Thursday, March 2, 2017

Pacific Panamá – Adventures at Anchor #1 -- February 15 – March 2, 2017

Greetings from Boca Chica, Panamá

Up This Way Lies Boca Chica Village -
And The Dread Mast-Snagging Power Lines Are Around That Curve

We’re stuck here at the moment – literally. Abracadabra’s anchor chain has twirled and wrapped about something we can’t see and the wind is gusting up to 35 knots which makes getting out in a dinghy and trying to un-snag whatever the snag is sound like a bad idea. We will exercise patience and wait for a calmer day to do all that -- and will report in on whatever "all that" turns out to be. In the meantime, here’s some information about how we got here:

Adios, Golfito – February 8 - 15

During our final week in Golfito we got the dinghy outboard repaired (minor, inexpensive - yeah) and purchased everything we anticipated consuming over a three-week period at anchor: diesel fuel, toilet paper, canned tomatoes, chocolate-chip cookies, rum . . . the necessities of life.

Off She Goes To Buy Stuff!

In our purchasing frenzy we managed to forget to withdraw US dollars (the currency of Panamá). We left Costa Rica with about $47 in cash . . . more about the effect of that dumb stunt later.

Our friend Greg Snead, a single-hander on Irie (Irie = Rastafarian greeting) arrived from Panamá and took a mooring ball near Banana Bay. We spent several meals catching up with him and in the process got a lot of good, current information about Panamá.

Hola, Irie!
[A Bilingual Redundancy?]

One night we received a real world reminder that being “safely” at a dock has its own risks: Dinner was interrupted when Molly looked out the companionway and said “Uhm – it looks like the neighbor is about to t-bone itself on our back porch!”

The neighboring sports fisher (45+ feet) had left the dock to find fish, but instead found that one of two massive engines was overheating. The excellent captain brought the boat limping back to the marina on one engine and gently laid her crosswise to the end of the dock, planning to use the strong current to pivot into the slip. Fortunately for the owners of the sports fisher and of Abracadabra the sports fisher crew was well versed at fending off – they had huge round fenders and bright lights, and some of them were foolishly brave. There was some tension and a lot of loud efforts at communication -- but at the end of the maneuver not a scratch on either boat. Whew. We resumed dinner with renewed enthusiasm for weeks at anchor!

Sunday was observed as a day of rest: we purchased day passes for the swimming pool at Hotel Casa Roland; a bargain at 2,000 colones / $3.63 each.

Along the way we said good-bye to many of the colorful and charming people we had met: Rick, our go-to guy for boat repairs (particularly woodwork); Adam The Canvas Guru; Silvie and Lisa,charming “jills of all trades” and citizens of the world; Captain Ron, former U-2 pilot and man of many opinions, expressed primarily in words not printed in the New York Times; Yessica, friendly and efficient manager of Banana Bay; Sergio and Chama, great boat cleaners and all-round nice guys; and Christian, the most charming and attentive night watchman we have ever met.

On Valentine’s Day . . . 

Awww - Love Is A Rose
(Or Even Better On A Hot Day - A Shared Cold 7-Up!)

. . . we checked out of Costa Rica (migración / immigration), terminated Abracadabra’s 90-day temporary import permit (aduana / customs) and obtained an international zarpe (permission to travel) from the capitanía del puerto. Each office performed efficiently and professionally; total cost $20.

We also paid our last marina bill. FYI Banana Bay charged $150 for “bonding” Abracadabra – the process which allowed her, as a foreign-registered vessel, to remain at a dock in Costa Rica last summer for up to 9 months without our having to pay full importation costs. 

Departure Day – February 15

We started out in true Abracadabra style by dawdling over breakfast with Greg. 

Looking Forward To A Bacon-n-Egg Powered Sail

At 11.15 we left the dock and motored most of the 10 miles across the Golfo Dulce to anchor at Jimenez (low wind for all but the last 30 minutes of our trip). No need spending a first night any further from a repair base than necessary, say we!

Captain Bryce - Headed to Panamá

FYI, there’s a reason the boats in Jimenez harbor are on mooring balls: the contours of that little bay are best described as Wildly Undulating. We motored around looking for the shelf at 20 feet deep we had read about and registered depths from 184 feet to 9 feet – within less than a tenth of a nautical mile of one another! Based on some shouted advice from a local fisherman we finally found a consistent 50 foot-deep area - anchor down and a lot of chain out: 14.18.

Vamanos A Panamá! – February 16

Anchor up at 05.15 and off we motored; the newly operating wind meter registering at less than the 5 or 6 kts required to move Abracadabra. Near the opening of the Golfo Dulce we were approached by the Guarda Costa de Costa Rica. They drew along side and sent their English-speaking guy forward to ask our departure point and destination. We said we were from Golfito, headed for Panamá and offered to show our zarpe; he declined our offer and wished us a buen viaje. Todo bien / All good.

On we motored. And then Captain Bryce had an idea that can only be described as brilliant. If we were going to act like a motor boat – why not look like one? He put up the cockpit sun shade. Goofy looking, but at least 10 degrees cooler -- eff-ing brilliant.

We entered Panamanian waters around 13.00 and switched courtesy flags.

Costa Rica Down. Panamá Up.

An hour or so later the breeze picked up and we were able to sail for an hour on the jib (because by this time Molly had become addicted to the shade which blocks using the mainsail – !).

Near 15.00 we arrived at the roadstead anchorage off Punta Burica and the anchoring fun began again. We could give you too much detail (which is our way) but here’s the shorthand version:
  • first depth readings showed another Wildly Undulating anchorage;
  • the depth sounder quit for about 15 minutes for reasons we may never understand (oh, sure, we'll just anchor 19th Century style!);
  • a first attempt which in hindsight might have been okay had we not been nervous about the WU topography and psychotic depth meter;
  • a second attempt that involved a steep slope, a jammed windlass and too much (more hindsight) rode to cure a set we didn’t trust; and
  • three hours later (we kid you not) a secure set in 40 feet (or at least one that let us sleep).
Rum and tonic with an ibuprophen chaser for the crew! Oh, and set the anchor alarm.
Note to Selves: Curing anchoring insecurity by putting out a s^#tload of chain and rode may not make for a more secure set and if it doesn’t, it will make it a lot harder to re-re-anchor.

Isla Parida, Southern Anchorage February 17- 20

Neptune/Poseidon apparently decided to give us an easy passage and a calm anchorage to compensate for Punta Burica. Well, mostly. There were a few hazards to navigation on the passage.

Ride, Ride, Ride - Hitchin' A Ride

We sailed for the last two hours toward Isla Parida in a good 10-12 kt wind. Nothing more beautiful than sailing as fast as one can motor. Take that, stinky fossil fuels!

We motored slowly through the rock field guarding the anchorage behind Isla Paridita on the south side of the larger Isla Parida, reminding ourselves to breathe, breathe, breathe and check, check, check the charts. [Thanks again, Sarana crew for your excellent waypoints.] 

At about 17.45 we set the anchor in a lovely little cove, a consistent 20 feet of water underneath us. Ahhhh, yes. This is why we came – dinner under the stars (Orion on guard directly above us).

We enjoyed our three nights there even though the current was too strong for swimming – we had to hang on to a line and essentially “ski” behind Abracadabra when we wanted to cool off in the afternoon. But our neighbors made up for the less than optimum swimming conditions.

On Sunday we motored along the shores of Parida and Paridita noticing faded signs which we suspected would say "private property” if we got close enough to read them. Then on the shore of Paridita we saw a boy and a little girl watching us and asked them if we were permitted to land there. The boy invited us to land and then took us to meet his family – our first introduction to the Ngöbe-Buglé people of Chiriqui Province.

Sadly, we did not have a camera with us so the following description is all we can share about our visit:

We sat with the family in the cool, thatched hut that serves as the public space of their tidy compound. It hut had a stove of questionable functionality, a separate two burner gas range top that looked like it worked, a small, rusty chest freezer (unclear whether it functioned as a freezer or simply as storage), a hammock, a few plastic lawn chairs and a wooden seating bench. The underside of the palm-thatched roof was a work of art. The floor was smooth, pounded dirt.

Their compound included a second small (10’x10’ – ish) hut which we assumed to be the family’s sleeping quarters and another, smaller hut that appeared to be for storage. In the swept-dirt courtyard was a well. The outhouse must have been tucked away in the woods.

The father of the family explained that he works as a caretaker / groundskeeper of a small hotel compound owned by someone described as “a Russian from the United States”. According to the internet, this lodge has double rooms for $299 a night with breakfast! We did not see it.

The caretaker, José (40 - they were very happy to identify themselves by age), lives on the island full time and during school breaks is joined by his wife (33), their youngest son (the boy who had met us on the beach - 16), a daughter (10) and the family “baby girl” (4). Their two older boys (19 and 18) work as caretakers on the larger island of Parida, which may or may not also be owned by “The Russian”. [Note: Do the math, this woman was a mother at 14! Her husband was 21. In some states a crime would have been committed.]

The mother and the younger children live with the maternal grandmother in a nearby mainland pueblito (the name of which we failed to get) during the school year. February is part of the “summer vacation” in Panamá. The 16-year old is going to colegio (high school) at the beginning of the new school year, which is a great source of pride for the family. When asked his career goals, the boy said he wanted to be a caretaker like his father. Hmmm. Perhaps he will learn about career options from someone at his colegio.

The family speaks Spanish, but also the language of the Ngöbe-Buglé. The mother and daughters were dressed in the traditional, modest, embroidered cotton dresses of this group. The mother explained that she had a sewing machine in the pueblito and that she did the embroidery on the machine. She also made plastic-bead bracelets and crocheted small purses which she showed us. Had we had more than $47 on board, we would have offered to purchase one of her bags, though what Molly really wants is one of the dresses – they look very cool and comfortable.

The youngest daughter’s favorite toy was a loaf-pan-mobile: a metal loaf pan with wooden dowels and wheels and a pull string. They seem to do some communicating with their older sons using a conch shell (we would hear them in the evening) -- but Bryce and José had a lively discussion about which cell phone company has better coverage along the coast when they explained they would call and order groceries to be delivered from town every two weeks.

They offered us some limóns – which in southern Costa Rica and Panamá are curiously bumpy lime-looking things with orange flesh that taste . . . citrusy. We thanked them and asked if they needed anything. They asked for sugar. Later in the day we returned with a small bag of sugar, a large bottle of cooking oil and a set of colored pencils and some paper for the younger girls. A very small thank you for their time and hospitality.

Isla Parida – Punta Jurel Anchorage – February 20 – 24; A Second José

In search of better swimming, we sailed to the northern tip of the island (yes, sailed!) and anchored south of Punta Jurel. This which was all that an anchorage should be.

It was a calm home for Abracadabra:

Abracadabra At Isla Parida

There were pleasant neighbors, the friendliest of which was another José – this one a lad (18) from the city of David who was spending his summer holiday at his sister and brother-in-law’s home on the bay. The sister and brother-in-law work as caretakers of a failed hotel project and operate a small bait fish operation. Some mornings were busy with sports fishers stopping by to purchase bait fish.

On our second evening, José arrived with a gift of bananas and limóns. We invited him aboard to join our cocktail hour (we gave him a soda and some peanuts - manis) and learned about his family. The next evening he brought two Panamanian beers – having seen us drinking Costa Rican beers the day before – and a sculpture of painted shells made by his sister. In return he asked if we had any milk and we gave him two boxes. We are slowly learning the etiquette of the area.

José seems to spend his summers taking cell phone pictures of the sailboats in the Punta Jurel anchorage. We saw Irie’s stay memorialized on José’s cell phone! 

More picture taking all around:

José and Bryce

José At The Helm

The bait fish operation also offered some entertainment. One day a fishing boat stopped by to cut some long reeds to use as mounts for the black warning flags which are used to mark fishing lines in Central America (we have considered importing some neon orange fabric to give to fishing fleets . . . surely orange should be their new and better black!).

Loading Raw Materials For Fishing Net Flags

Workers' Benefits - A Tow

We enjoyed beautiful sunsets:

Tropical Dreams Are Made of These

And the nearby beaches offered calm swimming. One afternoon we took the dinghy over to nearby Isla Gamez for a swim.

Secluded Beach - Isla Gamez
(If You Wait For The Hotel's "Secluded Beach Tour" To Leave)

Trusty Dinghy

It was very hard to leave. But there are other places . . .

Boca Chica – February 24 – March 2; And A Third José

Boca Chica (Little Mouth) is a challenge to get to – lots of low water and reefs at the entrance - but thanks (once again) to the excellent waypoints provided by Eric Baicy and Sherrell Watson, authors of the Sarana Guides, we arrived safely and anchored between Reef 2 and Reef 3 (which are marked with red floats) and avoided The Wreck (which is not marked)! We are off the Bocas del Mar hotel and Seagull Cove Resort

Reef # 3 At Low Tide
(At High - Two Small Red Floats)

We were greeted kindly by Mitch and Vicky who have been at anchor here for over 14 years (!) and really know their way around. They offered a lot of good information.

They explained how to get to the city of David – the closest known ATMs (see above re: having only $47!). Following their instructions we took a water taxi to Boca Chica village ($3 each – call 507-6569-9066) where we started our hour-and-a-half trip on (a) an extremely sketchy mini-bus and then (b) a way more comfortable (and air-conditioned!) but crowded Coaster (a small 30-passenger bus popular in Central America). In David (pron: Dah-veed) we arrived at a truly Third World bus station: wall-to-wall people, piled plastic bags of stuff (clothes, food, pots and pans, toilet paper), ladies in indigenous dress with babies and toddlers, elderly people being helped by porters, confusing signs, no visible central information or ticket office and dozens of places to buy cell phones and fried food.

We used the least sketchy-looking ATM, had lunch at a Chinese restaurant (edible, but even Molly’s Gringo Girl stir-fry is better!) and bought local cellphone simcards. We took a cab to the Super Baru (a local grocery chain) for a scouting mission (the cheese selection looked fabulous after weeks in Golfito!) and a small purchase and then returned to the station. Somewhere along the line we learned that it was Carnivál which in Panamá is the time everyone empties out of the cities (there are only really two: David and Panama City) and goes to the beach. This, we were told, was why the traffic was bad and the bus-station was so crowded.

After we returned to Boca Chica we put Vicky and Mitch’s best information to work: We took our dinghy over to the Seagull Cove Tiki Bar for Saturday Night. The hamburgers were big, the beers were cold and the crowd was eclectic. The Tiki Bar is only open on Saturday night so if you’re in Boca Chica on a Saturday, don’t wait.

Tiki Lounge At Low Tide

Boca Chica village info: The reported vegetable and fruit truck now comes every day and parks across from the small tienda. 

Boca Chica anchorage info: We have had lunch at Bocas del Mar (really, really good at American prices) and at the hotel at the tip of Isla Boca Brava (friendly and just fine for less). Both hotels will do laundry upon request: $1.50 a pound at Boca Brava when they don't have many guests and $10 a kilo at Bocas del Mar regardless of the hotel's occupancy level. Water is hard to come by here. The manager at Bocas del Mar let us fill a 6-gallon jerry can as a courtesy when we had lunch and did a kilo of laundry there. They aren’t in the business of selling water, and we were told we would not be able to fill our tanks at their docks before we even asked.

Yesterday we returned to David and did a three-week shop. We hired a taxi – thanks for the contact, Don! If you need a big shop in David, we recommend José (apparently half the men in Panamá are named José . . . ); call 507-6442-2004, $100 for a round trip ride (one hour each way) and full day shopping tour in a mostly air-conditioned cab. José doesn’t speak much English, but if you speak Spanish he will search out boat parts with terrier-like tenacity. Note: Boat parts in David are in some rather obscure locations. At Daisy (downtown David) they are found upstairs, behind the “neon plastic stuff for your wedding reception” area.

As we said earlier, this morning we jumped up and prepared to leave only to decide . . . to try it again later. It’s only now gusting at less than "like stink" levels. Quizás mañana?

More on where we go when we go there!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Más España! – Andalucía’s Greatest Hits, Part 1 – October 25–31, 2016

Looking for the Spain of popular culture: flamenco, bull fighting, Moorish architecture, Spanish spoken with a lisp – Olé!? You want Andalucía (English: Andalusia; Spanish pron: Ahn-dah-loo-THEE-ah).

Andalucía is the second largest of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions, is composed of eight provinces and covers the country’s southern coast. This is where the Moors made their last stand in 1492; Columbus launched for The New World in 1492; and about a third of Britain spends each winter holiday.

We spent almost three weeks on a “greatest hits” tour of Andalucía. Not. Enough. Time.

Sevilla Steet Scene

Sevilla (English: Seville) – October 25 – 28

We traveled from Almería to the capital of Andalucía -- Sevilla (Spanish pron: Seh-vee-yah) – on one of Spain’s discount short-haul airlines, Vueling; worked fine, didn’t cost much. We stayed in the Petite Palace Marqués Santa Ana; worked fine, not wildly expensive (except breakfast) and in a great location.

"Our" Neighborhood
The Yellow Color On Many Buildings in Sevilla 
Was Originally Achieved Using The Local Soil

          First, An Overview:

With only two full days scheduled in Sevilla we knew we would have to take a more aggressive tourist posture than is our norm. We launched with a guided walking tour and though we are not good at taking in rapid-fire information, we did come away with a good overview of the city’s Moorish section and the following (to us anyway) entertaining bits of information:
  • There are a lot of charming narrow streets and beautiful buildings in Sevilla and one can enjoy just wandering for hours.
More Sevilla

  • The city’s cathedral was built on top of a destroyed mosque and the bell tower was once a minaret; the wind vane on the bell tower, which is in the figure of a woman (La Giralda, from girar for “turn”) was the subject of a joke in Don Quixote (something about a fickle woman subject to changing with the wind). Neither of us has read Don Quixote, so we took this bit of information on faith.
La Giralda

  • The tomb of Christopher Columbus is the tomb of Christopher Columbus or someone closely enough related to share DNA with The Navigator’s known direct descendants.
  • The city is home to two different soccer teams and allegiances are determined at birth.
  • The narrow streets of the city’s Moorish section cannot accommodate large garbage collection trucks, so the city has installed an interesting garbage transportation system. Place discards in a futuristic street-side bin and --- whoosh -- it ends up at a collection point underneath a plaza large enough to be accessed by a  garbage truck. Good clean fun. (Sorry)
High Tech Garbage

          Stage Two – Three Highlights:

The Internet and tour books offer a lot of information and some great pictures of the following Sevilla highlights so we will limit ourselves to some general impressions and (hopefully) only enough pictures to entice you to look further. 

               Cathedral / Bell Tower: The tomb of Christopher Columbus (moved from Havana in 1899 as the Spanish empire was contracting) is really spectacular.

The Kings of Castille, Aragon, León and Navarra, 
Pallbearers For The Navigator

The bell tower ascent is easier than most because a relatively wide, gently sloping ramp was built to allow the muezzin (who gives the Islamic calls to prayer) to ride to the top of the minaret on horse or mule. We couldn’t help but think of all those priests and friars who had to climb narrow stairs or even wooden ladders to ring bells at other cathedrals. Those guys should have organized for better working conditions. 
Top of the Cathedral From The Bell Tower

Bull Ring - From the Bell Tower

Another Favorite Cathedral Thing is to view the Cathedral at night. Part of the appeal may be that one of the great places to enjoy a night view is an upstairs bar across the street from the Cathedral. Just FYI, the drinks there are startlingly expensive.

Night View

               El Real Alcázar (The Royal Alcazar):  The Alcázar (fort / palace) is a spectacular example of Mudéjar architecture, a Spanish architectural style with Moorish elements (or perhaps more accurately, Moorish architecture and design used after the Moors got booted).

A Side Note For Context: Spanish history revolves a lot around the territorial battles between the Christians and the Moors and the ultimate “Re-Conquest” by the “Catholic Monarchs” (Ferdinand V and Isabella) in 1492. But there wasn’t just one re-conquest. Sevilla was re-conquered in 1248, at which time the city had been ruled by Moors for more than 500 years (since 712). An important reminder that history is written by the most recent winners and that their take on history may last only until the next conquest. 

The Alcázar is also the oldest European royal palace still in use, a crammed tourist attraction and, at times, a set for The Game of Thrones. Not being Thrones fans we mostly appreciated this palace / fortress for its Mudéjar architecture.   

And yes, there are better pictures elsewhere, but we really liked some of these, so bear with us!

  Another favorite at the Alcazar were some tapestries of naval battles. 

The gardens are a good place to escape the crowds.

Maintenance - A Never Ending Project
When The Palace Was "Re-Built" in the 14th Century

               Flamenco: There are hundreds of places to see flamenco dancing and/or hear flamenco guitar in Spain, but since Sevilla is famous for flamenco we went to a performance at a venerable old location: La Casa de la Memoria (The House of Memory). If Molly’s memory is to be trusted we accidentally stumbled into the same venue she and her mother went to on their long-ago trip to Spain – House of Memory, indeed! Someday we will excavate her travel diaries from our storage locker and see if this can be confirmed.

This Woman Was Probably Not Performing There In 1985(ish)

Stage Three – Wandering Around:

We were able to fit in a bit of our favorite tourist activity – wandering aimlessly and looking at stuff:

               A Spanish School: We stopped by a Spanish language school, spoke to the charming young woman at the front desk and took away a brochure. Yikes - the school’s European prices reminded us what a bargain studying and living in Mexico is! Though Sevilla would be a great place to live and study Spanish for a couple of months. . . .

               The Mushroom Building: This huge wooden structure is officially known as the Metropol Parasol (City Umbrella) but in Sevilla it’s best known as The Mushrooms or The Mushroom Building. The reason for this nickname becomes obvious as you approach: 

Umbrella or Mushroom? Whichever, It's
Reported To Be The Largest Wooden Structure In The World

There’s a market here during the day, it's lighted in the evening and there are good views of the city from the top. The price of the elevator ride (3 euros) to the touristy viewing area on top includes a plastic cup of wine or a "tapa". Go for the view, not the wine or the food.

A View From The Top Of The Mushroom

Another Mushroom View

But what no one told us was that underneath all of this modern strangeness is a nice little museum displaying the Roman ruins uncovered in 1990 during the building’s construction (it’s always the parking structure . . . ). If you’re a Roman ruin fan this is worth the 6 euro fee.

Foundation Remains

Floor Detail

               Breakfast Entertainment: The Petite Palace breakfast buffet was expensive and we had finally acknowledged that eating a huge breakfast does not mean that we will eat a small lunch. So we sought out a pretty little café near the hotel for a relatively inexpensive European breakfast and a seat that offered a view of the neighborhood going about its morning. On our last morning in Sevilla we watched a traveling knife sharpener at work. We have often seen knife sharpeners in Mexico use bicycle power to sharpen knives for home cooks and local restaurants. But in Europe they rely on updated technology.

Advanced Technology Knife Sharpening

After breakfast we rented a little SUV and drove to our next destination. . . .

Ronda -- October 28 – 31

We didn’t think of going to Ronda until our friends Wendy and Larry told us they would be there after completing a bicycle trip through some of Spain’s famous White Villages (picturesque small hill towns with whitewashed buildings – thus the name). Wendy said that she had wanted to visit Ronda for a long time

Hmmm. What would we miss if we bypassed Ronda? So, after some research we decided we too wanted to see Ronda and arranged to meet our friends there.

Look At That! 

The primary reason people visit Ronda is its location. The town is perched on top of a plateau and straddles a breathtaking gorge.

Ronda Perched Atop

The "New" Bridge - Completed 1793

We stayed in the Hotel Don Miguel just across the New Bridge from the Moorish town. We had a nice view from our room.

A Room With A View -
The "New" Bridge To The Left

And spectacular views from the hotel’s breakfast room.

Coffee With An Even Better View

During the day Ronda is jammed with day trippers on bus tours of the White Villages, but by night the town hosts a much smaller number of “resident tourists”. Wandering through the Moorish town is pleasant in the evening and the restaurants are busy but reservations are not difficult to arrange.

Hanging With Bikers: 

Wendy and Larry offered up the White Villages expertise they had acquired during their bicycle trip and we offered a rental vehicle with motor. A great deal for everyone. Hearing them say “Geez, look – we rode up that!” as we climbed the hills of Andalucía re-enforced our choice in mode of transportation. The scenery is gorgeous but riding a bicycle in those hills would be brutal!

The Gorgeous Scenery Part Of The Route

One destination was the ruins of a Roman theater (can’t pass up anything those Romans left behind). It is not a world class archaeological site but it was a nice outing.

Wendy, Bryce and Larry
Admiring The Romans' Handiwork

The Amphitheater

Travel Tip: Don’t panic if you run a little late returning to the front gate after touring the site and find the gate has been locked. It doesn’t mean you are doomed to spend the night camped on the hillside with the sheep and Roman ghosts. The gate keeper is just out sweeping up the last few stragglers. And you can climb the fence. We did. 

We shared a couple of excellent dinners with Wendy and Larry thanks to advice from their hotel’s concierge. And one evening we attended a performance at the House of Guitars where we heard one set on a classical guitar and another on a flamenco guitar. The guitarist, Paco Seco, explained the differences in the instruments and musical styles. It was a very pleasant and interesting evening.

Bull Fighting:

After Wendy and Larry departed for The States we toured Ronda’s famous bull ring and bull fighting museum.

We learned (as everyone who visits Ronda learns) that it is the home of “modern bull-fighting” (early 1700’s). Before Francisco Romero established the “Rules of Ronda”,  bull fighting was either:

(a) peasant bull fighting during which random men would jump into a ring and run around alternatively antagonizing and then running from a bull (sounds like alcohol must have been involved, no?); or

(b) aristocratic bull fighting during which knights on horseback would enter a ring and fight a bull as a military training exercise.

The Rules of Ronda established the hybrid bull fight that is still popular today.

The bull fighting museum (located underneath the stands in the bull ring) has interesting exhibits but is hampered by the most confusing audio guide we have encountered in a very long time (and, based on the number of other confused looking people wandering around we don’t think we are alone in this assessment). This may be a good place to take an English language tour.

Cueva de la Pileta:

The highlight of our time in Ronda was a visit to see the Paleolithic and Neolithic era paintings in the Cave of the Pool outside the village of Benaoján. This ancient art is truly breathtaking. To protect the cave and the art visitors aren’t permitted to take pictures so the following are some pictures from the Internet:

At one point our guide prompted us to turn out our lanterns. We stood in the pitch-est dark we have ever experienced and the phrase “belly of the whale” came to mind. We were overwhelmed with respect for those ancients who traveled into that darkness guided only by torchlight to seek protection from predators and then left such striking images for us to see.

You have to want to see this cave to see it. Access is by guided tour and groups are limited to 25 people. Groups of at least 15 can pre-arrange a tour but independent travelers can only purchase tickets at the cave. No Internet orders; no phone reservations -- just show up and practice the virtue of patience. Even tickets don’t guarantee entry at a time specific; they seem to represent the right to join a tour when enough ticket holders are present and no pre-arranged tour has priority.    

Our first attempt to get tickets was made on a Sunday at about 11:30 a.m.. Bad plan. Lots of weekenders had the same plan and by the time we arrived all the day’s tickets had been sold.

On our second attempt we arrived on Monday morning just in time to purchase tickets (16 euros each) and join the 10 a.m. tour. It was a Spanish language tour but the guide pitched much of his talk to the children in the group so Molly could follow a lot of what was said. Bryce and a kind lady from Los Angeles translated the rest for her.

Note that in the slower tourist seasons one might purchase a ticket and have to wait for enough people to arrive to form a tour. Waiting is done on wooden benches. No snack bar. We’re also unclear on how often the English-speaking guides lead tours. All of this can be amusing if you have enough time to be amused. If not, it might be best to make arrangements through a tour company.

And then it was time to leave Ronda for Córdoba.


We stopped for lunch in the little village of Osuna because Molly has a friend in California whose last name is Osuna.

Yep, We Were There Hildelisa y Pedro!

Serendipity worked again. We had a just fine lunch and a short walk about town. Not much was open – and then we realized that the next day was the national holiday for All Saints.

We did see a couple of the charming metal benches Wendy had pointed out to Molly one day as being "all over" Andalucía. And once she pointed one out - we did see them everywhere! Lovely little ironwork benches - we wonder who got the contract for a region-wide distribution of park benches? 

The Bench of Andalucía

And that was our lunchtime in Osuna.

Basta! [English: Enough!]

Time to move on. Our next post: Córdoba and Granada.