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Report 2007: Rambling through Southern Andalucia

By kathyk from Michigan, Spring 2012

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Page 8 of 11: Vejer de la Frontera and a Long Day Journey into the Night

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Freighters in the Straits of Gibraltar and mountains of Africa

This would be a very full day of sights and driving, not ST style at all and not recomended, as you will see.

We drove out of Cadiz in the morning with the plan to arrive in Ronda but with much, too much, to see in between.

After leaving the congestion of Cadiz and surrounding satellite towns, the highway towards Vejer goes through the rolling hills and plains of Andalusia. The road to Vejer climbs up to this old, defensive hilltop town. We left our car at the tourist office, supplied with maps, to explore the city on foot. We strolled very evocative streets, many of which had vistas of the Atlantic in the distance. The main plaza is one of the most charming I have seen anywhere, a tiled fountain is the center piece.

Carmen likes to buy at local stores and she found one old shop still plying the craft of items made of mimbre. I think in English, woven grass. She bought a trivet and a fly swatter. From inside the dusty shop, one could look back into the work area, lined with windows with ocean views.

We left town and headed towards our next destination, the Roman ruins at Claudio Baelo. Our bad luck that it was a Monday and as many museums in Spain - closed. From peering over the fence, it looks like a wonderfully preserved and organized site. We consoled ourselves by sitting on the beach, in perfect weather conditions, just warm enough. We watched freighters traveling in and out of the Straits, we could clearly see the Atlas Mountain ridges in Morocco and the port of Tangier.

We hated to leave but had miles to go. In the beach parking lot, I asked a Spanish tour bus driver about the road from Algeciras, through the mountains that would pass two towns I really have wanted to visit for a long time, Jimena de la Fronterea and Guacin. But since our final destination was Ronda, he discouraged me because of limited time left in the day. It was good advice.

So we continued on the main highway following the coast. Nearing Tarifa, we saw many advertisements for horseback riding tours and para-sailing. I had earlier read that this point of land is the windiest part of Spain and the tourism business for para-sailing attracts many enthusiasts. We opted for the more sedate car tour into Tarifa. This town gave me the impression of crumbly decay - but in an attractive way.

How I wish we could have stayed overnight to explore the castle and the rest of the town. It was one of those decision points in a trip, one night here and then just one night in Ronda, or push on to Ronda to be able to stay at least two nights in Ronda, a town with a lot to see. We pushed on.

The highway through Algeciras was very busy, I had to keep my eyes on the road, while the others could look down at the port, the freighter traffic out on the ocean, Gibraltar and jaw dropping vistas as the highway climbed and curved high above the port and over the ridge.

We followed the coast via the toll road, AP7. It was money well spent, actually very little money, as it avoids all stop-and-go traffic through the small coastal towns, and other traffic on the old free highway and had great views too. We saw the results of the building boom and bust in this area, many condo types, entire residential developments abandoned, halted at mid construction when the real estate market crashed. Now they are a blight on the landscape.

At San Pedro del Alcantara, we got off the toll road and took the final leg of our day's journey the highway climbing up to Ronda. It is a much improved road, one can still see the scars of recent, construction to widen the pavement and shoulders and straighten curves. It could have been a very pleasant drive but now it was quite late in the day, storm clouds were developing, our car got behind a slow truck and most of all, I was very tired. Beyond the 40 miles of mountain road was waiting for me the hardest part yet of any trip, entering town and finding a place to park the car. For those of you not driving under those conditions, let me reassure you that it is a very scenic drive.

Total, we will be able to spend two nights and a full day in Ronda.

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