Mountain Biking the Camino de Mozarabe Day One - Granada to Alcaudete
Leaving Los Tolmos early was essential if we were to get the distance in. Not that we were in a rush, but day one is always a bit of a slow start, and the day had the most ascent of any single day. Climbing, coupled with the 30°heat can tend to bring your average velocity down! Its better to leave plenty of time to rest and hydrate and enjoy the journey.
Our schedule didn’t allow us the luxury of staying in Granada, but it’s worth planning to stay for a full day if you can. This is not a big city, but coming to Granada and not visiting the Alhambra made me feel a little guilty. Having been a few times, depriving others of the serene wonder of Moorish architecture just felt wrong.
The narrow streets that take you from the official start of the route at the Real Monasterio de las Madres Comendadores de Santiago out to the suburbs are worth taking your time over. Not only as it is very easy to take a wrong turn, and the streets can be crowded and busy (another reason to leave early), but because the way is full of sights, sounds and smells that demand your attention. The small souk near the cathedral, the spice stalls filling the air with exotic aromas, the muralled churches... Alas the delights soon pass for the dirge that is the first 20k.
This first flat stage has to be endured rather than enjoyed. A necessary passage through the nondescript urban sprawl, graffitied underpasses, sporadic junk of the fly tippers, construction noise, the occasional waft of something that once lived... Thankfully this quickly passes into the peaceful vistas of the olive groves stretching across the vega of Granada as the route takes you inexorably toward the crux of the day. Moclin.
Moclin is a small fortress town perched atop a precarious mountain pass. Considered impregnable it guarded the northern gateway into Grenada and was the last significant bastion against catholic forces. Only a lucky hit by artillery from the opposing mountaintop into the forts magazine caused its surrender. Of course, we were each as determined as Ferdinand’s forces to “take” this climb and competition ensued to see who could breech its impregnable walls. The climb is relentless. It has been somewhat technically neutralized as the single-track has been broadened and topped with hardcore, however, its as steep as ever, and it’s a real challenge to “clean” this section and not dismount and push. Some succeeded, others didn’t!
After Moclin, there are still some short, sharp, sections, but overall the route rolls through the endless olive groves of Andalucía. Passing through Alcala Real and on to a deserved cold beer and a warm reception at Hostal Hildago in Alcaudete to finish the first of some great days to come, and knowing nothing of the looming fate of one of our little band of peregrinos.