Into the Valley

Olvera 17/04/2015

We are writing this with the sorest legs, backs and bums known to man as a result of us, especially me, forgetting how old and unfit we are. And to top it off once I have finished writing this I have to drive the 5 hours to Granada. As usual, we will post a map of where we are and also tell you what we have been up to.

We are here:

Gibraltar 07/04/2015

We woke to the ongoing storm that had now been raging for three days, the good side being it blew the sound of the incessant tooting back towards Spain and away from us. We made a decision to move away from the coast and head inland. Thinking the weather is always worse on the coast, I give you Exmouth Vs London as a prime example to supplement by supreme logical thought. Our original plan was to visit Ronda before heading eastwards towards Granada. As always, the plan changed. We had been told by David and Carol not to linger in Ronda as it only possesses a brief wow moment and not a lot else. They suggested a free Aire in the white town of Benarraba to use a base to visit Ronda the following day.

The first job was to try and get of the car park. Not an easy task as the exit was on the tooting roundabout. Yes, the roundabout with permanent road rage, the roundabout designed by an educationally sub-normal mollusc with a brain the size of a weevils wedding tackle. Let’s call him Pedro. Hilarity ensued as coach drivers impaled themselves on various pieces of street furniture rather than let us out. No matter we were indicating to turn left (indicators being an unused function on a Spanish vehicle) and away from the chaos they would rather get stuck than give way.

When finally away and tip-toeing around discarded coach parts we stopped off at the local laundromat for some washing before letting the satnav take us on a complete random route to Benarraba. The waiting time flashed by as it was next door to a Chinese Bazar and we happily whirled away the hour. To be fair to the Satnav it was the shortest route but judging by the condition of the roads used they appear to have used a Moroccan construction company to build them. But after an hour of jolly buffering we arrived at Benarraba and parked ourselves up for the evening. Here is the view from the windows. Not bad for free.

View from our window, Benarrba

And if you want to go there, it is here:

Benarraba 07/04 – 08/04/2015

The theory viz. the weather being better inland was alas laid to waste. The Aire was 1800 metres (6000 ft) above sea level and the wind was howling in a very angry fashion. Unperturbed we carried on with our plan of a quiet night supplemented with a tasty feast of Bangers and Mash. I must give it to the girl, no matter what anybody says about her, Tracy makes a mean Bangers and Mash. I can safely say it was the tastiest nosh I have had since Seville, four months previous.

With my tummy having a big smiley face upon it we hit the sack. As everybody knows Spain has some peculiar working habits, i.e. only work at the most inconvenient times possible and open shops when nobody is interested. Just as were about to float off to the fluffy land of snoresville it started. A chap, let’s call him Phut-Phut Pedro, thought 10PM was a great time to empty the bins in the town. Pedro did not have a dustcart, Pedro had a dumper truck with no exhaust. Pedro drove the dumper truck backwards and forwards collecting the wheelie bins one by one and placing them as noisily as possible in rows opposite our van. This went on until 11:30. Just as the second attempt to reach snoresville was about to conclude with a happy ending, Phut-Phut Pedro’s dad, Phutting Phut-Phut Pedro Snr turned up with a dustcart. Pedro Snr now emptied the bins one by one into his dustcart with associated shouting and cajoling to Pedro Jnr. In parallel to these events the wind got stronger and stronger and we were forced to get up and move the van so the nose was into the wind. By now it was 03:00 and we finally reached the land of nod. But Phut-Phut Pedro, bless him, was having none of it and arrived at 06:00 to take the emptied wheelie bins back one by one to the town in his noisy dumper. Safe to say we did not head to Ronda in high Spirits.

Ronda 08/04/2015

We got parked up in the station car park at Ronda after the somewhat frivolous routing that took us through the old town and over the famous arched bridge we had come to see. Thinking we had now seen the town we headed back for some photo shots without uniformed types shouting at us for being too wide, too heavy, too high, just too bloody big and stupid. Never mind, call it payback for the Gib roundabout farce.

The bridge is special, it is a wow moment, but the rest of the town is not a lot. It consists of rows of tat shops, screechy tourists with cameras on the end of poles and a small Bullring. Do not get conned by paying €2 to visit the bridge, it consists of a room with a telly in it and not even a view of the bridge. The highlight of the visit was watching a Chough performing its acrobatic aerial foreplay to a disinterested female perched under the arch. Aahhh forgot, we also has a splendid Tapas in a run-down looking bar in the main street, highly recommended.

Here are some pictures of the bridge:

new bridge, Ronda looking towards the old town

new bridge Ronda, antique looking photo

Ronda Gorge from Bridge

Ronda, same bridge, different photo

Grubbed up we left Ronda late afternoon to head for Olvera. This was an interesting drive as Pedro the roundabout Guru now had another project; controlling the traffic through towns with single track streets. Realising he was not good on roundabouts he switched his thinking to parabolic mirrors. The idea being you looked in the mirror to see if anything was coming in the opposite direction, if not, you proceeded. Great idea Pedro, just two things wrong, one the mirrors did not cover the entire length of the obstruction and two, this is Spain and the only looking in mirrors is done to see if they look great. Needless to say we experienced a Mexican stand-off within each constriction as we were expected to reverse a Km back down an alley while they refused to go back 10 Metres. Happy to report we were victorious each time. Having front seats that swivel and the ability to make a cuppa helps in these situations. A picture of one of the stunning towns scarred by Pedro’s traffic Management.

Andalucian White Town

Olvera 08/04 – 11/04/2015

Olvera


The wind had abated by the time we arrived at the Aire in Olvera. A beautiful hilltop town with a Church and Castle perched precariously on top of a cliff and resplendent white buildings wrapping themselves around the lower slopes like a bleached beach towel around a wrinkly grey old man. Olvera is also famous for the start of the Vía Verde de la Sierra, a 38Km, 22 Mile cycle path along a disused railway line from Olvera to Puerto Serrano. Ever up for a challenge we decided to ride this old line. How hard could it be? It’s an old railway line so it must be flat, right? Our bikes are electric, so a doddle, right. Furthermore, the guide book described the various bars and restaurants along the way, the visitor centre, the Patrulla Verde, a helpful staff of bike-experts who ‘dole out info and can help with mechanical issues’. So, a total of 44 Miles at 12MPH, stop for lunch, all done and dusted within 5 hours, right. Well, as it happened, no.

The first thing to point out is the railway line was never actually used, going bankrupt before completion. The line also sports 4 Viaducts and 31 tunnels, one of which is 1Km long. The second thing to note is the line is downhill all the way from Olvera to Puerto Serrano. This means it is all uphill on the way back. But we didn’t care, we are fit, we have electric bikes and went to bed with this sunset and great anticipation.

Olvera sunset

Via Verde De La Sierra 10/04/2015

Up bright and early, no not us but the Swiss couple in the van opposite in matching lycra were seen leaving at 8 o’clock. We rolled over and slept for another hour. 10:00 was our leaving time and on the buzzer we were off, feeling confident with German power between our legs we cruised the 200M to the start and a confident looking photograph.

ready for the off

We did look around at the start for the aforementioned Patrulla Verde, but were unable to find them. They may be helpful but like the Dodo maybe difficult to find. One of the features of this EU funded plaything is the sensor activated lighting in the tunnels and we were giddy with excitement at the thought of us on our bikes lighting up tunnels willy-nilly paid for by you sops still working back in the UK. So, imagine our delight, sorrow, expectancy, when we entered the first tunnel with our muscled legs driving peddles as fast as they could go to see they had given the tunnel lighting contract to Pedro. Yep, nothing happened, we went from being sun-glass adorned bright-light heroes to the cold, dimly-lit pot-holed world of Pedro, disaster. Only our biking skills prevented an all-out disaster at the first obstacle and those skills prevailed. The tunnel, note Pedro’s lighting.

Our first tunnel

We were not going to allow a bit of EU funded corruption get in our way and we drove on to the EU funded visitor centre where they have placed a Video Camera to allow punters to see Griffon Vultures breed. On the way there were some views, and here they are:

Looking South

Looking East

The ride is billed as Spain’s finest and to be fair was not disappointing. Vista after vista showed their hand, tunnel after tunnel provided damp cold contrast to the sun that was now beaming down upon us. So after 7Km we arrived at the EU funded visitor centre to find it closed. Oh well, we thought the Thursday after Easter is not the busiest time, with all of Europe’s schools on holiday. Still no sign of the EU funded Patrulla Verde either. Onwards we pushed, over viaduct, through tunnel, slicing through cuttings, traversing embankments and taking in this:

Gorge

Gorge with Tracy

another view

1km of tunnel

Bullfighter training arena

Into the valley

We have put all this on google maps for you and you can see the route and pictures by following this link; Bike ride. Just click on the Bike ride layer and enjoy. After 3 hours and twenty five minutes we reached the end, we had made it, done it, ticked it off and now for a celebratory picture, cold beer, some tapas and a well-earned rest before the uphill journey home.

The pictures: Note my lack of gut and Tracy giving a good impression of Rapunzel.

The End

Slimmer, fitter me

Right then, bar. It was shut. Oh well, refill the water bottle, have a banana and head back. Tap stolen, no water. Go to the EU funded visitor centre to get some water. The outside door was open giving the impression liquid replenishment was near, but alas, this being Spain, the inner door was locked. Desperate I rang the bell of the EU funded building and to my surprise a person came to my aide after five minutes. I should add the person was attached to a phone and was discussing her next beauty treatment. The conversation went like this:

Me: Can I have some water please?

EU funded wastrel: No

Me: Please, we are thirsty

EU funded wastrel: Go to the restaurant

Me: it is not open

EU funded wastrel: Use the Syphon

Me: It has been stolen

EU funded wastrel: Give me your bottle

With that she trucked off with phone still attached to ear and returned some five minutes later with a filled bottle. Within minutes of returning to Tracy four cars arrived and screeched to halt. Armed with a couple of baguettes they flew into the before shut restaurant and opened for business. This was 14:00, not early for lunch even by Spain’s standards. We didn’t succumb to their Brussels funded tomfoolery and headed for home but it was fun to see how quick they can open a restaurant after a phone call from the EU funded wastrel in the visitor centre, nobody interrupts her phone calls. Gosh this was tough, we had the wind in our face and we had a 300m/1000 ft climb to get back. We also completely forgot to plan for arse pain, after only a couple of klicks towards base each revolution of the peddle was causing some grief. Fatigued we pulled into the only place open on the entire route, the non EU-funded restaurant at Coripe. A mecca for Ugandan relations but sadly no relations with the now famed EU-funded Patrulla Verde were to be had. Double delight was to be found as Sausage, egg and chips was on the menu, yippee, yum, yum, a salad for Tracy. It also had a view:

Our machines

After a tasty refill we hopped back on the cycling machines and carried on. Peddle turn by peddle turn we drove our way home, fearing each incline, but loving each tunnel, as they were flat and out of the sun. After five hours we had made it, exhausted and unable to stand erect. We spent the evening in a fixed position with some other ‘Verdes’ swapping tales and re-stocking fluids. No EU-funded, enterprise or person was open or available, a shame as this is a world-class bike ride, fair but challenging, tough but rewarding. The aviary vultures showed up on the way back, the EU-funded vultures did not. It appears the Patrulla Verde only turn up on festivals and Sundays, the rest of the time they are emptying bins on EU-funded overtime. Sums EU-financed Spain up.

Overnight the heavens opened and in the morning we left for Granada.

Take care

Love to all

E&T

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