Having experienced sufficient of the plastic greenhouses and the incredibly busy E-15 coastal motor
way, we turned inland at Almuñécar on to explore what my ancient road map indicated as an unnumbered minor road (but which Google Maps identifies as the A-4050) heading almost due north into the interior. It was by this time mid-afternoon and we decided to look for hotel accommodation in one of the villages along the route.
Almost from the outset narrow the road began to climb, winding its way around geological obstacles by means of a series of blind bends. What the map had failed to indicate was that we were entering a range of mountains called Sierra de Alhama. A major blessing was that we had left virtually all traffic behind and the entire road was ours to use and enjoy. It was clearly off the tourist map and the very few vehicles that we encountered belonged to local people going about their work, possibly frustrated by our slow progress as we took in the wonderful scenery; apologies to these people!
Only three small villages were marked along the route and the first of these, Jete, about 8 km from Almuñécar, turned out to be very small and devoid of any visitor accommodation, suggesting that our search for a hotel for the night would be in vain. A tiny petrol station announced that this was the last along this road.
The road continued upwards through woodland and dry scrub, scattered with rocky outcrops but few signs of agriculture. It seemed that each bend revealed a new vista to digest and so our uphill progress was slow, always in low gear and with the notification of no more petrol always at the back of my mind. Two more small villages followed in fairly quick succession, Otívar and Lentegi, neither possessing accommodation.
Having passed these the map indicated no further human occupation for at least 30 km but the road continued upwards, increasingly bendy, decreasingly vegetated, becoming wilder and wilder at almost every turn. The higher we climbed the more magnificent were the views over the mountains, but sightings of birds were extremely rare. Even when we stopped to examine the scenery more intently, silence pervaded. Towards the top of the climb Christine spotted two pairs of birds of prey, both of which were Bonelli’s Eagles riding the thermals by bare cliff faces, but the only other birds we saw were a Magpie and a Jay.
A feature of the road puzzled me. The surface was well paved and maintained but, apart from upwards, it appeared to go nowhere. There was no human habitation along the route and little indication of human activity. We encountered no buses, lorries (thankfully!) or agricultural vehicles, and no tourist traffic. We were driving alone in a high mountain paradise among increasingly craggy rock formations. In only one place did we find evidence of former human occupation in the form of the remains of a lone stone building, deserted long ago and its stonework slowly decaying into the rocks of its surroundings.
And then, out of the blue and about 30 km beyond our last human encounter, the ground began to level and we found a large bar by the roadside with several cars and a bus parked in its grounds. Shortly further on we came across a road junction and everything changed. We turned left towards Jayena. Despite the altitude human activity began to prevail, permitted by a more forgiving terrain and a wider, straighter and faster road. Pine forest developed more and more clearings, initially just grassy (but parched in the continuing drought) but then showing signs of recent cultivation.
Despite the disappointment of re-entering civilisation, we felt we had discovered a treasure of a road and one where we should have to explore at more leisure on a future visit to southern Andalucía.