After visiting the Baelo Claudia in the morning, Thursday, 9 February, we set off for Tarifa in search of shops and a quick visit to the most southerly point in Europe. Tarifa’s a bigger place than we’d anticipated and there was nowhere to park, or even stop so we moved on taking the coast road past Algeciras. The last time we were here was 2011 en route to Morocco. Escaping the main coast road to Marbella, we took the scenic route up into the Serrania de Ronda hoping there would be a town with some shops still open. At Castellar de la Frontera a fair was setting up in the main square and everything was already closed . . . a little further on at Jimena de la Frontera we found a fuel station but there was no shop. At 1400 we stopped for lunch in a layby, raided the somewhat depleted store cupboard and toasted some rather stale bread for sandwiches.
Refreshed, we continued up the spectacularly scenic road to Ronda from Gaucin, passing Algatocin before finally reaching Ronda. Known as El Camino Ingles, the road was built by the British, seeking cooler summer respite in the mountains from the heat of Gibraltar. There are commanding views of the Guadiario valley and perched atop every hilltop are ‘pueblos blancos’, the whitewashed villages of the Genal valley. We stopped at several ‘miradors’ with colourful tiled information boards and, if the weather had been clearer, we would have been able to see the north coast of Morocco. During the Spanish war with France the Serrania de Ronda became a strategic area when a French military detachment occupied Ronda in 1810. The Spanish guerrilla forces of the Serrania de Ronda had their headquarters in Gaucin and there were numerous bloody battles until the Franco-Spanish war ended in 1814.
We arrived in Ronda after 103 miles driving at about 1700 and drove to the carpark where camper vans may stop overnight only to find a van taking the last available space. After hanging around for 20 minutes, hoping some of the cars would leave, we drove across town to recce the other option. Costing €18 and only having one tiny, cramped pitch available, we decided to take our luck in the other carpark. A helpful guy moved his car so that we could squeeze into a corner space . . . perfect! Navigating through towns is becoming maybe a little less stressful, but it’s still a challenge as Steve tries to drive in unfamiliar conditions while Bev is not always sure of the best route using a mixture of paper road maps, town guides and TomTom!