Road trip to Ronda … and the walking boots are back on!

Another glorious week in Southern Spain. Well, the last few days the weather has been a bit iffy – hoping it’s a blip. (How British am I starting off the blog with a weather report)! Still, it’s encouraged us to get a few other things done, rather than that relaxing on the beach temptation.

Thursday 14th March 2019

A beach day – our usual spot in Fuengirola – beach beds 3 euros each including a free drink (bargain), near to shops, cafes and toilets – sun, sea, sand …. everything we need. I started off with a 5 mile walk (ran for one mile of this too), then felt justified to blob for the rest of the afternoon. Big waves today so didn’t venture in for a swim – have still not been in the sea since my memory loss incident last Saturday – need to get myself back in though, it’s a bit like falling off a bike. Although there was a wind today it’s definitely getting hotter, you can tell by the burning of your feet on the sand.

Friday 15th March 2019

Decided to take a drive to Ronda today – we had been recommended it as a place to visit for its stunning scenery – even that’s an understatement – it literally took our breath away.

We managed to get our hire car GPS set (trying to reserve our phone data) and even though it was in Spanish, the pictures helped. The first part of the drive was plain sailing – the A7 is a marvellous stretch of motorway. In time however we found ourselves on the mountain roads that lead up to Ronda …. and when I say UP – they go up and up and up and up – they’re not excruciatingly steep but they twist and turn with blind corners and just get higher and higher …. and they seem to go on forever. I was doing my usual clutching on to everything as the drop at the side of the road got more mind-blowing (spectacular but mind-blowing)! We laughed at the ‘no overtaking’ signs thinking “how obvious.” Our ears popped continuously as we climbed and our eyes popped out at the oh so incredible views. And pretty houses perched on hillsides – some original old farmhouses, many in need of repair, but also state of the art majestic mansions. And villages with pretty pastel and white homes spectacularly lined up, all so very Spanish looking.

Believe it or not there were a fair few cyclists making the ascent – just why!!!? And they have to come down at some point – that’s even worse!! 😘

We eventually arrived in Ronda, parked up and started to mooch around the town. Of course our first stop was some tapas refreshment as it was lunchtime. From here we set off to find the El Tajo Gorge, walking through the pretty white housed cobbled streets till we found the gorge and its impressive arched bridge. From here it was just jaw dropping all the way round – an absolute must if you’re ever in this part of Spain. I could wax lyrical but the photos speak for themselves.

Great spot for some busking

We left the old part of town to walk into the new part of Ronda, passing the its famous bullring – the oldest bullring in Spain.

Local legend tells that God, fed up with the constant squabbling of the people of Ronda, sent a huge bolt of lightening down to earth and split the city in two, with the women in one half and the men in the other. Now there’s a thought!! Apparently the bridge was built across the gorge though to reunite the community. A good point for discussion methinks!? πŸ€”πŸ€£

Before leaving this most characterful of places, we decided to refresh ourselves with some liquid refreshment, ordering what we thought to be hot chocolate as we know it. It was like drinking a bar of chocolate, you could literally stand your spoon up in it. I only had a few sips and I felt a migraine coming on …. and I don’t suffer from migraines! Steve naturally came to my aid and polished it off.

And then we began the long descent down the hill …. well, what can I say. We started off with a slow driver in front of us and that suited me just fine – slow is my favourite speed. However, other motorists behind us were not quite as patient as Steve and so the overtaking began – we just couldn’t believe it, having thought the ‘no overtaking’ signs were stating the bleeping obvious, we were wrong! My heart was racing harder than ever. And then, two motor cyclists came around the corner making their ascent at Grand Prix speed, practically horizontal and knee scraping. Unfortunately my anxiety was going into overload – lucky I wasn’t driving I guess.

I love travelling and all it involves, sightseeing, trying new foods, attempting the languages, new activities and adventures – I even don’t mind the flights and train travel …. but, I absolutely hate travelling on roads, especially where speed is involved. And I would love to overcome this. No-one would believe that I’ve driven a van to Romania and back, twice. Why does age commonly plague you with anxieties? In particular, my ‘nervous passenger’ fear is getting way out of proportion – any recommendations for specific therapy/cures for this would be so gratefully received.

Despite this, it was the best of days … think a relaxing day on the beach tomorrow however!

Saturday 16th March 2019

Yes, we had a quiet relaxing beach day. I walked from Fuengirola back into Benalmadena … found a pretty little beach called Playa de Carvajal. Also came away from promenade walking for a while and more onto coastal path walking (ah, felt like home)! Walked back to Fuengirola and had two swims during the afternoon – and I still remembered who I was and where I was – no memory loss today!

Playa de Carjaval

Sunday 17th March 2019

Took ourselves down to Playa de Carvajal this morning for a couple of hours – pretty beach, quieter than Fuengirola – but still not the bargain prices … and still no loos! We did swim though, even Steve took his first swim – well, a couple of quick dips under the water and then back to the sunbed.

Late afternoon we headed off by train to Torremolinos. We’d heard there’d be some interesting St. Patrick’s Day celebrations going on there … and we fancied a night out seeing somewhere different. On arrival there was a marquee in the square with Irish celebrations in full swing – live Irish music and dancing, revellers swathed in all things green and oversized squidgy top hats with Guinness branding … and evidence of drinking sessions from the early morn!

We thought we’d have a look around the town first and so wandered down to the beach area, descending several flights of slippy marble steps to get there. I know it’s out of season but it didn’t seem that bad – Torremolinos often gets a bad press but the beach area with its bars and restaurants was perfectly OK. We stopped at one to take our first drink of the evening.

Not sure we’d have recognised them without the sign!

Then we started to wend our way back up to the top of town, through busy winding streets full of retail opportunities. Settled on a tapas bar halfway up that looked to have a sea view – it was only once shown to a table that we noticed there was no-one else in there … and the views weren’t all that either. And as for my ‘vino blanco’ – it was undrinkable – luckily there was a plant just behind Steve that came in handy for disposing of said liquid. We moved on.

Once back in the square, St.Patrick’s Day celebrations seemed to have burnt themselves out …. so we just found ourselves a restaurant for tapas and vino and then headed off home for a reasonably early night. So, no Guinness hangover for us!

Monday 18th March 2019

Our first real windy and cloudy day. And so we did something unusual for a holiday activity – we planned our next travelling adventure! We actually spent the whole day planning flights, accommodation and itinerary for six weeks travelling around Cuba later in the year – and we are very excited.

We did get out of the apartment late afternoon for a walk from the Marina to Castillo de Bil Bil – one of Benalmadena’s attractions – it looks like a medieval Moorish fortress but in fact was built in the 20th century.

Tuesday 19th March 2019

We were up early this morning – alarm set for 6.30am (unheard of – felt like the middle of the night)! Another colder weather day had been forecast, and so with Steve’s foot on the mend we had made the magnanimous decision to get those walking boots back on and head for the hills. We had read an article in a local paper this week about Malaga’s own mini Camino de Santiago – a 15km path from Villanueva de la Concepcion, through El Torcal natural park and finishing in Antequera. The article made it sound quite magical – a spiritual experience … and described it as a “fairly undemanding hike.”

GPS set (and now speaking to us in English!) we had a smooth hour’s drive to Villanueva de la Concepcion, a sweet looking village set up in the hills. We parked up outside a school and a nearby shop, having identified the start of the Camino Mozarabe. Popped into the shop for some provisions – interesting stocks – lots of stationery, party decorations and dressing up clothes, random selections of food items and then the largest selection of school bags you have ever seen. Picked up water and biscuits, essential for the trek – then stumbled across freshly baked chocolate covered custard doughnuts – 3 for a euro – well, how could you resist? It was only later that we had the thought that we might have deprived a school child of their daily treat – there was only so many to go round!

Leaving Villanueva de la Concepcion

So we were off to a good start but very quickly took a wrong turning and found ourselves scrabbling up rocky hillsides and then, more importantly, sliding down them again. Identified our mistake (the sign had a cross on it – seems obvious in hindsight) … from then on we got the gist of how to find and correctly read signs and all was well.

We walked on through dramatic countryside with the most breathtaking of mountain backdrops and its renowned limestone rock formations. All so peaceful, we passed 3 other walkers and two farmers in the whole day. The greatest noise of the day were the canine sentries barking ferociously as we walked past isolated country houses – an occasional dog ran out to have a look but left us alone once we walked a safe distance past. Wouldn’t have wanted to have messed with the ones that were chained up however!

Our first spot of civilisation was a lonely goat farmer – we were sat on a rock scoffing chocolate covered custard doughnuts at the time – not sure which of us had the most unusual spectacle!

We also walked past a farm with bulls – luckily the farmer closed the gate just before we walked past – they didn’t seem so friendly – certainly wouldn’t have wanted to walk through a field of them – no way!

The first half of the walk was fairly uphill but decent paths and nothing too stupendously steep, not a patch on our UK coastal path walking (or so we thought)! The terrain varied along the way but cut through the most scenic of farmland and we enjoyed lots of chatter side by side, or sometimes Steve was a pace or 20 ahead of me – for three reasons:

1) I like to take in the scenery

2) I like to take photos

3) Have you seen the difference in the length of our legs!!?

The newspaper article had mentioned a ‘slightly tricky descent’ – this was probably the major understatement and this part of the trek was what compared it to our Cornish coastal walking. We had met a friendly German couple at the top who had just climbed it … and mentioned it was steep. Going down was no picnic – small parts of it had been cemented but largely it was loose stones … and very long and steep. We just took a step (or slide) at a time and made our way to the bottom.

From the bottom we had a fairly straightforward 4 km to our destination of Antequera – so pretty once we had our first glimpse of the town. Found our way to the nearest bar and rewarded ourselves with beer and tapas.

It was only on leaving Antequera in a taxi that we realised how big the town was – not sure our weary legs would have been up to much more wandering however. The taxi drove us pretty crazily back to Villanueva de la Concepcion – and again this village looked way bigger than the one we had set off from, and with our limited Spanish we couldn’t convince the driver to drive around until we found our car. So, we basically got dumped and then had to search nervously, not recognising a thing and at times doubting we were in the same village – finally using google maps to locate schools and so traced the whereabouts of our trusty Citroen Cactus.

And so two weary ramblers returned home – it was great to have had a new adventure though – we loved it.

Wednesday 20th March 2019

It’s Wednesday, it’s cloudy – this could only mean one thing …. household chores, supermarket shopping and blog!

Amongst this though we did fit in a walk from Benalmadena to Torremolinos … and Steve tried out a bit of running. Bit grim on that front however, the left knee was painful, but it took his mind off the foot pain! We covered 5 miles all in all and so tucked into sardines, prawns, avocado and vino blanco at a local chiringuito, as way of recovery.

And so … we’re already half way through this Andalucian adventure – we’re certainly missing everyone back home but loving the experience of living in Spain. And we do see it is as that rather than a holiday, just doing every days things and having the luxury of time to both relax and to explore.

We’re hoping the sun returns tomorrow though – enough’s enough. We’re ready to get back on that beach. We’ll keep you posted. 😎

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