Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Semana Santa Trip Part 4: Zahara de la Sierra and Seteníl de las Bodegas

Zahara de la Sierra
     Ah, it's been a while since my last post. I was very busy in Madrid the last few months I was there. That's okay, let's pick up where I left off. I was traveling aroung Andalucía with Camille, and we had just traversed part of the Sierra de Grazalema. We visited the pueblo of Grazalema and, as the day was coming to an end, we decided to try to get to our next destination. It was about 17km away, and we started walking in hopes of getting a ride there. The only problem was, there was one road that went to our next destination, Zahara de la Sierra, and no other stops along the way. So unless we caught someone going to that pueblo of 1,500 people, we were out of luck. We walked to the crossroads that led to Zahara and waited. As it turned out, we were in luck. A family drove by—at first they said sorry, they couldn't take us, because their car was pretty full with two children in the back. But a minute later they turned around, no doubt feeling bad that we would be stranded there all night, and gave us a lift. It sure was good that we didn't have to walk, because most of the ride consisted of hairpin turns while ascending a mountain. Then there was a steep descent into the valley below. We arrived in Zahara at sunset, took a walk around and got a bite to eat.

Sunset in Zahara de la Sierra
Fried Eggplant with José Ximénez vinegar

     The next morning we explored the town. As you can see from the first picture, the town is perched on a hill. At the top of the hill is a castle contructed from the 13th to 15th centuries. It overlooks the entire valley in which Zahara de la Sierra is situated. 

A look at the reservoir from Zahara's castle
The tower of Zahara's castle and the olive groves surrounding. 

Zahara at a distance 
     Needless to say, the views were impressive and it was definitely worth a stop. I envisioned myself staying there for weeks, saturating myself with Andalusian country life. But I hadn't brought my guitar, so that was out of the question! We had places to be, and didn't know exactly how to get to them. Later in the day, we waited for a bus that we thought would take us to our next destination. It didn't. We got dropped off 7km down the road in another pueblo, Algodonales. The bus driver said another bus would come in a couple hours so we had lunch and waited. Eventually, that bus did come and we experienced a beautiful bus ride through the Sierra de Grazalema, passing white-washed pueblos and castles older than the discovery of America. I know it's a bit cliché, a bit romantic, but after a year and a half in Spain I still had not gotten over its beauty. 
     We arrived in Alcalá del Valle, a small pueblo outside of the park. We went there because a guide book said there was a great walking path that connected Alcalá and the town of Seteniíl de las Bodegas. There was supposed to be an old windmill and everything. It turned out to be a disappointment—that path is not worth walking. But we decided to camp for the night and set up in an olive grove a few kilometers outside of Seteníl. In the morning we walked into town. Seteniíl de las Bodegas is famous for its houses that have been constructed under rock overhangings. 

The 'modern' section Seteníl de las Bodegas
Houses constructed into the rock in Seteníl de las Bodegas

     The area has been occupied continuously since at least the 12th century, when it was under Arab control. But considering nearby archaeological findings that indicate the region was populated with humans over 25,000 years ago, it would be a good bet to say that Seteníl has seen its share of prehistoric humans. The natural shelter the rock provides, coupled with the river below, would've made it a great place to spend some time back then. Since then, permanent dwellings have been built by the building of walls from the top of the rock overhang to the ground beneath. 

     It is a unique place and, though I couldn't see myself spending more than a day there, it's definitely worth seeing, and the food we had was tasty and inexpensive. It's not far from one of my favorite towns in Spain, the town we were to visit next—Ronda.