Sivu 53

Ronda's feted bullring, favourite of Hemingway and Welles. Pomp and circumstance during a Holy Week procession. Just south of Pizarra is Cártama, a busy working town with a massive Sunday market, offering everything from olives and fruit to clothing ­ even a hurdy-gurdy man. By now, though, you are leaving the Valle del Sol and feeling the influence of the city and the coast, just 20 kilometers away. NORTH TO ANTEQUERA More scenic is the winding route north from Álora, which brings you to Valle de Abdalajis. Named after its founder, Abd-el-Aziz, this perched village has long been a stopping-off point on the route between Antequera and Málaga, and rich in olives and grains. Now farming is being replaced by tourism ­ and just in time, as the village has been suffering a severe water shortage. In 2005, the local aquifer was destroyed by drilling for Spain's longest train tunnel, built for the high-speed Cordoba-Málaga line that opened last December. While waiting for the water source to be repaired, the town had to rely on trucked-in water and emergency wells. Meanwhile much of the water from the nearby Guadalhorce watershed is diverted to supply the thirsty, over-developed coast. Water consumption in Málaga province leapt by 25 per cent in the first half of this decade, as the population shot up by nearly 200,000 ­ most of them foreigners demanding pools, lawns and golf courses. Foreigners have discovered Abdalajis, too, making it one of Europe's most popular hang-gliding centres, with a wide choice of take-off points and breathtaking panoramic views. From here, the swooping hairpin road leads to Antequera: a compact city packed with an impossible number of church spires and castle turrets. Its mind-boggling concentration of antiquity includes some 30 churches, most notably the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen, with its huge, over-the-top Baroque altarpiece. There are also Roman baths, a large Muslim castle and two nearby Bronze Age burial chambers, the biggest of their kind in Europe. With the new high-speed rail to Cordoba and Málaga, Antequera is bustling with development, including a new golf course and lots of restaurants. Driving and parking in its narrow, crowded streets is a major hassle. Yet this conservative, elegant city still closes down completely every afternoon for siesta. In the teeth of development, the old ways live on. Further information Ardales Cave +34 952 458 046 Mijas Bullring Paseo de Las Murallas +34 952 48 52 48 Mondragón Palace Plaza Mondragón, Ronda +34 952 87 84 50 Sierra de las Nieves Hotel Calle Real, 26, El Burgo +34 952 160 117 Venta Los Conejitos Restaurant Álora-Carratraca road +34 952 496 942 Casa Rural Domingo Arroyo Cansino 4A, Álora +34 952 119 744 Valle de Abdalajis Hang-Gliding Club +34 952 489 298 Antequera Tourism +34 952 70 25 05 Amazingly, most of inland Andalucía's official town, province and tourist office websites are still only available in Spanish. However, good information is available in English at: Finnair flies nonstop to Barcelona daily and operates charter flights to Málaga. OCTOBER 2008 BLUE WINGS 53

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