Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Granada Sierra Nevada

On the exit of Valencia we waited a long time. Just when we thought we would stay here to sleep, Juan - one south American guy picked us up in his van. He tought us some Spanish words and sentences. With a little patience and gestures we perfectly understood him, learned a lot and laughed a lot. He left us in Murcia, where we stayed for the night.
The atmosphere in Granada is fascinating. Art, music and different aromas, winding in the small stone streets
The next day a military guy who was travelling to Lorca picked us up, but since it was some Fiesta day again and he obviously had nothing to do, he decided to drive 50 km more and show us all the mountains around. He said that Spain is second in Europe in high altitude. ..He left us in a small village on the road.  Finally, after all day waiting there, another South American girl and her boyfriend stopped and they were also going to Granada. Ole!

In Granada easily found couchsurfing at some Polish girls who are here on Erasmus. They showed us interesting places in the city and the best Tapas ever! For two euros you take your beer and a whole plate of food from the buffet.
We loved Granada from the first day.  Arab neighborhood with narrow streets and white houses with tiled roofs, small Arab shops, cafes and bars mnogobroini, scents of spices and teas and music everywhere…
Granada is definitely a nice city to live in. Nearby is the mountain and the sea. And on the south side of the mountain in clear weather you can see Africa and Gibraltar.

Caves on the hill near to the Alhambra where hippies and rastaman live.
People lived in those caves in the rocks a long time ago, and nowadays they dig them up, repair them and settled in. They became something like squad (or Casa Okupa) of hippies and rastas from all nationalities, but now there were mostly Africans, sometimes with whole families ... The view from there is wonderful - you see the whole city and the Alhambra, while at the same time you are in the nature above the city.

  Granada streets are so narrow that the cars almost hit the houses ... and the drivers really have to be super accurate ...and the pedestrians have to literarily stick on the walls (with the big backpacks this is impossible)

Alhambra with the snow peak Veleta, which we climbed several days later…
Alhambra, Granada’s miracle which every day so many tourists want visit that tickets have to be bought in advance. Street musicians are singing songs about it and there is even a beer called Alhambra, the most common here. 

But the best thing about Granada is the nearby Sierra Nevada Mountains. We left our heavy backpacks at our nice hosts and we headed to the mountains for several days. Almost immediately a guy going to the nearby mountain village stopped and since he was a mountaineer, he was glad to drive us till the end of the highest road in Europe in the mountains, most than 2500 m high. He showed us the main routes and told us many things abound the mountain.

The highest road in Europe, where Audi, BMW and other cars are tested winds in the mountains.
The road actually went almost to the top Velena (3392), but since it was a national park, cars were allowed only to 2500 m ... which is a lot. There are numerous ski lifts, a huge observatory  and even a football stadium at 2800 meters altitude!
The shelter (3205 m), or as they call it in Spanish 'Refugio'.
From there we headed towards the top. High and had a lot of snow, however, was full of cyclists who are released from above. Just below the summit we found shelter in 3205 mnv. We decided to stay the night there - the highest overnight for us now:) We left their knapsacks at the shelter and went to the top. Already nightfall. The climb was pretty snowy, but the feeling was great, we walked over the sea of clouds and sun us smiling the whole way.

Sometimes clouds wrapped us, then disappear…

Veleta peak welcomed us with a real magic! In the clouds there was a full round  rainbow, which followed us everywhere and we were always in the center .. as a gateway to another world it projected light against us. The silence was infinite ... there was nobody at this time there, only we and the mystery of the mountain ...

On our way down we enjoyed the wonderful sunset over the sea of clouds ... The last rays before we remained alone with the moon, the stars and the snow ...and the cold began... 

And just when we watched the stars in the snowy night, we heard footsteps in the darkness which quite startled us. They were two Spanish mountaineers coming down from the top without headlights. They stayed with us in the shelter for the night. They said they were training for Nepal, where they were going to next week. The shelter was large, there was place to sleep for at least 15 people and there was even a huge table. Unfortunately there was no fire and had no trees at this altitude ... just rocks ...We slept in our clothes and our summer sleeping bags…

The next day we went to the highest top of the Iberian Peninsula - Mulhasen. Along the way we saw wild goats, which surprisingly were not frightened of us and allowed us to look at them and take pictures. These were the only animals (not counting the birds) that we met.Under Mulhasen we found exactly the same shelter where we stayed for the second night.

Down near the lake is our small shelter.

On Mulhasen

View from Mulhasen

Shelter from the inside

Night Lake
One of the few plants at this altitude

After two cold but beautiful mountain nights we decided to go down. After whole day walking down, we found a meadow with a fireplace and even water nearby. Finally  we made a fire and warm up with hot lentils.

We descended on the south side of Sierra Nevada through picturesque villages with traditional architecture, cute white chimneys and bright white houses with flat roofs without tiles.

With 2 cars we returned back to Granada to download pictures and to rest before continuing our journey to Africa ....