Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Granada to La Manga (end of March 2009)

On Friday we caught the bus into the city centre and then another bus up to the Alhambra. The Alhambra issues a limited number of 8000 tickets each day in morning and afternoon sessions. Unfortunately when we arrived at 11am only afternoon tickets were available starting from 2pm. The Alhambra sits high up above Granada and there isn’t much up there except a few bars, tourist shops and the Alhambra itself, so we had a bit of a walk around, a picnic and a coffee and finally joined the queue to get in. The Alhambra was very similar to the Alkazar in Seville. The views from the Alhambra were very impressive, right across Granada and the Sierra Nevada.

On Saturday we took the bus into the centre of Granada and had a good look around, taking in a couple of viewpoints up on the hill looking towards the Alhambra. We weren’t overly impressed with Granada, I think we’d been spoilt by Seville! However Granada is definitely better where long reaching views are concerned.

Sunday was quite overcast, we drove up to Pradollano (2100m high) in the Sierra Nevada, Europe’s most southerly ski resort and only about a 30/40 minute drive from Granada. There were loads of motorhomes parked up in the special motorhome area high up above the village. We caught the bus down to the village, as walking would have been 2 miles around very twisty roads. We had a walk around the resort and then took the cable car up to Borreguiles (2645m) and were amazed by the number of people ski-ing and snow boarding. There were hundreds, probably thousands of them! The sun was shining very brightly higher up in the mountains, it was a little cooler lower down in Pradollano. Later on in the afternoon we returned to Granada as we wanted to fill up with gas before moving on. We were nowhere near out of gas, but as we’re in Spain we fill up when we know that gas is available as there’s only about 20 places in mainland Spain that we can get LPG from, Granada being one of them.

The next morning we filled up with gas and then headed east to Guadix through more mountains, this time the Sierra de Huetor-Santillan. At Guadix we visited the tourist office to get a map and then walked up to Las Cueves (cave area) where there are around 2000 caves built into the sandstone rocks that are still lived in. We then had a walk around the old town, did a bit of food shopping then headed south easterly towards Almeria province deciding to park up in Tabernas before continuing to the coast tomorrow. En route we drove by Mini Hollywood (which was closed until April), which is where parts of over 100 Western films including The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and The Magnificent Seven were filmed. Almeria is very dry with large expanses of rocky semi desert, just the right landscape for Westerns! Almeria is also a major fruit and veg growing area and has huge expanses of plastic greenhouses.

On Tuesday we headed south into the Cabo de Gata natural park and went to the visitor centre. The natural park covers a large area of coast land in Almeria province. We then drove on to the town of Cabo de Gata and decided to stop as we saw a couple of motorhomes parked up on the edge of town by the beach. Later on we went for a walk along the sea front, we weren’t impressed with the town at all. It was really grim. Even the sand was grim - grey not sand coloured! The next day we moved on to San Jose which was an improvement on Cabo de Gata.

We stayed in San Jose until Friday managing to catch up on plenty of washing as there was a self-service launderette in town which is quite unusual. We then drove along the coast stopping in Las Negras and Agua Amarga along the way (still in the Natural Park). The scenery was really lovely, the hills were covered in various unusual tall grasses and wild flowers. We then drove through Carboneras stopping to fill up with water and then drove around some very steep, windy, quite scary bends onto Mojacar. Mojacar is in two different parts, firstly we drove along Mojacar Playa and then went slightly inland to Mojacar Pueblo. The Pueblo part of Mojacar is high up on a hill with views stretching for miles and miles in all directions. We went for a walk up to El Castillo which is right at the top of the Pueblo to look at the views. We then went back to the Mojacar Playa which is the beach part of the town, it stretches for several miles along the coast but is only a few blocks wide with only low rise buildings, so it doesn’t feel too built up. We stayed at Mojacar Playa until Monday, on Sunday evening and through the night the weather changed and it rained torrentially until mid Monday morning. Given that this part of Spain can get half its yearly rainfall in one day we think it just did!

On Monday we drove inland a few miles to the hill top village of Bedar, we had a walk around and took it the views back to the sea. There were lots of lovely new villas dotted around the hills taking in the same sort of views. The weather up in Bedar was pretty cold and blustery, about 10 degrees C! It was time to ditch the shorts for a while in favour of jeans and coats. We then drove back to the coast and followed the coastal road and inland windy country roads until we reached Puntas de Calnegre, a tiny little village where we were able to park up on the beach next to a few other motorhomes. Ever since we arrived in Spain about a month ago we’ve been in the huge region of Andalucia, we’ve now moved into Murcia which is a small region between Andalucia and Valencia. On Tuesday we continued to drive around the coast, this area also has a lot of greenhouses over huge areas. We decided to stop at Puerto de Mazarron, a tourist town in a lovely location, but a bit run down. The next day we drove slightly inland following a route we’d got from the tourist office, the road started to get very rough so we parked up and went for a walk around. It was a lovely spot just behind the hills that were next to the coast, but unfortunately you couldn’t see the sea. We then drove back to the coast and into the little village of La Azohia which had lovely views across the bay to Mazarron. There was a lovely spot right next to the beach where some motorhomes were parked up and we were tempted to stay the night here but we’d decided we were going to try and move on significantly today so carried on our way.

We carried on driving east, through the middle of Cartagena and eventually to the Mar Menor, a 170km saltwater lagoon which is divided from the sea by a 22km of land called La Manga. This whole area was very touristy and we didn’t really like it, however we decided to drive up La Manga in the hope that it would get a little more rustic the further away we got. It did a bit, but not very. After going up and down La Manga we pulled over to cook a quick meal and set off again, heading to Los Alcazares which was on the coast with views over to La Manga. This area was much less touristy and we were able to park up on the sea front along with another motorhome. On Thursday morning we went for a walk into Los Alcazares, it was pretty quiet apart from a few joggers, walkers and cyclists. It was quite a misty day which was a shame as it would have been good to have had a better view of the Mar Menor and La Manga.

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