Thursday, December 22, 2016

Into the Heart of Andalusia - Antequera, Spain

After returning to the city of Malaga from my quick train trip over to the beautiful city of Ronda, I was back at my adventures by bicycle!  But with a few surprises upon my return naturally.  I had left my bicycle in the care of my incredible host family while I was away for a few days and little did I know that there was a tiny pin-hole leak in one of the tires for my bike cart.  Following that quick fix, I set out to explore the last few spots in the city I wanted to check off before leaving.  That night, I camped out on the beach because I knew this would be the last time for awhile for some coastal exposure!  Waking up with the cool air of the sea breeze, I was charged to take on the road to Antequera... or so I thought.  I had chosen the route along A-7075 for I was hoping to spend a few hours in the mysterious El Torcal de Antequera which is a fascinating sight to behold even from the road!  El Torcal is a natural landform made up of crazy rock formations with an equally unique set of fauna living in the area.  Knowing that the natural reserve was located at the divide of the Sierra del Torcal mountain range, I knew there was going to be an uphill factor.  Come to find out, there was quite a bit of uphill factor along with not a cloud in the sky making for a toasty ride.  Slowly and steadily, I crossed an incredible landscape of fanciful imagination.  As midday passed by me, I decided to take a break in the lovely little village of Villanueva de la Concepción.  I am quite positive that they are not frequented by travelers, especially American ones, as I was watched with admiration and curiosity as I ventured about the cobbled streets looking for a market.  Once I found a small vendería, I bought a few fruits and makings for a Spanish styled sandwich that the owner gladly helped me with as I believe he felt greatly honored to have me step into his little store.  I let him pick out the apples and oranges for me.  Needless to say, I went back and stocked up because they were delicious!  

After refueling my body, I set back onto the climb to the ridge which seemed to grow significantly taller while I was taking my break.  Winding my way up the serpentine road, I had to pause my progress a few times while local farmers were moving their herds of sheep across the road.  A few gave me a quick wave of their hand gesturing I could go through the flock, but I didn't want to pass up the photo opportunities!  After what felt like the 700th switchback, the road finally leveled out for there was the rock wall that is El Torcal.  The shade from the Spanish sun was much welcomed and the view over the golden hills of grain below made the struggle worth the ride!  Even more welcomed was rounding a wide corner to see the sun reaching into the west over the valley of Antequera.  But, the best part of that was everything was downhill!  Making a mad dash to the bottom with extreme ease, I was in awe of the city.  Truly a well kept secret from outsiders, this city is overflowing with beauty, history, wonderful people and my favorite - great food!  Set between other major cities of Andalusia, Antequera is truly the heart of life in southern Spain and has been since Roman times due to the areas production of olive oil.  Despite only having about one day to spend in the city, it will forever be in my heart as one of my most memorable stops in all of Andalusia and warrants a return trip - sooner the better!