Karen had planned a great itinerary to an interesting region that I had never heard of. In the northern part of the Province of Granada is a vast plateau of flatlands surrounded by the highest peaks of the Bética Mountain Range reaching as high as the Sierra de la Sagre at a height of 2,381 meters. The overall plateau region is known as ‘El Altiplano de Granada’ and is a land of contrasts. Areas of the most arid plains are to be found just a few kilometres away from some of the lushest forests in the Mediterranean. Because of its rich natural environment, the Altiplano is a protected area encompassing the Natural Parks of the Sierra de Bazaand the Sierra de Castril.
Our trip was not without its problems, but one comes to expect that to be the norm in Spain!
The lumpy bumpy, one track road continued in a straight line for miles until suddenly the earth opened up before us in the shape of a cavernous valley and perched below was the white washed village of Castril our first port of call, bordering Jaen in the Natural Park Sierra de Castril.
We faffed for a while waiting for our guide, originally an English speaker, who apparently had done a runner the week before (obviously he had heard what a tough crowd GOF are!). Instead we had an enthusiastic Head of Tourism, Pedro who was to be our guide, traffic controller and waiter for the day.
The highlight of the day for me was a stunning gorge walk along a wooden walkway attached to a cliff face and overhanging a raging river. We then wobbled over a rickety (Indiana Jones) rope and cable bridge followed by a dark tunnel, an old Crystal Mine, which eventually ended at a mirador. The route continued up to the high point of the village dominated by Peña del Sagrado Corazón, but our guide decided that most of us would not survive the climb involved.
Next stop was Huescar, known as “Cuidad de la Paz” (City of Peace). We had lunch at a cavernous hostelry where the waiters could not decide which fish dish was which. They soon learnt that we were a thirsty demanding bunch and eventually trebled the alcoholic content on the table.
Huescar has many fine buildings ranging from Roman, Moorish and Gothic we were shown an ancient bandstand and told that the brass band tradition in Spain had started here over 200 years ago.
We continued to the Colegata of Santa Maria Maggiore a sixteenth century Gothic-Renaissance style cathedral which is the landmark of the city and a National Monument.
We were greeted by a monk/missionary in a rather dapper outfit complete with knee high leather riding boots, looking like a crusader. There followed, I am led to believe, a long and exhaustive tour of the cathedral, its museum and its history, I passed.
We then had a tour of the streets, looked at the bull ring, heard stories of the underground tunnels and the local Gaudi house then browsed a wonderful local arts exhibition in a restored building. We ended up (minus a missing few) at the Tourist Office for tastings of local produce in the way of lemon and orange liqueurs and surprisingly tasty biscuits.
Time had run out, it was getting late and it was decided to give our last stop Orce a miss. An interesting but exhausting day, thanks Karen.