Filming our mountain bike tour, Spain
Catherine takes us through the terrible hardships encountered when having to travel to Spain to do a ‘work’ film shoot
Singletrack, sunset and sensational tapas; filming our mountain bike tour in Spain
“Do you want to come to Spain to help film our new tour video?”
“Um, is that even a question?!”
“We’re going in June and it’ll be hot and we’ll be putting in very long hours every day.”
[Bags packed, factor 50 liberally applied] “I think I’ll cope.”
This was the short exchange I had with my husband and business partner Euan, which led to me standing in 40°C heat in the car park at Málaga airport, changing my clothes. I’m not sure about the other car park users, but I didn’t care; I was in Spain, the sun was shining and I was going to ride my bike and eat sensational food in one of my favourite places in the world: Andalucía.
As we made the drive towards our base in Granada (“we” being me, Euan, our videographer Julián, and host Lali), we realised it had been quite some time since we last ate, so we pulled off the highway and into a small village where we found a local bar (complete with stuffed animals and television showing a Western dubbed in Spanish) for our first tortilla española and café cortado. We have arrived!
Feeling relaxed and initiated into local culture we continue on our way to Granada.
We arrive at base and unload all of our gear, then find a shady spot to build our bikes. With that task successfully completed we get the team together (now including Cali, our guide) to go over the plan for the next few days and figure out how we would use our time most efficiently.
The story behind filming our mountain bike tour in Spain video was inspired by a poem written by one of our guides, Kevin, who is a published poet as well as a mountain bike guide, and had penned some lines during a recent visit to Andalucía. This, along with verses from a poem by local author Federico Garcia Lorca, provided a script for the video, and a focus for our filming.
Our first stop, to catch the hazy evening light, was a trail above Granada old town, with a spectacular view over the world-famous Alhambra Palace. This trail marks the last day of our week-long Andalucían mountain bike adventure, and going up and down the trail, over and over again, to get the perfect shot wasn’t a great hardship in such magnificent surroundings. With the final glimpses of sunlight disappearing below the horizon, it was time to call it a day and get ready for dinner: a tapas tour of Granada!
This is where local, off-the-bike knowledge is essential, to find the bars serving the best tapas, wine and beer in the most authentic surroundings, which is exactly where we found ourselves that evening.
The following morning, feeling slightly groggy from all the great food and wine, we set off early up to the Sierra Nevada mountains for a long day of riding and filming. Poems in hand, we stopped at a small church, next to an olive grove, to film in the pale morning light.
“El campo de olivos se abre y se cierra como un abanico.”
From the olive groves we began climbing through a beautiful forest of pale greens and burnt oranges, then up on to a high, rocky plateau with views stretching out before us towards Morocco.
“The grass is almost white, bleached by drought.”
Thankfully, what goes up, must come down, and we were eventually rewarded with a technical, but really fun descent to a typical Andalucían white-washed village for lunch. No rest for the wicked, however, and we were soon back in the van (time-saving) and heading to Trevelez to visit the world-famous jamón producers.
Jamón filming complete, we got back on our bikes for another hot climb to the start of our favourite descent ‘Flowtastic’. The wide open space was perfect for flying the drone to capture the beautiful flowing singletrack cutting through the hillside. We spent a good amount of time here, going back and forth to get the perfect footage, but it was worth it.
With the heat of then day dissipating, we headed back to base to freshen up for a cooking lesson.
“Frying in blackened pans / in pools of olive oil…”
We helped rustle up a pan of patatas a lo pobre (poor man’s potatoes), a traditional dish from the mountain of Andalucía, which we enjoyed with a local red wine, and toasted the end of another successful day.
Up again with the birds the next morning to get some drone footage of the sun rising over a local village, then film us riding through the narrow, steep streets themselves.
“Villages are cauterised to the earth / where the sky is waiting / for news of a dream.”
Street riding in Andalucía just doesn’t get boring! However, we’re not just here for fun, we have some serious work to do, and we were on the road again before 10am to film some of the more technical descents here in the Sierra Nevada, and get our last major climb under our belts before it got too hot.
We also had an appointment for lunch with Tío Tobas at his cave accommodation near Guadix, and that’s something you don’t want to be late for!
On the way to the caves we stopped to shoot the impressive 16th century Castillo de La Calahorra, which is believed to have been the first Italian Renaissance castle built outside Italy, and forms part of our normal bike route to our cave accommodation. The castle sits on an exposed hillock and in the middle of a June day it was getting pretty hot for, “Again please!” from Julián.
We were all grateful to arrive at the caves for a late lunch and chance to review our footage to make sure we’d picked up everything required, since this was our last day of filming. Our final port of call was in the ‘Badlands’ near Guadix, so-called because of the vast desert and large canyon, making for a very hostile landscape.
“Solo queda / el desierto. / Un ondulado desierto”
Our mission here was to capture the final frame: sunset over the canyon with long shadows cast on to the parched orange landscape. When you’re working against the clock (or the sunset) things can get quite fraught, especially when it’s 10pm and everyone is tired! After many takes, we finally had all the footage in the bag and could head back to base to celebrate.