Today I had a date with myself to go for a hike in the Sierra Nevada mountains, but I almost chickened out.
Las Alpujarras are the “white villages” at the edge of the Sierra Nevada national park, and the locals tell me they’re beautiful. I bought a bus ticket to one of the villages yesterday and planned on spending the day hiking in the mountains.
I was strangely nervous about going by myself. When I packed my daypack, I included all sorts of things I don’t normally bring on a day hike. My headlamp, in case I got lost or injured on the trail and didn’t make it back before dark. A first aid kit. A towel, because I’ve read “HItchhiker’s Guide To The Universe.”
I wasn’t just worrying about getting lost or hurt on the trail, though. I was overwhelmed by the need to get on the right bus, get off at the right town, find the trail, not get lost, and get back in time for the return bus. My communication skills in Spanish are minimal, I have no sense of time and no sense of direction. I relied heavily on Craig in those areas, and trusting myself without any backup is new.
When I stepped outside, I could see my breath — a much colder day than we’ve been having in Granada. I knew it would be even colder in the mountains, and I wished I hadn’t lost my gloves in Iceland.
I had a ticket for the 10am bus to Capileira, but none of the departure boards at the bus station mentioned Capileira or Las Alpujarras. I wasn’t sure which bus to get on, and I didn’t see anyone to ask. Then I saw that there was a 10am bus to Sierra Nevada. That must be it. I got in line for that one with only 10 minutes to spare.
As I waited, I realized the other people in the line were wearing snow pants and parkas. Made sense, since they were carrying snow boards and skis. Holy cow, how cold ARE these mountains? Where am I going? Why am I doing this? Why didn’t I wear my long underwear? Surely I could buy gloves in the village. If it was miserably cold, I could always hide out in a cafe in town somewhere. Right?
I began to doubt whether I was in line for the right bus when I saw someone sit in the first seat behind the driver — the seat I’d reserved. I walked back inside and checked the departure board again, but most of the words meant nothing to me. Sierra Nevada was the only destination that made sense.
When I walked back to the bus, the line was much shorter. I showed my ticket to the driver and asked “Capileira?” “No,” he said, followed by some helpful words in Spanish that I didn’t understand.
I walked away, thinking “I’ll just go home. It’s fine. I can get some work done. It’s too cold for hiking anyway. No big deal.”
Then I realized I was chickening out. Unacceptable.
There were only three minutes left when I found a uniformed man on the platform and showed him my ticket. “Cuál es a Capileira?” “Numero siete.” Two minutes left and i handed my ticket to the driver of the Number 7 bus and climbed on. First seat was open, that must be for me! I hoped the man on the platform was right. I hoped the driver had looked closely at my ticket. I hoped I was on the right bus.
The bus made frequent stops in small towns, and I stressed a little about knowing when to get off. I was pondering the vocabulary to ask the driver to tell me when we arrived in Capileira, but as we started hitting the touristy villages, he announced them. Whew. It was a two hour ride through breathtaking scenery, including groves of almond trees that were just beginning to burst into pink blooms.
Capileira is a picturesque village high on a mountain ridge. Las Alpujarras were originally Germanic towns, and they pre-date even the Moorish occupation of Spain. These villages were some of the last to fall to both the Arab and Christian invaders because of their locations. The mountain views are glorious, but the elevation of most of the mountain ranges is Spain is quite low compared to Peru. I didn’t feel the altitude at all. What a treat!
I found the trail with only a little difficulty, the sun stayed out most of the day, and the views were beautiful. It was just a short walk to the next village, maybe a mile or two. I could actually see both villages while I walked the trail, it felt very safe and nearly impossible to get lost. I felt free, and proud, and happy. I wished I had more time to spend, I could have easily hiked to a third village, and it would have been fun to spend a few days up here. I felt silly for having been nervous.
But that’s the beautiful thing about pushing your comfort zone. You learn that there was never anything to be afraid of in the first place. That leads to experiences that just keep spiraling outward, and a life that just keeps expanding.
I’m ready to take on a much more ambitious hike next time — I hear there are some great trails in Morocco.
The village of Capileira, looking back along the trail, with a dusting of snow on the peak above.