It was quite a chilly start when we woke up after our night at Terque. The thermometer reckoned it was just 2.1C outside at 9am – that is Scottish weather. Although we are quite high in the mountains we are still fairly close to the sea. Today we climb much higher on a minor road over the Santillana Pass (1320m or 4270ft) and then drop down the other side into the high valley behind. We are staying at an aire on the edge of the little town of Abla at an altitude of 830m (2700ft). This will be our highest stopover of the whole trip and we may be here for three nights. It was 0.8C at 9am when we got up this morning after our first night at Abla and that is probably the coldest morning of the whole trip. However once the sun climbed over the mountains it soon warmed up and as I write this at 4:30pm it is 22C indoors and 15c outdoors. We can handle the cold mornings if that hot sun warms up the days.

Driving up the Rio Andarax valley
A mirador above a small town in the Andarax valley

Anyway back to our journey. The first part out of Terque took us west up the Rio Andarax valley for a few miles to just past Illar where we turned off up a smaller road. Up being the operative word – up and up again. Seriously serpentine road that wound to and fro and around the face of the mountain. I have spent quite a lot of time in and around the Alps and I thought I knew about mountain roads. These roads are different, I suspect that actually these mountains are different. I am used to glaciated mountains where the shape of the land has been sculpted by huge rivers of ice during the last ice age. The glaciers never reached this far south and these mountains have only been shaped by water not ice. Anyway there are none of those steep slopes where the road climbs to and fro across the slop with numerous hairpin bends. These roads have some hairpin bends but the route is far more convoluted as it weaves in and out of steep ravines and negotiates narrow aide valleys.

Looking back on the road snaking away below us
You can follow sections of the road almost all the way back to the valley floor
Quite high now but the hillsides are terraced all the way up

We had hoped to stop at a viewpoint near the top of the pass but on arrival it was very small and full of one car and dozens of big motorbikes. I did not fancy trying to get Bertie off the road and I saw little chance of getting him level. We pressed on. Past that viewpoint the slope was easier as we climbed the last section of the valley. We finally pulled off on a large layby near the top with a view of the tiny hamlet ( maybe 6 houses) with a huge church. I suspect this was built to support medieval travellers and may be pilgrims too – it was certainly far bigger than any community likely to exist that this altitude.

Coffee stop near Tices church

Once over the top the road dropped quickly and rather less dramatically down in to the wide valley the other side and there below us was our destination – Abla. Another ancient town, like Terque it is built on (and probably into) the south facing side of a steep ridge that provided security. The top of the town is crowned by the remains of a moorish citadel and fortess although here this has been absorbed into the town and does not stand separate as many others do. There are two aires in Alba, one is on the main street right at the start of the town and this is where we headed at first. The plan was to service Bertie and explore the town. Hoqwever this was not to be – the drain was blocked and the efluent was the last motorhome was very much in evidence all around – nice! There is another aire just 2kms away and slightly out of town. This one is by the sportsfield and town BBQ park. This is much nicer, very peaceful, lots of space, no problem with the plumbing and just one other van (German) but he was parked in the car park rather than the special motorhome area.

Bertie at the Abla sportsfield aire

This is a great spot. Very quite indeed, as much water as we want whnever we want. Even rubbish recycling bins. All the sports facilities are closed up and by the amount of leaves heaped up in the corners it has not been used for months. The swimming pool says it is 0pen from 22 June to 1st September. The intriguing thing is this “Parque Barbacoas” which is beside the aire. This is big, shady picnic site with 32 tables (no benches!), toilets (open and working), a closed up kiosk, a fountain (dry) and a special, seperate area with 5 blocks of BBQs – each block has four BBQ hearths on each side and a tap and sink at each end. That is 40 BBQs. It is all a bit run down now but it is clearly looked after as the toilets are in good order and the fence and gates are perfect. It must be quite something when it is in use and all 40 BBs are being used.

The BBQ and picnic area
The BBQ area

After a peaceful (if rather cold) night we were pleased to tuck in to our hot porridge! Cold it might be but that sunshine was amazing.  At 9:30 am I put the blind down at the back of Bertie and the little shaft of sunshine that squeezed in past the bikes felt really warm. We moved Bertie back to the service point to refill with water and empty waste. With free services on hand we do this every day and have lots of showers! We needed to move Bertie out of the shade anyway to maximise the power from his solar panel.

We have not had a long walk for a few days so today the plan was to walk into Abla and explore the town. Today is the 6th January and this is a big deal in Spain. The feast of the Epiphany is the high point of the Christmas period here and is more important that Christmas day on 25th December. As a result the town was pretty much closed all except a couple of bars and one small food shop. Most of the people we saw seemed to be out visiting in their Sunday best!

The path through the olives and vines

It was a nice walk into town. We walked down the road a bit then through the little small holdings with olives and almonds and some veg and also vines too. The path took us underneath the big dual carriageway that now bypasses the town and the then under the old main road too so we emerged in the town itself. I had hoped that the bakery might be open – we do not need bread but some pastries might be nice. Luckily we were saved from such temptation unless we want to return tomorrow.

We saw quite a few places like this
A view of Abla town from one of the higher streets
The view north of Abla. Bertie is near that large building in the middle distance. That is part of the sports complex.

Abla is a warren of narrow streets that run along the side of the ridge and are connected by occasional steep ramps but more often by narrow steep steps. We made our way along the ridge and almost up to the very top of the town. We did wonder about having a coffee in the cafe in the tiny Plaza Mayor (main square) but decided it did not look very nice so kept on walking. In all we walked about a mile around the little town.

The walk back was just as pleasant. The sun is strong and warm but the air is cool. In fact you do not want to loiter in the shade too long as it can be chilly. When we got back to Bertie he was quite hot indoors so we opened several windows and let him breathe a bit whilst I cooked lunch. If this weather keeps up we will be very happy to stay here until Wednesday when we go to Granada ready for the Alhambra on Thursday.

Abla