Travel and Hike in La Alpujarra

We leave Málaga for La Alpujarra, home of white-washed villages clustered on steep hills beneath the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  The day is cloudy and our Málaga host predicted snow for us, but only the wind huffs and puffs at our tiny rental car.  We arrive at the family-owned hotel just in time for a delicious menu del dia– soup, arroz con pescado (an unbaked version of paella), and flan for dessert.

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Our hotel dining room before locals arrive for Sunday dinner.

The wind bends the trees outside our cozy dining room, and has blown oranges and tree branches to the ground. Storm clouds threaten, but we are determined to have a paseo (walk).

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View from our room of hills to the south, cherry trees starting to bud.

We walk up the highway about a  mile, to the town of Órgiva proper, but everything is closed because it’s Sunday.

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Olive oil factory in Órgiva, closed for the winter.

We are wrapped in scarves and hats and jackets to protect against the blustering cold wind, not quite the sunny southern Spain we expected.  We feel a few sprinkles of rain, but the wind blows the rain away, and we head  back to our hotel.

A sparkling blue sky greets us the next day, and we can see  Spain’s highest peak at 11, 421 feet, El Mulhacén. There’s snow on the upper reaches of the mountains, but not in the hills where we plan to walk.

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Mulhacén, hill fog, and orange grove–view from our bathroom window.

We drive up another twisting road to Pampaneira, park, avoid the tourist shops selling artisen crafts and try to follow our printed directions to the trail up steep streets.IMG_3818

Typical street of La Alpujarra villages.

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This information center cat groomed instead of providing directions.

We aren’t sure where to go, so we return to the main plaza and ask for “el lavadero viejo,” the old laundry room, and the start of our walk. A local man points and says something in Spanish like go there, turn left, and we find it easily. Built by townspeople 19th century, the lavadero channeled mountain spring water into multiple basins for communal washing.

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El Lavadero

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Drying peppers on the terrace in Pampaneira.

Dependable mountain springs and streams fed by melting snow made La Alpujarra productive farmland for many centuries. Its people were well fed by orchards of olives, figs, oranges, cherries, almonds, household gardens, and grassy hills for sheep and goats. Protected by rugged terrain, the villages of La Alpujarra were the last stronghold of the Moors after the Catholic “re-conquest” of Granada.

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View of church in Pampaneira, village and valley.

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View of Pampaneira from trail above it.

Out of the shade of the village and into the sunshine we walk. We quickly shed layers as we climb to the next village. The sound of rushing water accompanies us for most of our walk, and we walk on stone bridges across a couple streams.We drink in the fresh mountain air and vistas, nourishing our souls.

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Water flows in channel along this stone-paved part of our path.

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Typical Alpujarra farmhouse chimney with Capileira village and Sierra Nevadas in the distance.

We pass through the sleepy village of Bubion, then reach the highest village, Capileira. This town has more residents and a few tourists on its streets. We eventually find a small supermarket for snacks which we eat at a park overlooking the valley and Sierra Nevada peaks.

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Late afternoon clouds roll in over the mountains.

We return to Pampaneira and eat lunch in a narrow pedestrian passageway. Grilled fish for Lisa and focaccia con pollo (foccacia pizza with chicken) for Mary. Hungry cats are quite attentive and several passing Spanish tourists wish us buen provecho!–good eating. One man kindly offers to take a picture of us.

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We take a final stroll around the plaza after lunch, enjoying the afternoon sun, then drive back down the mountain to our hotel where we see a beautiful sunset. We relax in the warmth of the cast iron stove of the hotel’s billiard and dart room and play a few games of pool.

Tomorrow, we’ll reluctantly leave the countryside for historic Granada.

© 2015 by Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds. All rights reserved.

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