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Our first day was not too demanding, after a mid-day start progressing down the Andalucian coast towards Salobreña on the Costa Tropical and our hotel for the next four nights, the “Best Western Salobreña”.
We arrived at the hotel mid-afternoon, it was spectacularly perched on a cliff top overlooking the sea with wonderful views of Salobreña old town and castle, which meant we had time to settle down, relax, unwind and have a pre-prandial drink (or two!).
Day 2: A visit to the region called La Axarquía was planned, but first a visit to the spectacular Caves of Nerja. These fascinating dripstone caves, only discovered in 1959, are 200,000 years old and contain one of the world’s biggest columns, formed by a stalactite meeting a stalagmite, an impressive 32 metres tall. The circular route through the caverns was hard going for some as it involved many flights of stairs, luckily we had arrived first before dozens of subsequent coach parties as it was quite humid inside, but it was well worth the effort.
We then headed to the town of Torox, where a church visit was not possible due to an ongoing funeral; this meant we had free time for coffees until a quick tour of an Almacen and a tasting of the local olive oil.
It was back on the coach to wind our way up into the Axarquian hills where after a short stroll down a dusty track we reached our destination.
We were due to lunch with the “Local Housewives”. Our location was spectacular an old cortijo perched on a hillside with stunning views across several valleys and mountain ranges to the coast. Outside the cortijo amongst the trees, there were two large pergolas set up with two rows of tables. What followed was a feast of Andalucian dishes, cold meats and cheeses, 3 types of olives, aubergines in sugar cane syrup, migas, soup, roasted vegetables, and pork in almond sauce. This was all washed down with lashings of beer and wine and accompanied by rustic bread and olive oil.
Nowadays the area is famous for its ham curing, so of course, we had to visit a typical “secadero de jamón” and, of course, we had to taste and wash it down with a drink.
Our next stop was in the charming village of Pampineira which proved to be very popular, especially once we knew about the chocolate factory!
Our final stop was little village of Capileira, the highest settlement accessible by road. In the local “bodega” we were crammed in and served local wine and tapas. Not very memorable and some of us branched off to get lunch elsewhere.
Day 4: Today, led by Rebecca, the fittest amongst us set off on a coastal walk (route march) to Salobreña. The walk was optional some took the option and went by coach, I am sure there were others who had wished they had done likewise. Our route took us past the old sugar cane factory and the whitewashed workers village surrounding it; and then we passed banana, chiramoya and nispero orchards, the whole area below the town spread out like a giant allotment growing the sort of exotic produce only found in this part of Spain.
After a short rest in the town and a long cold beer, most of us were led upwards on a walk through the winding streets to the beautifully situated Moorish 12th century fortress. Some opted out early, whilst others found the route too steep and turned back.
The effort was worth it, we entered the fortress and from this strategically situated spot we had excellent views over both the Mediterranean Sea and the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Afterwards, we were given three vouchers each which enabled us to get tapas and a drink at a few selected bars, which on this part of the coast it is called “aperitivo”. This was an ideal way to explore the rest of the town independently.
Luckily after an exhausting day our coach was there waiting to transport everybody back to the Hotel.
The park surrounds the remains of the Roman fish-salting factory, El Salazón, which supplied the Roman Empire with salted fish two thousand years ago; and is also home to many restored small buildings housing artisan workshops.
The town has a lovely ancient quarter with narrow little streets tumbling down from the castle with lots of shops, and as luck would have it, Friday was local market day.
After another guided tapas tour (Oh no, not more free food and wine!) we made our jolly way back to the Valle del Almanzora.