Bandolero Run

Trip Start Nov 29, 2012
Trip End Feb 18, 2013

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Where I stayed
Hapimag Marbella
What I did
Smurf town

Flag of Spain  , Andalusia,
Friday, January 4, 2013

Serrania de Ronda

Yes I kow it sounds like a place in Wales but it's not! Far from it those green valleys do not exist here it is dry and bleak in parts although it has its fair share of sheep.
It does have a rich ecosystem with its rainforest, pine forest and the highest rainfall in this part of Spain but recent fires have devastated the landscape leaving some barren areas in its wake. The village of Igualeja where we stopped to see the cascading waters of the source of the Genal boasted clear natural mineral water, untreated and ready to drink. We stopped further down in the village for a coffee and brandy in the square. This is just one of many pleasant hillside white washed villages called pueblos blancos that greet you along with their friendly dogs . I loved the simplicity of the Christmas tree in the square, a natural tree tastefully decorated. The homes look modest but well kept and we are told the village communities are proud and honest people who look after each other and care nothing for anything showy and vulgar, they prefer to exchange their produce for other goods rather than use money. Each town has its own speciality produce, leather, wool, oranges, avocados, pork, goats cheese and wine and come together to trade their produce.
Juzcar was the next village we visited made distinctly different because all the houses are blue!! Why? you may ask..well that is because this village was chosen to film the series of the Smurfs and all the villagers agreed to paint their houses blue. Although they apparently had to ask the Pope's permission to paint the church blue and he said Yes! but not the sacred interior of the cemetary which remains virginal white.It is a bit gimmicky but surprisingly not commercial and attracts a lot of tourists that boost the towns economy.
On the way to Ronda we passed an impressive yellow painted farmhouse which was where the local black footed pig was reared. These much sought after pigs are fed on nuts which make their meat sweet and nutty to taste and it is very expensive meat. A cured leg of black footed pig could fetch 140 euros each.
Ronda is an impressive town that is set on a massive rocky outcrop with a limestone cleft where you can see caves that must at one time been dwellings. Once a Moorish stronghold, evidence of those times can be found in many buildings. It also has the oldest bullring in Spain (sorry didn't Mijas make the same claim?) however the restaurant we had lunch in boasted pictures of famous matadors and the Ronda style of bullfighting was made famous by Pedro Romero who apparently slaughtered 6,000 bulls in the name of sport! We later saw wild bulls being nurtured for the bullring in the fields of Jimena la Frontera but I'm sorry I still find it distasteful even if the bull does have special privileged upbringing.
The most impressive feature of Ronda was the 'New Bridge' - Puente Nuevo an impressive 18th century feat of engineering spanning the 100m deep gorge between the old Moorish sector of Ronda and the newer part of the town. We took many pictures as the views from here were stunning across the Sierra.
From Ronda we boarded the fast train to Algeciras and passed many small towns, cork trees orange groves and olive trees and an amazing colony of storks that soared the thermals almost dancing in the sky as they circled their high nests built on chimney pots and electric pylons.
Then we boarded the coach again and at Gaucin could see an amazing view over the Mediterranean to the Rock of Gibraltar only 14 kms away and across the Strait to the Rif mountains of North Africa.
It was along day but an amazing trip into the interior of Andalusia. We were lucky also to have such informative guides Marie Louisa and her father Ingolf who were perfectly charming and considerate hosts. A fabulous day also made pleasanter by the good company of the only other Brits we have met here Wendy and Nick from Kent. Lovely people.

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Val on

We too have explored this area and love the ciudad, the old district of Ronda, and its twisting, narrow streets and the Palacio de Mondragon. We too have many photos of the view from the bridge into the old town and were surprised att he volume of traffic that travelled over the bridge and its disregard for pedestrians. There is a house on the right not far from the bridge which is open to the public and has wonderful views of the valley and som fabulous examples of old decorated tiles and wonderful old furniture (I can't remember its name:-( )

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