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Bliss on the Vía Verde del Aceite

sunny 28 °C
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At breakfast the next morning in the guesthouse of the hilltop village of Baena, we were surprised to see other guests. They were two young women from Lithuania. They spoke excellent English, were colleagues - bank analysts in fact, and we had a nice breakfast together. They were walking part of the Camino, in the opposite direction from us - from Granada to Santa Cruz. One had convinced the other to go and they acknowledged that they had not prepared all that thoroughly for their adventure. But they were young, mid to late 20s and seemed pretty positive about everything. They told us they slept on the pews in a church one night. We took photos before we all went our separate ways that morning and decided to keep in touch via What’s App. They were quite surprised about what we were doing (especially when they learned our ages!) and we were pretty impressed by the distances they were walking each day as they had limited time before heading back to work.

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We managed to load up our bikes outside the door of the guesthouse by using someone else’s stoop on this incredibly steep street. We said at au revoir to our host, Marie Chantel and braked our way all the way down to the bottom of the village.

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It was a bit of a climb up from the lower town onto the greenway. As we left Baena behind, we would see the long winding road and hills we had cycled down the day before.

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However, we knew that our climbing legs were about to get a reprieve as we would finally be on the Vía Verde del Aceite, the repurposed 19th C rail route that delights walkers and cyclists alike, running from Jaén to Puenta-Genil. We were picking it up near Baena and over several days, would cycle it as far as Puenta-Genil, a distance of about 72 km, on our way to Granada without having to be on any busy roads. Here are several links with more info about this amazing route, that would become one of the most beautiful experiences of our entire trip. If you want to be immersed in the stunning Spanish countryside surrounded by olive groves via a stroll or cycle on a lovely flat track, this is it!

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2009/nov/21/walking-spains-olive-oil-route
https://www.andalucia.org/en/routes-via-verde-del-aceite

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It was a gorgeous morning with a faint drift of mist below the peaks of the Sierra Nevadas in the distance. We were soon shedding our extra layers of clothing. Along the route, the almond trees were in full pale pink bloom and we cycled through the most painterly landscape of olive groves with the occasional small white building tucked into the cleft of the hills. As we rode, I thought this is the highest state of bliss I can imagine.

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It was a Saturday and there were mostly local walkers enjoying the perfect spring day. As we carried on, we crossed a bridge over a dry gully and shortly thereafter arrived at the old train station of Luque, now a restaurant and store, right on the Vía Verde. We would see more of these old train stations along the route, with their typical design and old water tanks now converted into public washrooms.

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It was perfect timing for a coffee and a second tostada breakfast at a table right beside a cosily burning wood stove - not really needed on such a warm day but nice all the same. The restaurant also include a store full of local products and we bought several small cans of good olive oil to take home.

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The little town of Luque was actually along the path a little way and high up on the side of a huge uplift of rock. It was a very dramatic sight and it would have been an interesting place to visit.

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But on we went through another little town and then through a tunnel and into an area where the path is cut between steep rocky slopes on either side. There were lots of wildfiowers growing along the path verges and up the sides in the crevices.

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We had cycled a beaucolic 30.5 km that day and were almost reluctant to reach our destination for the night, the town of Cabra. It was just below the path, where we found another old railway station, a watchful horse and a big flock of sheep heading back along the Via Verde, intent on their own destination.

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Exiting off the Via Verde, we immediately found a paved bike path that swooped us down into the town and to our very sweet hotel, the Villa Maria. A cold beer and a glass of wine, followed by a late lunch/ early dinner was in our immediate future. All in all, a perfectly delightful day on the Via Verde del Aciete. It really doesn’t get much better than that!

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Posted by Jenniferklm 04:35 Archived in Spain

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