairs for breakfast, again not the only couple in the breakfast/lounge area. It was that kind of place, for couples to enjoy a break away in comfortably trendy/hip surroundings. Very “boutique”. Outside it was raining gently, and had been during the the night, and everything felt fresh and clear. As usual the doors and windows were open, letting in the clear morning air. We sat by one of the doors/windows, with a bonsai tree dressing up the opening, and after breakfast we spent a little bit of time writing our diaries. Outside there was the occasional passer-by. Very chilled. We packed up and checked out and by eleven o’clock we were ready to leave Tarifa.
Ness helped a British couple we had met in the car park. Our Spanish may not be fluent but it was lot more advanced that most tourists’ and even simple explanations, such as those given by the car park attendant, can be too much for those whose Spanish isn’t up to it.
Soon after leaving Tarifa and climbing the cliffs along the coast towards the east we entered thick grey mist and clouds. It was pretty dreary weather which did not improve for the rest of the day as we drove to Capileira, in the Alpujarras. We passed Algeciras, Gibraltar and then the long strip of touristic developments along the south coast. Mile after mile of built up areas, full of “resorts”, apartments, hotels, etc. Not much else to say about this. The cruise control was on and we whizzed by.
Finally, a long way after Malaga, the touristic development became less intensive, though still sprawling. The coast was rocky with steep descents down to the waterline and various inlets. Small towns and constructions of apartments clung to the rocks and spread wherever there was a bit of space. In a way this stretch reminded us of the Italian coast around Genoa, especially as the main road we were following stayed high above the coast and we crossed many viaducts and tunnels in the rocks. The weather stayed overcast, grey, wet and dull. To our left were the mountains of the interior but they remained mostly hidden from view by the low clouds. We stopped to refuel at some point along the coast and swapped driving.
After following the coastal road for a little longer we turned off, north, inland, around Motril. At first, and for a long stretch, the road was smooth, modern and wide, but further inland it stopped – the rest of the modern road was still in construction – and we were back on the older road as it climbed into the hills and mountains. The countryside around here was empty and visibility was poor, so we didn’t get grand views of the Sierra Nevada as we headed towards the mountains. The sat nav showed the roads ahead beginning to curve more and more, especially beyond Orgíva, a rather scruffy town in the low hills. Beyond Orgíva the roads twisted more and the surroundings were more hilly and mountainous. With the low clouds and thick mist it made for a rather mysterious, atmospheric, erm… well, it was. We stopped at a cave and hut for picture and swapped driving again.
Around four o’clock we reached a roadside café which looked appealling and made a stop for lunch. Inside it was a traditional Spanish inn, with dark wood and a long counter, and a rather bemused looking barkeep. Outside signs had proclaimed “we speak …” in at least ten different languages, but don’t believe it! The menu was full of typical Alpujarran cooking, i.e. meat and potatoes and cheese, hearty mountain fare. We ordered longaniza (delicious fried sausage), patates a lo pobre (potatoes with onions and peppers) and mejillones a la Gallega. I had no idea but we looked it up … mussels, great for me, not so good for Ness. The dishes were enormous. We had the first two and hoped that he had forgotten about the mejillones but then he turned with a large oval serving dish full of mussels, shelled and in a rich tomato sauce. Ness helped me to make a decent dent in the massive dish. We have never eaten so many mussels in one sitting, but they were very tasty, in a delicious sauce.
We continued to head further into the mountains, passing first through Pampaneira, which looked very “typical” and had lots of tourism – restaurants, shops, apartments, etc. It looked very, erm, typical. In the thick cloud we couldn’t really get a feeling for our surroundings, but we guessed that by now we were well into the lower hills of the Sierra Nevada. We followed the twisting winding road and reached the small village of Capileira a little later. It felt like our trip up to Darjeeling, driving up to a place in the clouds. These actually were clouds, not just mist. We drove through the main street of the village as it curved its way up, with the whitewashed houses on either side, stacked up along the hillside. Our hotel, the Finca Los Llanos, was at the top of the village and had a great rustic mountain atmosphere, even if it did seem to be set up to welcome large groups, including Thomson/TUI as a poster in the reception announced. The lady at reception was English. We had a room at the front, with great views over the village and the valley below, and swapped it for an even better one on the next floor up. At the moment though the view was mostly of thick dense cloud and not much else! We had parked the Merc just by the gates on a steep slope and nearby you could hear the running water coursing through the open channels (acequias).
We sauntered into the village for a look around. There were many restaurants, all advertising typical cuisine and asados. From Artesania Tarek I bought a fine walking stick with a big knob at the top. We wandered through the narrow little streets of the village, which was like a wonderful little maze. We found a small plaza, Plaza del …, with a nice bar at the top, Bar El Tilo (named after the tree in front of the building) and stopped for a drink. The clouds pervaded the whole atmosphere of the town and as it gradually got darker the atmosphere became “gloomier” (in a nice sense). We spotted the odd group of hikers with their Berghaus gear, or more ordinary turistas as they sauntered around. After a drink here we carried on mooching and later stopped at another bar, this one more for the locals and with mostly just standing room, and we had a glass of the local tipple, costa, which rather tastes like some kind of light watered-down version of sherry. We got free tapas, as is the traditional custom, of bread and salami – or maybe we inadvertently helped ourselves to someone else’s by mistake. We found a third bar on the main street, and this one was more comfortable for lingering and we stayed here for a long while, drinking more costas and getting very good free tapas all night. At the end we had to climb the main street back up to our hotel, feeling very comfortable and satisfied, salud!