Two At Large in Spain 2006-7

January 4th

Huelva, Punta Umbria, sand, and getting out of Ronda!

Our first port of call was the winter-quiet resort town of Punta Umbria. Facing onto the Atlantic, Punta Umbria began as a dozen wooden chalet-bungalows built by the Rio Tinto mining company at the end of the C19th for its staff to escape the foul air produced by the smelters up at Minas de Riotinto. The town has recently built a replica chalet (none of the original buildings survive) in which is housed a museum — Casa Museo de los Ingleses. It was a peculiar feeling to experience a museum (in which all the information and labels were in Spanish) about us, the English! Worth a visit, and a good place to practice your Spanish comprehension!

Then we began the long drive back to Cómpeta. In doing so we discovered a location to which we want to return next time we come to Spain. Immediately south of Huelva, beyond a rather industrial agricultural environment, is a coastline edged by sandy beaches and dunes, with a series of campsites. It looks a great place to camp and cycle. It leads to a large nature reserve, Parque Nacional de Doñana.

Turning away inland, we came across the strange village of El Rocío, with its empty, sandy streets and elegant buildings, all waiting patiemtly for the once-a-year romería that fills this almost ghost town with hundreds of thousands of jostling pilgrims, horses and decorated ox carts.

Back then through the fringes of Seville, and on down the A376 to Ronda, where darkness fell. We ate, and then tried to get out of town. But none of the road signs read Marbella, or even San Pedro. They either read Seville, which is where we'd come from, or Algeciras, which wasn't, we thought, on our way home! In the end, short of temper, we decided to risk driving that way anyway, and of course found that the road number had changed and that we were going, thankfully, in the right direction. It was a long drive through the mountains in the dark, and a boring one along the freeways back to Malaga. We arrived back in Cómpeta exhausted.