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Written by AnnaBeth                                                                                                             To read Sierra Nevada  Part 1  click here

 

In search of snow

About noon we started off. We drove for an hour along winding roads that follow the mountain’s edge, climbing higher and higher, headed for Puerto de La Ragua (La Ragua Pass) where we hoped to find some satisfyingly deep snow. Our immediate destination was the village of Laroles, the last outpost before entering into the depths of the Sierra Nevada.

 

 

I love maps but GPS sure comes in handy as it frees us up to travel with spontaneity without worrying too much about getting lost. I say “too much” because in Spain even the marvelous GPS technology sometimes gets a little confused. As we passed through the village of Nechite, we drove through ancient streets barely a few centimeters wider than our Land Cruiser, twisting and turning so that I clung to my seat, expecting to hear the car’s metal scratching against uneven walls of stone houses built right up to the edge of the road. We had our doubts but there were no directional signs and no one in sight to ask. I knew it was really tight when Olivier let out an involuntary grunt as the uphill streets narrowed even more and options to make a U-turn appeared to disappear. It was hard to imagine backing down if it became impossible to proceed.

Then suddenly, the village walls were gone. We emerged into the bright light of an open field. No more road. Across, a farmhouse. We were free. But way off track!

Lo and behold, a little white truck with Junta de Andalusia (government council) printed on the side was just backing out. How convenient to encounter local officials when we actually need them! The two men appeared somewhat amused by a couple of lost extranjeros (foreigners), but following their directions, we carefully made our way back down the narrow streets out of Nechite and onto the road to Laroles!

Beautiful brown winter mountains and white villages. More turns and more climbing. Still no snow but we weren’t there yet.

This is one of the white villages on the road to Laroles.

 

 

Finally we arrive at Laroles. The village is perched on a steep incline with views over valleys of almond fields below. Laroles is more modern than the other villages, and touristy in a nice, relaxed way. Summer is the busy time in the Sierra Nevada (except at the ski station) and now it’s “off-season”. There’s a light, fun feeling here and I’d like to come back and stay a night or two sometime.

After Laroles, we turn north onto A 337. This is the same road that was closed yesterday in the southbound direction, due to snow. It's open! A light snow begins to fall and the road climbs higher. We’re driving straight into the mountains now, no longer along the mountain’s edge. We’re on the road to La Ragua Pass!

A little patch of snow appears by the road. And then another patch up on the pine covered hillside. Ah, so snow maybe does exist here after all! Since last night’s road closure, we’ve seen only dry winter landscape (Sierra Nevada Part 1). I’d begun to wonder.

 

 

Snow patches become more frequent and my hopes rise, but will there be enough for snowshoeing? More patches, larger patches, a little snow on the trees, more snow on trees, the road keeps curving, climbing. The temperature begins to drop, more snow begins to fall. Snowy patches become wide swatches and the brown landscape begins to shrink. Soon there’s more white than brown. Then the ground is covered with snow. Finally only snow. Everywhere snow. Just snow. Snowy whiteness. Heavy snow on pine limbs. We look ahead at a bending strip of slushy grey road, pine trees drenched in snow, grey-white sky, and nothing else but snow. Ah, the satisfaction of enough snow.

 

Snow on the ground, snow in the air.

 

We drive in peace a little longer. Inner peace. White inner peace.

 

A slope opens on the left. On the right, a wooden building and parking area. La Ragua centro de recreation. It’s closed. No one but us. And the snow.

 

This is what you call a winter wonderland.

 

Powdery virgin Scots pine trees are covered with their winter coats. The sky is grey and snow continues to fall as we pull into the deserted parking area. We are the only ones at La Ragua Pass apart from a snow plow which slowly positions itself and then waits quietly until later that afternoon when it will start plowing the road down the mountain, preparing for the weekend opening of this mini ski and toboggan station. For now, we have the place to ourselves and it is divine.

It’s time to layer up and choose our snacks. Open the car door. Under snowy cloud cover the air is colder than crisp.

We pull out our snowshoes. Mine are still in their new packaging. I break off the label and gleefully throw the hard plastic maroon-colored raquettes onto the powdery ground. Then I begin to figure them out. Oliver is figuring his out too. My fingers are getting cold in their fingerless gloves. Gotta put mittens on. That makes working the fastenings tricky. Olivier ambles over in his snowshoes. He squats down to attach mine while I stable myself with my poles. I feel like a little kid having my shoes tied. I’m grateful I don’t have to figure out complicated adult things like new snowshoe fastenings. I’m ready to play in the snow.

Finally, we get to try out our gear and open a trail across the pristine, white prairie. The silence is total except for the sound of crunching under our large plastic “raquetas” in fresh, deep powder. We approach the forest and decide to climb along its edge so as to be more protected from the falling snow and to test the gripping qualities of the metal claws of our new equipment.

 

Photo taken from a slope where we snowshoed. La Ragua Pass recreation station is off in the distance.

 

 

Along the forest edge.

 

 

The snow is fresh and deep. We get a workout.

 

 

 

 

Entering the forest. A place where fairies play.

 

 

Opening to a glade

 

 

 

 

As the grey white daylight begins to fade we make our way down the last slope.

Back in Trevélez, we head ravenously for the Mesón Pizzería El Goterón where Olivier is in pizza heaven (Spanish style with lots of local jamón serrano) and I discover a local specialty of mushrooms, eggplant and green beans. (Later, at home, I try to concoct something similar but it does not remotely resemble the delectable original.)

 

Back at the lodge.

 

 

Pilar has lit the fire so our apartamento is toasty. We fall into bed, deliciously exhausted from the day.

 

 

The next morning we visit the touristic center of Trevélez and learn more about pig eating.

Mind you, we are used to pork being a staple of Andalusia. Everywhere we go we are offered porcine specialties. It’s just that in Trevélez the culture of ham has been elevated to something of a local art form.

Jamon Serrano means “ham from the sierra” although nowadays it is also produced in other parts of Spain using indoor climate control to mimic the seasonal changes of mountainous regions. In Trevélez, the natural seasonal changes provide the right temperatures for curing ham. The process takes 12-18 months.

 

 

We browse through a well stocked store of traditional items such as wool rugs, hand painted dishes, local jams and chocolates, and lots of glass jars of patés, terrines and other foodstuffs made from pig.

 

 

I ask the store owner a culturally delicate question that fascinates me: “This area is steeped in the Islamic history of the Moors yet eating pigs is a foundation of the local diet and way of life. How can this be?” So far, no one has offered me a satisfying answer. How will the vendor respond? Will he take offense? He offers the standard, predictable answer: “All of the Moriscos are gone. It’s Christian here now”. The man seems thoughtful so I keep going: “I know that’s what everyone says, but up in these mountains, didn’t some of the Moors remain, hiding out? This place was so remote then. I can’t believe that every single person, every family, died or left. It just doesn’t seem possible.” So the man responds that it’s true, there were of course mixed relationships that gave way to mixed offspring. So yes, Morisco descendants are probably eating the pigs of their conqueror’s culture.

The vendor sells me a copy of Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving, an American who lived in Granada two centuries ago. He thinks it’s time for me to start exploring the mythical ins and outs of this part of Andalusia, the Alpujarra. He’s right, it’s time.

 

 

I love this lady.

 

 

We walk along the Rio de Trevélez which is sourced from mountain springs and melting snow.

 

 

Then we head through farmland up a trail that leads to the highest peak, the Mulhacen. We might hike to the Mulhacen another time.

 

 

I love these big beasts. As you can see, these are not Jersey cows. We did a little reading and now that we are cow experts, our best guess is these are a mix: the Pajuna is a rare Andalusian breed, the Sayaguesa is an endangered Spanish breed, and the Lidia are the Spanish bullfighting cattle.

 

 

We head back down to our apartamento in the valley for a comfy evening in front of the fire.

 

 

Thus ends our fruitful first venture into the Sierra Nevada.

 

Comments  

+1 #25 Lynda Hagen 2017-09-18 07:12
Am thoroughly enjoying the visual poetry
and cadence of your flowing travelogues!
They have inspired a happy synæsthesia -
like effect so I can smell the local air from afar.
Synergistic smell-a-vision, dear intrepid
travelers...that's what you've achieved as a team. You have a gift for sharing in a way that brings all of us there with you, in the moment.
I sincerely hope to vicariously revel in more of your adventures off-the-beaten-path.
There is great magic wherever one wanders with an open heart & light spirit✨
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+1 #24 Helene 2017-04-04 12:34
As always, it's just beautiful.
Bravo and thanks for these beautiful photos. I wish I could just take off and go there!
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0 #23 AB 2017-04-03 13:57
Quoting Joy Freeman:
So glad you got your snow and snow shoeing!

I am too!!
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+1 #22 Joy Freeman 2017-04-02 19:11
So glad you got your snow and snow shoeing!
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0 #21 AB 2017-04-02 11:12
Quoting Inge Karson:
Beautiful pictures and such a wonderful and peaceful trip. Thanks again for sharing. Really beautiful!!!

Inge, thanks for being such a faithful reader. It's so nice to be in touch with you in this way. :-)
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+1 #20 Ninah 2017-04-02 02:24
Wow. The pictures made the excursion come alive.! And I loved seeing the pictures of the two of you
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+1 #19 Inge Karson 2017-04-02 02:22
Beautiful pictures and such a wonderful and peaceful trip. Thanks again for sharing. Really beautiful!!!
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+1 #18 Joan 2017-04-02 00:34
I love going along on your adventures.
Enjoyed it all and especially the beautiful photographs of snow, those cows, and learning about Southern Spain's pig culture.
What a trip!
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0 #17 AB 2017-03-31 19:56
Quoting Babette Lewis:
:-* How exciting?! And the pictures are wonderful. Thanks for sharing this winter adventure with me. Almost made me cold, except today it's in the 80's already. Stay safe and continue your heavenly Spanish storybook.


A "Spanish storybook". What a nice description. Thx!
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+1 #16 Babette Lewis 2017-03-31 18:56
:-* How exciting?! And the pictures are wonderful. Thanks for sharing this winter adventure with me. Almost made me cold, except today it's in the 80's already. Stay safe and continue your heavenly Spanish storybook.
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0 #15 AB 2017-03-31 16:06
Quoting Steve Ellman:
Gorgeous landscapes. Such harmony and grace.

Harmony and grace, beautiful descriptions of descriptions. Thank you.
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0 #14 AB 2017-03-31 16:02
Quoting Stuart Schulman:
Beautiful. The narrative and the reality. The photos are super-real. Most of all, the sense of freedom in exploration, at so many levels. You two are enriching our lives as you enrich your own with these glimpses into a rarely seen world. Thank you.


Then we are accomplishing a big part of our goal, so thank you!!
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+1 #13 Stuart Schulman 2017-03-31 15:28
Beautiful. The narrative and the reality. The photos are super-real. Most of all, the sense of freedom in exploration, at so many levels. You two are enriching our lives as you enrich your own with these glimpses into a rarely seen world. Thank you.
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0 #12 AB 2017-03-31 11:41
Quoting Judith Elaine Halek:
How amazing and wonderful text as well as photographs. Was like going through the scene of a movie of sorts. Thanks so much for sharing.


To Judith and everyone commenting, it's so cool to see that our photos and words seem to be getting our message across.
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+2 #11 Judith Elaine Halek 2017-03-31 06:13
How amazing and wonderful text as well as photographs. Was like going through the scene of a movie of sorts. Thanks so much for sharing.
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