The map provided to us by the rental car company showed 376 as the direct route to Ronda, a town with the oldest bull fighting arena in Spain and a massive gorge. After learning that everything shut down at 1:30 for Siesta, we pulled ourselves together quicker than in days before and made it out of the condo by 9:30AM.
By now, we were familiar with route 7 from which we hit 376 north to Ronda. The road sign said 47 kilometers and without using my iphone app, I guesstimated 30 miles. We’ll be there in about 30-45 minutes, I calcuated. Michelle at the wheel, and me in my regular spot as navigator and commentator, we headed north on 376.
Well, in Spain, or at least this part of Spain, north translates to “road to God.” We were in the mountains, which from the coast line we had admired without much thought to their height, ruggedness or inability to accommodate the expectations of two American tourists. The path to Ronda involved a 30 mile two lane road that had more twists and turns than a rollercoaster at Six Flags.
The Fiat less equiped than a Vespa to handle the steep elevation putted through the curves with the definance of a two year-old at bedtime. Having the vantage point of passenger, I offered to Michelle, “don’t look down and don’t look back.” From every angle, the mountain dropped as if telling you that if you took one eye off the ultimate goal of forward, you’d be doomed to the hell of rocks below.
Our ears were popping signaling we may need oxygen masks the higher we climbed. I was getting nauseus and wondered if the rental car had come equipped with a barf bag. The Fiat kept pushing up the hills as locals in their 8-cylinder Mercedes caught up with us and with arrogant irritation rode our bumper until we could find a side of the road pull off.
This was not the Smokey’s or even the Colorado mountains where you could safely travel 65 miles an hour and pass other cars. Nope, this was comparable to the annual race up Pike’s Peak where despite the narrow, curvy roads, steep inclines, and in the case, rain and fog, there was no fear of speed, height or death.
“Pull off here and do it fast” I offered to Michelle. Momentum was a key in these mountains. The strategy seemed to be to pull off without braking too much and using your momentum to get back on the road. These mountains were not made for uphill braking, you just had to downshift and move forward.
Fifteen or twenty miles into the trip, we’re still climbing. I looked up, “we can’t go up much higher unless Ronda is disguised as Heaven.” Onward we went, accellerating upwards without any patches of straight and flat roads until we were met with a sign, “Bienvenidos Ronda.” “Yeah,” we exclaimed. Yet as we looked around us, it was more as if we were in a natural preserve rather than an ancient town where once upon a time, bullfighters from around the country came to wow the crowds with their bravery against the bull. Still traveling uphill, we had been welcomed by Ronda, but yet to see any signs of western civilization. At this point, we’re committed, there’s no option of turning around and giving up. “It has to be here,” I commented.
Cars were passing us in the opposite direction, so we assumed that they were coming from somewhere. Again, we proceeded forward, until finally we were greeted by the standard European roundabout and a sign, “urbano Ronda.” Following the signs and within minutes we were navigating the old streets of Ronda where at each turn views were obstructed by the centuries-old street designs that didn’t account for 21-st century cars and driving habits. We had found Ronda, but we stil had to get back. For that there’s video.