We arrived in Ronda the following evening, the campsite was next to a hotel so we spent an enjoyable evening eating tapas, drinking wine and watching England being thrashed by Uruguay in the World Cup. The owner of the hotel seemed very sympathetic and brought us a complimentary liqueur when the match was over. The bar was pretty full, including three Guardia Civil.
During the next two days we did a circular drive into the Sierra Ubrique, stopping at a campsite at Benamahoma in Grazalema National Park. We visited the Pileta Cave, a series of underground caverns and lakes discovered in the early 1900s by a local farmer and found to have been inhabited thousands of years ago. There were prehistoric paintings on the walls, some judged to be 22,000 years old. The caves had not been “modernised”; we were given electric lamps and followed a damp path using the steps cut in the rock by the farmer and holding onto clammy, rusty handrails. Bats lived overhead. We walked slowly through narrow passages from cavern to cavern, admiring the lofty roofs, the clear lake water, the huge stalactites that grow from the roof – 1cm every hundred years. At the end of the tour we had to turn round and retrace our steps back to the narrow entrance. We had been underground almost two hours, it was good to be out in the sunshine again.
We visited the town of Grazalema which was the centre for leather work and blanket weaving. It was Saturday afternoon and all the cafés were open but the shops were closed. The following morning -Sunday – we visited Zahara when they were celebrating the feast of Corpus Christi. The narrow streets and squares were lined with foliage and flowers, with thick layers of fresh reeds on the ground, creating a fragrant green carpet. The streets were crowded with folk in their Sunday best, mingling with the tourists. There was a service in progress in the church, the interior was hot and humid and packed with worshippers who appeared oblivious to tourists crowding in on them and taking flashy photos of their beautiful altar and chancel.