This year Ronda Today stayed in the streets of Ronda to photograph the Sunday morning show at the Plaza de Toros on the final day of the Pedro Romero Feria 2010, Las Enganches. See last years article for a video of the carriages being judged inside the bullring, Las Enganches 2009.
Here is a selection of our favourite photos of horses, carriages, beautiful ladies, and gentlemen in traditional riding suits.
Ronda Today recently caught up with Tony Bishop, the author of a new walking guide entitled “Walking in the Ronda Mountains: 30 half-day walks in Andalucía” due to be published by Editorial La Serranía in October 2010, and we believe will soon become the guide against which all others are judged.
As part of our interview, Tony kindly escorted us along the Guadiaro River from Benaojan Station to the Cueva del Gato, explaining the birds and wildlife we saw through the binoculars he provided. Tony isn’t a professional walking guide, though he enjoys nothing more than to show friends his favourite walking tracks.
The walk we did can be completed in an hour, it is only 3km, though there is a lot to see so Tony recommends 2 hours. The walk is easy and certainly within the capabilities of the majority of walkers, but in the colder months can be muddy.
Birders and keen nature lovers will be enthralled at the fauna and flora of this stretch of river, we saw Barbel in the river, and White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Griffon Vulture, Golden Oriole, Alpine Swift, Melodious Warbler, Grey Heron, and Bee Eater. We also heard Cetti’s Warbler, and Tony regularly catches sight of Iberian Ibex on the rocks above the Cueva del Gato.
Start the walk at the railway station in Benaojan, and cross the line about 100m past the station, then follow the road another 150m till you cross the Guadiaro River. At this point you’ll see a sign pointing to the three walking tracks that lead from here, we’ll take the Ronda direction.
There really isn’t much to the track, just keep following it straight ahead, you can’t miss the cave entrance as you approach it, though at the hotel Molino Quatro Paradas you should continue past the side of the hotel and not up the hill to the carpark.
Whilst the walk is relatively short, it does allow people staying in Ronda or the Guadiaro Valley the opportunity to see some native wildlife, the beautiful limestone mountains of Benaojan, and the cave entrance; the Cueva del Gato which is a popular picnic spot.
After you return, you could stop for a drink on the terrace of the Molino Cuatro Paradas Hotel, but if they’re closed, probably the friendliest barman in Benaojan is Pepe from “Bar STOP”, located directly across the street from the station. Don’t forget to try his wife’s tapas menu, it really is quite authentic and absolutely delicious. Bar STOP is especially known for the Solomillo a la Pimienta.
Between the train dropping you off and the return service, you’ll have 3 hours to explore the river and enjoy a cold drink or tapas, the day isn’t too strenuous, and is perfect for visitors staying in Ronda who have a few hours to get out of the city.
Visitors to Ronda are often confused about why our central plaza features a statue of a semi-naked man with two lions by his side and a couple of pillars behind him. What is their significance, and why do so many people take photos of the fountain?
The answer lies in Andalusian nationalism and one of the most important events in recent Andalusian political history, the Assembly of Ronda in 1918 when the father of Andalusian nationalism, Blas Infante, unfurled the flag and symbols of Andalusia whilst standing on the first floor balcony of the ‘Circulo de Artistas'; the building directly behind the fountain with red CA lettering above the windows.
Andalusians are justifiably proud of their history and heritage, and the establishment of a national movement was widely applauded in the early 20th century, eventually leading to Andalusia being recognised as one of Spain’s national communities, and allowing the Andalusian parliament a lot more autonomy than most regions of Spain.
Whilst it may not be immediately obvious, the statue in the fountain is Hercules, with the pillars of Hercules behind him. He is holding onto two lions that he aims to tame, though taming two lions was never one of the tasks set for Hercules. Blas Infante designed the coat of arms, flag, and symbols of Andalusia, so it is probable the lions have another significance unique to Infante’s ideal of Andalusia.
To fully appreciate the significance of Hercule’s fountain and the history of the plaza, step back a bit and imagine the plaza full of cheering folk looking hopefully up as Blas Infante, a hero in his day presented the symbols to the movers and shakers of early 20th century Andalusia, and joyful Rondeños.
Then take a walk past the bullring to the lookout over the tajo, and there you’ll see a life size statue of Infante himself. Sadly Blas Infante’s success in Andalusia made him a target during the civil war, and when Sevilla fell to Franco’s forces, he and his compatriots were rounded up, driven into the countryside and summarily executed, dealing a terrible blow to Andalusian autonomy.
When Spain regained her democratic foundations in the late 1970s Andalusia missed out on full autonomy until 1.5 million Andalusians took to the streets to demand that the Andalusian nation be treated the same as Catalonia, the Basque Country, and Galicia.
A statue, a fountain, and a balcony in Ronda are still regarded as amongst the most important symbols of Andalusian patrimony, and now you know why.
Yesterday the Councillor for Tourism Francisco Cañestro, and the Junta de Andalucía’s Minister of Tourism, Commerce and Sport, Luciano Alonso Alonso officially reopened the Arab Baths in Ronda after extensive renovations allowing wheelchair access for one of Andalucía’s most important Moorish monuments.
The walk to the Tajo del Abanico, named for the cave that looks like a fan (abanico), is a gentle walk measuring 3.8km from the Almocabar gate at the entrance to the medieval walls of Ronda in the Barrio de San Francisco. It is of low difficulty, and takes you to a river valley filled with wildflowers.
We start our walk from Ronda at the Almocabar gate, and exit Ronda on Calle Torrejones, this is the street that runs between the main plaza and the Bodega San Francisco, and after 300m passes a stone tower to your right with a cross on it, known locally as ‘el Predicatorio’ which is the location of a restaruant, and part of the Roman aqueduct that used to supply Arunda with water 2000 years ago.
Reaching a small traffic roundabout, we keep going straight ahead past the bar La Quadra, and turn right at the next roundabout with a pink sign point to the Ermita Virgen de la Cabeza. Around 30m around the corner the road forks, we take the left, a sign should point to the Tajo del Abanico.
Continue on this road veering left at the first intersection, you will see three blue dots and an arrow pointing to the left, and continue to the next intersection where the left fork continues alongside the cliffs to your left, whilst the fork to the right does a complete 180; we continue on the left path.
You’ll pass an abandoned tower and farmhouse which is one of many in these parts, most of them being several hundred years old having been built after the Christian reconquest to provide storage for grain, but no longer used and now falling into ruin.
At the end of the road you’ll come to a large farmhouse on your right with a huge steel cross in the driveway, but to the left of the farmhouse driveway is a small gate which should be closed. Simply pull the handle to open the gate, but please close the gate behind you, the gate keeps the dogs out of the Tajo del Abanico.
The path you travel on is the old Ronda to Algeciras road used during medieval and Roman times, and as you continue you will eventually come to sections where the cobbled stones yet exist. Unfortunately these are medieval in origin, probably 500-1000 years old, and whilst they would have been laid where Roman stones originally stood, none of the Roman road exists anymore.
At one point the path descends to the river, and you’ll need to cross the stones in the water to reach the other side, and it is only by going through that you’ll reach the cave of the fan. The cave has a rather unique history, being the place where Francisco Rosi filmed his bandit sequences for the 1984 film Carmen (by Georges Bizet) starring Placido Domingo and Julia Migenes.
You’ll notice also that the cave isn’t very deep and is breathtakingly beautiful despite this owing to the amazing colours in the rocks and the short stalactites hanging above the entrance. The cave is a favourite location amongst local climbers and you may encounter a small group performing some quite impressive free climbing here.
That concludes the walk, you have two options for returning to Ronda, either continue along the path until you see the current Ronda-Algeciras road, which we don’t advise since the track is degraded, or turn back the way you came.
The park Dehesa del Mercadillo is a pine forest just outside Ronda on the Ronda-Sevilla road, and is very easy to get to, however the direct route doesn’t take in any of the valley below Ronda, but using the industrial area of Ronda as a starting point passes through some gorgeous countryside with mountains on the horizon, along farm roads with numerous horse studs before finally entering the forest from the north.
We start the walk in the industrial estate, follow signs pointing to the Poligono, and look for the hotel Berlanga which is very close to the Día supermarket. Directly across from the hotel Calle Genal, which looks industrial, but after 100m begins to descend out of the city to the railway line.
If you keep going straight ahead on this road you’ll come to some olive groves around 150-200 metres from the hotel, and then a little further you’ll cross the railway line before reaching an overpass for the highway. After the overpass, turn immediately left and then immediately right.
You are now on the old Ronda-Setenil road and will continue going down hill for a kilometre or thereabouts. As you descend you’ll come across a small fuente known as Don Pedro, and shortly after this, the road naturally veers to the left.
At this point you are now on the European walking track, the E-4, also known on some maps as the GR-7 and is a walk that commences in Tarifa, and terminates in Athens. You continue on this road which bends to the right near some horse stables, and then continues toward the forest park.
When you reach the next intersection you’ll see a sign pointing to the Hotel Molino de Arco. You could detour here and travel back through the Llano de la Cruz to Arriate or to Ronda Viejo and then onto Acinipo, however for this Ronda walk we are going to continue straight ahead.
Very soon you’ll pass the municipal riding school and some other stables, and immeditately after that the intersection with the Ronda-Sevilla highway. You’ll know you’ve reached the highway because on the right is a large sign showing the route of the GR-7 walk as it crosses the Serranía de Ronda.
Turn left, but avoid the highway, instead follow the dirt track for safety reasons, and then enter the park via a wide entrance. You are now at the end of the walk and have two options; the first is to follow the dirt road inside the park past the forest fire service, or take the more scenic approach and walk from the picnic and play area you find across a small fence into the forest proper.
Once in the forest take a moment to enjoy listening to the birds, their song is fantastic and definitely a highlight of this walk. Birdwatchers and nature lovers might find the forest a little pedestrian, but if you don’t have a lot of time, or only fancy a gentle stroll you won’t be disappointed.
To get back to Ronda, continue through the forest and then follow Avenida de la Legion into town. Here are a few photos of the walk, and if you enjoy this walk please return and leave a comment below for other visitors to Ronda.
This is one of the walks most people want to do because of the Roman Aqueduct you see at the end of the walk, but is also one of the walks in Ronda rarely undertaken by visitors because very few people know the Roman aqueduct even exists, in fact Roman Ronda was a reality for nearly 700 years.
You’ll start the walk at the old entrance to Ronda, the Almocabar Gate which originally was used to reach the Muslim cemetery outside the city walls. In fact the plaza you walk across at the start is where the cemetery was. During the reconquest Spain’s Christian monarchs attacked Ronda from locations near the plaza.
As you walk across the plaza, look for the middle road of the three you can see leading away from Ronda, this is Calle San Francisco de Asís, and isn’t very long, you’ll know you’re on the right track when you reach the school at the top of the street, Colegio Fernando de los Rios.
Keep going out of Ronda until you cross the motorway then turn right onto a gravel track that runs parallel to the motorway, and at the end you’ll find a gate and a small gravelled street to the left. Turn left and you’ll wander down a street surrounded by olive groves, and at the end, a rather large power pole.
Continue to the left of the power pole along a walking track that runs along a fence. This once again becomes a small gravelled road the winds to the right before it reaches a t-intersection.
At the t-intersection you’ll see a sign pointing to Pilar de Cartejima (1600m). At this point, turning left will take you back to the bridge over the motorway, so we want to go right following the sign for Pilar de Cartejima.
Once you reach the Pilar de Cartejima feel free to drink from the constantly running tap, the water is delicious and quite safe to drink, in fact many Rondeños bring empty bottles here to fill so they have fresh drinking water in their homes.
The Roman Aquaduct isn’t too much further, keep walking past the Pilar de Cartejima along a the gravel track that runs along the river. Soon enough the track ends and becomes a walking track, now keep an eye on the rocks above you and to your right. It won’t be long until you spot the tell tale signs of Roman arches against the rock.
I’m not going to tell you exactly how far you have to walk, that would spoil the surprise, but it isn’t far, the only hint I’ll give is that if you see a bridge over the river to your left and behind a fence you’ve gone too far.
Often people get a little lost looking for the Roman Aqueduct, they can be hard to spot, in fact on my own first walk along this track I probably went about three km too far. That was also the day I ended up with a flat battery on my camera and was cursing not having bought a PowerMonkey to recharge it before heading back to Ronda, oh well, I did get a lot of exercise that day.
This Ronda walk is around 6.8 km, and is considered light up to Pilar de Cartejima and then moderate in sections near the Roman Aquaduct.
The photos below were taken over a couple of excursions to the Pilar de Cartejima. If you like the video more will be coming soon, but please leave a comment here or on YouTube if you’ve attempted this walk and have something to share. Also feel free to ask questions.
Today in Ronda News, the city now has a new gate which will welcome visitors to the city, and is the first gate installed since the middle of the 18th century, although the new gate is fittingly more modern as Ronda breaks the shackles of the past and becomes a modern European city.
Designed and built by the students of the Employment Workshop “Arunda”, the gates are made of recycled metals salvaged in Ronda and stand four metres high. The gates are located in the park being developed next to Ronda’s Palace of Justice at the end of Avenida de Málaga.
The students are all unemployed people learning a new skill, and this project is described as having been hugely motivational, with most putting in extra hours to see the gates completed to a high standard.
Ronda’s mayor Antonio Marín Lara, and the delegate for Employment Josefa Valley were on hand to congratulate the students for their efforts.
In the coming weeks the new parkland will be completed, and will showcase the gates as well as a new fountain. It is hoped the area will be a welcoming sight for visitors to the city, as well as an attractive space for residents in surrounding streets to relax.
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