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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The seventh long trip to Mojácar and Almería

We stayed a few days in Nerja, recovering from the last trip and enjoying the company of friends. A sunstroke, of all things, gave me a trip to the local hospital and delayed the takeoff for the eastward trip we were going to make this time. On Tuesday, the week after we came back from Sevilla, we were on the road again.

Great views of Sierra Filabres

Through Sierra Alpujarras again

The weather was better this day. We made slow progress eastwards on the coastal road towards Almería. The road was familiar to us. It was the fourth or fifth time we passed the villages of Calahonda and Castell de Ferro. Traffic was low. All in all it was an excellent day.

In Adra we turned north after a quick lunch break. The road towards Berja was a pleasant surprise. It was wide and full of twisties. The asphalt was in perfect shape, and for the next sixteen kilometers I enjoyed this hidden treasure of a road.
A church on a cliff
North of Berja the road narrowed, but the views were fantastic. The Alpujarras showed off in the most fantastic colors I had seen, with the snow covered Sierra Nevada in the background. This area has always been one of Spain's poorest. The villages we passed were small and hidden away. We stopped for coffee in a village, but the bar owner wasn't anywhere in sight. An old lady said she didn't understand it, but there was nothing to do other then go on for a few more kilometers to the next village. The same thing happened at the first bar in Canjáyar, where we had stopped on our trip to Cabo de Gata last year. It was the wrong time of the day for a coffee, but in the end a man followed us to an open bar in a back alley. Coffee is served.

The aim for the day was Sorbas, a small village on the A370 north of Sierra Cabo de Gata. We turned north again just north of Almería and then eastwards toward Sorbas. We were back in the spaghetti western world. The nature changed from green and lush to dry and desert like. It was quite impressive. 'Welcome to Little Hollywood' said a sign. We just had to stop and have a look. A typical western town had been built in the middle of nowhere, as a stage for the many films created here. Now it was a tourist attraction, and they wanted to charge us a fortune to enter. We declined and drove on.

A strange bar in Sorbas

We arrived Sorbas after dark, 260 km  from Nerja. The cold had got to us now and we longed for a hot shower. After a glass of wine and a beer in a bar on the main plaza, we had directions for the only hostel nearby.

The hostel was a concrete block just outside town. It looked more like a sterile hospital than a hostel. The reception area was empty, I mean real empty. There was nothing on the walls and nobody in sight. The whole house was completely silent. It felt abandoned, even though there must have been thirty rooms. We went outside again. Across the A370 was a open bar with seven eight people in it. Bente stayed with the bike while I crossed the road to get information about the hostel.

What a view I entered the bar and a very strange clientele looked at me with suspicious eyes. Something was wrong. I couldn't put my finger on it at first, but then I realized it was silent. Complete silence. In a Spanish bar! Not even a television set was in sight, nor a radio or a gambling machine, nobody talked. Strange.

The seven or eight men still looked at me. One of them was shaking and twisting while he tried to get some meat down his throat. The others just sat there, empty faces, uninterested in me yet still curious.

A couple of minutes later the bartender showed up and I crossed over to him and asked if he knew who was running the hostel across the road. "It's full", was the answer. "Say what?". "It's full", he repeated without looking at me. It got silent again. I looked around me. Every eye was still on me. I thanked him for the information, with a unhappy sound to my voice, and left.

Bente didn't cheer my information, but we laughed at the strange scene. Although we were dead cold, there was nothing we felt we could do. Both had lost the interest in paying for a night at a hostel so inhospitable. We added more clothes and started off again in the direction of Mojácar Pueblo, a tourist village set on a hill a few kilometers from the coast. At ten pm we entered the village and the first sign was that of a hotel. They had cheap rooms available with indoor parking. We took it.
The lighthouse

Mojácar and the coast

The morning after our arrival we ate breakfast in a tapas bar next to the plaza, situated at the top of the village. We then set off for La Mesa Roldan, south  east of the village and inside the Cabo de Gata/Nijar national park. The road lead through the coastal Mojácar, a huge tourist town. We drove through as fast as we could, passed a huge cement plant and finally entered the wilderness. It was a good drive. The road twisted it's way along the coast before turning inland and finally to the coast again. We stopped at a lighthouse for a while. Situated on a cliff top it had amazing views over the sea to the south and the sierra to the north.

In La Mesa Roldan there was nothing much to see, except that the village had an impressing waterfront. We stayed just long enough to sip a café con leche before we headed north and back the way we came.

Fishmarked in Garrucha Mojácar la Costa was bypassed again and we headed for Garrucha. The town is famous for it's afternoon fish auction. While we waited for it we had an excellent fish dinner at one of the local restaurants. The auction started around five thirty. A speaker spoke way to fast for us to understand, but we were here only to enjoy the show. All kinds of different species from the sea changed hands. Swordfish were cut right before our eyes, and we considered bringing with us a sword as a souvenir, but found this too awkward and too stupid. Buckets of fish were dragged along the floor, which by the way is one of the cleanest floors I've seen. The whole building must have been flushed several times a day to keep the refuse away.

In the evening we paid a visit to a kind of cultural center called Delfos. I said a kind of because it's both a home, a restaurant, an art gallery and a antique shop. Placed just outside Mojácar in lush, overgrown gardens and completely packed with art and old furniture it was quite a sight. Everything was for sale, the glasses we drank of included. Even the house if the price was right. The place belonged to a Spanish painter whose name is forgotten and most of the paintings was his work. The restaurant was recommended for the stone oven baked pizza, but unfortunately the season hadn't started so the kitchen was closed. We stayed for a coke and a chat with the caretaker and bartender, the same man, then had a long look at the different paintings, before returning to Mojácar for the night.

Finally a dirt road

Sierra Nijar, fantastic The next morning we saddled up again with the schedule for the day ready, cross the desert mountain range of Sierra National Nijar south east towards the E15 and then set course for Sierra Filabres north of Sorbas.

The dirt road was difficult to find at first among the tens of roads going in all directions. When we found it we came over a tourist complex built in moorish style, with the old castle gates rebuilt and modernized. The complex was well hidden behind the mountains. A chat with the English owner of a combined drugstore and café, revealed that the complex was started some 25 years ago. An English customer told us he was a tax refugee from the seventies, when he and a lot of his companions fled countries like England and Norway. He used to work as a deep water diver in the North Sea.

Almond tree The road took us deeper into the desert mountain area. The surface was firm and had only occasional challenges. It was a very nice day and the drive was perfect. We had brought along biscuits and water which we shared a little of every now and then. Occasionally a flowered almond tree came into view and colored the dry landscape.

On the highest point on the sierra road a farmer and his dog looked after some of the most isolated fields of olive trees we had seen in Spain. Where the water came from to nourish the trees is still a mystery to us.

The dirt drive came to a halt when we heard and saw the E15 after several very rural villages had been bypassed. As always, the villagers stopped their work to stare and wave at us. We waved back.

Onwards towards El Santuario on the top of the world

We crossed yet another fabulous mountain range and dived down towards Sorbas again. After a coffee brake we paid a visit to the tourist office, to get maps and information on Sierra Filabres, the target of the day.

After twenty minutes we left Sorbas again, maps in hand and an approximate route into the mountains ready. From Sorbas the road swiped through high flat plains. Far north of us the mountains raised up from the plains with a small white dot in the middle. It could be a small village, typically located on the most inaccessible peak, or it could be something else. We couldn't see from this distance, and it took us forever to get close enough to see the buildings. A small village at the foot of the mountain called for a lunch brake. The lady under the rows of ham in our lunch bar explained that the building was a sanctuary for five villages in the area. It was a most sacred place but we were welcome to visit.

After lunch we set off in the general direction of the Santuario. From time to time we could see the edge of the building above us as we slowly circled the peak. A steep dirt road led us the last kilometer or so up there.

It was breathtaking. The views were never ending in all directions. Towards the west was the snow covered peaks of Sierra Nevada, in the south and south west the ocean was clear and blue and in the north was more sierras. In between all this the hills and valleys seemed to go on forever. It was a poetic sight. We just sat there and stared.

The Santuario itself was an open air church where the area was divided into five or six, the number of villages in the area that contributed to the construction and shared the place.
Virgen de la Cabeza, Sierra de los Filabres
Now the Sierra seemed to go on forever, as the road led us deeper into the mountains. Village after village passed by while we just drove on, enjoying the ride. A small village called for another stop late in the afternoon. The Rough Guide claimed that there was a hostel in the village, but mentioned also that it could be closed off season. The plaza was empty and a search didn't reveal even a tapas bar. A construction worker helped us with directions and finally we stood inside a cool combined drugstore, tapas bar and restaurant. Four or five more construction workers inside greeted us with smiles and continued their discussion, which of course was much louder than necessary. The couple behind the bar came over and we were soon engaged in a discussion about a poor village and it's loss of younger people. The youth moved to Almería for work while the old people stayed behind. The couple had run the bar for the last thirty years and survived simply because they had no depths. She was a very pleasant and happy woman all the same. Life seemed to have treated her good, but she was sad when she looked at the future, or lack of future, for her village. It was the same old story, and could just as well been told in the countryside of Norway.

With "Bueno viaje" from everyone in the bar we left the village, which didn't have a running hostel anymore. All the same we smiled when we left and agreed that this kind of travel was better than anything else. Both had by now adjusted so well to bike traveling again that we felt we could go on forever, see new people and have conversations like this, even though the issue was kind of sad, and travel in the most isolated areas. We couldn't go on forever, of course, but the feeling was good.

Almería, a surprise town

The final target for the day was Tabernas, on the A370. We reckoned the town had a decent hotel. The town is surrounded by flat plains and is most known for it's castle, which was Isabella and Ferdinant's base when the moorish Almería was conquered in the fifteenth century. We tried to find the road up to the castle but was misled several times and gave up finally. Instead we tried to find the hotel from Rough Guide. After going through the town center three times, getting directions from several people, we found the place on the east side, quite far outside the town center. It was by this time quite chilly and we hoped for a warm room with hot water. It was another disappointment. The restaurant on the first floor was empty, dark and very cold. When finally the owner showed up, she said no, no hot water and no, no warm rooms and no again, no inside or enclosed parking for Rocinante. The price was hideous to. We suspected that she wasn't too keen getting visitors at this time of year, and felt we were right about this when I turned in the doorway after saying goodbye, and saw her half smile.
Sunset in 
Sierra Alhamilla, on our way towards Almeria
This was our second encounter with unfriendly hostels on the same trip. It seemed almost like people in this region was quite different in some ways than in western Andalusia. Then again, maybe we were just unlucky.

We had a quick discussion and decided to go to Almería. This town had not tempted us the least during our stay in Spain. I don't really know why we had this attitude against the town, but it was probably because the city has allways been in the shadow of Sevilla and Granada.

Along the A370 we came over another western town. This time I was getting curious enough to want to se it. Bente shook her head and asked why the hell I suddenly felt like going to a commercialized tourist trap. I couldn't explain my self, so I just looked stupid and said something about curiosity and general public interest. It had no effect and Bente reasoned that it was already sunset and the cold was coming in. I gave in and the course was again set for Almería, with the promise that we would visit the place the day after when we were going north-west towards Granada.

We looked up a couple of alternative hotels in the Rough Guide and then drove towards the city center. It was late in the evening and we were cold and definitely ready for a hot shower. We got lucky. The main road led us straight to the center and at a traffic light I recognized one of the hotels we had marked out. I simply parked on the sidewalk and five minutes later we had a room. The bike was unloaded and parked in the hotel garage a block away.

Half an hour later we had showered and went for something to eat and drink.

We were right in the middle of town and after ten minutes walk we started to like it. It had nothing of the grayness that we expected. A Irish bar drew my attention across the street, knowing well that this place would have our favorite beers, Kilkenny for Bente and Guinness for me. My beer went straight down and we stayed for an hour chatting to the people behind the bar. This was a trendy spot and the staff were all young and efficient, but at the same time willing to chat with a couple of foreigners. It was very pleasant indeed and on our question we got recommendations from everyone on good restaurants.

After an excellent dinner we returned to the Irish bar and decided to go for a splurge. Bente ordered an Irish coffee, of course, while I asked for the bartenders choice of a good whisky. I cannot remember the name, it wasn't any known brand, but it was Irish, single malt and very good. It had a hand written label, numbered from one to only a hundred and something, very exclusive and, as it turned out, very expensive. I was given the wrong price first, hence the bartender smiled and told me he wouldn't charge me the real price, which was about three times as much.

Towards Granada, the snow getting a little too close

We didn't visit the western town as agreed yesterday. I had changed my mind and decided it was pretty uninteresting. Instead we turned westwards into Sierra Alpujarras again, but just for a little while. At Gador we turned north and drove through one of the deepest canyons we've seen. The road stretched along the mountain side higher and higher. The winds were very strong and it turned cold. Finally over the top the road joined the A92, going north west, then west along the north side of Sierra Nevada towards Granada. The day was beautiful, though cold. Bente did not like the closeness of the mountains and the snow. As mentioned before, she has this thing about snow in Spain.

On a deviation from the main road due to construction work, snow covered the hill sides in the shadow areas. Bente shivered and swore against it, while I laughed. Finally I found a spot on a rest area where I could park Rocinante on snow. I did and asked Bente to dismount so I could shoot a picture of it. It's impossible for me to dismount the bike with a passenger still on the pillion, and even worse when the ground was covered in snow. Bente looked at me and said a simple but firm "NO WAY, I will not put my feet on that white stuff".  I smiled and teased her a little longer before taking off again.

Granada came into sight later in the evening, a sight we had seen several times before without getting tired of it. It is still quite a sight to enter the Albaicin area, overlooking the Alhambra with the snow covered Sierra Nevada as background.

Granada's Alhambra, tapas bar and live music

It was now Friday and we decided to do the tapas trick. Granada still has the most extensive free tapas offer we've seen. This time we knew more about it than on previous visits. If you stay in the same bar and order one, two or more drinks, the tapa you get will vary from one drink to the next. I don't know how they make any money from it, since the drink cost virtually nothing. We could hear the staff shouting "Dos tapas numero dos, un tapa numero tres", meaning the second and third tapa. I was hungry like an elephant and knew I would be pretty drunk by the time I was filled up. That was part of the plan, have a party and eat a good set of samples from the Spanish kitchen, all at very low cost. We loved it. I swallowed down the first beer in no time and ordered another one. The first tapa was gone like the wind and I tapped my fingers waiting for the next. The beer came, but they forgot the tapa. Bente doubled over from the look in my face. It took a good ten minutes before I finally asked for it and by then the second beer was empty. I ordered the third.
A plaza in Granada
Just then came a new set of tapas onto the desk behind the counter. It was grilled meat that looked so delicious I got water in my mouth. Bente asked politely which number they had. It was number five, which meant another two beers had to go down before I could taste them.

The night went on. I think I got to number six before I was stuffed and happy. Bente managed five. It was about time to pay another visit to our favorite nightclub. The same dim staff were on duty and the place were almost full. Of all possible styles of music they were having a ragtime concert this evening. It wasn't exactly the typical Spanish live music.

We got a table in the back and I went for the toilet. I had to ask were it was, remembering that I never had visited it before, strangely enough. A uniformed man stood in front of the bar, looking like he was picking up orders. On my question he just looked at me and said he didn't know. Someone else laughed at me and pointed towards the correct door. On my way over to the toilet I looked up at the stage and saw several people preparing the instruments, all dressed in the same ragtime 'uniform', actually the same clothes as the man at the bar. Whoops! I turned to look. They still stared at me, all smiles and laughter. I gave them my most embarrassed smile.

The music was excellent. It really set us in a great mood, as long as they didn't sing. There was nothing wrong with their voices, it was just the fact that they didn't know English. On several well known songs we couldn't recognize the text. All in all it was great, though. When we left we discovered that our hotel was thirty meters down the alley. It had been another excellent night.

Palacio Nazaries, 
Alhambra Alhambra waited for us the next day. We brought books with us and spent the day wandering the Palacio de Nazaries and relaxing in the gardens. It was our third visit and we felt almost at home here now.

Sunday was my last chance to go to the top of Sierra Nevada on Rocinante. The day was sunny and fairly warm. Bente preferred to stay in Granada, so she wandered the town and sat for hours on one of the many plazas reading and watching the people.

I dressed up, brought along extra clothes and set of for the fifty kilometers drive towards the Pico Veleta. I knew I would never reach the peak due to the snow. There is only one road that leads up to the alpine tourist village of Sierra Nevada and it was modernized for the world championship in Alpine skiing a couple of years ago. It was in excellent condition and a dream to drive, being wide and twisting it's way upwards towards the maximum height at this time of the year of 2750 meter. A small hour later I was at the end of the road. It continues all over the top and down into Sierra Alpujarras on the south side, but is only open in the summer. I parked the bike ten meters into the snow and shot a few pictures of it, of course with only snow in the background. Unfortunately the shots were done in a hurry and the result turned out rather poor.

I was back in the afternoon and we spent a quiet evening in Granada before we returned to Nerja the day after.

It was time to go back to Norway in a few days. We knew very well that this was our last visit together in southern Spain on Rocinante for a very long time, maybe even forever. The next project was to bring Rocinante back to Norway, a trip I would make in April. Stay tuned for the story.

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