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2.3 Andalusia surprises, WOW!

After six wonderful days and quiet nights, we somehow leave our pirate bay south of Aguilas with melancholy. To wish for such a great place again tonight is probably presumptuous. Such places, like here at the pirate beach, do not come every day. The rough destination for the day is somewhere in the Tabernas desert. Normally we already know exactly in the morning where we will end up in the evening. It makes driving so much more relaxed to have a clear driving destination in mind. Today, however, is an exception. The possible pitches are all located in the nature reserve and an overnight stay in the vehicle is therefore officially not allowed. In the winter season, however, there will probably not be quite as many controls and, depending on the location, a short stay is often tolerated.


After a short shopping spree in Vera, we soon rejoin the Mediterranean freeway A7 and shortly thereafter the national road 340a in a westerly direction. Tabernas is said to be the only desert in Europe. This makes us curious. We love deserts and think of our experiences in the Sahara, in the Empty Quarter or in the Gobi Desert. With a length of only 30 kilometers, however, Tabernas will hardly come close to our ideas of desert. All the more we are curious to see what Tabernas has to offer.


Arrived in the land of Spaghetti Western

Again and again we ask ourselves on the route whether the desert has already begun here. But we constantly see cultivated areas, especially olive groves, which we cannot yet reconcile with a desert. Suddenly we see a big sign on the right side with the inscription "Fort Bravo" and a bit further in the distance we discover TEXAS HOLLYWOOD in oversized letters. We are hungry for something new and exciting, so we spontaneously turn off and suddenly find ourselves in the Wild West.

It's hard to imagine that scenes of numerous spaghetti westerns with euphonious titles have actually been produced here. "Once Upon a Time in the West" or "Indiana Jones", but also "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Cleopatra" has used the region of Tabernas as a backdrop. But here we see the same desolate picture as on Spain's beaches: Yawning emptiness! At least there is someone sleeping at the cash desk and he would also be willing to sell us two entrance tickets to the dilapidated western town. Maybe it was a mistake not to accept this offer. With my back to the cash register, I stride back to our FRAME. I can literally feel the cashier's razor-sharp eyes on me from behind. And I'm already in the middle of the movie-like story, a relentless duel with the yawning cashier a.k.a. "sleeping bounty" A quick turn around doesn't do me any good here, though, because I'm completely unarmed. But at least I have my faithful horse standing right in front of me and cowardly take flight behind the armored windows of my Unimog...


The only desert in continental Europe: Tabernas

It is already late afternoon and it is high time to find a place for the night. A few kilometers further we drive to another Western theme park, the Oasys MiniHollywood. We are looking for the Hangman Tree, not because we like it ghoulish, but because it interests us purely photographically. Such a Hangman Tree is the epitome of a barren desert, as well as for the Western flair that can be felt here. For today, however, this will be nothing more. A bit above the backdrop city we find a great place in seclusion. We hesitate for a short time, because we are here in the national park territory, but we decide to go for it.


Rain approaching in the only desert in Europe

Tonight, 90 percent rain is forecast for several hours. In a place where they count three thousand hours of sunshine a year, that's a sobering announcement. We are well aware of the possible effects and meticulously check our overnight campsite for danger of flooding, slip resistance and potential debris avalanches. So the tension remains high this evening;-) In terms of weather, we always have a bet on who has the better weather forecast app. This time Brigitte has clearly won, because except for a few measly drops the following morning there was actually no wet from the sky.


...only the 200 Indians on the rocks are missing...

The Hangman Tree search continues the following morning. According to Google, the whimsical tree should be in a place that is best reached via a river course. Of course we could not risk this way the evening before with threatening rain. Today, however, the weather looks relaxed again throughout and thus we drive up this now no longer completely dried out riverbed immediately with our vehicle. But still no trace of the tree. Finally we find it lying on the ground under a road bridge together with many discarded film props. So even an innocent tree is only an artificial backdrop here. It's Hollywood all the way.



From here on, the drive takes us north for a change. We follow a recommendation of friends and do not want to miss the supposedly greatest off-road route in Spain north of Gorafe. The Tabernas desert, which we were looking for yesterday around the village of the same name, shows up today between Spanish Hollywood and the village of Gergal. There are hardly ten kilometers on which one can feel a bit like being in the desert. Don't misunderstand, Tabernas is a special area and definitely worth a (small) detour, but the big WOW does not come from our lips yet.


Strongly impressed and almost ready to acquire one of these highly efficient and sustainable earth dwellings

Shortly before Guadix, the route becomes impressive again. This is the area of the cave dwellings. Many of these underground dwellings are still inhabited in the 21st century. More than 4,000 people still live in a mix of modernity and prehistoric times, because they have Internet, TV, electricity even in those natural earth houses. Basically, as in so many things, the past is also the future. Earth houses have a constant temperature of 18-20°C both in winter and summer and therefore do not need heating nor air conditioning, so they are extremely sustainable. Also, they have the best noise insulation, you supposedly hear neither the neighbor, nor any civilization noise.


At the most amazing locations a rainbow often comes along as well

But for the time being, we drive directly to the semi-desert of Gorafe and spend our first night on the cliffs above the village. What nature offers us here once again is simply breathtaking. We don't exactly call ourselves city dwellers, we are rather suburban kids with a healthy connection to nature. Nevertheless, we are always overwhelmed by a view and panorama, as here, over Gorafe, anew.


Astonishment beyond measure at the magnificent panoramic view in the semi-desert of Gorafe

Erosion has created a labyrinth of deep gorges here. In the plain between the Sierra Nevada, Sierra de Baza and Sierra de Cazorla mountains, there was a lake thousands of years ago, whose sedimentary layers were partially exposed by erosion after the lake dried up. Today, the different colored layers offer an impressive play of colors. The red-ochre-white rock formations of Los Coloraos are particularly well known. The area seems inhospitable, but in fact the Desierto del Gorafe has been inhabited since the Bronze Age, as evidenced by the discovery of 240 megalithic sites.



After "magical" comes "more magical": view from our "bedroom window"

After the second night in this magical place, however, we are already drawn further. We have learned that one should not be satisfied too quickly. Because nature simply knows no limits when it comes to beauty. At least it always seems to us boundlessly fascinating, even more imposing, even more impressive.





View of the Coloraos north of Gorafe

The off-road loop we have planned is about twenty kilometers long and ends in Villanueva de las Torres. As it turns out on the way, the route is not tarred, but it is not really off-road, as our Unimog would like it to be. The Spaniards also drive this route with their cars, so the degree of difficulty for overlanders can be classified as super easy at best. With one exception, the steep and for our size narrow descent at the Mirrador del Coloraos. This was also exciting for us from a driving point of view and associated with a somewhat higher adrenaline release. After just six kilometers we reached again a small platform that prevents us from continuing. It invites us for a night in wild nature, completely without any signs of our civilization. The beauty of the route as a whole is difficult to put into words, so we have captured it in the following video.




Depanning endurance cyclists will soon become routine. Allez les Belges!

After three days in this wild isolation we reach humans again. Somehow we didn't miss them at all. Driving through the first olive grove just before Villanueva de las Torres, Brigitte picks an olive right out of the window as we pass. If they are good, we might be able to buy a jar from the farmer or in the village. Test failed. They don't taste good to her, probably still much too unripe.


Now it's back to our route to the south. After all, we want to finally reach Morocco in the next few days. We are now already three weeks on the road, have driven about two thousand kilometers, so there is not really much missing until our final destination in Africa. But what we have been looking forward to for a long time is crossing the Sierra Nevada. Up to now we have only passed by its edge. On the way there we make a small city tour through Guadix, then briefly onto the highway and already we turn onto the national road A337. This is an incredibly well built and deserted pass road across the eastern Sierra Nevada. According to the road map this is the only possibility to cross this mountain range by motor. In summer there will be a bit more traffic here, the route seems to be especially interesting for bikers. Now we are here, once more, completely alone. At about 1'700M a.s.l. we make our camp for the night. We haven't quite reached the pass yet, but Park4Night recommends us a highly rated site. Once again we are thrilled. In front of us the now snow-covered three-thousanders of the Sierra Nevada, behind us the sea of lights of the surroundings of Guadix. Also tonight offers us again a first class weather spectacle. During the night, however, it becomes rather stormy and the next morning the sun is shining again.



As its name implies: snow on the peaks of the Sierra Nevada

The next morning we are even closer to the snow line

We discuss briefly whether we want to stay here another day, or go back to the sea. The temperatures of the last night were clearly below our limit, in fact this morning we were even close to the snow line, so the decision was relatively easy.


As we drive off, our Unimog once again gives us a fright. Shortly after the start, we unexpectedly lose compressed air in the low gear ratio. Considering that our brake system also works with compressed air, this is not a pleasant observation on the hill. Interestingly, however, it only affects gears one to four; from gear five on, the pressure is just right. We slowly inch our way up the hill, but remain constantly in fifth or higher. So, in addition to looking at the road, the rocky outcrops, the tachometer and the rearview mirror, I also keep my pressure gauge in check. At about 2'000M a.s.l. we have reached the top of the pass. Without certainty that my pressure is stable now also in the deeper gears, I do not dare to descent. On the pass we turn countless rounds and shift up and down. The few people around us are of course wondering already what the idiotic Unimog driver from Switzerland wants to achieve here with his roar.

The pressure is now right in all areas. So, down we go to the sea. Of course, a big deal slower and more careful than usual and with the view every few seconds flitting over the corresponding indicator.


Our next destination is Malaga, respectively Benalmadena, where we have arranged to meet Iulia, a dear friend from Romania. Iulia has spontaneously agreed to be our drone sitter. Drones are strictly forbidden in Morocco and the risk that the drone will be confiscated at customs seems to be relatively high with today's screening methods. Too high, according to our assessment. Of course, it hurts us as vloggers not to be allowed to have our drone with us in beautiful Morocco. But we will make up for this shortcoming with action films using our GoPro. We promise!


Malaga from the Gibralfaro, which we conquered with the Unimog!


In Benalmadena we treat ourselves once again to a fancy dinner. Today we sit all alone at the indian restaurant. Alone, because our big appetite didn't allow us to wait until the Spanish dinner time around nine or ten o'clock.


The tingling under our nails is getting bigger every day. We know we are only a few days away from our crossing to Africa. We will then drive down the Costa del Sol in the fast lane, so to speak. Not least because the weather is now getting wetter and wetter and we are not particularly fascinated by the coast. Hotels are more and more in the back row, because our highway squeezes through between the beach and the hotel bunkers. Only in Marbella some vacation luxury comes up again. A few nice hotels on the left, a golf club on the right and again and again charming palm avenues, simply a more cultivated street scene. So we don't miss the chance to drive through the middle of Marbella with our truck.


Lonely and deserted: Spanish winter beach near Algeciras

In the port city of Algeciras, we then go to Carlos on Friday. He is THE ferry ticket seller among the overlanders. One reads in the forums really only good about him and his Viajes Normandie. We are surprised that we do not have to book a specific departure time, but can simply drive with the ticket to the port to charter the next possible ship. The weather forecast is extremely bad for the whole coming week. Only tomorrow, Saturday, there is more or less a guarantee to get over to Morocco without a storm. We want to use this chance, because we both had difficulties on the sea in the past. Last night we were still facing the Rock of Gibraltar, about twenty kilometers from the port. For tonight, we are going to park near the harbor on a public, but still very quiet parking lot a short distance from our ferry.


Last night in Europe with emblematic view of the Rock of Gibraltar

Next Blog 2.4 Stormy start in Africa




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