El Pantano de los Bermejales

FTR Pantano main onlFound on the other side of the coastal mountains is the stunning Bermejales Reservoir. Now you’ll definitely need transport to get to this one, as its located 77 km inland from Almuñécar, but the impressive drive is well worth the effort.
I made the journey last month perched precariously on the back of Ed’s bike and was completely blown away by the contrasting landscapes that passed us by. As you rise out of the Río Verde valley stark calcium and shale rock faces soar overhead and the colours change almost instantly from lush greens to arid whites and greys.
Here we startled a group of leisurely mountain deer and were guided onwards by a pair of majestic eagles circling above. At this point look out for the ghostly abandoned petrol station and you’re on the right track. It’s amazing to think that this windy, mountainous route is a well-used, alternative road to Granada and the coast, especially as we didn’t encounter a single vehicle!
After rounding the ridge and dropping onto the Granada plateau, the landscape changes dramatically; once again and pine forests litter the sides of the roads. You’ll come to a fairly isolated restaurant called Los Prados, named after the surrounding meadows, and it’s a good place to stop and enjoy the views and the peace and quiet. This area behind was once kept alive by the charcoal-making and resin-collecting industry and abandoned cottages where the old resin collectors used to live can be found if you travel down a track to the left of the Restaurant.
These days the old resin factory (La Resinera)is used as the headquarters for the fire-fighters, Infoca. Anyway, the Los Prados restaurant is a good place to stop for a coffee or refreshments, or just get out and stretch your legs, on your way to the reservoir.
The road continues on and soon the landscape changes dramatically once again giving a feeling of being transported to South of France, with sweeping yellow cornfields on either side and picturesque little cottages planted in-between. Upon reaching the first and only crossroads, hang a left following the signs for Jayena and, if your lucky enough to be on a small-cylinder bike, cut the engine and enjoy freewheeling through the leas. You should really notice the rise in temperature as you descend into Jayena, because the crossroad stand at 1,400 metres above sea level, so the fresh mountainous breeze turns into warm heat waves from the baked fields the by the time that you reach Jayena, ten kilometres on.
Going through the pleasant little town of Jayena you should pass the town hall on your right and keep following the road out. Here the tell tale signs of greenery and fresher air will let you know that your approaching water again, and be a welcome relief.
The beautiful blue waters and open space of the reservoir soon come into sight making a lasting impact, so far removed from the bustle of the coast. The narrow dam-top road curves out to the rectangular arches that stand equidistant between the two end of he dam. The quaint little watchtower is tremendously stunning, be sure to take it all in from various angles if you decide to follow the leafy lane that circles the reservoir.
Now its quite possible at this point that you may not want to leave, so I would highly recommend a stop over in Vicente’s timeless Bar-Restaurante, El Cruce (The Crossroads), where you can rent a room for the night. El Cruce is located in the centre of the hamlet, known simply as El Pueblo del Pantano. Even if you don’t decide to stay over and enjoy a two-day visit, at the very least, you’ll want to stop here and sample some of his wife Maria’s home cooking, at only eight euros for the menu of the day you can’t go wrong. Take a quick look at the impressive photos on the walls here of the reservoir at its fullest with water gushing out of the huge overflow at full throttle.
The village, as most small inland villages do, has its own special little ambience and charm and mostly everyone you encounter will be happy to swap a tale or two.
The layout of the dam installations has a regimented military feel to it – indeed there are even air-raid shelters! It’s well worth a little wander around to see the pretty (garrison) church and the relief concrete map of the area (looks like an old pond). The air here is cool, the beer somehow tastes better and the peace is astounding. Enjoy!
What to bring: Camera, transport and swimming costumes.
Cost: Petrol money, 154km round trip from Almuñécar.
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