Sunday 16 September 2007

It's not all sunshine & roses

Sun 16 Sep
Sierra de la Contraviesa

Very little sunshine, and no roses at all. La Contraviesa is the range between the Sierra Nevada and the coast, with rolling hillsides cut through by steep gullies, very sparsely populated, and with a succession of microclimates every couple of hundred metres or so. Today most of them seemed to involve mist.

I had decided to try to find Fregenite, purportedly the least populated village in Spain with 1 inhabitant - she'd been on Canal Sur (Andalusia TV) a couple of years ago, snowed in and cut off. The village has many ruined and abandoned buildings, but there now seem to be half a dozen renovated and inhabited houses, probably holiday homes, and a well-whitewashed church with a gratingly new pine door. There's also supposed to be a thousand year-old olive tree, but I didn't spot it.

A few km to the north and then west, there's a track up to the Contraviesa ridge. This must be at about 1500m; it was where the clouds took over, and is the most densely vegetated moorland I have come across in Spain, a stark contrast to the bare desert hillsides just around the corner. The only movement, apart from the occasional bird or beetle, were the clouds rolling up the valley. Silent, still and eerie.

The drive back down to the coast confirmed the old adage about never trusting what you see on a map - especially if you have 4 of them and they all say something different. If you try this trip, and you aren't in a 4-wheeler - don't go via Olías! The alternative routes may look longer but you stand more chance of getting back in one piece.

Coming down towards Castell de Ferro, and all along the coast to Motril, the plastic revolution hits you between the eyes, very hard - every square metre between the sea and the mountains is covered in it, feeding half of Europe and completely wrecking a gorgeous landscape in the process.

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