Sketching Trip in The Sierra Nevada – 01 –

24th of July 2010

Turre – Almeria – Trevelez

We left Turre in our Boomobile about 3 in the afternoon. As always, travel preparations were minimal: some stuff to paint, some stuff to eat, some stuff to wear, not forgetting some warm sweatshirts and wandering boots this time. Then out of the house, into the motorhome, and off we went. Our destination:  the Sierra Nevada, Andalucia, Spain. Nowhere special in mind there really, I had just googled a little bit before we left and written down a list of mountain villages, some of them lying quite high, about 1400 metres. We would probably visit them if they happened to cross our road up there. This is the way we mostly travel: hardly planning, and led by fate.

But I had some very uncomfortable doubts: the weather was not good. We hadn’t seen any rain for months here in Turre, but suddenly, today, it was raining and the sky was black. Climbing Spanish mountain roads up to the Sierra Nevada in a big motorhome under torrential rain was not one of the most reassuring thoughts ..

Well, somewhere on the way the rain stopped, and as soon as we left the highway about 40 kilometres after Almeria the road started climbing and deviating seriously. I felt increasingly uncomfortable, so uncomfortable that thoughts of going back home crossed my mind at each curve and each new gradient. And although the rain had stopped, dark clouds were still hanging in the sky, the higher we drove, the darker they became. When we eventually reached El Parque Natural de La Sierra Nevada, it was about 7 PM, A spectacular landscape, no doubt, worth a life of paintings. But like always in these kind of places, no chance to park the motorhome safely. I find it always so frustrating to go through these dream landscapes, to start putting in my head lines and colours on an imaginary piece of paper and then not to be really able to start: it hurts deeply. The downside of travelling in a motorhome… the only one though!

In fact we wanted to stop now for the night, but we couldn’t find a place. We soon reached a little village called Berchulez. I wished we could have stayed there, it was lovely, and had loads of motifs  for me to sketch. But there was just a big town fiesta going on and hundreds of cars and scooters and people and animals were trying to find some place in that tiny space and we almost got stuck in the middle of the village – Of course, to the big pleasure of the people there. No way then to look for place, we simply escaped, and again it hurt deeply in my artist’s soul that I couldn’t do even one sketch!

We decided to head towards Trevelez, one of the villages on the list. I must say that the road to it was one of the scariest I have ever been on. I suddenly understood what was meant with these road re-inforcement works announcements we had seen at the entrance of The Parque Natural: 600 000 Euro here, 700 000 Euro there, for sections of road not even 10 kilometres long. No wonder: everywhere, tons of rocks and stones were lying on the side of the road, well, on the road itself too, and some parts of the road were totally destroyed, sometimes half of it totally missing, or fallen away underneath, or above, and cracks and creases all along… incredibly scary, believe me! I guess this was the result of the abundant rains we had in Spain some months ago. I can’t even imagine what really happened there, how many accidents must have occurred on this road alone, how many deaths, and how many places must have been cut off from the rest of the world for how long! Really it must have been terrible. The whole scenery reminded me of the images of Haiti after the earthquake, on a smaller scale of course, but still apocalyptic somehow…

The situation was aggravated as the mist came up and only the first meters on the road in front of the motorhome seemed to exist… the rest had totally disappeared. Needless to say, I was scared to death and to tell the truth I wished we had gone back home as it first crossed my mind. But home was far now, and it was getting darker. To drive back on that hell of a road in the other direction, in fact on the very side of the road which had fallen away and was often bordered by some deep precipices, was simply unthinkable.

Anyway, we eventually arrived in Trevelez, proudly standing 1476 metres high.

“In Trevelez you will touch the sky”

is written at the entrance of the town, and indeed, the white buildings climb up the mountain, higher and higher,  to finally disappear into the sky.. or into the mist, but what is the difference anyway!

Sorry, no sketch to show for this first day of the trip… let’s hope mañana will be more prolific!

Just a tiny little watercolour which I quickly did before dinner on that evening, an impression from memory of the town as we arrived


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