Lost In The Sierra Nevadas

The first time I went to Spain, I only managed to make it to Madrid and Sevilla. Madrid was fun, and had everything I expected from a capital city. It has world-class museums, Michelin-starred restaurants, and more bars per capita in all of Western Europe. However, it was in Sevilla that I really fell in love with Spain. It had all of the things I liked in Madrid and more. My time in Sevilla was limited to only a few days, so I made a conscious decision to come back within the following year and explore the rest of Andalucia, Spain’s Moor-influenced south.

Fast forward eleven months later and I find myself getting off the overnight bus from Madrid to Granada. On this leg of the trip, I allotted myself a few days to explore the ancient Moors’ stronghold of Granada and Cordoba. The bus pulled in the station at the outskirts of Granada a little before six in the morning. Since it was still dark and cold outside, I took a nap inside the station for an hour before setting off. The only thing on my itinerary that day was to see the amazing Alhambra. It wasn’t set to open until 8:30AM, so I figured I had time to take a much needed nap and grab breakfast before heading downtown to catch the minibus up there. I would have preferred to check in my hostel first but as luck would have it, they weren’t open until 9AM and was located in the labyrith of Albazayn, so I had no choice but go directly to Alhambra.

After having a quick breakfast at the station, I hopped on the # 33 local bus bound for downtown Granada and explicitly told the driver as I was boarding that I needed to get off at the Cathedral. He said yes, and off we went. At this point, it was still dark outside and I can barely see anything outside the window. But I figured I told the driver where I needed to stop and since I clearly looked like a tourist, he knew that I had no idea where to get off and was at his mercy.

Half an hour later, the sun finally broke through, and imagine my horror when I realized we were driving through mountain passes. I’ve researched the trip enough to recognize that we were driving through the Sierra Nevada already. I also remembered from countless hours spent poring over Google Maps that I was on the complete opposite side of where I needed to be.

At the next major intersection I got off, and asked the driver why he didn’t drop me off at the Cathedral. Apparently, he forgot about me. He told me that we were just behind the hill where the Alhambra is situated and if I go up the hill, turn left, and then turn right, I should be there after a relaxing fifteen minute hike. I told him I can’t do it without a map, and asked if he had one he can give me. No. He then instead gave me directions to nearest bus stop and told me which one get on to get back to town. Thanks, but ummm, I’m still stuck in the mountains!

Also, despite the fact that I was on a major highway with huge buses flying by, I can’t find the bus stop the driver was talking about. There were about half a dozen bars in that mile-long stretch that I walked looking for that damn bus stop that I could have asked for better directions, but they were still all closed. I was S.O.L., big time!!

After half an hour of walking up and down that empty stretch of highway, I gave up and sat outside one of the closed bars and started debating internally about whether or not I should even attempt the climb. The driver’s directions are vague at best, and that bus stop “just down the street” is still nowhere to be found. I had absolutely zero faith in his guiding and directional skills at this point.

Mercifully for me, fifteen minutes after I sat down that stoop, two high school aged girls came out from the bar. They asked me what I was doing outside their home. I told them in my best broken Spanish about my predicament, and they told me in their best halting English that they were on their way to the Cathedral for a school event and offered to take me with them. Hallelujah!! I could have kissed those girls!! When we got on the bus I only had €20 notes on me and of course the bus driver has no change. Bless those sweet angels for they waved my cash away and paid for my bus fare. They sat on either side of me and excitedly told me about all the stuff I should do and try while in Granada. By the time the bus was turning towards the city center twenty minutes later, they had filled out a legal-sized pad paper with names, recommendations, and addresses. It would have taken me a month to go through all the restaurants they recommended and the activities they insisted I must experience.

Later on, when we finally got off the bus by the Cathedral, they bought me coffee and a croissant to take with, since the food sold at the restaurants by the Alhambra will be very expensive and not that good. As we prepared to say goodbye, the girls insisted that they walk me to the bus stop to make sure I get on the correct one to Alhambra. It was already past 9AM at that point so I told them I was planning on just taking a cab to get there quicker. As if they haven’t been exceedingly kind to me already, they insisted on hailing a cab for me and had a lengthy conversation with the driver to make sure that I get to my destination safely and quickly.

It always amazes me how on days when nothing is going right that something totally unexpected and wonderful comes up. That morning in Granada could have easily gone sideways, and lord knows where I would have ended up if those girls haven’t come out and helped me out. Every time I set off to travel by myself, people at home always tell me that I’m crazy for doing it. They honestly think that I will be chopped off to pieces or sold to white slavery if I travel abroad by myself. Heaven forbid should I dare talk to strangers! And yet, in all of my travels whether alone or with others, I always found myself being helped, looked after, and genuinely cared for by strangers. People are inherently kind; you just need to open your eyes to see it. I am, and will forever be grateful to those girls for the kindness and genuine care they showered on me. They had no idea if I was some crazy nutter sitting on their porch, but instead they chose to do the decent thing and help out a stranger.

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