When we made our way to Marchena our intention was to go onto Osuna after but we do find that occasionally we just get town weary. So it was after Marchena, we both craved the outdoors, a good walk or bike ride and some open air. With that in mind and the fact that one of the great things about being in a motorhome is that you can change your mind at will, that’s what we did. Turning Buzz south west we made a beeline for Olvera and the Via Verde de la Sierra, a former train line converted into a cycle/walking path. The path actually officially runs from the old station at Puerto Serrano to Olvera station a 37km path that climbs 250 undulating meters crossing the Sierra de Lijar. Passing through stunning countryside, 30 tunnels the longest of which stretches to nearly 1km and over 4 viaducts the longest being 237m.
As there is an aire at the station we decided to stay there even though it costs 10euro a night but you do get electricity and water for that. Luckily we arrived just in time to get in as the aire is controlled by a cycle hire shop/shed on site and they were closing in 30mins. 10euro duly paid we were given our own key to the padlock and instructions to tie it to a piece of string dangling behind a board in the shed cladding if we left when they weren’t there. After parking up as there was only one other motorhome there and plenty of space, we decided to take the opportunity to get the chairs out and soak up some sun with a book, shortly after which the other van left leaving us completely alone. Now just to set the scene the aire, station and start/end of the Via Verde is half way down a valley with glorious views and a very long steep road climb up to the town of Olvera. So we were well and truly alone and it was time to get Bob the Cobb out and fire up the charcoal for the first time this year, getting some sausages on with sweet potato, courgette, leeks, mushrooms and tomatoes in passata in the bottom cooking away. A delicious meal followed, washed down by a nice cold beer.
We have a running joke going about what noise is going to wake us in the morning, usually dogs barking interspersed with crowing cockerels, church bells or binmen among other things. Well, sitting in bed having a read with everything nice and quiet right on cue we heard a long drawn out braying from a mule in the olive grove behind us, we both just looked at each other and burst out laughing. However we did have a nice peaceful night, woken by the alarm to a lovely sunny morning. After breakfast we decided to walk the steep and strenuous hill into town for some provisions prior to cycling along the Via Verde, and as we walked by the Via we noticed a sign saying ‘no entry’ and a lady in a high vis jacket standing guard. We asked when it was re-opening she repeated that is was closed and just shrugged her shoulders, so this meant plan B for us. We would have to just investigate the town and try to cycle later.
Once we had reached the town we decided to keep going up to the castle and church at the top of the hill. Walking up through the streets was unusual in that there were plenty of people around and most of the shops appeared to be open for business and while not the prettiest town it had a nice feel to it. As we got to the top after another long steep climb we walked around the outside of the church, taking a few photos of the building & square before going to the tourist information just through an archway.
Gathering some information the lady said if you want to visit the castle you can now and at only 2euro each we decided that we would. Having paid and been given a ticket she started to say something before being interrupted by an older Spanish lady at the counter. Gesturing for us to wait she dealt with the lady helping her choose from several t-shirt designs for what seemed like an age and before she said anything else she was again interrupted by a Spanish man this time, again gesturing for us to wait before dealing with him. At this point a 3rd person tried to interrupt her, we were getting increasingly frustrated and this time she told them to wait before grabbing some keys and leading us down the street opening a door ushering us through saying ‘through there to the castle’, letting us in and slamming the door behind us!
We walked through what could have been an entrance hall to a house, block of flats or something similar and as we went out the rear door we were at the foot of the castle with steps leading up. As we climbed the steps we were in the castle climbing higher to a small but nice castle with fabulous views over the town and countryside. Making our way up the tower we came to the last flight of steps that turned out to be some of the smallest steps we have ever seen curving around in a tight little spiral. The view however was definitely worth the climb up and perhaps more precariously down.
We continued to explore the town before heading to a Pasteleria we had seen earlier for a piece of cake and coffee, doing our main shopping later. After walking back down to Buzz the Via was still closed and there was a motorhome parked outside the aire, it also appeared that with the Via being closed so was the cycle hire shop who looked after it. After a discussion with the German couple waiting we let them into the aire with our precious key so they could hook up their electrics with them paying in the morning which baring in mind we had only paid for 1 night we would have to do as well. They also told us that a couple of cyclists had come from the other end and just ridden straight past the woman stopping people from going along the path, and had then returned down the same route. Later a French motorhome turned up so we let them in as well on the same basis.
We resolved that although the weather was getting worse the next day that we would do a shorter walk down the via before moving to Zahara de la Sierra. Morning came and the route was still closed as was the cycle hire shop so we moved Buzz out into the general parking area and at the request of the French couple left the lock undone and put the key on the secret piece of string. Heading for the via and walking straight past the woman at the barrier we set off down the track. In the end walked out about 6km past the area where the works were going on, where 1 man was asleep on a bench and no work actually happening. Eventually we stopped for a cup of coffee before heading back, the walk is lovely with plenty of interest, mostly down hill from Olvera with gorgeous views and countryside.
Back at Buzz we made a move for Zahara de la Sierra aiming to get there with enough time to cook some pancakes and have a quick stroll before dinner. Parking was roadside with a lovely view down to the reservoir, the Embalse de Zahara-el Gastor.
As it was we arrived around 4pm, plenty of time for Marcella to rustle up a couple of platefuls of chocolate pancakes and cause plenty of chaos in the kitchen at the same time. All eaten we set off with bulging bellies climbing a fair height up to the castle at the highest point, getting there about an hour later.
As it was starting to get dark, we took some photos before making a quicker descent so as not to get caught up high on a very rough and lumpy path with no lights and lots of opportunities to end up falling a long and painful distance. Making it back to Buzz in the dark both of us feeling happy about the late walk around but totally unable to eat dinner due to the excess but enjoyable pancake consumption. Zahara is a lovely little town with plenty of character that we intended fully to explore the next day but not before going out to a little bar we had liked the look of.
However come the next morning the weather had deteriorated to such an extent that we made for a free aire a few miles away at Algodonales which happened to have free electric. We just hoped we could get a space and get hooked up but weren’t holding our breath – free electricity being the holy grail! As it happened we got in and got one of the last free electric hook ups and spent the day working, writing and dealing with images, watching motorhome after motorhome arriving hoping for free electric.
The weather eventually abated and by the time we were ready to leave in the morning the place was half empty. We made our way back up the road to Zahara to finish our exploration. Having spent another hour or 2 exploring we made for the bar we had been to the night before the rain, which had turned out to be a nice tapas bar so lunch was definitely on the cards and a tasty simple lunch with the best tapa we tried being the Pate with Pedro Ximinez sherry and macerated raisins – delicious.
Although we didn’t go all the way back up to the castle we did finish exploring this town with lovely lakeside views and certainly recommend it as a really worthwhile visit. For us though it was the call of the wild and the Parque Natural Sierra de las Nieves next on the motorhome tour agenda.