Ronda and Grazalema

May 6, 2018

When we were planning our trip, we couldn’t figure out how to get from La Línea to the train station at San Roque. There were public buses which went from there to San Roque, but we’d be travelling on a Sunday and it wasn’t clear whether there would be buses running early enough for us to catch our train. But later when we looked at the local map more closely, we noticed that the train station was actually a fair distance from San Roque, where the buses (if any) would go.

So yesterday we asked the man at our hotel’s front desk to book us a taxi for this morning at 8 am. Between his bad English and Paul’s bad Spanish we thought that it was all arranged okay. And yes, a taxi arrived this morning at 8 am and took us to the station. Our train was waiting for us there—officially it originates in Algeciras but Renfe hasn’t got around to building the tracks yet.

The train departed at its scheduled time of 8:58 am, and as it headed north we could see White Storks on their nests, many of which had chicks. It seemed like every power pole had a nest on it, or even two! But pretty soon we were out in the beautiful countryside and didn’t see any more White Storks. We did however see a Black Stork which flew up out of a field as the train went by.

The trip to Ronda took about an hour and upon arrival we headed over to the bus station. The Los Amarillos office was just opening so we bought our tickets to Grazalema, with return tickets for Tuesday. There was a busy cafeteria across the street so we went there to get some breakfast. Both of us chose tortilla de patatas, which turned out to be a bun with mashed potato and fried egg inside it. Neither of us quite knew what to expect when we ordered that so we were surprised at what we got. It was actually quite good and definitely hit the spot.

Ronda valley viewpoint

Ronda valley viewpoint

As we sat there, a continuous stream of tour groups passed by the cafeteria. There must have been ten of them while were eating. So we knew how to find tourist sights: follow a tour group! We hadn’t seen any lockers in the bus station for our packs so we ended up carrying them around while we explored Ronda.

Bullring in Ronda

Bullring in Ronda

The day was sunny and warm so we had a good time. A tour group led us down to a pedestrian area and park with a great view from a cliff-top over the river. We also had a look at the bullring but we’d already seen the one in Sevilla so we passed this one up. Instead we worked our way through the crowds down to the New Bridge, which spans the gorge which runs through the middle of Ronda. But we didn’t really have time to look around. On the way back to the bus station we passed by a nougat shop, so we stopped in to buy some for a snack.

Gorge below Ronda

Gorge below Ronda

The bus trip to Grazalema took about 45 minutes on a winding one-lane road. Once there we had to figure out how to get to La Mejorana, our home for the next two nights. We had a printout of where it was located and we found it after some uphill walking on the cobbled streets.

Grazalema street

Grazalema street

The front door was open and we found we had to use the intercom to call somebody. Diego came over and showed us around the place. Our room was at the top of a spiral staircase, with lovely views down the valley. It didn’t take long before we saw some Eurasian Griffons, huge vultures, soaring over the hills; that was a treat.

View from our window in La Mejorana

View from our window in La Mejorana

Eurasian Griffon

Eurasian Griffon

After settling in and doing some laundry we went exploring. Grazalema is built on a hill but the roads aren’t narrow and there aren’t cliffs protecting the town. Down in the town centre there were several bakeries, so we opted to buy some apple tarts from one of them. We sat at the mirador and enjoyed the tarts before heading back for a siesta.

Church of San Juan in Grazalema

Church of San Juan in Grazalema

At 7:30 pm we headed out to find a place to eat. Our first choice was the bar just up from our hotel but it didn’t appear to be open, so we walked down to the Plaza de España to find somewhere else. Nothing really appealed to us so we ended up at Restaurante Casa de las Piedras, which turned out to be rather fancy. We both had some wine and then Rosemary had a pork dish and Paul had rabbit. We had a good evening because the couple next to us struck up a conversation. They were from Denmark and were with a group that went walking in the mornings and then played bridge in the afternoons.

May 7, 2018

After a good night’s sleep we got up and went downstairs for breakfast. What a lovely choice of food! By far the best we have had the whole trip and it only cost € 2.50 each. After we were finished we chatted with Andrés, who described the trail we had planned to follow for our hike in the mountains today. We took a couple of madeleines to eat on the trail and then headed out.

Trail in Sierra de Grazalema

Trail in Sierra de Grazalema

The weather this morning was rather cloudy and there was the possibility of rain in the forecast, so we made sure to take our rain jackets. The trail started at the top of the town by the campsite, and our route had us climbing through a pine forest. The views looking back was great, but our progress was slow because there were lots of birds singing. Actually finding these birds was difficult, though, and because we didn’t know European bird songs we had to try to see them.

Rosemary on the trail

Rosemary on the trail

Eurasian Blackcap

Eurasian Blackcap

The trail was in good condition and easy to follow, although we did have to watch our footing in some places. About an hour after we started we came to a level area between two valleys. As we were looking at a Rock Bunting, Rosemary happened to look up at the rocks and spotted an ibex. By the time we had walked through the flat section we had counted 16 ibexes in two groups of eight. What a treat to see them!

Rock Bunting

Rock Bunting

Ibex herd

Ibex herd

Just before we reached the pass it started to rain. It was just light sprinkling at first but soon we stopped to put on our rain jackets. At the pass we met the old footpath which runs from Benaocaz to Grazalema, and we followed it downhill. Because of the rain the limestone rocks were very slippery and the section of the trail going down to the road was quite treacherous. Fortunately we made it back to the road without incident.

Showy purple flowers

Showy purple flowers

At the bottom of the trail we saw some lovely yellow orchids with deep purple centres; this was the first time we had seen any kind of orchids in Spain.

Yellow orchids (Ophrys lutea)

Yellow orchids (Ophrys lutea)

The trail now paralleled the road and was wide and easy to walk on, and it didn’t take us long to get back to the town. By now we were hungry so we went looking for some food. We ended up at Rumores, in the Plaza de España next to where the bus had dropped us off yesterday. Rosemary had chicken and Paul had eggs with habas and ham—“habas” turned out to be small green beans. The food was not bad but we have had better.

About 7:30 pm we headed out to find a place for dinner. As we went up a side street we happened to pass the wool shop that sold locally-made ponchos. Rosemary had found out about this shop before we started the trip, and we had searched for it earlier with no luck. Initially she thought about buying a lovely blue poncho but eventually opted for a grey one with a blue and pink stripe.

Afterwards we headed back to the plaza to go to the restaurant we had decided on, but when we went into the narrow alleyway where it was located, it was full of people either waiting to go in or just hanging around. Rather than get mixed up in the crowd we headed out to Bar Zulema, which had hardly any customers. The food was nothing special but it was tasty.

May 8, 2018

We set the alarm clock this morning because our bus left at 8:10 am; we said goodbye to Andrés and headed down the hill. It was interesting standing at the bus stop watching the village wake up. The school bus waited for the high-school students to get on and then it left at 8 am. Our bus was quite full, as a lot of people were travelling down to Ronda.

Iglesia de la Merced, Ronda

Iglesia de la Merced, Ronda

We arrived in Ronda at about 9 am and found that the lady at the WC would keep our packs in a storage room. Pity we didn’t know about that service before! So we paid € 6 for that and headed across the road to the café and had orange juice, tea, and churros. It was very pleasant being in Ronda early in the morning before the tour groups arrived.

Statue in bullfighter Hall of Fame

Statue in bullfighter Hall of Fame

After breakfast we walked down to the Alameda del Tajo, which was very quiet at that time in the morning. Then we continued on and walked across the New Bridge into the old town, which we hadn’t had time for on our previous visit. We found a lovely plaza that was bordered on three sides by churches and convents and on the fourth side by the City Hall.

New Bridge

New Bridge

Nuns from the convent

Nuns from the convent

Near there we found a map which showed a walking route, so we followed it as it took us down and along the old city wall, ending up at the Arabic baths. We were almost down at the river here and we crossed the Old Bridge before climbing back up a long set of steps. These steps took us through the Jardín de Cuenca, a lovely rose garden which was very well maintained. Some of the roses were blooming but it would have been better to be here later in the summer to see all the flowers.

Old city wall

Old city wall

Ruins of Arabic baths

Ruins of Arabic baths

At the plaza we bought some more nougat for a treat, and then headed over to the train station, retrieving our packs from the bus station lady on the way. Now we were heading on to our next city, Granada.

Nougat shop

Nougat shop

Next: Granada (and Madrid again)