Tag Archives: Ronda

Bad Bones in Ronda


Ronda is two distinct towns: the old bit and the older bit. They are divided by the Puente Nuevo – the ‘new’ bridge – which is in fact, old. The bridge spans the gorge which featured prominently in the Civil War and, quite rightly, attracts a lot of visitors. Mainly though, when we make the 40 minute drive to this historic epicentre it is to visit the dentist, ITV (MOT) the car, to search for spare parts (oven / bike / scanner / printer), replace watch straps, upgrade mobiles, buy flipflops and unsweetened yoghurt in SuperSol . . . and other tedious stuff. It’s always a race against time before the lunchtime lock-down (from which SuperSol is exempt).

Now most visits include a visit to the Fisio Terapia centre, making Ronda not only a place where boring things happen, but a place where painful things happen too. A combination of excess incoming work and a haphazard chair-desk set up turned my shoulder into string and concrete. The harder they pummel it, the more gnarly it gets. I have illustrated this – how things are (left), how I believe they should be (right).

Last time I lay wincing and battered under an ice pack with needles in my ears listening to crocodiles of tourists shuffling up the sunny street beyond the window learning about this church and that church, it occurred to me that I’m not really getting the best out of my days out in Ronda. Next time I’m going over to the other side, to spend the day people-watching in the plazas, drinking cold beer and buying trinkets with bulls on like everyone else.


A Quite Interesting House

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Many months ago a German drew level with us on the mountain road out of a nearby village, Montejaque – quite a feat. He kept up for several bends, and seemed to be saying something so eventually I wound down the window. Turns out one of our rear wheels was coming off. This was the start of a long, ongoing, car care program at Jose Miguel’s workshop on one of the village’s upper streets. The various jobs – adjusting the headlights to point right, not left, scraping off rust, making it go – have an interval for lunch, and, during one, Dave ambled to the far end of a dead end lane leading up from the main square and then dropping down and, on the final crag, spotted a house with a Se Vende sign.
He came back very animated, and so I went with him to take a look from the outside. It looks almost Greek with its Aegean blue doors and windows, and stands on a rocky base looking out over the valley. Immediately below the terrace there are prickly pears, a small-holding and a braying donkey, and above it, a rocky hill. The fig beams of the terrace had rotted, as had one of the doors, but it still looked interesting and ergo, unaffordable.
We called the agent in Ronda who told us it was a bank repossession, being sold for €35,000, which was confusing news. A bank repossession, a house that someone else had lost? But €35,000? A village house . . . but on its own facing nothing but national parkland? Montejaque . . . but near Zahara. Smallish . . . but big enough.
I listed the factors for and against on my whiteboard and got on with other stuff. The idea of a house, any house, even the wrong house in the long term took root, and so with a mix of relief and resignation we toasted our decision, planned where we’d put the furniture, and decided to stick with a blue, but maybe go for a more Nordic, cooler shade, and called the agent to arrange a viewing.
‘Sorry,’ she said, ‘It’s sold.’

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Zahara’s Lake

Different every day, but always a treat for the eyes. And only 10 years old – you touch the top of trees when you swim. This is the view from where we park the car.

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Where to begin?

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I think it started with a picture of a derelict farmhouse in Almeria. What was standing was standing in a landscape that seemed to be made up of bits of rock and dust that had fallen off it. It was remote, and came with what looked like a quarry dotted with prickly pears and views of cardboard-coloured dusty mountains. It was available for a very reasonable £22,000. I could imagine myself sitting on the shaded deck of the minimalist pod I’d have erected beside it, sketching eagles while visiting friends, keen to work with their hands, rebuilt the walls of the old place. Then we’d all drink wine and eat olives and splash about in the infinity pool. Except there wasn’t any water.

The property, one of hundreds in a similarly parlous state, wasn’t far to the east of the Tabernas Desert, Europe’s only semi-desert; a place that manages to be too hot (peaking on a regular basis just short of 50C) and too cold (substantially below freezing on winter nights) but still rather compelling. The landscape goes on and on, mesmerically repetitive, gouged by rivers that haven’t run for quite some time, and the only things moving on a still day are birds of prey, riding the thermals in a rich blue sky, and their shadows. It’s the kind of place you can imagine being staked out to music by Ennio Morricone. Sergio Leone must have thought so too; An American wild west outpost was created in Tabernas for A Fistful of Dollars, and the spaghetti western was born (although the ‘pork chop western’ would be more gastronomically correct). You can visit the Mini-Hollywood set. It’s been used a zillion times. Look out for it in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, For a Few Dollars More, and The Magnificent Seven, as well as  great shots of the surrounding desert in Lawrence of Arabia,  Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and most recently, the Ridley Scott epic, Exodus, slated for a December 2014 release (in which Christian Bale fresh from his success as a 70s sleazeball in American Hustle plays Moses). So, an interesting area but impractical for someone who likes a long shower.

Thanks to a chain of completely random events, I am starting my meandering quest for a somewheresville in not only the wettest part of Andalucia, but the most expensive inland area. Result. The Sierra de Grazalema, lies not far from Ronda, south of Seville in Andalucia’s southwest, the province of Cadiz. On the upside, it is a spectacularly beautiful area of lakes and mountains and white villages draped over the shoulders of a crag, the natives are friendly, the wine is good, and the walking and cycling (okay, the driving) a visual feast. I want to live here, of course I do. Who wouldn’t? From all that I have learned so far, however, this is one of the most difficult areas in which to find an affordable country house (for all sorts of reasons I’ll go on about at some length at some point). And given that it is also a National Park with strict rules regarding appropriate traditional Andalusian architecture, it is most definitely not the place to enquire about a suitable plot for a minimalist, modernist pod, even if I stress the fact it was always going to be white.



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