Thursday, 15 December 2011

To Algecera

According to our map there were no roads or bridges west of the Guadalquivir river. We didn't trust the map and not wanting to drive through another urban area (Seville) we went looking, hoping there would be a bridge.
The town of Coria del Rio is quite a pleasant place, further south La Peubla del Rio has some interesting streets. But no bridge. Accepting the inevitable we took the highway to Seville, and did manage to avoid most of it continuing on to Utrera. Spent a good hour wandering around looking for a hotel. No one seemed to know if or where!
The church has an interesting tile roof though. Apparently not a lot of tourists stop here..
When we did find the hotel,it was wonderful, a private patio, no street noise and a fairly decent breakfast included.
Elke pilots us onto another green road into mountains past a castle...Another opportunity I wished I'd pursued. Oh Well! Next time?
Many great vistas then Ronda. No idea, no info, no directions, we enter the town. Following my intuition, randomly driving down typical narrow one way streets, I turn left down a promising looking passageway that leads us right into an amazing Moorish castle. Yes that is the road through the arch.
On the left side at the top opposite the castle, a park with gardens and pathways along the edge, on the right, farmland and orchards.

Inside a "mine" that descends down many sets of stairs to an opening on the river in a fairly deep canyon. Wild!

Driving out was easier than I imagined. Now some serious mountains; switchbacks, great vistas, exposed rock and villages perched on the cliff edges.

If I ever return I'll definitely drive the other way to Ronda, from the south, and take waay more pictures. It was magnificent!

Closer to the coast we spied stork nests on the electrical towers.

In one nest a strange "dance", two storks, one astride the other.

To the left Gibraltar, to the right Algecera. A side trip to Gibraltar seemed too good to pass up, little did we realize what that might entail.
An easy pass through the border (We're in England now, right?) and into traffic, around and up, we pull into the parking for the Botanical Garden and Gondola to go onto the "rock". (unfortunately not running due to high winds)
Instead we walk about in the garden and take pictures. Beside the ticket booth fellows are flogging their taxi ride in place of the gondola. If they can drive up, so can I! A couple of wrong turns and we're onto the road around. It begins to rain in earnest as we approach the light house beyond the mosque.

The drive around goes through the rock and then past some fancy accommodation.
At the tunnel entrance, a sign indicating "vehicles only, danger" etc. Halfway through we met two joggers.
After a few minutes of driving in the dark emerging back into... traffic.
I try again, Elke has had enough but I persist and we do manage to make it up the correct road, although I chose not to pay the 10 euros to go all the way to "Upper Rock" missing the Barbary apes etc.
Thankfully a different road down but again all the way around through the tunnel and back into more traffic!

Slowly inching forward every 10 minutes as 4 lanes merge into one and then we're waved by the customs agent, to finally re-enter Spain.

The fun was not over by any means though.
It was time to return the rental car. We drove around in Algecera for a long time before we found the drop-off spot. Back and forth along the waterfront then up and down one way streets in the old town feeling quite lost.

I must have driven one road 3 times before Elke got out and spoke to a cab driver. He gave much better directions. I only made one more wrong turn and then we were free of the car.

Of course that meant we were now carrying our luggage on our backs and in our arms searching for a hostel. However, in Algecera, not a problem! They are everywhere. One night in one, another night in another.

Hard to sleep though when just below the window is the storage for all the market stalls. Deliveries, set up, take down and cleaning up the mess after, basically your 24 hour busyness.
It was great to walk up and down the streets I had driven, only now I knew where I was.
We checked out the market, someone tried to sell me hash, we tried more tapas, beer and wine. With the strong Arabic influence here, some of the grocery stores didn't sell beer and wine.
I couldn't believe how many shoe stores there were! And so many women in high heeled boots! They were quite something to watch strolling through the pedestrian zone while I munched roasted chestnuts over a thick hot chocolate, Elke with her cafe con leche... or was that beer we were drinking..?

Going to Morocco few people buy their tickets at the ferry. There are storefronts all along the boulevard selling them. A few options, we chose the bus ride to Tarifa, then a fast ferry to Tangier.
Up early the next morning, we dragged ourselves to the stop and were on our way.

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