18.10.2009 28 °C
Bob Hope and Bing Crosby took many roads in their movies, but they never took “The Road to Caravaca” across the High Sierras from Cordoba. Why? Because few people in their right minds would choose to take this road.
Dorothy - our borrowed GPS navigator - had never been this way before, but she instinctively knew that it would be a roller coaster and did everything in her power to guide us onto the fast new Autovia that skirts the highest mountains and tunnels through others.
“There has to be a more scenic route,” said Jim as he eyed the lengthy detour that the new road took past the mountains. And we already had the experience of driving the mountainous road from Granada to Cordoba. “How much worse could it be?” he asked rhetorically.
The road from Granada the previous day had taken us through Spain’s oil patch; nearly two hundred kilometres of mountainous terrain with oil rigs dotting every square metre of the landscape in every direction. But these rigs are not the nodding donkeys that blight the landscape of Alberta or Texas. These gushers are oil trees - olive oil that is: liquid gold - Spanish gold! And there are millions of them; probably billions.
The Phoenicians are believed to have introduced olives to Spain about 4,000 years ago and now they are everywhere. Here’s a small snapshot …
….and another …
And here's one of the many refineries...
Every hillside and valley in this part of Spain is covered with olives. But we digress - which is exactly what we did when we turned off the main road and headed for the High Sierras west of Cordoba. Dorothy, (Dot to her friends), kept her cool but for over an hour insisted that we should turn around.
But the wheel was in Jim’s hands and we headed skyward; the scenery was breathtaking, the vistas were stunning. Range after range of mountains took us on a five hour switchback ride worthy of Disneyland.
Fortunately there were few other vehicles on the narrow mountain roads, but we were not alone - herds of goats still cling to these steep mountain passes.
As we traversed the high passes of the Sierra mountains we focused our thoughts on our destination - the medieval town of Caravaca, A place renowned for its revered religious relict - an altar cross containing a fragment of wood supposedly cut from the actual cross of Christ.
This icon, The Cross of Caravaca, is widely believed by ‘certain types’ to have the miraculous power to grant wishes. We are not in any way the ’certain types’ who might believe such fantasies but, as the tortuous miles of mountain roads stretched our journey into the evening, we began to wish for a fruitful end. However we needed no miracle - we had the power in our own hands. We had Mr. Visa and his flexible friend, Master Card, with us. So we decided to reward ourselves with a night to remember. We would stay in the best five star hotel in Caravaca. We would have dinner, spa, and room service breakfast - we would have the works. We set our budget at "High" for the night and the remaining miles simply slipped away as we talked of silky sheets, soft beds and haute cuisine with at least one bottle of Cava.
Dot eventually got us over the mountains and did a great job until we reached Caravaca and asked her to find us the best hotel in town. There is only one hotel, she informed us, and it’s a nothing more than a Budget Inn in a Spanish cape. "But we want something special," we protested. "We want a Ritz not a Ramada." However, arguing with a GPS receiver is about as useful as arguing with Revenue Canada.
So, how did we end up spending the night locked in a cell?
To be continued …