|This will mainly cover Grazalema, Jimena de la Frontera and Zahara, but with some attention to Malaga, Ronda and Úbrique. In 1989 and 1991, I went through Grazalema on the bus and wanted to get out. In 1994 I got out and stayed 3 nights.
There are three bus routes from Málaga to Ronda as well as the train [change at Bobadilla]. I advocate Sierra de las Nueves first, closely followed by Los Amarillos. See http://www.estabus.emtsam.es/.
From Ronda, there is a bus to Grazalema and Úbrique, another to Zahara and train to Jimena. These journeys are almost holidays in themselves.
Ronda is noted for its terrific gorge, where bodies were thrown to save ammunition in the Civil War. My times there have been largely spent within a km radius of the gorge, down into it to get the sight of that lovely bridge from below, around the Old Town on the far side of the bridge, into the cathedral [I don’t like it much but fancy having all that gold to use!]. Even the main shopping street and the Plaza de Toros [oldest in Spain] come within the area. Splash out on a bit more for a drink and have it on the terrace overlooking the gorge.
You won’t pass Zahara on the bus to Sevilla without wanting to go up that hill and stay there. Eventually I did so. It is often said that the best thing about the Pueblos Blancos is the distant view. In general this is not my view but in this case the distant view is superlative and perhaps the village itself is a bit less so. Even so it’s a fine place for a couple of nights. Once you have walked up to the top of the village, there aren’t individual sights there to grab you – but if you like ato savour a delightful stretch of scenery on a short walk, go up the hill on the road to Grazalema until you reach the entrance to the Garganta Verde.
Entry to the gorge is not permitted in the nesting season because this is a reserve for the vultures. You can at least watch them from the top. Otherwise you walk back along the top of the gorge until you come to a track right down. Believe me it’s narrow enough for the sunlight to be almost completely occluded, when 30 or 40 vultures fly over you. Spooky! In December the flowers are a treat.
Grazalema looks like a near hilltop village even from quite close but it doesn’t take long there to realise that there’s a lot of hill above you. There is a road that bypasses the village itself and forks a short way above, one road to Zahara and the other to Benamahoma and El Bosque. There’s a great walk starting just along each of the forks, going left in both cases. . From the Benamahoma road you find a sort of style over a barbed wire fence and you can’t miss the path. Go straight on until you reach a farm – several miles. There were young pigs running around at will when I was there. Turn left and right higher up to reach the Salto del Cabrero, Goatherd’s Leap between two limestone ridges – and don’t jump! The other walk starts up a STEEP path and crosses a ridge to loop around to Benamahoma, via El Pinsapar, where the rare Spanish fir grows, leaves like a Norway spruce but a blue tinge and a different trunk. Return by the road with the sun going down – fabulous!
|What's really great:
Ubrique, beyond Grazalema on the bus, is a town still devoted to leather, a greater degree of specialisation than we ever find in the UK today. It’s not cheap but the label Piel de Ubrique commands a far higher price in Paris or London and there is a good factory seconds shop. Otherwise the town seems boring at first sight but turn left outside the bus station and left up a steep road with steps. Turn up a flight of steps to your right and you reach a splendid square surrounded by orange trees. Cross it and head up into the old part of the town and you’ll feel you have arrived in magic country. Whichever way you go up, it will be interesting with friendly children showing you where to go for a photo – you won’t need Spanish. One way you come to a shrine which was like a farm in a children’s book, a real turkey, a calf and a kid and chickens – only for the whole effect to be ruined by a motorbike left propped across the altar!
From Jimena de la Frontera, a few stations up the railway line from Algeciras you can see the Rock of Gibralter, great from this distance, if you walk a couple of km to the village proper and then up to the ruins of what was once an enormous castle, la frontera having been the border between Christians and Moors – a mobile line.
We visited the Cueva de la Pileta from here, taking the railway to Benaohan-Montejaque. Head up through the village to the road above and turn left. Pass one fork and you will come eventually to a path/track going up diagonally to your right. If there’s nobody at the cave entrance, sit down and eat your picnic – the guide will appear from a house further down the road.
Never mind the natural scenery – good as it is. It’s the ancient cave paintings you’ve come for and they are about 504% worth it. The earliest date from 25,000 BC –yes, I’ve checked what I’ve put! They show a variety of life forms, including fish.
Then walk on to the next station.
Both the following were acceptable for a night in Malaga [shared facilities]:
Hostal La Palma, c/Marttinez 7 and Pensión Juanita, c/Alarcón-Luján.
In Grazalema ask for the Hostal with the taxi.
In Jimenes there’s a couple of very cheap places near the station, which are quite OK.
In Zahara, I found the Marques de Zahara overpriced and should try somewhere else another time.
In Ubrique the Rough Guide makes a rare mistake, unless the delightful house where I stayed has closed since 1990. Try asking at the bus station for a fonda or go to the sqare mentioned above, cross by the short side in front of the church and it’s no 3 on the road to your right [left hand side]. No sign up.
At El Colmenar, the station for Gaucín [NOT near it – bus from Ronda if you want to go there] ask off season at right hand of two bars – you will get a nearby apartment to yourself – CHEAP!
In Benamahoma, at the end of the walk from Grazalema, you pass a bar on your left and are you ready for a drink?
At the bar mentioned under accommodation at El Colmenar, I had to wait to be shown to my ‘room’ because they were busy with lunch – and how! To pass the time I drank too much Montilla and consumed tapas as though I had starved for six months. It came to time for payment and I was anxious – but absolutely no need. It was really cheap. I went in the evening for a racion. Heaven knows where they all came from but the bar was full – with all chairs facing the TV. Sevilla were playing Real Madrid – and there was no hope of anything to eat until it ended! This was a real experience and I enjoyed it immensely.
Irrelevant here but no room elsewhere – look out for ‘Andar por el Macizo de Grazalema’, by Luis Gilprez Fraile – excellent and pretty easy Spanish – maps and pics included.
One night I ate in the Marques de Zahara [see above] and hated it. I forget what I had but what I hated was being the only one there, being spied on from behind a screen, not being allowed a second to digest before the next course and people clearly waiting to go once I’d paid.
Next day I was almost rude in a bar opposite and a bit to the left as I expressed my boredom with chips with everything. Where were the delicious veges I saw at markets? The reply was far better than I deserved – if I came at 20.15 and didn’t mind sitting out of sight, they would serve me what they were eating themselves with a stew of veges to make the mouth water. I was so delighted I forgot to agree a price.
Sure enough I turned up and was put out of sight and then four courses and coffee were brought. I began to panic about what it might cost but it was not only one of the most delicious full meals I’ve eaten in Spain. It was by far the cheapest!
Málaga isn’t usually an add-on to villages! Talk about giving a dog a bad name! Málaga is far better than is usually reckoned and the Avenida Principal, at the eastern end is a lovely leafy sight. Go to the Alcazaba – there’s a lift!! See the Cathedral and, if you’ve got a scrap of interest in art, go to the amazing new Picasso museum [old building but 21st century museum] with works given or lent by the family. Don’t believe its website about opening hours – it was wrong at both ends!
If you have time go out to the Jardin Botánico de la Concepción, number 2 bus from the north side of the Alameda and walk about quarter of an hour. It’s supposedly guided trips only but try haggling – I got in on my own with a badge pinned to me!
Do go into that fabulous market behind the Alameda.
There’s plenty more but Andalucia – or your plane – awaits you!
|Published on Sunday January 23th, 2005
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Tue, Jan 25 2005 - 05:26 AM
now a days i always lok for report from you.
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