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Endurance.Net Home 2007 Al Andalus: Rest Day

Ronda: A Day at Liberty - Lynne Glazer

After the 4th stage, everyone had to transport their horses from Antequera in Málaga province to Ronda in Cadíz, inpreparation for the 5th day's start. It was a rest day for the horses, and after caring for them, also for their humans. I hitched a ride with ride management, and enjoyed more of a tourist's point of view on the drive. As had become usual on this trip, I was fascinated by the juxtaposition of old and new--from Moorish and Christian edifices now mixed with Spanish ones. Our destination, Ronda, has become a huge tourist attraction in recent years, and for good reason.

On the drive there were endless fields of waving tall grasses which induced fantasies of horse heaven, masses of wildflowers, olive groves, as well as more intensively farmed crops. The last road up to Ronda was a long curvy climb, with incredibly scenic mountainous views, much of it national parks. We arrived at the Féria (fairgrounds) for horses, which was still under construction. The stalls were all ready as the rigs began to pull in. Plans for the following day were confirmed, was to involve a equestrian police-escorted ride through town. I got a ride to my hotel, different than the others and very close to the famous Tajo gorge, within walking distance to the old Moorish part town. Heard a clip clop and dashed to the balcony to find a horse-drawn carriage conveying visitors. I happily dropped all my gear except one camera and two beefy lenses of course and spent five hours on foot throughout the town. I explored beautiful gardens with strolling paths including the "Paseo de Orson Welles", stared straight down the 100 meter deep limestone gorge and the Guadalevin river below from 4 or five different spots on the newer side of town. The distant vistas were of olive groves, farmlands, Roman ruins and historic roads.

I spent nearly 2 hours at the famous Plaza de Toros, the oldest bull ring in Spain and now completely restored, where the tradition of matadors afoot began. I puchased the audio guided tour, which was a neat way to explore solo. The midday light, usually not my favorite, seemed to enhance the complementary colors of the brilliant blue sky, the golden shades of the architecture and the special glowing golden footing which I thought they called "albedo" (which spelling I can't confirm!) imported from a unique site in Spain.

Their equestrian high school was located here also, but alas, no schooling was taking place. Of course, as a horse person, I lingered long in the fabulous Real Maestranza de Caballeria, the nobility's fraternal organization from the 1500s forward?the simply fantastic collection of 18th and 19th century tack and uniforms, including those that were gifted by the Moors. The light was low and the glass very reflective, but I took some nearly useless photos anyway, mostly for the captions, like this one: "Ceremonial saddle in oriental style with a pair of pistol holders, attributed to the Mameluc Guard of Egypt's Pacha, kept in the collection of King Louis Philippe of France. Gold embroidery. Late 18th century, early 19th century." Or for a bridle: "Oriental style cavessons, red velvet decorated with gold leaf and Arabic motifs. Arabic iron Weymouth. Late 18th century, early 19th century".

I crossed the Punta Nuevo bridge over the gorge, pausing several times to look down and across at the white villas perched on the cliffsides, and finally on into the cobble stoned Moorish old town, stopping for lunch. I needed the strength in order to later hike down into the gorge, it had turned into a fairly hot day,and I enjoyed strolling the cool, narrow streets. Two of the gallery photos show the Minaret of San Sebastian, which became a Christian church after conquest. The first layer is obviously Moorish, and of stone with a horseshoe-shaped doorway, the second layer brick with Moorish details, some of which don't show in the photo, and the top co-opted by the Christians for a belfry. There are also exterior detail shots of the Antigua Cathedral.

The hike down into the gorge was on wide paths on which a few mountain bikers came bombing down. Under the pretense of waiting for more interesting light and for the bridge to be better illuminated, I took several breaks. Little did I know that the next day would bring the opportunity to shoot the bridge from below, albeit from a moving video truck.

Strangely enough upon returning to the hotel, I still felt like strolling, a grand Spanish tradition, so I wandered the newer part of town and stopping for a well-earned ice cold lager to cap off my touristy explorations.

Lynne Glazer