The weather was determined to make my departure from El Escorial as unpleasant as possible. My plan was to drive 90 miles to Talavera, but to detour slightly and visit the archaeological park at Carranque where there’s the site of a Roman Villa and mill. Then later I wanted to visit the site of the Battle of Talavera which was the Duke of Wellington’s first major victory of the Peninsular War. Followers of Bernard Cornwell’s fictional character, Richard Sharpe, will remember it was at Talavera where Sharpe captured the French Eagle. But with more rain forecast, and the fact that the windscreen wiper blades were thrashing to and fro, my plans were out of the window. Therefore, instead of heading off along the A5, I continued around the M50 and took the familiar A4. I thought perhaps by heading more easterly, I might get away from the rain. But I was wrong. I arrived at Camping Santa Elena, and I took the rain with me.
Camping Santa Elena is a useful stop-over site because it’s very close to the motorway. I’ve stopped there several times and a review of the site can be found in some previous years blogs. This time, I hadn’t unhitched, so getting ready to leave was quicker than usual. I followed the A4 all the way to Cordoba and beyond then took a cross-country route for 50 miles to arrive at Olvera – having taken the rain with me. Camping Pueblo Blanco at Olvera is a large site situated on a hill, about a couple of miles from the town, which stands on another hill across a valley. Roads within the site are well surfaced and lit during darkness, as is the approach from the main road. Every pitch has been levelled and each pitch has a capped grey water drain. Water taps and electric bollards are within easy reach of each pitch. Shower and toilet blocks are clean and well maintained. ACSI cards are accepted out of season with a night’s fee being €17. Wifi connection is available but at an extra cost.
Once I’d got settled, I texted forum-friend, Jim who was already at El Pino. As I’m likely to arrive there earlier than planned, I wanted to know if my usual pitch was empty! Apparently, they too were having a rainy day.
This is more like it! ……………A clear sky, at last, bringing the promise of a good day.
This is the 08. 30 view from my pitch across the valley towards Olvera.
With breakfast done, I packed some lunch and a beer and set off towards Ronda. Several times in the past, I’ve stood on the New Bridge at Ronda looking out over the landscape far down below me and thought how it must look from down there looking back at the cliff top. Using Google Earth and GPS Coordinates I planned to try it. After much searching I found the back lane in Ronda that I needed to get down there. Very quickly I was off the smooth tarmac and on to uneven cobbles. The road twisted and turned down the cliff side. I would have given up and turned around but that was out of the question as there was nowhere to turn. Finally, I reached the bottom; then parked to get my picture.
When I saw a couple of tour company’s people wagons getting ready for the journey back to the top, I took the opportunity to keep in convoy with him. Back in the town, I was lucky to find a parking place close to the town gate.
When the Romans came to Iberia they built two towns in this area. One they called Arunda and its near neighbour was Acinipo. Acinipo was much the more important. Its trading influence grew so much that it was authorized to mint its own currency. It also had a theatre which would seat around 2000 people. But with the gradual retreat of the Romans, the two towns declined. Acinipo virtually disappeared whereas Arunda continued to flourish. Then along came the Moors and rebuilt Ronda surrounding it with a protective wall, making the place their own, complete with public bathhouses.
Later I walked to the New Bridge – which isn’t new because it was built in the 18th Century but there’s also an old bridge which was built in Roman times.
From Ronda, I drove down across the valley then up onto the next escarpment where the once flourishing Roman town stood. This is Acinipo. The area is full of heaps of building stone with the remains of the theatre standing high up on the skyline.
The seating has been cut into the limestone rock. Three archaeologists were busy in different areas around the theatre. I returned to Pueblo Blanca via the cross country roads.
Sunday had all the promise of a good day, so I packed up lunch and set off along the A384 towards Antequera. After 30 miles, Tomtom directed me to turn left and go across country. The traffic-free road took in some beautiful scenery. After several miles, I could see the lagoon which was the purpose of my visit. It’s known as Fuente de Piedra and is home to a range of water-fowl including vast numbers of flamingoes. As I drove along the flat landscape I couldn’t help but notice the large expanses of flood water standing on the fields. Before long I went round a bend and ahead of me was a flooded road with three abandoned vehicles standing with water reaching the door sills. A tractor was in the process of removing them. I had no alternative but to reverse a considerable distance and try to find another way – with Tomtom throwing a wobbly – until I switched it off. After several miles of following signs for Antequera, I reached the Seville/Granada motorway and before long I saw an exit for Fuente de Piedra. The carpark and visitors centre is just beyond the town. At the visitor centre, there are several rooms telling the history of the lagoon, then another describing the water-fowl which may be seen. Unfortunately, there is no English language version. Binoculars may be hired at the centre.
Two circular walks are laid out with observation ‘hides’. Sadly, I am unable to walk very far these days so I regret to say that the only flamingo I saw was the model in the visitors’ centre. And probably the birds prefer to congregate as far away from humans as they can.
After lunch, I set off back to the site, but before I got too far along the road, I detoured and followed the signs for the Moorish village of Teba.
During August in1330, King Alfonso of Castilla was busy trying to dislodge the Moors from the castle in Teba. At the same time Sir James Douglas, commonly known as Black Douglas was crossing Spain on a crusade. His task was to carry a jewelled casket containing the heart of his recently dead King, Robert the Bruce and deposit it in the church in Jerusalem. Not being a man to miss out on a fight, Douglas offered his assistance to Alfonso. Together, the two armies defeated the Moors, but in the thick of battle, Douglas lost his life. A commemorative stone in one of the plazas has been raised in his memory.