The good weather was still with us so time for another day out. Looking at the maps, I chose a circular route through the mountains, parts of which I’ve done before and some that would be new ground. This was my route.
The drive began with seven miles in a westerly direction along the A7, before turning inland along the familiar valley bottom. Although I’ve already visited Viñuela three times this winter, I couldn’t resist pulling into the car park. I never tire of looking at this view. My route would continue up the mountains and through the Zafarraya Pass (which is marked on the skyline with a tiny arrow).
Half way up the mountain road I stopped to see the ruins of Castillo de Zalia. It’s believed that the Phoenicians may have built here first but the present ruin is all that’s left of the castle built by the Moors. They needed it to protect their ancient trade route between Granada and the Coast going through the Pass. The castle was captured by the armies of the Catholic Monarch in 1485. My drive continued up the twisting mountain road until finally it reached the pass between the mountain ranges. I pulled into the small car park which is laid out alongside the bed of what was once a narrow gauge railway line. My car’s dashboard indicated that I’d reached just a bit over 3000 feet. In 1922 a cog railway was built to carry passengers between here and the coast. The service closed in 1960. Now some of the old trackway makes a nice walk around the mountain side.
Further along this track, but higher up the mountain is a cave. During excavations in 1979, archaeologists discovered inside the cave, parts of a skeleton. Subsequent radio carbon tests revealed the bones to be those of a Neanderthal man dating back 30000 years.
Once through the pass the ground levels out and the road goes through the small town of Ventas de Zafarraya. On the far side of the town the road takes a sharp turn right and continues straight and level for the next five miles. On either side of the road agricultural land stretches away to the distant mountains.
Then at the far end of the valley, the road climbs again until eventually, in the distance, are the snow covered peaks of the Sierra Nevada some thirty or so miles away. Almond blossom which is now fully out is in abundance up here.
The road begins to descend, giving a view of my next stop, the town of Alhama de Granada.
Although there’s evidence of Roman occupation, the town is very much of Arab origin with the houses built right up to the edge of the ravine.
Down below in the bottom of the gorge are the ruins of flour mills.
Along the river, outside the town are the remains of the Arab baths. A modern hotel (always closed during the winter months) is built close to the water, which is at a constantly warm temperature and bubbles into a basin alongside the river. Even in February, there are usually one or two people bathing.
Back in the car, it was less than ten miles to my next stop at Embalse de los Bermejales. This is another man-made reservoir, surrounded by wonderful scenery.
Just a short distance from the shoreline is a camp site - http://www.campinglosbermejales.com/camping/ It’s open all the year but virtually empty. Maybe that’s no surprise considering the remoteness and the access roads. It was also the spot from where I would be driving along unfamiliar roads. I set off on a road which for a time followed the shoreline of the reservoir, but before long it veered away and began to climb - and climb. Eventually, I arrived at a T-junction and saw I was at an altitude of 4430 feet. A good spot to stop and have a late lunch.
Back in the car again, the road meandered its way for the next 30 miles or so around the mountain sides. Fortunately, the number of cars I encountered could be counted on one hand, so I was able to make frequent stops to take in the wonderful mountain views.
But eventually the descent began and I reached the villages of Otivar, then Jete and soon afterwards, the drab outskirts of Almuñecar. I’d planned a further stop in the town to go in search of the Roman Aqueduct but I felt that I’d had enough for one day, so I joined the coast road and then the A7 which took me back to El Pino. I’d covered 110 miles.
This blog may be seen with several more pictures HERE