Monday, 16 December 2013

Granada & Sierra Nevada, Spain: The Real South, Cave People and Snowboarding

After a car trip with 3 cool Spanish guys I was in Granada. Granada is very famous for Tapas, Alhambra (the Muslim palace) and being the last Muslim city in Spain to be re-conquered by the Catholics in 1492 (250 years after the major Andalusian cities of Códoba and Sevilla fell) ending the 800 years of Muslim Spain. Granada still has a massive Arabic influence.

I was dropped off at the door to my hostel with a one night booking. After getting settled and having a feed I had the decision between meeting back up with the Spanish guys for drinks and seeing Pendulum, partying with the people in the hostel or meeting up with a CS group for a night of tapas and dancing... I was planning on sticking around in Granada for a while so I choose tapas and dancing to meet locals. Amazing tapas pursued in a small bar (2-2.50 Euro for a quality tapa and a drink) followed by Foosball at another bar and wild dancing. The last stop was a club where we partied until close at 7am. I arrived back at my hostel around 8am with an 11am checkout... CS meetings can be boring but this was definitely an exception.

I booked myself into another hostel for a couple of nights then explored Granada.

The Cathedral (formerly a Mosque)

Yes, they have Boomerangs!

Part of the Palace with the 3,500m peaks of Sierra Nevada behind

More of the Moorish Palace

The next few days involved randomly meeting and hanging out with one of the guys from the first night, Josh, a really cool Japanese guy with an American accent but still gets his L's and R's mixed up, meeting new people for tapas, attending more CS meetings, trying to fence jump into Alhambra instead of paying 11 Euro entry and hiking/exploring. 


After 4 nights in Granada I was off to the near by Sierra Nevada (literal translation is Snowy Range). Sierra Nevada is the most popular ski destination within Spain with a lift capacity of 60,000 people an hour and it also has the highest peak on the Spanish Mainland, Mulhacen at 3482m. Until this day I had never seen snow up close in my life. When I was road tripping with Olalla a week earlier she was pointing out snow on top of near by mountains and asking why I wasn't excited, I jokingly said "I want my first time to be special"... Sierra Nevada was special.

After I arrived I asked the first person how to get to my hostel... "5 minute walk that way" was the response. After 10 minutes of walking I went into a shop and asked again... "20 minutes of walking or a chair lift next door". After 40 mins of walking up hill I ask at another shop... "your hostel is the very top of the mountain". After 2 hours of walking up a mountain carrying just over 30kg in by far the highest altitude I have been I was finally at my hostel incredibly sweaty and ready to die... Don't trust the locals!

View from the Hostel

I spent the afternoon wandering around the main village, walking into to Ski shops to see what they could offer and of course there was a 100 Montaditos in snow and it just happened to be Wednesday so 500ml beers for 1 Euro. In the end I booked a 1 hour lesson, a snowboard, boots and pants for the next day, all for a very good price... The trick! The shops with signs only in Spanish were so much cheaper than than the shops that were also in English. Everyone spoke English.

The following day I was on the slopes at 9am with my instructor, a Spanish guy that lives Sierra Nevada during the Winter and Ibiza for the rest of the year (living the dream). Snowboarding is very similar to skateboarding for turning and weight distribution so my only problem was slowing down and STOPPING. After my 1 hour lesson I was feeling reasonably confident but I stuck around on the learning slope for another 30 mins just practicing stopping. I even gave a Spanish guy, Rafa, a quick lesson on the basics... time to hit the real slopes.

Every time I was on a Ski lift next to someone I started up a basic conversation in Spanish. I ran into Rafa and his girlfriend quite a few times and joined them for lunch. After 7 hours of snowboarding it was time to call it a day. I stuck to Greens and Blues all day but still a successful day on the slopes. I saw Rafa and his girlfriend again in the main village so we went for a couple of beers at 100 Montaditos.

The next day my muscles were quite sore so I just used the day to explore.

Had to be done!

That evening I was back in Granada, I walked to the same hostel. The lady remembered me and said she owes me 3 Euros since I left without receiving my key deposit... after a conversation I received a private room with a double bed for the price of a dorm bed minus the 3 Euro... 7 Euro for the private room! It pays to be friendly.

My Room

The following day I went up the mountain to visit the infamous "Cave People". One of the mountains on the outskirts of Granada has caves where hippies have set up a little cave community. It is a must see during a visit to Granada.

House Caves

One Cave

The "Community"

Granada Sunset

Some españoles I met at "The Caves"

That night I was on an overnight bus to Valencia, The City of Paella (Pie-ay-ya, not Pay-el-la).

Lessons Learnt:
I love snowboarding!
I would be very impressed by a person that can write their name by peeing in the snow.
My rule for deciding whether to spend money is "will I regret not doing/seeing this?" Yes or Maybe = Spend. Hence no 11 Euro for Alhambra but 150 Euro (all costs) for 2 nights in the snow.
Buying a coffee for a Moroccan that lost his job and doesn't speak English was an awesome way to converse only in Spanish for 30 mins while waiting for a bus.
Writing my name in Arabic.

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