10 days of holiday left or Andalusia compact in 256 hours - our flight from the oncoming autumn
Veronika Singer (Head of Business Administration / Corporate Development) her partner Thorsten Singer used the last remaining days of holiday for a quick escape to warmer climates and the sun. As autumn had already arrived in Germany, they both decided not to use their own motorcycles this time, a BMW F800 GS and a BMW F650 GS, but to fly to beautiful Spain - and, how else could it be, both of them could and wanted to discover the land and people on two wheels.
»Text & photos: Veronika Hembach & Thorsten Singer
A miserable five degrees, drizzle and never ending fog banks are our companions on the motorway as we drive to the airport on our way to Málaga. We soon forget the abysmal weather when we disembark some four hours later to be met on the gangway by a magic 28 degrees, blue skies and not a cloud in sight.
With more than 3,000 hours of sunshine, Andalusia is Spain's sunniest region, and this is just one of the reasons for us visiting this southernmost region of Spain, next to controversial landscapes, tasty food and an interesting history. It was this guaranteed good weather, even in October, which made us decide to come here for our autumn vacation - especially as we only had limited time available as both of us have full-time jobs.
Armed with hand luggage only, we made haste to get to Johannes and Eva at the Touratech Test Centre Hispania Tours in Málaga to collect the bikes. We had already shipped our outdoor equipment in advance to the province capital by mail and could hardly await to strap our sleeping bags and luggage rolls to the motorcycles and finally be astride a machine again. The Touratech inner bags were quickly stowed in the cases, the camping stove and cooking utensils stashed away and the Garmin navigator switched on. The first 172 of 2,200 kilometers of our Andalusian trip were waiting for us.
The first leg of our tour took us southwards. A quick stopover in Marbella's yacht harbor, where the rich and beautiful people of this world meet, was a must. Shortly behind Marbella, the A-397 meanders up to Ronda - a well maintained road and we even come across the occasional sports machine. On our first day we take a more leisurely approach with our water-cooled R1200 GS and F650 GS - the views are simply sensational, leaving you virtually speechless after each bend on the road. No sooner had one left the touristy region, the landscape was dominated by barren mountains, only to be interrupted by the occasional typical small village with its white-bleached walls.
After crossing the Puente Nuevo in Ronda, which was built in the 18. century, we continued to the Caminito del Rey. There we met Maja, a Polish backpacker, who was totally engrossed by the "King's Little Road". Since her childhood she had been dreaming of walking along this most dangerous track in the world. However, this has been closed to hikers and climbers for years and access is strictly forbidden and punished, she tells us. WE view the path and the impressive gorge from a safe distance before ending the day with a beautiful view over the Embalse Conde del Guadalhorc dam from the El Mirador restaurant.
The following day starts off later than we expected. A first hesitant look from under our tent at 7.30 a.m. told us that our clocks would be running differently for the next 10 days - the moon could still be seen, no sign of dawn yet. So we turned over in our sleeping bags without having a bad conscience and did not start brewing our morning coffee until 0.00 a.m. This certainly lets you leave everyday stress behind. Breakfast at nine, a long lunch between 2 and 4 p.m. and dinner never before 21.30 hrs - we quickly adapt to the customs of the Spaniards in the south and take a relaxed approach to the next stages of our trip. The unreal moon landscape of the Torcal de Antequerra impresses us, as does the town of Antequerra, which next to having a bullring, gives the impression of having a church for every inhabitant.
Following smallest and small roads, bend after bend and pass after pass, we rode north over the following few days. Thorsten and his powerful R1200 GS master every incline, easing through every bend. With the vibrant F650 GS following the two of them. Europe has so many fantastic landscapes to offer. It does not always have to be the end of the world, a few days here have certainly convinced us of that. Although the odd road here does indeed give us the impression of being at the end of the world: on miles and miles of twisting roads with perfect asphalt we do not come across a single car, only steep cliffs and brilliant views as we sweep through the bends. We are fortunate in having our drink rucksacks with us, as cafes and restaurants are rare occasions.
he SO-02 follows the Parque Natural Sierras de Tejeda between Otivar and Padul. No crash barriers, no railings, and a steep drop of several hundred meters to the left. This spectacular solitude is only interrupted by natural tunnels and rock fall - we only find one single catering stop on a stretch of 60 kilometers – hungry, we stop at a house constructed of natural stone to enjoy the usual lunch consisting of bocadillos and a café con leche. We got the impression that the entire population of this village, consisting of maybe five houses, had gathered in the tavern to marvel at our motorcycles.
The straight roads of the high plateau take us through pine forests, a complete opposite to the coastal region, and the final kilometers to Güejar Sierra are a doddle. Here we pitched our tent for a few days to discover the Sierra Nevada and, of course, visit the Alhambra de Granada.
We feel as being in the midst of a tale of a thousand and one nights as we enter this last bastion of the Moorish caliph. We enjoy the view over the historic Albayzin, the old city center of Granada. Built in the Middle Ages, the craftsmanship of the intricate woodwork and masonry of this fortress is most impressive. Gardens with palms and small waterfalls alternate between the completely intact buildings of this massive fort. We could have spent all day in the pleasantly cool Arrayanes Courtyard of the Nasrid Palace where the impressive walls of this Arab oasis are reflected in the water. We feel as if we have been taken back to long forgotten times, one expects the caliph and his entourage to come round the next corner at any moment.
The next day's leg is a complete contrast: autumn has arrived in Andalusia. The twisting route on Europe's highest road to the Pico de Veleta in the Sierra Nevada and on to Almería is a paradise for every motorcyclist. Our eyes find it difficult to process all the impressions – blue skies without a cloud in sight alternate with brilliant yellow deciduous woods which line the road. We stop over in Trevélez, one of the highest communities in Spain – the smell of air-cured Serrano ham, for which the village is well known, is everywhere. In the small inn where we stop, myriads of this culinary delicacy hang suspended from the ceiling. And of course, we taste it as the landlady cuts off fine slices for us. All served with bread and a soup made from white beans, bacon and potatoes.
Fortified, we climb aboard our saddles and continue northwards along Spain's highest mountains to reach our interim destination at the Cabo de Gata. The deeper the road twists into the valley, the closer we get to Almería, the greater the change in climate – our throats are dry, the landscape resembles a desert.
Not surprisingly, the region around the port is one of the driest areas of this continent and the Desierto de Tabernas through which we pass, is the only desert Europe's. "It never rains here for more than two days", explains José, cook at the small restaurant of the camping site at the imCabo de Gata, while we enjoy a cold beer after having erected our tent. A strong wind brews, clouds over the sea, rapidly approaching with thunder and lightning. Just our luck - with only two days of rain per year, we get one of them. However, for José the thunderstorm is a highlight. The whole team stands under the porch and stares at the heavens as the floodgates open. We crawl into our tent and listen to the barrage of the rain on the canvas.
When we carefully open the zipper of our abode on the next morning, the sun is back with its beautiful smile. We can hardly wait to discover the Cabo de Cata natural reserve. And off we go. We cross through endless rows of depressing greenhouses which dominate the outskirts of Almeria, full of vegetables destined for Germany. In the natural reserve, the scenery changes immediately: the coastline's volcanic origins beckon with unpaved paths, just itching to be tackled by our enduros. Between the holiday resorts Las Negras and San José we turn onto a gravel road and follow it until it ends at a precipice. We were rewarded with a fantastic view of the glittering water in the bay.
We continue directly along the ocean through the salines of "Reserva de las Salinas". Waves hit the beach. You get the feeling of being one with the movement of the ocean. In the middle of a salt lake on the other side of the road we can see flamingos, but to get a better view, we need to look through the lens of our camera. Shortly before the sun sets we reach the Cabo de Gata lighthouse - the road there is so narrow that we have difficulty in passing oncoming vehicles. The sun warms our faces as we stand at the observation post. We sit down on the cliffs, with silent volcanos behind us, the expanse of the Mediterranean in front of us, the warm engines of the motorcycles hungering for the next kilometers. Full of fantastic impressions and energy for a return to real life, we are already contemplating or next biking holiday and a return to Andalusia.