Cartajima, Los Pueblos Blancos: 6.6.2007

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This morning we wake with an appetite…finally!
Botz fries some drippy eggs and we enjoy with coffee
and a fresh baked crusty bread homemade locally in the village.

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Unfortunately, our late start of the day does not allow for a trip to a site of interest:
Cueva de la Pileta (Cave of the Basin):
A cave with prehistoric drawings!
Instead, we opt for nearby Cueva del Gato (Cave of the Cat) at Botz’ suggestion.

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Cueva del Gato Hotel-Bar-Restaurante

A brief, beautiful twisted drive
though the mountains to the footpath leading to the cave.

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Shade of fig trees cool the moist landscape.

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A short hike over a small stream and under a train trestle
leads to a pond with a waterfall that dumps crystal blue.

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Closer inspection reveals the water is a river flowing out of la cueva.
A small cement catwalk allows closer views of the waterfall and Cueva del Gato.
There was an overwhelming chill in the air emanating from deep within…

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Entering the cave is prohibited as it lacks a safe walkway.

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Most of the a large trees around the mouth of the cave and river are fig trees.
We were warned not to indulge in the King’s oranges, but perhaps a fig is fair game…

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Not exactly *tasty* or ripe, the fig is someone’s home…a tiny larvae!
A part of an endless food web, the worm is sacrificed to an ant colony.

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We start our hike back down, stopping at the edge of the stream.
Botz recommended this water for swimming- maybe a little early in the season.

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The icy tingle of the cave-cooled water

soon drives me back to my sandals in the grass!

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Bees buzzing around a busted battery in the grass.

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…but Botz kept his word to swim under the waterfall and back!

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Exploration of the arced trees on the other side was out of the question…

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We continue the hike back to the car,
and stop at Hotel Cueva del Gato for a cool drink.
 

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 Networking skills land us a new friend, Tina, the dog-in-residence.

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Striking purple among so much beauty!

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A quick peek inside the Gato dining room.

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Bye bye, Tina, be good girl!

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On the road again, exotic homes dot the hills.

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The outskirts of a village larger than Cartajima,

and a bullring of a different size than Málaga.

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 Our guide carries us to the ancient Roman ruins of Acinipo – Yacimiento Arqueologico.
The newer addition of the gate is closed and locked.

Apparently, there is an amphitheater on the other side of the hill.

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From the fence, the distant ruins rouse curiosity…

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Back in the van and on the road, Botz has another surprise for us.

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Rolling up on our destination, we shoot photos drive-by style hanging out the window

as we roar to our next stop,

Setenil de las Bodegas.

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One of Los Pueblos Blancos (The White Villages),

Setenil dates back to the middle ages and was built into a system of caves.

Los Pueblos Blancos are whitewashed mountain villages

established at high altitudes for defensive purposes.

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El Callejón – Panadería (The Alley – Bakery)

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With a destination in mind, Botz leads us through this silent, surreal location.
The buildings are built out of the living rock…inside they are caves!

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As the walkways get tighter,

notice how close the building are to the natural rock formations

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At an opening in a wall,
the other side of the horseshoe shaped village is visible.

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Otherwise a ghost town in the summer heat,
we see our first inhabitant out in the open.
“Con permiso?” or “With permission?” he allows us to take his picture.

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The village is built over the river, Rio Trejo,
which appears as a weedy ravine in the dry summer.

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Arriving during siesta, people are not around,
but signs of life are everywhere.
A motorcycle and a child’s big-wheel are among the signs.

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Botz leads us to a roadway running under an overhang.

Bars and shops are situated in the rocks.

We go into a bar for a drink and Botz points out

the water moisture bleeding from the living rock walls.

The living stone surrounds everything

causing the temperature to be much cooler than outside in the village.

Fascinated, we take the drinks out to the roadway patio cafe tables.

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Under an overhang of vine covered rock,

we enjoy local made chilled sherry and tapas frias (cold snack)

consisting of rich olives and cloves of garlic- the best olives ever!

The garlic cloves are soaked in brine and eaten whole…wonderful!

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Trekking on.

We see the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación high above the entire village-

it’s built right on top of them!

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The sun begins to sink low in the sky
and there is still so much more to see…

Botz has another surprise to show us before it gets too dark.

Back into the van and on to the pueblo blanco, Ronda!
Ronda was our previously only known destination.
The bus station in Ronda is no comparison
to the gorge of El Tajo canyon, a seemingly endless pit adorned by terraces.
Deep below the Rio Guadalevín slices the village in two.
  The village is connected by the enormous Puente Nuevo (New Bridge) seen here.
Puente Nuevo was completed in 1793 by Martín de Aldehuela,
who also designed the Plaza de Toros, Ronda bullring.
The two other bridges that span El Tajo canyon are the Puente Viejo (Old Bridge),
and the Puente Romano (Roman Bridge).
As Botz explained, the dwelling restrooms flush into the canyon,
and during the hot summer months it’s sometimes necessary
to firehose the sides of the canyon walls with water to minimize waste odors.

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As Botz warns, people occasionally fall to their death
attempting to photograph the bridge from dangerous vantage points.
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Calling it a day, we wind back through the now familiar dusty mountain roads to Cartajima.

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On the terrace at El Refugio, a blanket of pink fluffy clouds overtake nearby Parauta village.

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Soon, we are joined by Fernando and a family from Ireland who own a local farm.

Fernando invites us to visit the new local bar in town.

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Mounted televisions are tuned to MTV

as the familiar sounds of Nirvana‘s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and later

Fatboy Slim‘s “Rockafeller Skank” spill from the speakers.

Good music and conversation, pints and darts!

Now we’re talkin’ Refuge!

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Only open for one week, we play darts and meet new friends:

among them, Paco and the hospitable owner of the bar!

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Great fun tonight, tomorrow morning we will continue our trek
through the Spanish region of the Mediterranean
to the ancient coastal city of Cádiz

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Virtual Cocktail Bar

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