Algeciras bay is seriously built up these days with a massive petroleum complex right in the middle of the crescent. This is a bone of contention in the area as it is alleged the spillage of petroleum is affecting the marine life, which of course includes the dolphins that have fun in the waves across the straits.
Getting out of Gibraltar is a bit of a hassle, and there is a long tailback of vehicles. There is a fierce customs routine at this border as taxes are low in Gib, and there is a constant stream of Spaniards going into Gib to take advantage of the cheap prices of petrol and cigarettes, and so on. You can exit with only one packet of cigarettes and one box of tobacco. Anything over that limit and you get a hefty bill.
Let’s assume you make it unscathed, so it’s away into the industrial complex, down the motorway, and then take a right up into the hills. There’s a nice country road going up to the village of Almoraima. The valley is pleasant with a meandering river, a railway line, the nice new road, and relative peace and quiet after the bustle of the bay. Just before the village is a roundabout, and just before that, on the left, is a secluded hostelry serving excellent tapas, full meals and excellent wine. It’s just the place for a very pleasant lunch break.
Just to the north is a large reservoir which, depending on the rain, reaches right up to the main road. On the right as you go north are a couple of cortijos, or large country estates, with a few bulls which are bred for the corrida.
Further north we come into the area famous for its white towns. It seems as tho every hill which boasts a steep escarpment sports a white crown of houses, and remnants of a castle. And more often than not the town names include ‘de la frontera’, showing how much the line between Muslims and Christians changed backwards and forwards in the middle ages. Some of these towns changed hands half a dozen times over a period of 150 years.
The river sweeps round to the left of the town, we head round to the right, and back up towards Ubrique and El Bosque. They are charming little towns, with the locals sitting at tables under the trees with a coffee or a vaso de vino.
We are now quite high, and there are more reservoirs, the occasional monastery, and more cortijos. This isn’t just bull country, it is also one of the main grain producing regions of Spain, and a premier cattle-rearing area.
The town of Utrera is clustered around the 14th century castle, which overlooks the surrounding valleys, with distant views of some of the big peaks the other side of Ronda.
Once again I seem to hit the town at the wrong time. The time to visit is during the Potaje Gitano on the last saturday in June. Gypsy Stew? Oh well, it makes a change from calling a festival after some long departed saint. It is a festival of song, and was established by the local gypsies in 1957.
Have a look at this page on the web (http://www.potajegitano.com/videos.html), and click on the entries to the left of the page for video selections. Farruquito is pretty hot; a splendid vocal, and a fun bit of stamping and clapping. Hmmm, I think I need to get down there for the festival. I’ve been missing out on a few things.
If there are any of you out there who want to take this a bit further have a look at this page, (http://www.hermandadgitanosdeutrera.com/) which is dedicated to The Brotherhood of the Gypsies of Utrera. You can even keep up to date by following their blog (links on the site). I may well try and go down there for easter, it seems just the place to be.