Last Sunday we rode the bus from Granada to Capileira, a small town of 600 in the Alpujarras mountains. It rained the whole two hours and a half, as the bus negotiated increasingly tighter curves and narrower roads.

First day

The rain had pretty much stopped by the time we arrived, but the air at 1436 metres felt markedly cooler. At that altitude we were pretty much levelled with the lowest clouds, patches of which drifted lazily around the houses’ chimneys.

After settling into our small hotel (called a “casa rural” here) we had lunch at a nearby restaurant, the Botanic Bar, where the fancy food presentation surprised for such a down-to-earth place but the prices were definitely high considering the small portions.

Warmed up and re-energized, we set about exploring the town. The temperature couldn’t have been much more than 12C, but by now the sun was shining. As befits a white village (pueblo blanco), all the small square houses were white, of similar design, and sported characteristically-shaped chimneys (see photos). Since this was a long week-end, a lot of tourists, Spanish and otherwise, were milling around as well.

We bought a gooey melt-in-your mouth pastry at a local bakery which started filling up with patrons as soon as it re-opened at 6:00 PM. Around town, fountains delivered drinking water which I used to refill my bottle. We found a couple of viewpoints which afforded views of the mountains and the two other villages, Bubión and Pampaneira down below. The trees with fuzzy balls I had spied from the road turned out to be chestnut trees and they grew wild all over the place.

As the sun disappeared behind the mountains around 7:00 PM, the wind picked up and we retreated to our room. Unfortunately, the owner hadn’t yet turned on the heat for the season and the room felt a little cooler than we would have liked. It seemed that Granada province was experiencing a cool snap, and being this high up, we were bearing the brunt of it. (Looking at the weather forecast, it looked like the weather would start to warm up the day we were scheduled to leave – of course)

We had dinner at a local restaurant serving hefty portion of Alpujarran food such as sausages, ham, eggs, goat, and potatoes: the food of people who have to walk up and down hills all day in the fresh air! We washed it down with a glass of red house wine.

The hike

On Monday we took it easy in the morning, waiting for the day to warm up a bit (it was still around 10C or lower early on). The plan today was to hike down to the village of Bubión, stop for lunch, and then continue down to Pampaneira. When we realized that the trail was a very narrow dirt path at the edge of a steep slope, we decided to fork out 4 Euros each and buy walking sticks. Pretty much all the other hikers we came across had them.

Even so, I wasn’t at all sure we would make it as my friend suffers from vertigo. Fortunately she managed it (what a trooper), and the eight kilometres we were quoted as the total distance turned out to be somewhat exaggerated. We were in Bubión within less than an hour and stopped for a large menu del día (3 courses plus a tapa) at restaurante Teide.

The sky was getting overcast as we started on the second leg of our hike down to Pampaneira. This took about half-an-hour only and we wandered around this more commercial village until it was time to take the bus back up. There are only three buses a day that go up and down through the villages, so we had to time ourselves carefully. Our total descent on foot for the day: about 430 metres.

Dinner that night was at El Corral del Castaño, on the main plaza. We loved this restaurant as soon as we stepped in. It had a lit fireplace blazing in the back and we snapped the table right next to it (an advantage of showing up for dinner “early” – it was only 8:30 PM after all). We shared a pizza, still rather stuffed from our lunch.

Trying to stay warm

Tuesday was an even cooler and rather windy day, although the sun still shone. After breakfast, we continued exploring the village, taking breaks on sunny benches and watching the clouds dance in the sky. Every once in a while, the winds were so strong that it felt like a mini-hurricane. The colder than normal temperatures had created some snow on the summits that should have been bare at this time of year. As I was trying to take some pictures, bracing myself against the wind, something bit my wrist. I never found out what it was, but it stung pretty bad. A wasp?

We spent the afternoon in the room, my friend napping, and me writing and booking some accommodation in Istanbul for next month. The sun slowly crept across the room, creating some very welcome heat.

We had dinner at the same restaurant as the previous night but this time it was a disappointment. We ordered an expensive salad that we had heard an English visitor rave about, but it turned out to be large chunks of cheese (more than anyone could or should eat in one sitting) on a bed of leaves, with drops of dressing and a few walnuts. Price of this fiasco: 11.60 Euros!

That night we found out that the heat had finally be turned on in our room. We slept well despite having to wake up early on Wednesday for our 7:00 AM bus. We waited over half an-hour outside in the dark until the bus showed up, 15 minutes late, to take us back down to Granada. From there we took another bus to Málaga, our original starting point.

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