Day 42 Trevelez – Alpujarras to Cabo de Gato National Park, near Almeria

A friend helpfully pointed out that I had blogged two day 29s, so we are now on day 42.
This morning it felt like we were waking up in a different world. The spot where we camped last night was gorgeous, high up in the Sierra Nevada near Trevelez. We could see snow on the mountains from our pitch, and there was only one other German couple staying in a camper van on our site.
Once packed up, we set off to explore the area known as Alpujarras, sat high in the Sierra Nevada. Many of the these isolated communities in the mountains retain a strong Muslim influence, left from the days when the Moors inhabited this part of the world. First stop was the village of Trevelez itself, just half a mile from our campsite. Trevelez is the second highest village in Spain, and because of it’s clean, dry, rarified air it has become the Cured Ham centre of Spain, if not the universe. It is quite extraordinary, that in this tiny village, miles from any substantial habitation, and certainly hours away from any good transport links, that this village has become the premier place for ham curing. There is even a tiny museum telling the history of ham curing in the region. You peer through the door of shops, and all you can see are large legs of ham, hanging up to dry. Ham curing appears to be the only source of income in this isolated place, and as far as we could tell, it seems to be big business. The hams sell for around a hundred euros, although some more select varieties were selling for 280 euros a piece. Whilst we were there, one couple from Germany came in the shop and bought two! Who would have known it? Howard and I were really taken with this charming industrious village, and after coffee, spent quite some time just wandering around and enjoying the place.
Next we set off to explore a series of tiny white washed villages known as Barranco de Poqueira, which sit hugging the hillsides in a precarious manner. Our guidebook said that from a distance they look like a scattering of white paint flicked against a grey background, something like a Jackson Pollock painting, and it was right. The three villages are Capileira, the highest at 1436 metres, Bubion, and Pampaneira, and what a delight they were. The scenery in this area is just breathtaking, and all three villages were just stunningly beautiful. All the houses are white-washed, many with very distinctive chimneys, and they cling to the mountainside and connect to each other in a very similar way to the Favelas in Rio. All three villages have a strong Artisan culture, and many of the shops were selling textile rugs, and locally made jams, honey and cheeses. There was even a small chocolate making concern in the last village of Pampaneira. We had such a wonderful afternoon pottering around, climbing up and down the steep narrow streets and taking in the spectacular vistas beyond. We reflected that if all had gone to our original plans, we would have been spending the day walking around the Alhambra with 6,000 odd others. But up here, high in the Sierra, there was barely another tourist in sight – just our sort of place.
Very reluctantly, we left this delightful part of Spain, and headed back towards the coast. We would have spent longer there, but we are staying with old friends near Alicante for the next two nights, and needed to start moving eastwards. As we came down off the Sierra and hit the coast near Motril, we couldn’t believe what we were seeing – mile after mile of polytunnels, hundreds, probably thousands of them. They were huge, industrial sized, and were a complete blot on the landscape, as far as the eye could see. We drove nearly fifty miles to Almeria, and still we were seeing them, filling the entire coastal plain between the Mediterranean and the mountains. Acres and acres of white plastic. This sea of plastic was a complete contrast to the stunning beauty of the Sierra Nevada we had just left. Howard commented that this was like a dystopian future, with the ground covered in plastic. It certainly wasn’t what either of us had expected, and although I realise that the fresh produce grown here is undoubtedly good for the Spanish economy, I couldn’t help feel that they had gone a step too far, and completely wrecked the natural environment along this part of the coast. Interestingly, when I tried to find our campsite for the night on Google maps, I had thought originally that it was beyond a large town, but then I realised that it was in fact polytunnels that I was seeing on the satellite picture – quite horrible.
So a day of two contrasts. An unexpected paradise in the Sierra, and a complete eyesore down on the coast. Let’s hope tomorrow’s drive along the Mediterranean coast has something better to offer.

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