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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Andalucia: The Bare Bones

Moorish Column Seville

When we arrived in Seville, the bus station was scorching - full of hot revving buses and the ambient temperature was 42 degrees a baking dry heat taken higher by the fumes and engine heat. Seville proved to have atrocious connections to the airport, so after trying to catch a city bus to link to the airport shuttle we gave up and caught a taxi for 24 euros to make our connection to our Gold Car rental car through Amigo Autos two hours late after managing to phone them to tell them we were on our way.

The church in Carmona

We then tried in the sunset to find a camp site at Seville but after finding it non-existent, began a long tortuous evening journey first to the historic town of Carmona, striking with white narrow streets a walled inner city and scored a cheezy pizza in the evening in the park where everyone was celebrating the evening in bars and cafes after the hot afternoon siesta.

We then drove on in the night up into the mountains through anther historic town Constantina and then San Nicholas del Puerto to a dusty winding 7 km dirt track through the olive-groved mountain park almost by accident finally arriving at the remote little camp site by the river we had been seeking all evening at around 11.20 Spanish time, after getting hopelessly stuck in the evening traversing the towns, sometimes stuck in streets no wider than the car having to make right-angled turns into another street sometimes even narrower, or with parked cars giving you only inches to squeeze through.

Enclosed Garden of the Mesquita in Cordoba

Next morning we set off for Cordoba, again getting lost in Constantina and drove into Cordoba's central historic district staging a scorching walk through the old Arab and Jewish quarters to the Mesquita mosque converted to a cathedral. We didn't explore the interior, because it is expensive and freely available on the internet, but captured the atmosphere of the historic district.

A section of the Cordoba Mesquita where Christian and Muslim architecture meet

The day was seriously hot enough to cause heat stroke when we had to walk several blocks back in the sun to get to the car.

The approach to Zuhiros

From there we set off on a long trip out to Priego de Cordoba another historic Spanish hill town which reputedly had a camping site nearby. On the way we climbed in the late afternoon to a little cliff top town called Zuhiros famous for its Moorish Castle, bat caves and precipitously panoramic views from the central plaza overlooking the escarpment and surrounding terrain managing to drive right up into it with the elderly men all gathered in the square in the cool of the lat afternoon.

Gypsy camping above Zagrilla Alto

We then took off over the mountains on a little back road reaching Priego at sunset, finding that the camp site was supposed to be closed and after driving through finding the youth hostel closed and the only backpackers inaccessible down a side alley with no parking finally succumbed to driving up into the mountains and gypsy camping in the moonlight on a mountain hilltop which proved in the morning to be overlooking a huge old castle and sweeping views of the mountains.

An excruciatingly narrow street in the old bario de la Villa in Priego hanging with flowers,
whose major alleyway is Calle Jasmine, although like its compatriot in Cordoba,
it also harks back to its Jewish getto origin in Calle Maimonides.

Today, after wandering through Priego which was charming and recharging at a cafe and failing to find a free internet, and watching the news that the 45 degree heat was becoming lethal in Madrid, we finally managed to get a booking for a hostel for tomorrow night for our two nights in Barcelona by going to an internet cafe, something that was becoming a crisis because of he lack of internet access and the fact that Barcelona proved to be 99% booked out days in advance, taking out all the hostels in Lonely Planet even in the dorms.

Looking back over Ronda's escarpment from the pebble-paved ascent

We then headed as fast as possible across country to Ronda, flagging Granada because we hate the big cities in this blazing heat, arriving after the siesta. At first Ronda looked like another slightly hideous middle sized Spanish commercial city, but once we found a map in the city centre I recognized the ravine that I had seen in photos of the city and having for once resorted to a Burger King hamburger and chips, we drove down to the precipitous ravine that has all the stunning historic buildings and sweeping views.

A Moorish castle overlooks the dry Andalucian landscape

I noticed in the distance a car making the seemingly impossible vertical ascent up through a little medieval arch in the city wall and after filming the ascent. followed up a steep set of exceedingly narrow hairpins so steep that it was barely possible to keep going in first, passing all the best sights in turn one after the other.

Finally we descended and almost immediately saw a sign for el Sur camping and arrived at a palatial camp site with free electric plugs throughout the men's toilets and permanent internet while we are here for a 3 euro fee, so here I am blogging to the world in the john.

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