The A7 Autopista (motorway) allowed us to give wide birth to Malagá, Marbella, Torremolinos, and Fuengirola, the go-to destinations for package holidays: not really our kind of thing, although the coast is lovely and the sunshine plentiful. We settled for the much more sedate and less developed town at Manilva, just a few miles down the coast, but a million miles away in terms of ambiance.
A day ride into the hinterland was a joy, the terrain is much greener here and there are herds of splendid russet coloured cows (all with horns that would make great handlebars) and their calves grazing in flower strewn meadows; very pastoral. After several miles uphill we happened on Casares, another of the whitewashed, hilltop villages, for which the region is known. The views of the surrounding countryside and over the coast are superb, but the 1 in 3 cobbled streets did make us spare a thought for elderly and pram-pushing residents. Supper in a small restaurant right on the undeveloped and deserted golden beach right next to the camp-site rounded off the day rather splendidly.
Yesterday we returned to Britain, well its Gibraltar outpost. It was fortuitous we parked Gloria, the camper van (ask Gavin) and cycled across the border. It is reported as the 5th most densely populated area on earth and clearly everyone has a car or moped, it was mayhem. Interestingly, the only road on and off the rock goes straight across the runway of Gibraltar Airport. Super-large railway crossing style barriers and flashing lights are employed when a plane is due to land or depart. We happened back just as the barriers had been lifted, it was pandemonium!
It was quite odd to push our bikes down the main street past Marks and Spencer’s, Next, British Home Stores, English pubs, many referencing Lord Nelson or Trafalgar and old fashioned red telephone and post boxes. We followed the hordes and took the cable car to the top of the isthmus, to be greeted by the famous Barbary apes. Fortunately they were just as happy to look at us as we were them, so tales of bag snatching and bites were unfounded in our case. The long and steep walk down resulted in some very sore leg muscles the following morning. The 7 mile circumnavigation of the rock, yes it is that small, just 2.6 square miles, allowed us to stop off at the southernmost tip, Europa Point where the towering hills of Morocco loom, just eight miles across the sea. It is not hard to see why Gibraltar has been of such strategic importance over the years, being the gatekeeper to the Mediterranean.
Our final few days on the coast before heading north are along Spain’s, relatively short, Atlantic coast, where surfers and kite borders delight in the rolling waves which crash on the beaches, in complete contrast to the gentle lapping on Mediterranean shores. The terrain is much greener and gentle here with more herds of red and black cattle, beautiful horses and farmed lands. Just along the coast from our wonderfully rural and well-appointed camp-site is the Trafalgar Lighthouse which stands close to the site of Admiral Nelson’s naval victory in 1805.