Andalucian Adventures – Part Nine

The highs and lows of travel

We had a whole day to get back to our house in Orgiva and the sight of the snow on the High Sierra was just too inviting. So we followed a route up the mountains which would bring us to the Ski resorts above Granada city.

It was a good road which wound ever upwards, the weather was sparkling and there were tantalising glimpses of the snowy peaks all the way. But when we finally arrived at the resort it was all a bit underwhelming. Yes, we were standing as high as we were going to get on this holiday, yes the northern face of mainland Spain’s highest mountain, Mulhacen, was shining a brilliant white. But the snow wasn’t exactly extensive and the snow machines were having to work overtime to create enough snow for skiing. That said, the sun was shining and there were a few skiers on the slopes.

Sierra Nevada Ski resort

We have never been skiing so I wouldn’t know whether the conditions were good or bad. Apparently the best snow is to be had in March and April so perhaps what appeared to be a light covering is normal.

What is evident is the low water levels in any reservoirs we passed. Spain is going through its longest drought since 1961 and in the North East of the country water use restrictions have been put in place. We have had only a tiny amount of rain in the 5 weeks we have been here and very little cloud cover. Great for a holiday but not so wonderful for the future of the country.

Leaving the snowless ski resort we decided to take a back country route to Orgiva and were rewarded with some great views. We came across a great place for a picnic and then discovered a walk along the Camino de San Jeronimo.

Camino de San Jeronimo

We reached a high point on the path where it dropped down steeply and decided there was no point punishing my knee by making the descent.

As far as we went!

In front of us was a near vertical rock face and on the skyline we could see a rock formation which looked just like one of those carved heads on Easter Island. But this was entirely natural. As I was scanning the rock my attention was drawn to the silhouette of a creature next to it. A silhouette with very, very long horns. This was our first ever sighting of the fabled Ibex, a wild mountain goat.

This must have been a male because his horns were nearly as long as his body. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my telephoto lens with me so couldn’t get a decent picture. He was probably a thousand feet above us up a non-climbable (at least for us humans) rockface but that Ibex kept a beady eye on us all the time until we had turned around and gone back the way we had come. But it was a thrilling encounter for us and one we have been waiting for for many decades.

We returned to Orgiva still buzzing from seeing our first Ibex. But then Jane started sniffling and snuffling and went down with a cold, presumably picked up in Granada. So it was down to me to do the driving to our next, and final, holiday let near Antequera. If I had taken the motorway we could have been in Antequera in a couple of hours or so. But I thought it would be more pleasant to go on a cross-country route. More scenic that way I thought.

Well, yes, but as it turned out, more scenic of some lycra clad bikers’ bums. It seems I had chosen the very route which Spanish cyclistos in their hundreds liked to cycle. At one point we came up behind a veritable peleton of these skinny suited pedal pushers and were stuck behind them for what seemed like miles as there were no passing places. And they were not the only two wheelers out on the roads. The Yahama/Harley/Honda crowd were out in force, this being a weekend.

We eventually found our way to Antequera and then followed the sat nav to the hillside village of Villanueva de la Concepcion, which nestles under the impressive ramparts of El Torcal Parque Natural, of which more in another blog. 5 kilometres out of the village we turned up a small track by a farm and followed the signs for Casa Celeste. We could tell immediately that we would enjoy it here.

Casa Celeste really is a slice of heaven

Fran, the caretaker was there to meet us and explain things to us. She took particular care to tell us about the log fire. She pointed to the air vent in the ash tray. ‘Not close’, she said, ‘Open.’ ‘Si, si’, I replied.

So we got ourselves settled in, looked at the beautiful views in all directions, dipped a toe in the swimming pool (only a toe, it was b…dy freezing), and sat out on the terrace watching the sun go down. It was getting a little chilly so I set a fire which was soon roaring away and warming the place up. We had a good store of logs for the fortnight but I was alarmed at the rate I was chucking them on the fire. So, of course, I had to go and adjust the air vent didn’t I. Just a little, I thought. Except that the vent suddenly shut completely and no amount of tugging would get it to open again.

The flames spluttered and went out. And then smoke filled the fire and started pouring out of the door. I couldn’t get the vent open again and opening the fire door just made more smoke billow out. And that’s when the smoke alarm started shrieking at an ear deafening pitch. Jane, who suffers tinnitus, escaped onto the patio whilst I opened every door and window and tried wafting the smoke alarm with whatever was to hand. I could reach it on the wall but there was no on/off button and and as it was hard wired into the mains there was no way of ripping it off the wall and chucking it in the swimming pool.

For 10 minutes the thing wailed like a banshee before giving up. The house reeked of woodsmoke, our nerves were in shreds, we still had to cook a meal and the house was even colder than before. Luckily it also has reversible air conditioning so we were able to warm the place up pretty quickly.

The smoke did nothing for Jane’s cold and by now I had started feeling rough and succumbed to the virus that evening. We spent the next few days recuperating and taking it easy. But Casa Celeste turned out to be the most comfortable place of our trip and we soon recovered enough to explore the surroundings.

Sunset at the Casa

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