written 13th february
Anyway, feet up and onwards.
Ronda had first been recommended to us by Wayne back in San Sebastian and has since been mentioned by everyone we have met in southern spain but, having not yet fished the lp out, we couldn't remember why, and one first sight, across a flat plain, nestling between the mountains, we were none the wiser. Even driving into the town didn't help - it certainly wasn't a walled city! - but we parked up anyway, and headed tourist office-wards. Unfortunately, due to our coffee and sticky bun break, we had just missed it but for once, it had a map in the window and a list of sights and monuments - I have been thinking this for a long time, it is a fundamental basic thing that all tourists want when they arrive in a town, and so few tourist offices actually provide this out of hours - why not???? - anyway, it highlighted gorges, view points, grand bridges, muslim steps down into the depths, bandit museums, muslim baths and loads more - sounds like our sort of place!
It turns out that Ronda is another of the most ancient cities in Spain, having been Arunda to the celts, Acinipo to the Romans and Izn-Rand Onda to the Moors. The city slopes up from the plains to the north to the sheer cliff face of the gorge towering 120m above the plains to the south. The river Guadalevin cuts stright through the middle between the old town and the new town and is crossed by bridges in three places, the Puenta Romana from moorish times and the 17th century Puenta Viejo to the north and the iconic Puenta Nuevo built in 1751 at the highest point of the gorge, and which was once used for dispatching prisoners over the edge.
The second tourist office was open - and very aplogetic about the rain, lowering cloud gloom and lack of views - so we armed oursleves with maps, leaflets and free english newspapers for future consumption, and headed out once more. Being british - despite not wearing cagools and unaccountably having left the umbrellas in the van - we were of course determined not to let a spot of rain spoil our enjoyment of the place so set off undaunted over the bridge to the next viewpoint, where we bumped into Tim and Pauline doing the same. Originally from Coventry, but latterly Canada, they were on a two week trip to southern spain and Ronda was somewhere Tim had always wanted to come so had made the trip from Marbella specially - just a shame they didn't do it two years ago when they were last in spain and it was sunny! It's always nice to hear a familiar accent so we stood out of the rain for a bit of a chat about holidays, family and the like and discovered that Tim has always wanted to travel Europe for a year in campervan - so the rest of this blog will have the specific mission of convincing Pauline that the grandchildren can manage without her for a year so Tim can have his dream - family can always visit!! (unless they demand too much advance notice of future locations of course... ;) )
After a very pleasant few minutes, we looked out from our sheltered spot and suddenly found that it had stopped raining, and the clouds had lifted, so we got our bridge view after all.
Fine company and the sights - its good to talk!
Next stop on the map is a lake circled by Wayne as being good for free camping and the road to El Burgo, the first town en route, took us though the Sierra de las Nieves national park. Again, another epic road somewhat lost on us through lack of visibility - dark this time though, not wet at least - and we pulled into El Burgo thinking we would stop for the night and appreciate the roads in the morning. The first likely looking place was too close for comfort to some lads kicking around in the bus stop so we moved on. We were just considering our options when an unlikely small truck with two english guys in it pulled up to see if we were lost and suggested we try the industrial estate. We found it but it was full of semi derelict warehouses, no lights and some sort of wolf/dog/fox cross creatures and was all in all just too creepy so we decided against. We found a spot back in town and cooked dinner but we just had this bad feeling about the place and were already considering whether we really wanted to stop when we heard some rowdy kids in the street and then a crack as something hit the windscreen. Fortunately it must have been just a small pebble so no damage done and no further projectiles launched but discretion is the better part of valour, so we decided to forgo the possibility of nice driving road in daylight and made a sharp exit. Next time we have a bad feeling about somewhere, we will just go with it. Ho hum, there will be other days and other roads no doubt.
So here we are, tucked up nice and safe - we think - with the prospect of flamingos tomorrow - we hope. If they are not playing spanish guitars, stamping their feet and wearing frilly dresses, I shall be extremely disappointed... ;)
Baggins and scooper: thank you :) - subject closed
Dave: under duress, and only allowed because I too have bad hair... I think there is no hope :)