Our last day stationed conveniently in Algeciras before we start our journey north, we are off to Ronda. Although the quaint village of Ronda is now Andalucía’s fastest-growing town – it overtook Córdoba in the big three Andaluz tourist attractions, behind Sevilla and Granada – at least we have been promised one of the best motorcycling roads in Spain so we set off early on light bikes, having left all panniers behind. The road is good, the bends endless as we start the steep ascent to this historic town 2400ft/730m above sea level. We are glad we deliberately decided to go on Monday, suspecting this would be a popular biking road on week ends, like the Mount Glorious road outside Brisbane, where we live. It is such a perfect biking road, it attracts too many speeding bikers – so we avoid it at week ends. Interestingly, that evening, a local we chatted to referred it to a ‘racing track’ – our feeling exactly. No wonder we saw these signs all the way up to Ronda:
Old Moorish Ronda sits atop a Jurassic limestone cliff, on the edge of a gorge carved by the Guadalevín river, the altitude providing great natural defenses. It saw turbulent times. The Arabs conquered Izna-Rand-Onda, today known as Ronda, (and most of Iberia) in the year 713 and the city eventually became a mini Moorish kingdom. The Moors divided southern Andalucía into five distinct districts. The Moors were continually fighting among themselves, and the volatile ethnic mix in the mountains resulted in much rebellion and conflict. The Christians eventually won it back in 1485. By then, frequent crossings of the city required a new bridge to be built.
Ronda is also famous as the birthplace of modern bullfighting, when in 1726 bullfighter Pedro Romero broke away from the prevailing Jerez school of horseback bullfighting and founded a new style in which matadores stood their ground against the bull on foot using a muleta We have come across many posters plastered in the streets of various cities advertising bull fighting. Not for us, even if it is a local cultural tradition.
We are usually quite ‘slack’ tourists, in that we do not make sure we visit every famous site in a place. I am the one who typically does the research before visiting a place and deciding where we’ll go, making a rough note of what I want to see or what would be of interest to Anthony. I often leave Anthony on a bench somewhere while I go off alone, and we usually just meander through a town or region seeing what we might stumble across and simply enjoy in the atmosphere of the place, people watching and often chatting with locals. And we always read up more on the region later! The history of Andalucia is certainly complex and fascinating.
I didn’t know that chapter 10 of Hemingway’s “For Whom The Bells Toll” novel drew on events that occurred in Ronda in 1936 during Spain’s civil war when a mob threw 500 people, allegedly fascist sympathisers, into the surrounding gorge from the bottom span that holds the main arch of the New Bridge.
Ronda is definitely a beautifully scenic town. And while the road up was scenic too, our return ride back to the coast on back roads, the A369, was simply divine. So many tiny white villages hugging mountain tops and cliffs such as Atajate, Benadalid, Algatocin and Gaucin. We make numerous stops. This is our kind of riding – stunning scenery, windy roads, no traffic and all that with the greatest riding and life partner – we are so lucky we enjoy and appreciate the same things in life.
We get so used to living wherever we are, we sometimes forget to mention the small things. It occurred to me today that we haven’t mentioned all the olive groves we have seen traveling through Spain and especially in Andalucia. We have walked through them, admiring their gnarled trunks and fruit laden branches. And we have been surprised at the steep terrain on which olive trees have been planted as shown on some of our landscape photos – way too steep for any automated or machine harvesting. We eventually saw people harvesting, up small ladders leaning against the tree. Olive harvesting is obviously an important source of income across Spain from seeing the number of old and new groves especially in Andalucia, it made me want to know about the industry. Spain has been cultivating olives since Roman times and is now the world leader, producing 44% of the world’s olive oil, twice as much as Italy and 4 times as much as Greece. It turns out that the Andalucia Regional government tracks every commercial tree with its own GPS coordinate and is monitored by regional officials for EU subsidies. These olive trees apparently produce better fruit and oil in poor rocky soil and craggy limestone cliffs than they do in rich, fertile earth.
And how could I not have mentioned food before?! The food in Spain has been fantastic. Always so fresh and tasty. The seafood and olive oil in particular. One tiny mussel and you taste the ocean. And the ham – I have been feasting on it for breakfast. We were lucky to find a very small local tapas bar in Algeciras which we went back to 3 times!! The first time, all 4 chosen dishes were new to us. The 2nd time, we chose our 2 preferred tapas from last time and 2 new ones, the 3rd time we did the same again. I am definitely getting a taste for those tapas. Loved the Pedro Xemenez reduction over the slices of tender beef – it tasted like a blend of thick sweet balsamic vinegar and port. And the Spanish olive oil is like nothing I have ever tasted! We’ve had some drizzled on a simple slice of toast, on roasted vegetables, on chips/crisps even!! This olive oil tastes of sunshine. I wish I could bottle-record it for us all to taste anytime! It was interesting to see what every table had in a small petrol station/cafe we stopped at recently.
Seville and Cordoba next!