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GBU 17 - A Few Trails More -part 2

Rodger

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During the year Dave, Cookie (Dave’s dog), Corinne and I have been exploring potential trails. The final selection was left to me and I wanted, where ever possible, round routes with fabulous scenery and a reasonable amount of challenging driving.


17th: Having left the campsite at Freila, we met Dave at the dam of the massive Negratin reservoir and then we were five – 2 x 80 series, 2 x 90 series and a 40 – and after a short photo session we had a short drive to get to the head of The Badlands (locals’ name for it) trail. Initially the trail passes an Ostrich farm and climbs quickly through olive groves and becomes a hunters’ trail on the peak of a high ridge with huge drops and stunning views. The trail descends along a mountainside hugging rain eroded, narrow path to the ‘ice-cream’ hills near the bottom and then we pass through the middle of a forest farm plantation. The rocks range in colour from white, grey, pink, red and sand.

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Having crossed the river we ran along the logging-truck gravel road and to a collection of farm buildings where we turned left and the trucks don’t. We were back in the olive groves, dry river crossings and, at the place where we had originally planned to stop for lunch, there was a goat herder with his pack of sorry-looking dogs so we went on through the ford (Rio Fardes) until we found a suitable spot. After the break we started to climb into the Gorafe desert. Challenging in parts as the trail is little used, it suffers from wash-outs and eventually drops down to a dry river bed.

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The DRB quickly becomes bordered by majestic, colourful, vertical rock walls that rise several hundred metres and then we start the climb out – steep, with a loose, rough surface and tight bends, vertical drops and when we stopped at the top the view contains nothing, absolutely nothing, which is man-made, aside from our trucks, and you can see for miles. Rock faces, one way, which look like massive fortress walls and the other has forbidding grey, impenetrable, scrub covered hills.

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Later we stopped at a hill top cave refuge – three rooms complete with windows and a fireplace with chimney hole in the rock roof and a constant temperature – which we had used as a respite during our very hot reccie.

We climbed to the top of the mesa that overlooks the village of Gorafe and then descended the steep trail down into the village, only to find that much of this track had been concreted since our reccie of a few months ago. Gorafe, which has numerous cave-houses, is surrounded by high cliffs and, as with most villages in southern Spain is lit at night, but several times a year they turn off the street lights so that people can view the stars without ‘light pollution’.

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Although the day’s trail was only 59 miles of which around 45 was off-road, it still took most of the day and we returned to the campsite at Freila for a few beers.


18th: The threat of rain meant we broke camp quickly and as we departed it started. The day would take us across the Sierra Baza (2200 metres) down to the valley and then over the Sierra Nevada (2000 metres) and down to Laroles. By the time we reached the start of the climb into the Sierra Baza the rain had set in but now with added thunder. The views are amazing but when surrounded by cloud and lightning flashes we couldn’t see much. The trail itself isn’t particularly demanding and had been chosen as Froggy Steve had his trailer on as we would be at a new campsite that night. In the valley we stopped at La Calahorra Estation – which was the film location for the railway shots in Sergio Leone’s trilogy plus the opening scene and the Flagstone panorama in Once Upon A Time In The West and the remains of some of the buildings from the latter film remain. But we didn’t stay long as it was cold and wet and the ladies needed to use the facilities at the services just a few kilometres away. We then climbed the Puerto de la Ragua over the Sierra Nevada and actually got to look down on a rainbow.

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Laroles is situated 1100 metres above sea level and when we went into the clubhouse with its panoramic windows some thought the windows were opaque until the rain stopped and the cloud started to lift and the vista of the Alpujarra valley became visible. We all enjoyed a superb meal in front of a log fire.

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19th: After the rains we deemed that the proposed trail for that day should be abandoned so we travelled a scenic route along the edge of the national park (with few exceptions, no motorised vehicles are allowed on un-tarmaced roads in Spanish national parks), stopping in our home town of Ugijar so that cakes could be purchased. Then back into the hills to Bayacal, the highest village in Almeria province, onto Laujar and Fondon and at Padules we dropped down into the valley onto the old road which is much neglected as it meanders up along the hillside giving great views over the western edge of the Tabernas desert.

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By mid-afternoon we were setting up camp in the campsite we used last year and then it was beer o’clock.

20th: The film location tour was 82 miles but less than 5 miles was on paved roads. Our first stop was on private land but we had obtained permission to visit from the owners and it is where Clint meets Indie’s gang and was also the location where the safe was opened. Corinne found a 5 peseta piece which had undoubtedly fallen from Clint’s pocket(!). The location had also been used in Lawrence of Arabia and the original Indiana Jones movie, indeed whichever way you look there are amazing film set views. Onwards to the overhanging cliff where Clint and Tuco (Eli Wallach) argued about their cut. There was an area below that merited 4x4 exploring and therefore photos and videos – much enjoyed.

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A short road section took us to Mini Hollywood and from there to a climb that has been used numerous times (7 major shot locations plus many minor infill scenes) in the Leone trilogy plus it has the remains of the stone bridge that was blown up in A Fistful of Dynamite. This route no longer goes through so at a suitable place to turn we lunched. Although a dead end trail it is an interesting route so Steve & Dawn and Ian & Ed took the opportunity to go to the end although they didn’t find Dave’s glasses which he dropped during the reccie! From there we picked up a trail that is shown on the maps as a dead end but, having reccied it, we knew different. Reasonably challenging, it drops down through a rambla and from there we arrived at the location for the opening shot in The Good, Bad and the Ugly.

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From there we visited a set which has been used in various films but found that the road exit after it has been recently chained (since our reccie) so we retraced our steps and using an old trail and a steep climb arrived in Tabernas for refreshments before the shops opened again at 5pm. At one point during the day in a dry river bed we met a guy we know coming the other way and the vehicle numbers were for a short while equal as he was also in a 40.

21st: From our reccie at the end of September we knew that our original route was now impassable after the rains (all the DR Beds were raging rivers for two days in mid-September), so we were going to try an un-reccied route. Working with Google Earth I’d found the film set for Ridley Scott’s 2013 Exodus – 2 villages and palm lined avenue.

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Well worth the visit which was followed by a steep, rough climb to a village and from there the route was chained but we decided to visit and lunch in a dead end, challenging valley that we call Mica Valley. An amazing place that we’d found by accident. Suitably fed we returned to the challenging trail of the previous afternoon where photos, videos and fun was had by all and, eventually, we returned via the dry river beds to the campsite. Dave needed to leave – pressure of work – and Corinne had hurt her back so we took our leave and the others enjoyed a meal in the local hostelry that night.

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22nd: 317.7 miles today, as we head home with a deviation to L’ Escala to see some friends tomorrow. Highest point 2888ft. All main road and autoroutes from Tabernas passing Lorca through the Parque Regional de Sierra Espuna onto Murcia, over Sierra Mariola. Then through Parque Natural de l’Albufera and Parque Natural del Turia past Valencie and Castello onto a campsite in the Parc Natural del Desert de Les Palmes. Camspite was at Benicassim Castello called Bonterra Park. Huge site with many nationalities and every facility you could ask for.

23rd: 248.7 miles all autoroute today. From campsite at Benicassim Castello through the Parc Natural de la Serra d’Irta over Moladel Gravol. Past Tarragona and Barcelona so Sils then onto L’Escala to meet some old friends and spent the night with them.

24th: 379.9 miles all autoroutes and main roads again today as we head home. From L’Escala through Parc Natural des Aiguamolls de L’Empora to Fugures and Perpignan. Through the Parc Naturel Regional de la Narbonnaise en Mediteranee past Carcassone and Castelnaudary and Toulouse. Between Montauban and Cahors we said our goodbyes to Mark and Mel and we headed on to Cahors and Brive La Gaillarde then Perigueux and home.
 

Chris

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Why bother with the crossing to Morocco when you've this in mainland Europe. We're going to have to come down and drive some of that Rodger. Looks superb.
 

AndyCook

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Looks great, had a mountain biking holiday in the Alpujara once, great place
 

Rodger

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I was talking with Dave2000 about suggesting that if people wanted to arrange a small group to come down we would be delighted to take them on a selection of the trails we have found. The most beautiful time in the desert is the late Spring (May is best) as the desert flowers are spectacular and the trails are still as difficult. We are up for it if people want to come down.
The Alpujarra valley is one of Spain's hidden gems - well we like it!

Regards,

Rodger
 

nick_the_fish

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wow brilliant photos. Looks like some great trails there. Duly added to 'places to visit' list
 
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froggy Steve

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It has to be said - awesome, bloody awesome holiday :) I was actually depressed when we got home, i didnt want it to end :( We had such a laugh. Thanks Rodger, Corrine and Dave (with cookie the dog) for doing the reccies on the Spanish bit and Thanks to Mark for the navigation through Portugal :) Thanks to tother Mark (and Jodie) for rescuing little Porto, I am happy he has found you guys :)
Finally thanks to Pete, Suzanne, Ian & Eddy, Dawn and everyone else for the good times. Right, Whats next :)
 

Rodger

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You are welcome, Steve.
Not only did we enjoy the time you guys spent with us but we also enjoyed doing the reccies.
Glad that the mix of trails, challenge and sets worked for you.

Regards,

Rodger
 

Matthew1955

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Thanks for part 2 and as others have said looks a great trip with some amazing Spanish vista's.
When I lived in Spain we enjoyed getting off the beaten track but maybe not quite as off as your trip obviously was.
 

Bmonck

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Looks excellent. Really like these adventures close to home
 
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