“However our friend soon brightened up again and, in answer to my inquiries, told me that the picture that the doctor had drawn of the brigands in the Sierra Morena was greatly exaggerated: they had been a nuisance some time before, but were now of very little consequence. And they rarely killed anyone.” – Gerald Brenan
It was raining again the next morning but it looked brighter towards the east where we were heading and so we didn’t loiter too long after breakfast and made our way out of Ronda towards our next destination, Antequera, about fifty miles away on the road to Granada.
We avoided the direct route and instead took a minor road across the dusty plain towards the town of Campillos which was a place that we never arrived at because a few miles short of the town we took a detour towards a national park and a series of reservoirs. We climbed steadily towards a viewing opportunity and then descended just as quickly to the shoreline of the curiously turquoise waters of the lakes.
There are three reservoirs here – Guadalhorce and Guadalteba and Gaitanejo and we drove a few miles around the perimeter of one of them, I cannot be sure which and then we came to a road junction with Antequera signposted in two alternative directions.
We (I) chose the right fork option and quite quickly left the main highway and came across a very minor unpaved road. This was the point at which sensible motorists with a rental car would surely turn back but rather foolishly we (I) carried on. I kept convincing myself that we (I) could turn around any time we (I) chose but instead we just keep going, higher and higher into the mountains and soaring now like eagles above the reservoirs below.
When you make this sort of decision there comes a point where turning back ceases to be an option for fear of forgetting the way back and after we (I) had reached that watershed there was no option but to just keep driving.
It was very remote up here, a boulder strewn landscape brutally assaulted by the wind and the frequent squally showers. This it seemed to me was Brigand territory and I drove on half expecting that at any moment a grizzled highwayman with a shotgun and a leather cartridge belt slung across each shoulder would step out into the road, raise his weapon and bid me stop, relieve me of my wallet and quite likely drive off with the car (luckily I had paid for full insurance by the way).
The fear of Brigands however swiftly evaporated when we stopped the car for a moment to enjoy the view and a faded sign that had been used for shotgun target practice at the side of the road warned that we were now in an area of special protection for wolves and that we should be alert to the danger. Be Alert! Be Alert! I should say so and we retreated to the car as quickly as possible, checked our underpants and made sure the doors and windows were firmly closed. Now, I am all for supporting wildlife and the reintroduction of endangered species but I am not sure about wolves and that isn’t just because I don’t like dogs, wolves tear people into shreds and eat them don’t they?
Eventually after about ten miles or so we came to a junction and joined another road that didn’t provide a great deal of improvement but at least it was paved and it had an official number which immediately calmed my shattered nerves.
Just a few miles out of Antequera we came across signs for a nature reserve, El Torcal de Antequera and as it was still quite early we made a detour to make a visit.
El Torcal, it turned out, is a unique limestone landscape where a series of fractures, cracks and faults have been sculptured by erosion to provide impressive columns of rocks not dissimilar to the sort of towers of stones that people build on beaches. The blocks of stone have been subjected to both dissolution by water and freeze-thaw splitting action which, working on the limestone’s horizontal beds, resulted in the various shapes scattering the landscape that we were able to see today.
People come here on coach trips that take several hours but it was cold and windy and we found that about half an hour or so was long enough to enjoy the unique natural environment of the park and shortly after we left we were approaching our destination of Antequera.
Generally, we like to pick out a new, non-tourist place to stay when we visit Spain so we had no real idea what to expect…
… We certainly didn’t expect it to be so difficult to navigate and it took several attempts to find our hotel located right in the centre of the busy city and then to find somewhere safe to leave the car while we checked in.
The hotel offered secure parking facilities in a garage nearby but this was rather tricky to find as well and when I eventually did so parking was so cramped and difficult that after I had manoeuvred into a very tight spot I was absolutely certain that I do not have the skills to get the car back out again and that I might have to spend the rest of my life in Antequera and at this point I wasn’t sure that this was such a good thing!
Have you ever been lost when driving in a foreign country?