Diary of the Hillwalking in the Sierra Nevada.
Day 1 – 28th April 2016
The group of five healthy hikers (2 fellas and 3 girls) assembled at the departure gate for flight to Malaga around 06:30 hrs for the scheduled departure at 07:20 hrs.
Having boarded the aircraft, it was announced that the flight was delayed 1 hour due to the French Air Traffic Controllers strike on the day. Not a good start – sitting on the tarmac in the cramped seating arrangements of a Ryanair aircraft!
The good news was – we survived it and landed in Malaga, an hour late, at lunch time!
We were met by our guide for the weekend; a tall, young, fit looking Spaniard, in his early twenties, called Gabby; who spoke with a broad Cork accent! He shepherded us to our minibus transport without fuss and during the two hour drive to our hotel in the Sierra Nevada, he explained that, although his parents were natives of Andalucia, he had been born and reared in Cork where his parents had migrated prior to and for the first 15 years of his life!
We arrived at our accommodation; the most charming rustic, Finca los Llanos (see website), Capileira, Granada, Sierra Nevada; at c. 15:30 hrs.
The first priority was to have some lunch as it had been a long time since breakfast! In spite of our late arrival, the hotel had kept some for us! Afterwards, we chilled out and took the bearings of where we were. The weather was fine – sunny and warm – not hot.
Capileira is the highest (c. 1500 m) and most northerly of the three Moorish villages in the gorge of the Poqueira river, which flows down from the second highest peak in the Sierra Nevada range, Pico del Veleta, 3396 m. This is in the La Alpujarra district of Granada. Capileira is a typical, white Spanish village with a population of c. 600.
Dinner was at 20:30 hrs in the hotel as we had arranged a half-board package. It was an excellent meal and augured well for the rest of our stay. It wasn’t long after the meal that the group decided to adjourn for the night. After all, we had been up since 03:30 hrs – a long day!
Day 2 – 29th April 2016 – Walk 1
We met for breakfast at 08:30hrs. The weather was fine – cloudy and sunny – but being at 1500 m, it was coolish. Perfect for walking.
Gabby briefed us that we would be descending to see the two lower villages of Bubión (c. 1350m) and Pamaneira (c. 1060m) and to see a waterfall on the Pocgueira river just outside Pompaneira, which is the only village of the three so close to the river.
We started the walk at 10:00hrs from the hotel and meandered down the steep, narrow, cobblestoned streets of Capaleiro. A number were pedestrian only but others which looked like they might be, were not as we dodged the odd car and motor cycles! As we descended, Gabby kept our attention by pointing out the various landmarks, buildings of note and general sights. Nobody noticed ascent! We were to find out later as we had to return the same route!
See photos of Capileira:
The next village was Bubión (1350m) with a population of c. 600. It is just like its two sister villages, which are each typified by their Moorish features of steep, narrow, winding streets and flat roofs on the buildings.
See photos of Bubión
We continued down the gorge on off-road paths to the last of the three villages, Pampaneira, which is at c. 1060m and the closest to the Pocgueira river. Its population is c. 350.
Just outside the village, we came to the river at the point where the access road to all the villages, crosses the river as it winds (on forever it seems!) down the gorge. Here we stopped by a waterfall for a breather and to take in the beauty of the surroundings before returning to the village square in Pampaneira for lunch.
See photos of Pampaneira:
After lunch, we set off to retrace our steps back to Capalerio. The incline seemed much steeper than noted on the earlier descent! Possibly due to the excellent lunch! However, a good pace was maintained by all thanks to the many months of ‘training’ on the Meetup – Hill Walking for Health walks! Good use was made of the opportunity to practice and appreciate the benefits of adopting a short walking gait when ascending!
On the ascent, we visited a weavers workshop in Bubion and witnessed the use of very old looms which were at least 3 generations old! (see photo link below).
In Capileira, we visited an outlet of the local artisan chocolate factory and sampled
some of its wares! Delicious!
We arrived back to the hotel at c, 15:30 hrs.
The distance covered was 10kms which we completed in 5 hrs and 43 mins! Well, it was a long lunch and nobody was in a rush!
We dined at 20:00 hrs during which Gabby briefed us on the plan for the next day which was to walk up the gorge. However, as the forecast was for rain in the morning, we would start at about midday. There was a very positive reaction to the thought of a lie-in in the morning and we decided to hit the nightlife of Capileira!
We found ourselves in one of the hostelries where we sampled some of the local ‘firewater’. We were not much good after that experience and retreated to bed at about midnight.
Day 3 – 30th April 2016 – Walk 2
Breakfast time varied for group from 08:00hrs – 10:00!
There was no sign of the promised rain by 11:35 hrs. (Met Eireann is s bit like that too sometimes!) when the decision was made to start the walk at 12:00 as planned.
By the time everyone was ready, it was actually 12:15 when we got going from the hotel and we headed North up the gorge from Capiliera towards the snow capped peak of Pico del Veleta (3396m) – we were not going that far today! The weather from the start was quite misty but again, not cold.
We followed the track (unmade road); alongside the Acequias. These are the irrigation water courses constructed by the Moors to bring the water from the melted snows down the mountains to the villages and farms at lower levels. After c. 3 kms of ups, downs and level walking, we came upon the hydro-electric station at La Cebadilla at the upper end of the Poqueira gorge and its abandoned settlement, built to house the workers who developed and worked the station until it was automated. At the peak, it housed c. 200 workers and their families.
We had a break here for some refreshment, which had been provided to us today by the hotel. Once replenished, we set off again and started a steeper climb, following a path on the lower slopes of Pico del Veleta, our objective being the top of the Poquiera gorge, a point known as Acequias del Poquiera, c. 3 kms away. By now the clouds had cleared somewhat and we enjoyed some very pleasant sunshine for a while.
On the way we passed a number of farming refuges which are used by the farmers as they tended their livestock which roamed the mountains – sheep, cattle and goats. We reached Acequias del Poquiera after c. 3 hrs from the start of the walk.
After finishing the remainder of our lunch, we retraced our steps back to Capiliera and reached the hotel shortly after 17:00 hrs. The rain came at 18:00 – amazing good luck!
Time: 5 hrs
Moving time: 2 hrs 32 mins.
Total ascent: 549m
Photos of the day:
Day 4 – 1st May 2016 – Walk 3
We all had breakfast at 08:00 hrs as we had an early start. The morning was beautifully clear and it promised to be a good day.
Today’s walk was to be on the NW of the mountain range near Monachil which is a suburb on the outskirts of Granada. We set off by minibus at 09:15 hrs for the drive of about 1hr 15mins.
We arrived safely and started the walk at c. 11:00 hrs. This was a loop walk, called the Cahorros de Monachil, which follows the Rio Monachil through a spectacular gorge requiring some challenging manoeuvring as we negotiated the rock outcrops alongside the river in the narrower sections. A close inspection of the small photos in the collage of the day will give a good illustration of what it was like. Note particularly the man ascending the nearly vertical rock face. When Rachel saw this, we had great difficulty in restraining her from shinning up after him!
When we emerged from the gorge, we climbed gradually uphill until we reached the ridge overlooking the gorge when we could look down into it. The rugged beauty of the rock formation was very spectacular. From the height, we also had magnificent views looking West over Granada and its surrounding plains. The beautiful sunny day magnified the beauty of it all!
We finished the walk at about 13:30 and stopped for a couple of very welcome beers before attempting to find our transport for the return to Capileira! We got back to the hotel at about 16:00 hrs.
After another excellent dinner that evening, we adjourned to another local hostelry for a night cap. No, not that local ‘firewater’ again, that was a case of ‘once bitten, twice shy’!
Moving time: 1hr 23 mins.
Total ascent: 279m
Photos of the day:
Day 5 – 2nd May 2016 – Granada and the Alhambra Palace
This was the last full day of our trip. After breakfast it was back into the bus for a return to Granada, but this time to view the City and visit the Alhambra Palace.
It was a stunning, sunny, clear morning which lasted all day! One kind of expects this in Spain but it doesn’t always turn out like that!
On arrival in Granada, our guide, Gabby, brought us on a walking tour of the old town where we attempted to absorb the incredible history of what we saw! To get a flavour of it all, take a look here and then take a trip yourself!
After lunch at one of the numerous street restaurants, we headed for the Alhambra Place for the feature tour of this magnificent heritage site.
Well, notwithstanding our new found fitness levels resulting from the hiking of the past three days, none of the group was fit for the 4.5 hour tour that this experience entailed! It was quite awesome and if you are in the area, you shouldn’t miss it! It is also fair to say, a planned trip to specifically pay a visit, is definitely worth considering. Just be prepared to be exhausted!
Five very tired hikers were very relieved to return to the hotel for our last dinner (supper!) of the trip. As it was an early start in the morning for the return to the airport, early retirement to bed was the unanimous decision.
See photos of the day here:
So ended a very successful walking break away for the group which provided some wonderful memories to take into the future and forged some great new friendships!