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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Long trip 2 Cabo de Gata

We stayed home after the Extremadura trip just long enough to clean up, meet some friends and prepare the next trip. This time we decided to go first to the national park of Cabo de Gata, into los Alpujarras, across Sierra Nevada and to Granada and the famous Alhambra. The trip lasted four days.

Sierra Nevada

Along Costa Del Plastico

We started Monday the 31 of March. The first part of the trip was transport only, going along the Costa del Plastico from Motril to Almeria. The nickname is due to the enormous areas of vegetable and fruit growing land which has been covered with plastic as greenhouses. Some places you cannot see anything but plastic in all directions. In the middle of this synthetic world we saw holiday villages. I wondered if the plastic houses was there when the english and germans invested in this area. To us it seemed incredibly ugly, and we passed it as fast as possible.

After a quick stop in Almeria, the capital of this fruit growing region, we headed for the park. First stop was the park information center to buy maps. Due to our ever so excellent timing, the offices had siesta. Muy bien, we drove to San Jose on the east side of the sierra to find a hotel for the night and decided to return in the morning. Unfortunately, tourism arrives everywhere in Spain where there is water and sun. San Jose looked like one big holiday home. In the Lonely Planet guide book we found a recommended hostel just outside of town, on a dirt road to the east and down to a beach called Cala Higuera. In this edition of LP, they reported that the hostel had no name or telephone but had a very nice owner and nice rooms. They where right about the owner and the rooms, but now it also had a name and telephone number which will entered in the next edition. The building was situated on a rocky coast a few meters from the beach, and shaped like a semicircle with each room facing the ocean. The rooms had big double doors that when opened left the whole room open air. The first night was spend outside the room counting stars and sipping beer. We were the only guests, the season started a week later with easter. Its a great place to stay if you like the sound of wind and the sea hitting the beach. We loved it there.
Hostel at Cabo De Gata

Exploring Cabo de Gata

Day two was 'explore Cabo de Gata' day. We packed the top box very light, dressed light and headed towards the information center to finally get a map. This time they were open and a very helpful young man explained where we could go on the bike and where not. I had some problems in keeping my attention due to a very hard meeting with the father of all mosquitos. We had been driving that morning with the visors open, talking about this and that when in about 80-90km/h something hit me very hard next to my left eye. I pulled over, got my helmet off and squeezed out as much poison I could.

I have several times confirmed that a bee or whatever poisonous insect you meet, if he see you coming and realize there's no way out of here, he will turn his ass and nail towards you and say 'I will not go cheap'. Then, if he is lucky and finds a soft spot, he'll go down with a reassuring smile on his face, well aware that he just filled you up with poison and that he will be remembered much longer than his closest friends. I'm writing this a week after it happened and the wound hasn't healed yet. The third morning I had problems opening my eye. Visor down from now on.
Cabo de Gata - The rugged coast
Bente had no problems with her concentration, and got the information we needed for the day. With an excellent map, we headed south along the coast towards the Salinas, a set of salt lakes where flamingos gather. This was suppose to be a spectacle but was not. When we got there we saw some flamingos about a light year away, and was confined to stay inside a bunker with a hole to watch them, if we could see the dotted things far far away. We said adios and headed further south towards the Faro - the lighthouse. After a short stop we drove the coast road as far as we could get before it was closed for anything with an engine. We wouldn't upset the locals, so we turned. Just before the road ends we found a small deserted beach where we spent an hour swimming and sunbathing.

We headed back the way we came, past the Salinas with the distant flamingos, and into the back roads once again. This time we drove through one deserted little town after the other, among them El Barranquete and Los Albaricoques. Deserted because it was working hours and the people worked in the mining industry in the area. We soon passed the last stretch of paved road and was once again on dirt roads. The road led us past some old abandoned gold mines and into the mountains. The quality of the road decreased every kilometer and soon we were driving on dirt tracks, leading past still more deserted mines. This time I was more experienced in driving the Tiger on dirt roads and traveled with a light top box, and even though the path was full of rocks and holes we weren't even close to dropping the bike, very proud grin on the driver's face.

We finally came down to Rodalquilar, on the south side of the sierra. This seemed to be a converted town, towards tourism of course. On the local bar the language was german. We drank up and hit the road again, this time straight back to the hostel. The way back was another very windy drive in Spain, there's a lot of wind at this time of the year.

All in all, we were a little disappointed with Cabo de Gata. We had expected more wild nature and deserted areas. Discussing it afterwards, we concluded that we had build up too much expectance in advance. After all, we are tourists like everyone else who are not living there, and we have to admit that other people too want to see the same as us.

Crossing Sierra Nevada

The next day we decided for a route that would take us through Los Alpujarras, the south east part of Sierra Nevada, then across the sierra over Punto de la Ragua and continue to Granada for the night. We left around 10 am and drove north to Nijar, a ceramic pottery town. After a quick coffee, we scanned the shops for something small and easy to carry, and preferable pretty too. We found nothing, and left. This may sound like there wasn't much to see, which there probably is if you spend some time. But we wanted to do some driving and headed south to the autopista, west back to Almeria and up to Benahadux, where we took off the main road and drove into the Alpujarras. There is a town called Mini-Hollywod further north, an artificial town used for spaghetti western films like The Good, the Bad and the Evil. We weren't too interested in this, but understood why the area was used. It was like driving into a western movie set, with wild and dry nature stretching in every direction.

The Alpujarras opened to us as a grand view as we went further into this part of Sierra Nevada, very beautiful and big, with lots of small villages hanging on to the mountain side or hilltop. The road quality varied from excellent to 'good enough'. All the sierra roads are turns and curves which make you feel you must soon be back where you started. The Tiger is excellent on this kind of roads.

Crossing Sierra Nevada

Past Bayarcal the road started climbing upwards towards the pass. We drove along a deep ravine where you can see the main road on the other side running parallel. That's the road we finally were going to join and we looked forward to it. It looked wider and straighter than the one we were on which were turning and churning so I hardly had time to watch the landscape. This is fun for a while, but a change is good too. After what seemed forever, we finally joined it and the climbing started for real. Higher and higher, colder and colder. We had not brought clothes for driving in 3-4º Celsius, and when we finally reached the pass at 2000m above the sea, we were fairly cold and my hands hurt.

Well, nothing to do about it than to continue, and after a short drive what seemed like the rest of Spain opened for us. The land north of the sierra is very flat and we felt that we could see all the way to Norway. It was a beautiful sight and worth the freezing. Going downhill again, the temperature slowly came back up to 16-17º and at the same time a perfect castle revealed itself in a distance, in the town of Calahorra. The castle sticks out from everything very clear because it's located on a hilltop in a otherwise very flat land. It has belonged to the same family since it was built in the 16 century as a retreat house for some guy with a lot of pesetas. Today it's in desperate need of attention, since there has been no restoration for 400 years. Anyway, it was very impressive, and must have been a nice little holiday cottage for a hard working 16 century businessmann(or whatever he was). We drove up to the castle, once again doing off road driving to see an ancient building. The track up there was in as bad or worse condition than the road that caused the dropping of the bike on our last trip. This time I had found the right combination of using the rear brakes and the clutch and throttle, and with a top loaded Tiger we climbed up and down with no problems. We took the guided tour at the castle and were on the road again within the hour.

Las Alpujarras

Next stop was Guadix, the cave city. A lot of people still live in caves which have been modernized to have regular house fronts, electrically powered with water and every little thing you find in a modern home. It's strange to stand on top of a small hill and see a forest of chimneys coming up from the ground, knowing that we're actually standing on someone's house. A family invited us inside to have a look. Inside they had five rooms, small, low and very dark, but at the same time cool and cosy, just like a regular home. We took some pictures, and paid a little for the gesture before we said good-bye with the promise to send copies of the photos.

Beautiful Granada

Next stop was Granada for the night. We came into the town from the east side taking a road that carried us over the top of the town, presenting great views of the Alhambra and the snow covered Sierra Nevada. We stopped for a drink in Albaicin, the old jewish quarter of the town. This part of the town looked untouched by modernization. The chaotic electrical cabling is the only proof of the 20 century. And the cars, wherever there's a wide enough street for a car to pass, they do. There are no pedestrian streets only. After taking the wrong turns a couple of times, we found Plaza de la Trinidad, while we were looking for Plaza Nueva. We were searching for hotels, and on Plaza Trinidad we found hostel Zurita, with nice rooms and a parking house just up the street. We unloaded the bike and I took it to the parking house after directions from the receptionist. Even though my spanish is getting better, I must have missed something crucial, because I was suddenly lost in a tangle of one-way streets. Or that is to say, I did not think I was lost, so why bother ask, just do a right turn, and then a left turn..., caught in a dead end with an unloading truck behind me. When I finally found the parking house and returned to the hotel, I smiled and told the receptionist that I had been on my own little Granada expedition. This amused Bente a lot, since she normally is the lousy navigator.
We were right in the middle of the shopping center, and in the afternoon we strolled the narrow streets with shops and venders everywhere. After a shower and dressing up, which meant trying to get rid of the worst dust and dirt from the only set of pants we had, we walked over to plaza Nueva to test the nightlife. Lonely Planet said this was a good place to start as the bars fill up early in the evening. This was right, and along the street of Elvira close to the plaza we found lots of nice bars. We wanted to eat something as well, and this came out very cheap. Lots of bars in this town give you a small tapa for each drink you buy. So after 4 drinks each, small beers or small glasses of wine, we where stuffed and happy. This is definitely the way to go if you're a student in this town. The whole eating process cost us somewhere around 800 pts, or 6 USD, for the both of us, and as a bonus we got a little drunk too.

Another goal for the night was a jazz/flamenco club recommended in LP. This club is hidden in a back street to calle Elvira. After passing it twice we found it with the help from the neighbour bar. It was now 1130 in the night and the music was scheduled to start an hour later. The club was cave like and had a mixed clientele of students, music lovers and hashish smokers. The couple behind the bar looked like they were the suppliers of the hashish and had tasted every piece they passed on. The bar woman, in her early forties, with tight and short skirt that did not compliment her, was like a stoned robot who did not see our signals even when she wiped the corner of our table. I said corner of the table, cause that was exactly what she was doing, just sleep walking close to  the table while keeping her arm stretched. Half an hour after midnight the show did not start, as we had expected. We relaxed, shared a scotch and sucked in the atmosphere. Another hour later a guy came rushing in carrying a guitar, stepped straight up on the small podium and started to play flamenco guitar. This was my first live experience with this music while Bente had seen it once before. In our inexperience he sounded very good, and this kind of music is very passionate and intimate. We enjoyed it. After an hour we returned to the hotel, slightly intoxicated, from alcohol only, very tired and very satisfied with the day.

Alhambra de Granada

The next and last day was dedicated to the center of the town and Alhambra. We strolled the streets once again and liked the town more and more. After an expensive breakfast on one of the many plazas, we walked for a couple of hours in the many shopping streets. The walk resulted in a new pair of pants for me, the one that has detachable legs so you can convert them to shorts. Very good for minimum luggage motorcycle travel, was my idea. Sadly enough, they proved to be slightly to small to be comfortable on the bike, but still very good for every day use. We visited small shops where they made guitars, walked along the many handicraft shops and listened to musicians in the plazas. The whole atmosphere of this town captured us and later we agreed that this became our favourite town in Spain.

The walk took us finally up to Alhambra. This is one of Spain's greatest national monuments. A huge area inside walls consists of up to one thousand year old buildings and palaces, mainly from the moorish period. We walked the steep hill up to the western gate and entered after being curious to why there wasn't anyone selling tickets. When we tried to enter the Alcazaba, we were told to go up to the Generalife on the eastern side of this great complex to buy the tickets. With no map of the area we set off across the complex and was sent back by the next ticket post. After some time we found the ticket office in the south-east corner of the complex.

Now we were able to explore the area with no restrictions, and impressive it was. Huge gardens, still very well kept with cypresses up to 20-30 meters tall, fountains and labyrinths, and palaces of unbelievable detailed carvings. Inside the palaces we found the most impressive building, the old moorish palace with every inch of stone carved out carefully and beautiful restored. Hordes of tourists walked the complex in this time of the day, midday to five-six in the afternoon. Next time we'll go in the late afternoon, with the best light for photographing and fewer people.
Alhambra de Granada - details
After more than three hours inside Alhambra we were exhausted , partly because we had been walking in our boots which was the only set of shoes we brought with us on the trip. Our feet hurt and now we were ready to drive the last 110km back home to Nerja.

We got lost in the city streets for the second time, which is a very warm experience when you're dressed for highway riding, but finally we hit the road southwards to Puerto del Suspiro del Moro. We took of the main road to drive the narrower back road down to Almunecar. This road carries you over flat highland for a while before diving down towards the ocean. The last part of the road goes trough a very cruel and arid mountain landscape, that made my father express after driving there once; 'Grand Canyon is nothing, and I've been there too'. Well, we haven't, so we cannot dispute that, but impressive it is. We came down just before sunset, with a mist in the air and a low sun, which made the mountains look mystic and even more unforgiving.

When we came to the last pass, we could see the ocean ahead. It did not look far, but the road took us in and out of valleys and ravines as we slowly declined. The distance driven from the top was 40km, while in a direct line it was probably not more than 12-15km.

After Almunecar, we drove straight home where we fell asleep faster than we could say 'good night'. Another trip was over, another set of films to be made into dias and sorted.
Rocinante again
We were very satisfied with this trip also, even though Cabo de Gata was a little disappointing, it was worth the visit. The Alpujarras, crossing Sierra Nevada, Guadix with the caves and finally Granada were great highlights.

Now it was time for the 5000km service on the Tiger. On this service I also lowered the bike on the front end by 15mm, stiffened up the back suspension and ordered heavy duty springs for the forks. The heavy duty springs has not arrived yet, but the other two changes made the bike much more controllable in highway driving and the extreme diving of the front when breaking is now reduced. I might lower it even more.

Next trip is not decided yet. It is now easter, with lots of tourists everywhere, Bente is in bed with a stomach infection and I'm looking at maps.

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