Cycling Over Lemons

So, who knew that Paloma Faith was named after a pigeon? One of the wonders of our nomad lifestyle is stumbling across curiosities and new events. The world of “Columbicultura” ticks all the boxes. Riding back from Murcia we spotted loads of coloured birds in the sky, flitting in and out of a specific tree. Detouring to take a look and wondering why there were also lots of blokes on scooters hanging around we discovered this highly popular sport. Google it and you’ll find a version of Pigeon Fancying that’ll knock your socks off. Using my pigeon Spanish ;-), I discovered it involves 100 males, fancying basically, a single female. Each male gets 2 points for each ‘fancy’. All the different owners have different colour ways, all hand painted. The female is pure white. ‘Painted Pigeons’ is a sport that has passed through generations over 1000’s of years apparently and the skill of the Palomos is likened to a footballer, they each have their different tricks and techniques to win (that was a quote!) Anyway, worth a blog paragraph, we spotted it twice and loved it! We never thought we’d come across a large group of fellas standing around watching colourful birds (of the feathered variety at least!)

Anyhow, back to the serious, there may be some license taken in the blog title, but after all we were in ‘Driving Over Lemons’ territory. For the uninitiated, like us, the home of the book’s author, Chris Stewart is Órgiva, capital of the glorious Alpujarras region. Even though Nick had worked for that large W bookseller chain and knew of the book, he said it was before his time so “how should he know where we were”, as we gayly cycled past it. It look some fellow MoHo’ers to point it out. Anyhow we had a couple of days in the area, cycling over lemons, enjoying mountain side packed lunches and taking in the beauty of the almond blossom, laden fruit trees and stunning scenery. The traffic at times was awful though, darn goats! Last time we were in Órgiva we couldn’t go into the church, it’s very plain at first sight but every side chapel and the main altar are dazzlingly gold. We met a very enigmatic Jesus, peering down on us. As always, it seemed oversized for the town but as we sat opposite having an evening glass of vino, watching the people arrive for service, we could see it wasn’t oversized at all!

The drive from Órgiva along the A348 towards Terque is, at this time of year, tainted pink with almond blossom. Thankfully the route is a quiet one, given how slowly I was driving to take it all in, weaving through the far east of the Sierra Nevada. Unusually, words fail me in how to paint the picture of this landscape but the soft hue, flitting birds and cool sunshine means its a ‘stop start gaze’ favourite for us now. At Terque we were out on the bikes again, heading up through the trees to a derelict ‘Caseta Peones Caminares’ Dotted around the area, these are, in effect, redundant roadworker houses. In the C18th these were built at regular intervals and the person responsible for the maintenance of that section of road lived there. These days it’s a site hut and a few high viz jackets sitting in it, not so interesting! We thought we’d be a bit more adventurous, tracking a dry river bed back to the road. Fools that we are, we didn’t turn back when we had to lift the bikes down a small drop, nor the 2nd, 3rd or 4th but the 5th had us, so back we went retracing. Not wanting to be outdone we approached said ‘obstacle’ from the other direction and agreed that it would have been a leap of faith and insanity. We live to tell the tale though 🙂

Cabo de Gata National Park is not a cat playground for La Gata Jigsaw, but a UNESCO Nature Reserve Biosphere and Geo Park and numerous other accolades. Covering 460 sq. km. it is geologically diverse but predominantly volcanic it has so much to offer. Lots of walking and riding, we were out exploring the sprawling, derelict Gold Mine and area at Rodalquilar for ashort lived rush…. Anyone heard of the cult film ‘Solarbabies’, filmed there? No, thought not, cult is a by word for ‘not many people watched it but those who did think they’re onto something’? Most of the mining in the area didn’t last long as there wasn’t much gold (bit of an issue with the business plan me thinks!) The coastal areas are rugged, small villages dotting the area, mainly catering to tourism it seems. Also, several batteries such as Bateria de San Roman built to protect the aluminium, lead, silver and zinc by the Romans.

Heading out west towards San Jose and beyond, the volcanic landscape is vast, the sea hugging it at the edges, revealing some stunning small coves and offshore sea stacks. The harbour area at San Jose was picture postcard. Quite a challenging ride past the Molino’s (windmills) and numerous climbs, we were proud of our altitude chart afterwards. The effort was worth it for the glorious views, even if the lighthouse, Faro de Cabo de Gata, was a tad underwhelming. I may well happily challenge Laura Kenny on the thighs stakes after that ride, but I doubt she stops off for ice cream!

Back to the theme of lemons, Murcia is certainly lemon country. Not only were we pitched up in a lemon grove but on our 10km into Murcia we were shrouded by them. Rows and rows of cultivated trees, thus the landscape here is stained a mellow yellow. Murcia itself has a couple of stand outs. The Catedral de Santa Maria, built from the C14th it is a concoction of architectural styles. Predominantly Baroque, it was built, as many are it seems, on footings from a Moorish Mosque of 1394. The external main facade, Puerto del Perdon (Door of Forgiveness) has a noteworthy beauty and intricacy and unusually, there are three entranceways. Maybe the good, the bad and the ugly? Joking! The side entry, Door of The Apostles is worth a note, the glorious stained glass above it shedding colourful rays inside.

The interior was very light and vast but the first thing that struck us is that the locals must be very naughty, there were 9 Confessionals. On a serious note, there are some jaw dropping chapels, especially Chapel Velez with its carved stone walls and ten tipped star shaped dome. More stained glass than usual, casting colour through the building, the elaborate iconography and wall art was imposing.

The second stand out is the Casino, on a narrow street, its C19th facade, elaborate and grand. Every room is themed differently, in the members only club, lots of Arabic influences throughout. We didn’t go in however as there was nowhere safe to lock up the bikes and they weren’t going to help. Another time we’ll do it (when they get an interest in customer service!). Elsewhere however there were some architectural gems such as the elegant Teatro de Romea with its ornate roofline.

So, onto Delores next. The feline one has asked if we can put a handle bar basket on one of the bikes as she’s getting a bit fed up of sleeping all day while we galivant around. She has a particular favourite spot, in the windscreen. Anyhow, the tall one said she wouldn’t like it, I’m not so sure. Wherever we go, she saunters up to anyone who takes an interest, meowing and rolling in earnest. She particularly likes children as somehow they always have Dreamies! At one stop she was very interested in the giant pond and we had to tell her off at another, for her graffiti. On the travel side of things she’s super relaxed. This is a good thing, as we haven’t told her she’s getting put in a crate and flown across the Atlantic soon!

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