Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Wednesday 10 February – Olvera, Ronda and Benarraba

Where’s Colin? He’s at a municipal aire just on the very edge of the town/village of Benarraba at N36º32.957’ W5º16.751’

It rained last evening and intermittently through the night and quite considerably this morning too. Accordingly, we didn’t dash out but made more use of having electric and water to hand to have showers (twice in two days; how extravagant!) and then spent another couple of hours working on the laptop. Eventually, at 11.30 (half an hour before the ‘you must leave by’ time) we left the Aire. Having made multiple attempts to call both numbers shown on the information sign and enquired at the local restaurant, and in the absence of an honesty box, we didn’t feel too bad at making away without paying, as no-one ever did turn up to collect our money. Perhaps that’s why the price of the Aire has gone up 40% this year – the owner has realised he can still make the same money without needing to collect his fees every day.

View from the Aire (when the cloud lifted so we could see it)

The miserable weather put us off taking a walk along the Via Verde – a 38km-long stretch of old railway bed - but we did make an effort to take a quick look at Olvera. The verdict, having walked up to the church and castle, which stand prominently above this Pueblo Blanco (white town) is that they look better at a distance. Close to the church is actually quite shabby.

With another shower coming in, haste was made down from the church and we dived into the first coffee-serving establishment we saw, which looked quite busy as we walked through the door. Immediately I felt out of place; this didn’t look like a bar at all from inside, but a working men’s club (or, to be more precise, a retired men’s club). I was the only person in there under the age of 60 and the only female. Not put off, coffee was had, and we were stared at the whole time. I’m guessing they don’t have many foreigners drop in, but at least we gave them a bit of added interest in their morning and something to talk about!

Heading off and making a turn southwards after quite a few days of westerly progress, the change in scenery that we first noticed yesterday became more pronounced. Gone are the huge arid plains with small outcrops of hills dotted around and suddenly we are in a very green and hilly area, with woodland being a common feature. As much as it’s a nice change to see so much green, it does suggest that rain is to be expected.

Ronda hadn’t featured in my rough plan for the next few days, probably because there’s not an Aire there and I wasn’t feeling inclined to fork out for a campsite when we didn’t really need one. However, whilst sitting being stared at over coffee this morning, I had a quick look on Park4Night and armed with the location of somewhere we could park in the town, off we went.

I’ve since learnt, via a Facebook conversation with my friend Vic, that I would have visited Ronda 17 years ago if my friends hadn’t accidentally abandoned me for the day. I have no recollection of that abandonment, and thus no bad feelings at having missed this spectacular place. In fact, I had no idea that it was spectacular, not having read about it before we arrived.

I’ll gloss over the lunch that we went for immediately upon arrival (we arrived at 2pm – the perfect time for lunch, we thought. It turns out that Ronda is so full of tourists that they probably don’t keep to Spanish hours so much), because it was decidedly below average and overpriced, but that disappointment was soon forgotten when we went for a look at the 130m-deep gorge which splits this town in two, and the bridge which spans the gap.

For once, I think my snaps do convey what it was like, and I’ve included photos from viewing points on both sides of the bridge, together with a snap of the gorge taken from the south, and of the escarpment to the north:

We could have spent the night in Ronda, but the car park didn’t really appeal to us, so onwards we moved again, slowly progressing along an undulating, wiggly road* to this Aire with 5 spaces, just on the edge of Benarraba. Seeing five vans in residence as we made our way down the road, we feared our luck was out, but one had chosen to park on the adjacent grass area, rather than in one of the marked bays (each with their own water point, toilet point and waste water drain!), so once more we got the last spot. We are again in the cloud, with rain falling, so we won’t be taking a walk into the town today. We’ll hope for nicer conditions tomorrow.

(*These undulations are not doing the MPG stats any good at all!)

(As an aside: Sometime yesterday afternoon my phone lost two key services – internet and phone calls (texts were still working). Was this because I’d been roaming for more than a month (contrary to Three’s T&Cs)? Had my month’s package ended half a day early? Lots of time was spent trying different things, eventually using a different phone to activate a new Three SIM and loading it with a month’s package. That didn’t work either. I can manage just fine without Facebook and without being able to blog, but the trip is being made so much easier by liberal use of Google Maps, and the Park4Night app is rather useful too, so it wasn’t a happy thought at having to manage without until I could source a local SIM. It was therefore a great relief when everything started working again at bedtime. I can only assume it was a network issue.)

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