In 1998:
Route Map
01 Extremadura
02 Cabo de Gata
03 Mallorca
04 Ronda
05 Madrid

In 1999:
06 Sevilla
07 Mojácar
08 Towards Norway

Rocinante the Tiger:
On the Road
An accident

And some more:
The Short Story
Bars in Andalusía
Nerja and Axarquía
Photo Gallery
The road home 2001

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Nerja and Axarquia

During our six months stay we spent most of our days in Nerja or in the surrounding area. Most of the distance we have covered on the Tiger has been driving in the valleys and hills of Andalusia, more specific in the region enclosed in a square made up by the towns of Malaga, Antequera, Motril and Granada, in the region of Axarquia.

Beach in NerjaThe Axarquia region

This region consists of hills and valleys dotted with small villages and a network of excellent roads. When I say excellent, I mean roads created for the Tiger, narrow with lots of curves and often gravel or semi gravel. Semi gravel means that once upon a time they were covered completely with asphalt, but this was a very long time ago. The region of Axarquia is bordered to the east and north east by the mountain chain called Sierra de Almijarra. There is only one main road crossing over to the high plains, leading from Velez-Malaga to Alhama de Granada. Between this road and Almunecar it is impossible to cross in a normal manner. If a road or path exist it's outside our field of knowledge.

Farmer in Frigilliana If you stop in the center of any of the villages in the region, the talking between the locals fades away, and slowly they come over to take the bike in closer view, and then we have a conversation going. Just like that. People here are very open and communicative, which is helpful to us when trying to improve our Spanish.

Most nice 'vueltas' or round trips starts in Velez-Malaga. From here a network of roads go in every direction. You can take the back roads directly to Antequera, Alhama de Granada and onwards to Granada or Loja, or to Malaga. Because of the huge number of roads that does not show up on any map, you can drive for weeks crisscrossing the region and hardly ride along the same road twice. The best map for this region is the 'Mapa Topografico de la Axarquia(Malaga)', purchasable from Libreria Idiomas in the center of Nerja and in any big libreria(bookshop) in Malaga, I would think.
 The area close to Nerja is a good place to start exploring the region. Go straight north to Frigilliana, a small village seven kilometers into the sierra. The village is very popular with tourists, coming in from the coast every day. But it has kept it's charm and a few steps away from the main square and tourist traps the streets seems untouched by the outer world. In the hills to the north-east of the village lies an old castle were you can view the whole village and see all the way down to Nerja. We went up there when we got married and had our wedding pictures taken.

If you ride a dirt bike you have got an excellent route to drive from Frigilliana. This road, or path takes you into the mountains north-east of the village Frigilliana in a long curve that ends up in Competa, another white washed village. Take the road north from Frigilliana towards Torrox for a couple of kilometers and turn right. You might take the wrong turn and maybe have to turn back and try again, but that's exploring, isn't it. We tried it two-up on the Tiger, guided by a Yamaha XT600 and a Suzuki DR600, two-up on the XT as well but single handed on the DR. This was one of my first off road experiences on the Tiger and I was sweating. The road is no more than a construction road, full of obstacles and damaged after bad weather. We passed an abandoned village, rumored to have been wiped out completely during the aftermath of the civil war, and a hotel, abandoned after it proved to draw zero visitors. It took us two hours to drive the 30 km and I was exhausted when we arrived in Competa. I concluded that the size of Rocinante combined with my inexperience off road called for a halt in off road driving. With a pure dirt bike, the road is a dream with no traffic and all kinds of challenges.

You can also drive the main road from Frigilliana to Torrox and then onwards to Competa. The scenery is excellent and it's hard to believe that you are still this close to the coast. Don't forget to stop in Torrox. This village consist of one inland part, Torrox Pueblo, and one coastal part, Torrox Costa. The latter is just another ugly high rise holiday complex along Costa del Turismo. The former is the opposite. Ride through the narrow streets, surrounded by flower decorated house fronts, and stop for a cafe con leche and a tapa in the main plaza. If you drive a bike, or if you just want a treat, visit Antonio and Nieves in their hole in the wall tapa bar and get excellent service and tapas.

Dog guarding horse You can now choose between heading for the coast or continue to Competa. The latter will bring you further inland and reveal more and more valleys and hills. In Competa you can climb the steep streets with the bike and people will smile and welcome you as a guest. Go find a bar for another tapa somewhere in the back streets.

If this is your first trip on the bike that you have hired or bought, the sensible thing would be to turn south-west and head for Algarrobo Pueblo and further to Algarobo Costa. This village reminds me of Torrox, the inland part is nice and untouched, while the coastal part is the same ugly high rise complex as Torrox Costa.

If you head for the coast and back to Nerja, you will have covered no more than 70 km which could be a good starting distance.

In between the area you now have circled, there is hundreds of gravel roads leading to farm houses and holiday homes. They are unsigned, crisscross in every direction and may lead you down to a river bed or up to a villa. But it does not really matter. The scenery is excellent and you can't get completely lost. Sooner or later you will meet one of the main roads that will take you safely to a village on your map.

From Competa to Comares

Bikes and Paketes (or passengers!) You can take this road through Vinuela and onwards to Periana or Alhama, south to Velez, south-west to Comares or north-west to Rio Gordo or Colmenar. With other words, once you come to Vinuela the options are many. Especially the last part of the trip to Vinuela is magnificent. You will see the lake down to your right, Comares straight ahead and Periana up to the right. It is completely up to you, but lets take the trip to Comares first.

This village is well known among tourists and quite a few foreigners have settled making the community multinational. The location is fabulous. Among all the villages we have seen this is the highest, most untouchable little collection of houses in the area. I remember well the first time Carnival we saw the place. We were coming down from Periana, driving towards Velez and saw this white hilltop high up in the mountain to our right. We stopped and looked at it in silence and agreed that it was an amazing sight. We decided to go visit it, but it had to be later. This time it was already late in the day and we were on our way home.

Now, this is typical for us. We didn't know at the time what the village was called and forgot to ask when in Nerja. Anyone local confronted with this question would have revealed the name of the place. Every time we drove in the valley north of Velez we could see the white houses up there on the hilltop, not knowing where it was.

Beach riding Finally we made the decision to find the road that led up there. If we had known the name of the place a look at the map would have been enough. But for the sake of exploring it was better to be in the dark and guess which road to take. We ended up in Benamargosa on our first try, passing Comares on two sides, but not reaching the road up.

Finally someone told us the name of the village and we headed for it, driving from Malaga after a service on the bike. We took the old road towards Colmenar which takes a couple of 360º turns, then turned off this road and came straight to Comares from the west. Suddenly we realized that we had driven here before, namely the first day the bike was on the road. That day we didn't even have a map and had been driving randomly in the area. We took to the left in a junction were last time we had turned right, and after five hundred meter we were in Comares. We had been very close.

Comares The town was amazing, but not so much the first impression when we drove in. Most of the buildings hanging over the cliffs on the south side were in bad need of restoration or were being restored. When we came to the main plaza there was a funeral in it's final stage. People were scattered over the plaza talking and smoking. Rocinante stopped the talking for a while and we were met with smiles and nods. From one side of the plaza the terrain dived steep down and we could see all the way to Velez. We parked the bike and walked in the narrow streets for an hour. From the houses we sometimes heard spanish and sometimes english tongue. It was obviously lots of foreigners here. At the other end of the town is the church yard. It's quite a sight, hanging over the mountain side with open air on three sides. The views are even more breathtaking her, now we could see not only to Velez but far north and east into the mountains.

San Isidro festival

This festival is the biggest happening in Nerja during the year. The festival is officially just one day, the 15th of May, but the party starts the night before and stops on the morning of the 16th. It is a great party and well worth experiencing if you have the opportunity.  San Isidro

We were told the great party would be on the night before the 15th, so we dressed up and danced through the night with our spanish friends. It was amazing to see so many bars and stands moved up to the local caves. A huge area is used for the purpose and everyone is there. And still, the only overly drunk people we saw was the tourist.

The 15th we had slight hangovers and regretted this pretty soon. San Isidro To us this day seemed even more lively, as every living soul in town gathered for the trip they were going to do from Nerja town center to the caves, a three km walk. The parade consisted off all kinds of vehicles and people in every dress imaginable, but with most people dressed according to the San Isidro tradition. This year there was a protest going on from the owners of the few hundred horses that were supposed to participate. The police had decided that the horses were not allowed to stay the all day up by the caves, explaining this with the mess they made. This made the horsemen hold back their animals with the result that not one single horse participated in the parade. Every local we talked to said that because of the protest, everything was very quiet this year. We found it terrific. Imagine what it must be like in a normal year.
San Isidro
So we followed the parade, where the peasant San Isidro came in front. San Isidro was a farmer once upon a time who, according to the legend, left his fields on a Sunday to visit church, then came back and found that the work was done by divine powers. This was enough for the locals who dedicated a Fiesta to his name.

San Isidro The whole day passed with Flamenco shows from the local schools and us studying the fantastic lively crowd. Everyone, from the new born baby to the grand mother was dressed up and everyone seemed to have a time of their life. The flamenco dancers were from 7-8 years and up to 40's. They represented several schools in the area and like in every other sport there are talents and greater talents. But all in all it was a marvelous spectacle.

San Isidro As always, the level of noise was outstanding, in every corner in the area a different song was trying to overcome the noise from the others. The result was complete chaos in sound. This doesn't bother anyone but traveling northern europeans who live a silent life. So we ignored it and shouted to each other and everyone else, just like the locals did.

The next day the town of Nerja is like a ghost town, even the police seemed to be resting. I asked one of the locals what the criminal elements did on a night and day when the town is almost completely empty. The answer was that even they wanted to participate, so there was no real danger.

Every spanish city or village has numerous days during the year when there is a reason for dressing up. On excuse is the carnival, another is the 'dia de los tres reyes'. Anytime you visit the town there's something around the corner. It seemed to me that the people in this town were simply surviving between each fiesta, looking impatiently forward to the next. We only experienced a few, but rumors have it that there's a long lasting fiesta in the autumn as well. Carnival

Nerja is still a reasonably quiet tourist town. It seemed to me to be the last frontier along costa del Plastico, which stretches from Marbella to Nerja. The first meeting with the coast can ruin anybody's day. The drive from Malaga airport to Nerja goes along one of the ugliest stretches of the Spanish coast(my very personal opinion!). The thing you don't see is the amazing landscape in the interior. This is the Bente in Nerja place to go visit on excursions when on a holiday down here. But Nerja is still fairly untouched by the high-rise hotel complexes and is still a nice little town.

Nerja offer splendid lookouts over the Mediterranean. The town rests on a cliff that dives straight into the ocean, only split up by the numerous beaches along the coast.
During the months we stayed we established our favorite bars and restaurants. We spent a lot of time in the bar La Cabana, where Isabel and Antonio served us Tortilla Espanola and beer. This was the place to watch Real Madrid win the Champions League in football. Antonio and his son went ballistic together with the rest of Nerja. Five minutes after the closing of the match, the streets were lined up with parading cars, flags waving, horns sounding and scooters flying in every direction.

Dia de los tres reyes

 Now it's november, it's a cold and snowy day in Norway and I'm writing the last few words for this homepage(at least for now). Spain is 6 weeks away. We're going down in January to spend five more weeks on Rocinante. I can't wait but time passes slowly. For anyone who consider doing what we did; Do it! and please contact us for information(while in Spain, there might be quite some delay in the feedback).

Have a nice trip!
Porsgrunn November 1998


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