Monday, September 29, 2008

A trip to the Pueblos Blancos

Hey everyone! I finally have a moment to breathe and tell you about my adventures a week ago travelling around Spain in a rented van with six friends! Get ready for some good stories :)
As a bit of context, myself and six others were planning a roadtrip through the south of Spain from a Friday to a Monday to see what are called Pueblos Blancos, or little villages of all white buildings built into the Spanish countryside. All have either a castle or a church around which they were built, and which serve as the cornerstone of the pueblo.

My travelling buddies!

It took us about an hour to drive the van out of the parking lot (getting it into reverse was not intuitive…we eventually had to ask the desk how to do it). After picking everyone up, we were off to a small pueblo named Cartajima, just outside a famous (and very big) pueblo named Ronda. Our plan was to stay the night in Cartajima and then go to Ronda in the day. Well, long story short, it took 4 hours to drive what should have been 2 hours. We missed a turnoff and drove north to almost SEVILLA (that’s a good hour north of Cadiz) before figuring out we needed to go west from Cádiz. Eventually we arrived in Ronda to an English hostal owner who cooked us dinner (for a cost, of course). This guy was quite the character – long hair, very sociable, alcoholic, and pot-growing. About that last trait? He invited all of us up onto his roof what what he called "talking, drinking and smoking a doobie". No, I did not smoke, but he wasn’t lying when he said he grew his own stuff up there.

The next day we visited Ronda, which was beautiful but rather unimpressive after everything we had heard from host families. The picture I’ve attached is probably the best place we went in the city – this bridge is absolutely beautiful. We hiked down here to take a picture from below. After visiting Ronda, we went on a cave tour of this amazing place a little ways out of Ronda. It had been used by people for over 40,000 years, with drawings dating back to that time. No, I couldn’t take any pictures while in there. Yes, I did take pictures anyway. Below is the photo of the "castle" as they call it, and this is the picture where the tour guide saw my flash, stopped the group and told me either he or the police would delete my photo for me. He didn’t follow through with this threat – I think in large part because I was joking and talking with him in Spanish the entire tour - but did pull me aside after and tell me that taking photos of national monuments in Spain is a big deal and that I should never do it again or I really would get in trouble with the police.

Anyway, we spent that next night "camping", which in Spain means have a grassy field, plant some trees, put up some posts with numbers and have a dirt circle for cars. This wasn’t "camping" by any American standard. We slept on a tarp on the ground, with nothing covering us…and wouldn’t you know, it rains at 6am. So we dashed into the van and slept (7 of us!) in a van for 4 more hours. Sleep wasn’t too good for those hours, needless to say.

The next day we visited a couple more beautiful pueblos – Zahara and Grazalema – which had absolutely amazing views. The photo below is from the top of a castle in Zahara – the vista was breathtaking. Sleeping yet again involved sleeping on a tarp in essentially a "camping field", but this time we put a tarp over our heads so when it rained we didn’t have many issues with rain.
As a side note, I did finally get to drive a car in Europe – the stick shift was different in this van, but I got used to it. I also almost got pulled over (gulp), but thankfully the guy driving in front of me got pulled over, not myself. We weren’t going too much over the speed limit, but the cop tailgated me for a while which was quite unnerving before finally going to pull over the guy in front of me. I was a little more careful driving after that little incident.

The view from the castle in Zahara

The pueblo of Grazalema

I’ll be posting in the next couple days about an (attempt) at seeing a bullfight in Sevilla, along with a couple pics from that trip…and then I am off to ITALY on Thursday! Yes! I’ll be gone until Tuesday on that trip to Pisa and Florence. I’ll be sure to take lots of photos, don’t worry :)

Hasta más tarde!

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