AKA Abraham Bacoln

Ronda with no H
July 22, 2007, 6:53 pm
Filed under: Spain

Stop me if you’ve heard this one – I really should be going to bed, or doing homework, or anything other than writing on my site. However, because of my extreme dedication to the cause of Bringing You Pointless Information I’m doing exactly what I shouldn’t.

I’ve been having a lot of fun here in Málaga but I don’t go much of anywhere. I mean, I can’t go anywhere during the week, I have classes. I spent my first weekend here jetlagged all to hell. I spent a couple weekends trying to get out to Granddad’s house. I went to Nerja one weekend. But really, for the most part, I stay here in Málaga. There’s always something to do here.

Well, I realized my final weekend was coming up and I needed to choose between going to Ronda or going to Granada. I know that technically I could have done both since there are two days in a weekend, but Yuri left on Saturday which meant that we had to celebrate on Friday, and while I didn’t do anything that would have left me with a hangover I did stay out WAY too late, and therefore getting up at the crack of dawn would have been a bad idea if not simply impossible.

So … Granada versus Ronda. The Alhambra versus a quaint city. I was really not sure until various people with whom I spoke said that A.) there ain’t much else in Granada other than the Alhambra, and B.) I’d probably have to buy tickets in advance ’cause this is tourist seasons, blah blah blah. The thought of a bunch of arrogant Brits wandering around and getting into all my shots annoyed me, so I chose Ronda.

The bus ride out there was expensive and I couldn’t even buy a round trip ticket. Aside: I love the Spanish for round trip: ida y vuelta, or going and coming. So on the way out there we traveled west/south across the Costa del Sol until we hit Marbella. I now really understand why they’ve taken to calling it the Costa del Concrete. It was almost impossible to tell when we crossed from Torremolinos to Benalmádena to Marbella – it’s all nothing but gigantic apartment and hotel buildings and a bunch of golf courses. I know that Spain needs the money, or thinks it does, and that golf is an attraction. I just wonder if anyone remembers that A.) there’s a water shortage here and B.) the coast is pretty much a DESERT. If you add the two of those up then … yeah. You get it.

So after we left the vibrant party town (or so I hear) of Marbella we headed north up into the mountains. At this point I was falling asleep but fortunately the bus kept me from achieving my goal. You know how it is when you’re falling asleep in the car and your neck starts to relax? The bus had my head whipping from side-to-side faster than … oh, hell, I don’t know, insert some sort of political or au pair joke here. I’m gonna let you write that one.

After an hour or so of roads that eventually got a little bit sketchy in the sense of fast bus, tight curves, and big dropoffs we arrived at Ronda. Thus began my comedy of stupid! Or errors. No, stupid. Comedy of stupid!

There were two things I really wanted to do in Ronda. Wait, no, three. One, I wanted to see the Puente Nuevo – “the new bridge”. It’s a stone bridge finished in 1793, therefore “new”, ha ha. Secondly, I wanted to see the plaza de toros as it’s the oldest bullring still in use in all of Spain, plus there’s a good museum. Finally, I wanted to be able to get home.

I checked a map inside the bus stop. Looked pretty easy to find the plaza de toros. Just head south ’till I reach the church, a few blocks east to the plaza, and that’s it. A few blocks further east and I’d be at the bridge, and man! That was easy.

So I went up to the ticket counter and took care of the last thing first – got myself a return ticket. Then I asked the guy, “Which way is north?” Because, you know, that’s important to know when you’re trying to navigate by a map. He showed me and off I went. I walked south for several blocks and didn’t see the church. I just figured that maybe the map on the wall in the bus station didn’t list the smaller streets, so that’s why I thought it was three blocks but instead it was more like six. And did I mention the map was fixed on the wall? I couldn’t really take it with me, so I was working by memory.

But I found the church! No problem! Now just a few more blocks east, maybe another six or eight since the map said four, and one or two blocks south, and I’d be at the plaza. Or so I thought. I coudn’t find that damn thing to save my life. I was starting to get frustrated when I realized suddenly that I wasn’t wearing my bracelet.

I flashed back to when I was riding the bus and took it off to look at the tan line it has left on my wrist. I must have fallen asleep immediately afterwards and dropped the bracelet. CRAP. I turned around and went back to the bus station where I managed to remember, correctly and in the right order, the words for hello, bracelet, bus, forgot, please, search, found it, there, here, thank you, good bye. That was satisfying. Bracelet found!

While I had been out walking around I realized two things: one is that I was starving hungry, and the other is that this town, Ronda, takes its siesta very seriously. Most places close up the usual shops but coffee shops and restaurants and bars stay open. Not in Ronda. While I’d been searching for the bullring I’d been surrounded by the sound of protective barriers sliding down and keys in locks. By the time I made it back to the bus station and recovered my bracelet I was rather literally alone on the streets.

I did manage to find a cafe next to the bus stop which was open and that was a bad sign because you know anyone that caters to the bus traffic crowd isn’t concerned with awesome cuisine. Still, I didn’t feel I had a choice so I ate there and didn’t die, and that’s something.

After my food, while the very air itself left the streets of Ronda and I was the only thing in existence out walking around, I went back over to the bus station to check the map. As luck would have it there was an even BIGGER map outside. It must have been missing the same small streets because it as well told me that the church was only three blocks away. Undaunted I headed in that direction.

Church – check. Plaza de toros – nope. Well hell. It must be a secret. I decided to head towards the bridge instead and just find the bullring on my way back.

I walked and walked and walked some more, and eventually looked around to find myself at the edge of town in a rather flat place, not the kind of area in which I’d expect to find a dramatic gorge and ancient bridge. Measuring now it appears I walked a good mile and a half. Obviously I was in the wrong place. On the way back to a known-good starting point (the area around the bus station) I took a different path, looking again for the plaza. It was not to be found. Nor was anyone else to be found, anyone that could help me.

Finally I went all the way back to the bus station, to the map, with a list of recently-crossed streets in mind to figure out just what the hell was going on.

I’ll tell you what was going on.

That bastard had pointed west.

The city isn’t perfectly north-south oriented and the sun was almost directly overhead so I never could tell by the shadows if I was walking north or west. I had been walking in all sorts of wrong directions.

After a long silent scream I turned and walked in about one minute to a DIFFERENT church, and then immediately found the plaza de toros, and the bridge, and all that I wanted. By then of course my time was a bit shorter, and I was hot, and frustrated, but still, I came away with all the pictures and experience I’d desired.

But still.

I could have killed that man.

Oh, and once I got home I realized I could kill the mapmakers as well, because both the map inside and the map outside were oriented the same way – with northwest directly upwards. You know, exactly unlike every other map where north == up? To give my horrible man some credit – if you want to be exact he pointed pretty much NW, which wasn’t too far off from true west the way the maps were turned, but not too far off from real life either. REGARDLESS, it was still wrong.

It gets better, by the way. I got back to the bus station and with ticket in hand I stood in front of the bus parked where my last bus had been parked. The bus run by the same company as the last bus I took. The bus that was the same model as the last bus. The bus that sad Málaga (my desired destination) on the front.

I was the next-to-last one to board, as I don’t like shoving my way through a crowd of smoking Spaniards, and the guy looks at my ticket and says, “Wrong bus.” “The hell do you mean, wrong bus?!” I didn’t say, instead asking politely. He says, “You want seven.” So I walk over to seven where there’s a bus from the same company, same model, with the word Málaga on the front … I’m glad they made it obvious. The instant he tore my ticket he put it in reverse and we got out of there. I am glad I wasn’t 10 seconds later.

Ooops, forgot to mention the wonderful British lady that I saw in the bus terminal. Like I said, I got off the bus, found a map, figured out where I needed to go, and then went to buy my return ticket and ask for cardinal direction, ha ha. When I got to the ticket counter there was this … man, I can’t figure out a nice way to describe her. We’ll just say repulsive. There was this loud repulsive lady at the counter. She said, very clearly, “Can you tell me where the bridge is?” meaning the Puente Nuevo, of course. I couldn’t hear what the man said, but she said, “The bridge. The famous bridge. Where is the bridge?” This of course continued, with volume increasing, because as we all know if someone doesn’t speak your language you can solve it by being louder.

She finally turned to me and said, “Do you know where the bridge is?” Now technically I knew that it was a certain direction. I did not yet however know which way was north, so I couldn’t really tell her. While I pondered this for about half a second with a confused look on my face she said, “OH nevermind you don’t speak English either” and I felt the strangest wave of relief. Yes, that’s right! I’m not like you! I don’t understand the words that are coming out of your mouth! She then bellered to her husband, “THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT I’M ASKING” and wandered off to the snack bar.

That’s right, lady, in a foreign country you’d damn well better expect everyone to understand your language!

Anyway, enough of my grousing. My experience in Ronda wasn’t tainted by that she-hag, I was merely amused. Glad to see that stereotypes about us English speakers are worth hanging on to.

Oh so here’s the best part of my day! I am going to complain about this. When I returned home to Málaga I knew I’d have to walk about 3/4 mile to reach the nearest stop for my bus. When I got there I found the police barricading off the street and I didn’t know why. “Fine, fine,” I said to myself, “I will keep walking the bus route until I get past all of this and find a stop where a bus is likely to appear.”

I think you know where this story is going already. After having wandered the streets of Ronda for hours in the hot miserable sun I was set off on another walking adventure. I realized I was in trouble when I got a few blocks further in and there was a procession of some Catholic kind. Now I’m not Catholic, so I had no idea what anything I was seeing signified. Also, they don’t even have signs in Spanish for what’s going on, much less signs in English that say, “Okay, silly foreigner, this guy in the front is blah blah blah.” I debated asking someone, but I was too tired and grumpy for conversation, and most likely they’d say, “It’s the Festival of Saint Something … DUH” and I needed that like I needed a hole in my head.


I walked my bus route. And I walked my bus route. All the traffic inbound was at a standstill. There were no cars in the outbound lanes – in the lanes where I needed a bus to magically appear. I made a wager with myself, and I won – the first bus I would see would be at the stop where I would normally get off.

Sure enough, 3.5 miles later I saw the first bus of the afternoon. It passed me about 100 yards from the stop where I get off. It was a nice walk, though. Kind of.

Best part of the walk: a bright shiny little red car drove by filled with raven-haired ladies who whistled at me. That was nice.

So now I’m home. And tired. But I had a great day, and got tons of exercise, walking-wise, and now I’m gonna go sleep like a rock. Final note: I am too lazy today to go link the appropriate pictures to the appropriate parts of the post here, so you can just go find all my pictures of Ronda and dig through them however you want.

3 Comments so far
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this was a great story!

Comment by Kyla

You had me at “That bastard had pointed west.” I died laughing. With you, not at you…

Comment by Mel

Perhaps you confused norte with oeste when you asked him. I doubt it. Another logical explanation is that he is working in a bus station because he doesn’t know west from north. At least he is not a driver, think how bad that could be.

Comment by DadO

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