|Cave home in Guadix|
Almeria is the closest town to our marina, about 25 miles. It's an interesting drive along the coast, first past miles of plastic greenhouses inland of small towns and urbanizations, then along the cliffs directly above the sea. Almeria is a modern town with a large port and ferry service to Melilla, Morocco as well as an airport. On the highpoint above the town is a large Alcazaba. It is said to be the best surviving example of Moorish military fortification. There are three large walled enclosures, in one of which is the remains of a mosque that was later converted to a chapel by the Christians. Almeria was an independent kingdom in the eleventh century when it was a major commercial center and the wealthiest city in Spain.
When we couldn't get in to see the Alcazaba we decided to drive around the north side of the Sierra Nevada (we'd already driven the southern route) and visit Guadix (60 km east of Granada) with it's famous troglodyte quarter. It was a pretty drive with the landscape reminding us very much of Southern Nevada - desert vegetation with hills and mountains varying from barren to lush with conifers. There were even tufa formations near Guadix, something we've only seen at Mono Lake on the east side of the Sierra Nevada in California. Funny coincidence that these are also at the foot of the Sierra Nevada here in Andalucia.
This was one of the most interesting places we have visited so far. The Barrio Santiago (population 10,000) in the town of Guadix, consists of dwellings hollowed out of the hills. Many homes revealed only a front door, chimney and maybe a window. Excavation is easy in the hard clay of this area and the rooms are impermeable to rain. Regardless of the outside temperature the inside remains a constant 20 degrees C (68 F). Some had nice patios complete with tables, chairs, plants, caged birds and pets so the residents could enjoy the fresh air and sunlight.
This man allowed us to visit his cave dwelling.
Views of inside his cave dwelling.
The view from the Barrio Santiago of Guadix, with the ninth-century Alcazaba and the sixteenth-century red sandstone cathedral. The cathedral was built on the site of a former mosque.
A sixteenth-century castle on the hill above the village of La Calahorra. The Rough Guide says it one of the finest in Spain but is only open on Wednesdays so this is as close as we came to it.
La Calahorra is a small, pretty town at the foot of the Sierra Nevada where a narrow road crosses the mountain range in a north/south direction. It's the only road to do so. Even at that, we saw very little traffic. A good thing as the road was winding and often only the width of one car. Our tiny VW Polo seemed very wide.
The leaves were turning and the snow stakes were in place. That evening the mountains had their first dusting of snow this season.
Our timing wasn't perfect...the Alcazaba was closed the day we visited (a Monday of course) but it is a short bus ride from our marina so we'll be back.
Jim standing near the Alcazaba with the town and port of Alemeria in the background.
Tufa towers, the same geologic feature as found at Mono Lake near our house in Mammoth Lakes, California
Not far from here is the area known locally as Mini Hollywood and the preserved film set of A Fistful of Dollars.
A view of the chimneys on a hillside in Guadix.
It is thought that the first inhabitants of the Guadix caves were seventeenth-century Moors fleeing from religious persecution.
The homes varied from very simple (but still with a street address) to more elaborate and fancy.
Chimneys, caves and Katie.
Inside the cave dwelling next to the fireplace.
After being at sea level for months Jim is happy to have an altitude adjustment.
After a very narrow switchbacking road we reached Puerto La Ragua, Andalucia's highest all-weather pass. The guidebook said the pass was 1993 meters, but I guess 2000 sounded better for the sign (that's about 6500 feet).