Challenging Mountain Roads

6th – 10th January

Weather bright blue skies and clear max daytime temps between 11 and 13 degrees but with overnight frosts

So we left La Linea with the intention of heading up into the hills towards Ronda and beyond, but having checked the weather forecast it wasn’t too brilliant up there, predicting rain and fog so instead we decided to stay at the coast for another day. After stopping off on route at a service station that allows motorhomes to fill and empty we found a lovely little quiet parking area right next to a small beach at Castillo de la Duquesa. The weather was blowing a gale though so despite all sorts of intentions to go for a walk we changed our minds and just had an afternoon in instead. It felt more like a Sunday to us today though as nothing was open being a bank holiday and the parking area was almost deserted (we were the only motorhome there)

6-1

The following day we were up and out early and made our way up to Ronda, having had some previous hairy experiences on mountain roads we were a little nervous of what the route up would be like, but we were know need to have worried as although it’s a scenic route it’s also a very good road, in fact Spain has one of the best road networks in Europe. With no dedicated motorhome parking in Ronda we made for Camping El Sur an independent campsite about 2kms outside of the city (GPS 36.720424 -5.17178). Being January there were only around 5 others on the site so we had our pick of pitches. The weather was a lovely bright sunny day and forecast to be 11 degrees, so after a spot of lunch we walked into the town and around Ronda’s many beautiful sights. With the clear weather we were treated to gorgeous views over the gorge from the old roman bridge . Having read about Casa del Rey Moro (translated house of the Moorish kings) we decided to part with 5 Euros each to go and take a look, but found it a little disappointing, the house was closed and surrounded by scaffolding, the gardens were nothing spectacular (although that could be due to the time of year) and the highlight which is some 250 steps which descend down to the river and were originally used for the purpose of bringing water supplies in times of siege were not really worth the climb!. After a further amble through the streets of the old town we began making our way back to our campsite being tempted for a short stop in the sunshine on route back for a beer (well it is all uphill on the way back!).

Around Ronda

Feeling like we’d experienced most of Ronda’s sights after a treat of bacon and egg butties, we moved on the next morning, making our way to Grazalema another pueblo blanco (white village) in the Parque Natrel de Sierra. Unfortunately we missed a left turn on route, but the sat nav quickly re-calculated so we took the following turn instead which turned out to be a rather narrow winding road through the mountains. Although we now have a sat nav that takes into consideration our vehicle size this showed us it was infallible. Being a Sunday though fortunately we didn’t meet too many oncoming vehicles, although when we did I felt like I had to breathe in! Having made it safely to the outskirts of the village we parked in a large parking area (GPS 36.761846 -5.362285)  looking up to the village and down on the gorge, the views really couldn’t have been better. With our bellies still full from breakfast we put on our walking boots and packed some layers, water and emergency chocolate and off we went. Firstly walking through the picturesque village with its whitewashed buildings and quaint narrow streets to several miradors making the most of the surrounding views. With another higher viewpoint in mind we made our way through a gateway and started to follow a mountain path. Although sunny with bright blue skies the temperature had obviously dropped below freezing during the night as areas of the pathway that didn’t get the sun were still covered in frost. On route we were lucky to spot some type of small deers  just across from where we were walking. It was worth the steep climb just to see them. As time was ticking on (it was around 3.15pm and we still hadn’t reached the top we decided to start making our way back down the mountain by another slightly longer but hopefully less steep route. By this point we were both getting hungry and were grateful for the chocolate I’d stashed in my rucksack. I don’t think a mars bar had ever tasted so good. Another 2 ½ hours and we were back at the village. By now the sun had dipped down and the temperatures were dropping so we made our way back to Boris for a well earned rest. Our fit bits showed that we done over 12 km’s and climbed to a height of 1147 meters! We’d certainly earned a slap up dinner and glass of vino tonight. After spending some of the evening planning where to move to the following day we decided that we would head to Ubrique via Benocaz (both also whitewashed mountain villages).

Grazalema and the road up

Having navigated another twisty reasonably narrow mountain road we finally reached Benocaz, and turned off the main street  following the sat nav to the designated stopover. As we made the steep turn though Boris back end caught underneath and all we could hear was a very loud scraping noise. The road up was a very narrow one so we decided to try and turn around and it just seemed to be getting narrower ahead where cars were parked on either side. With me outside and Paul at the wheel after several back and forths he finally managed to turn around and ease back down the hill and out of the village. Shame we didn’t get to see it though as it looked very pretty, but in a vehicle over 7.6 meters long we have to sometimes forgo places! With the rear end slightly damaged underneath but still in place, the sat nav was quickly re-programmed with the GPS for the aire in Ubrique, unfortunately though it just wasn’t our day as when we got there we ended up in the one way system down the narrow village streets and when we finally located the street that the aire was on, it also was up a very steep hill. With Boris’ recent  scape in mind we just weren’t prepared to risk it, so pulled over when we could to decide where next. We once again re-programmed the sat nav  this time choosing a larger town Arcos De La Frontera, unfortunately though today was defiantly not our day  for driving because as we followed the sat nav’s instructions (not quite knowing which road we were on in Ubrique so we couldn’t follow it on the map) it took us down an ever narrowing country lane. As a vehicle coming towards us struggled to get past us, a 4×4 pulled alongside and told us in broken English that it was impossible for our vehicle to get down the road ahead. Well now we really did have a problem as we had to go on until we could find somewhere suitable to turn around. After another 3km with me holding my breath all the way, w finally e came across a very tight left turn, as this was our only option we really had no choice but to attempt the turn around here. So once again with Paul at the wheel and me in the road he struggled back and forth several times before eventually managing it. By the time we’d followed the lane some 5+ kms back to Ubrique we were both nervous wrecks (I actually thought I might cry at one point like a 5 year old not getting their own way). Having pulled over once again to look at routes we found a main road which would take us in the direction of Olvera a hilltop village above Ronda, which we managed to navigate without further incident. We decided to stay on the ACSI campsite Pueblo Blanco (GPS36.939514 -5.215528) there with the intention of catching up on laundry whilst there. Unfortunately though the only washing machine on the site wasn’t working so the chores would have to be left for another day. Initially we were only going to stay one night, but after the traumas of getting there we opted to stay for two. The second day we made our way into the village on our bikes which is situated 5km from the site and onto the Via Verde cycle track. The track described as one of the most scenic in Spain follows an old railway track  through the mountains, because of the it’s not entirely flat of course so we cycled to about the ½ way point and were treated to a view of the largest flock of griffen vultures in Spain soaring on the thermals high above us. All in all we’d cycled around 36km’s by the time we’d reached the campsite again. Another well earned rest was in store and of course some decisions on where to go next.

Olvera and the Via Verde

We are thinking of the coast as it’s a bit chilly up here for us!

See You Soon

Andi & Paul

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. alanwickes says:

    Hi – I think you are being very intrepid – dealing with the narrow mountain roads and winter temperatures. I think we have become more risk averse over the past three years – having had one too many narrow scrapes. We had a few problems with the washing machine. in Camping Pueblo Blanco in Oclober, it’s a domestic standard machine and was on its last legs back then. The showers were stone cold too – maybe you had more luck with that. The Via Verde is lovely though – many tunnels – but most, thankfully only about 300m long. Where next?

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    1. Hi Pete & Gill,

      Thanks for the recommendation. The site has beautiful views, but was deathly quiet (only 3 vans on the whole site)! I forgot to mention the showers in the blog – yes they were cold. I mentioned it to reception and she acted like it was new news!!!

      The area’s stunning though, although we learnt some valuable lessons about which roads to avoid. We really want to do Camino Del Rey but are now a little apprehensive about the drive up there.

      Unfortunately we missed out on the olive oil as have already moved on. We are back on the coast as have my mum visiting this coming week. Yay!

      When are you guys next travelling?

      All the best

      Andi & Paul x

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  2. alanwickes says:

    Gill says – buy some of the local olive oil sold at Camping Pueblo Blanco reception – it was very good value and top notch quality!

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  3. Going Nomad says:

    I’m sure it was cold in the mountains but it is due to get cold everywhere next week with temps forecast to fall to -2C on Costa Blanca! We are heading for a campsite where we can plug in our radiators for a few days respite

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    1. Hi Alan & Michelle, We were very lucky really with the weather up there, bright sunny days that by mid afternoon reached about 13 degrees. The cold mornings were a shock to our system though!! We are watching the weather closely as my (Andi) mum’s coming out to meet us on Friday & of course we are willing it tonne nice for her. We’ve been spoilt since landing in Spain on 5th Dec as we’ve generally had great weather. I’ve just checked the temps down here (we are near Marbella but heading to Benalmadena for Friday to meet mum) & they are not as bad as you’re going to get. Time to get the extra blankets out I think tho.

      Enjoy your travels & stay warm.

      Andi & Paul x

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  4. Chris and Peter says:

    Very challenging roads indeed. Holding your breath as you are driving on such roads… I know it all too well! Not in Spain though but Devon and Cornwall! Keep safe!

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    1. Hi Chris & Peter,

      Yes I can believe that in Devon & Cornwall as we too have had similar experiences there. I suppose it all adds to the experience though!

      Best Regards

      Andi & Paul xx

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