5/30/10   –   21:25

Note: Contrary to the song title, Ronda is located South and East of Sevilla. :x

Yup. Today I went out to one of the pueblos blancos [white hill towns] of Andalusía, Ronda. This one in particular is famous for being built with a gorge running down the middle of the town, spanned by several bridges which are architectural feats in themeselves.

Here’s what Lonely Planet – Spain has to say about the city of Ronda:

“Old and new Ronda stand either side of the spectacular 100m-deep El Tajo gorge,  in the midst of the beautiful Serranía de Ronda. … With it’s spectacular cliff-top setting, quaint old Islamic town and a romantic place in Spanish folklore, Ronda has fascinated travellers from Dumas to Hemingway and beyond.”

I woke up groggy with only 3-ish hours of sleep from the night before and made my way to the dining room expecting some form of breakfast. I was planning on stuffing myself because I hadn’t asked for a sack lunch and I didn’t want to spend any more than the 20 euro total it takes for the bus trips. [I’m using Chase’s money because my Barclay’s ordeal still hasn’t resolved itself :x] I ended up eating an orange, drinking a lot of water, and I packed another orange and some cookies in my bag for lunch. I made it to the Estación de Autobuses Prado de San Sebastián easily enough and with enough time to get seated and nap a bit before departure from Sevilla. I woke up and we were an hour into the trip. The scenery outside was nothing short of amazing. There were just hills and mountains everywhere and these small towns of white buildings just nestled into the side of these landforms.

Coming from a land as topographically flat as Florida, I just stared in wonder at these peaks [which aren’t even the highest in Spain]. I remember reading an article about Yoshito Usui, the Japanese cartoonist, falling off a mountain to his death and wondering how on earth anybody could just fall off a mountain. [Aren’t mountains supposed to be conical?] Oh what naivete! Now after seeing the Serranía de Ronda, I understand that one can, indeed, fall off a mountain and die. These crags are srs bsns. O_O The mammoth of a bus weaved its way down tiny mountin roads and more than once I thought we were just gonna up and roll down a sheer cliff. I tried not to think about that too much, placing my trust in our bus-driver and the little portrait of a saint he had posted on his dash.

We made it to Ronda safely, though. There’s really not much to do in Ronda except marvel at the bridges and take pictures of the surrounding area. Other than that, there’s pretty awesome hiking/walking trails around the borders of the town but after taking my first walking trail adventure, it was a little more than I bargained for. But more on that later.

The featured picture is the Puente Nuevo [New Bridge] which was completed in 1793. It’s the most photographed thing in Ronda, I suppose, and as well it should be. It’s massive. It has a couple stories attached to it, both of which are either romanticized or false [sorry, Ronda]. The first being that the architect of the bridge, when trying to inscribe the date of completion on the side, plummeted to his death in the gorge below. The other was in Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls in which subversives during the Spanish Civil War were clubbed and beaten before being thrown off of the bridge. Nonetheless, it’s a beautiful piece of architecture, no matter how bloody [or made-up bloody] its past is.

A lot of people went to go see a bullfight today, but I skipped out. But what luck! Besides the bridges, Ronda is famous for being the home of modern bull-fighting. The Romero family established the rules for bullfighting and also introduced the red cape into the sport. I lacked money to go inside the Plaza de Toros, but I think I’ve seen enough of that in Sevilla, without having to pay 6 euro. I settled for taking a picture of the monument outside the bull-ring. I might not have been able to see a matador facing off against a toro, but it was nice to be in the sport’s historical birthplace.

Moving forward from the Plaza del Toros, I saw a set of wide stairs that cut down the side of the mountain and it led down into the gorge. I steeled myself for battle against nature and started down. I mean. It wasn’t so bad. I got some pretty awesome shots of all the scenery and the wildflowers that grew on the path. The path led past the ancient walls of the city which were crumbling. It made for good photos, methinks. Btw, the abundance of flowers might be pretty in these pictures, but it also provided for an abundance of BEES. I got stung on the way down and it hurt like a mofo.

You could see a great view of the Puente Nuevo on the lookout point about halfway down the mountain and that’s where most people stop, I think. However, I saw another path hidden in the bush and it led further down into the gorge. The dirt path was overgrown with plants and some fallen branches but I kept down because I could see stone stairs in the distance. It led down to this abandoned mill/building which was being gradually worn away by water from the Guadalevín river. It came down in a waterfall and the mist was refreshing after all the effort it took to get down there. I got a little creeped  out by the abandoned building which gave me the vibe of “definitely should not be here” and I figured it wasn’t worth risking my life if I got injured down here where nobody would find me. So I started making my way up.

Now, the path up was steep. Very steep. And there was a fair amount of climbing involved. I should have known it was going to be harder on me than going down, but by the time I made it halfway up the gorge, I was out of breath and I needed liquids. The 13:00 sun beating down on the trail was not helping either. I ate my orange and exchanged a few words with a German woman who was similarly out of breath. I caught my second wind and made my way back up to the town. The town is like any other in Andalusía. The whitewashed buildings and narrow streets blend into each other and make for difficult navigation. I found one of the other bridges, the Puente árabe and from there, you could see the actual bottom of the gorge. It wasn’t such a difficult trek on this side and I made it easily to the bottom. Again, flowers, bees, sparkling water, and one tired shutter finger.

Certain things are free on Sunday and one of these happened to be the Arab baths ruins. These weren’t quite as functional as the Baños Arabes of Córdoba, but hey. They were a nice refuge from the heat which was threatening to reach 101 degrees Fahrenheit. Inside the baths, which were largely underground, it was actually really cold. Hooray, insulation!

I caved in to my hunger and spent for some water and chips back in New Ronda. I thought these were going to be regular Cheetos, but I should have known better. If you look carefully, you can see that the bag says “sabor a” [flavor of] and then it has a picture of a wedge of cheddar. and… a bottle of uhm. ketchup[?] exploding all over the side. Cheese and ketchup. My fave. -_-;; It actually wasn’t bad though. Maybe it’ll catch on. Just like my ham and cheese ruffles.

I finished up early with 2 hours to go until the return bus to Sevilla so I just walked around the bus station area. I sat around for a bit because my feet were hurting and I felt quite nasty after all the exertion. I caught the bus back and then took pretty much one of the best showers of my life.

Music note [hah]: Whenever I’m wowed by nature, like, a forest, or mountains, or whatever, chances are I’ll be putting a track from the Mononoke Hime OST. I was trying to save them for stuff like Switzerland, but Ronda deserved it. The mountains of Andalusía are ridiculous.


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