Motorcycle Spain & Portugal – sunshine & warm roads. Part 6.
I made a route that took initially took me east, heading for Aroche, Aracena, Carmon and then down to Moron de la Frontera. I was keen to avoid Seville. Last time I was heading this way I had mistakenly found myself in Seville in temperatures of around 40c which was a little uncomfortable when contending with slow moving traffic. I was keen to avoid repeating that mistake.
My destination was the unique caved town of Setenil or to give it its full name, Setenil de las Bodegas. Setenil is in Andalusia in the Province of Cadiz.
Once again the weather was excellent for being out on bike.
Temperatures were pretty similar to the previous day ranging from about 17c in the morning to 29c in the late afternoon. Some of the roads I was on in the morning lacked interest, as they cut straight lines across the plains of Andalusia close to the Sierra Morena mountain range.
If the morning lacked a little interest the afternoon more than made up for it. I travelled on some pretty amazing roads in the afternoon. At times in the latter stages of the afternoon was heart in mouth exciting, with perilously big drop offs and no safety barriers. At times these roads needed more than a little caution with the throttle.
Picture gallery from the ride south to Setenil
The remarkable and unusual town of Sentinel
Clicking any image will open a picture gallery that can be clicked or scrolled through
My decision to stay in Setenil was another decision that wasn’t at all a random one.
I had read about this town in southern Spain some time ago. The pictures I had seen of its remarkable caved houses and shops made it seem like an interesting and worthwhile place to visit. And with my interest piqued I had to go that way and so booked a place that would allow me to visit this town of white washed and caved dwellings.
I stayed at the Hotel El Alimental just a 20 minute walk from the centre of Sentinel. Another hotel that I would recommend and be happy to stay at again if I was in the area.
It was a lovely place with very good facilities, nice room, bar, restaurant etc. Staying there for a couple of nights also gave me the opportunity to get a few items washed and dried – which is always a bonus when travelling light.
Accomodation picture gallery
Clicking any image to open a picture gallery that can be clicked or scrolled through
The towns full name is Setenil de las Bodegas. It’s not a big town, it has a population of around 3,000 or so but it is unique. Although I’d say you don’t need to spend a great deal of time there I think it’s well worth seeing. It’s a popular tourist location though and there are many folk that arrives on tour caches as a stop off en route to somewhere else or as a day trippers from the coastal holliday locations on the Costa del Sol.
In addition to the whitewashed houses that are built into the cliffs, there’s a hilltop castle that was once an Arab fortress, so there’s enough to make it a worthwhile visit. It’s also only about eight miles or so from Ronda, which I guess would be a good place to visit – so plenty to see and do in the area if that’s your thing.
Back to school
And back to the thought of everyday being a school day.
The origin of the towns name is pretty interesting, although some internet research threw up some different origins of the name, the following seems credible to me and came up a few times.
The word ‘Setenil’ come from the Latin words septem nihil that means seven times no.
This refers back to seven failed attempts by Catholic rulers to take back the land and territory from the Moors.
It was on the seventh attempt that the Catholics were successful and that established Setenil as one of the last Muslim strongholds in Iberia.
The word ‘bodegas’ means warehouse (in Spanish), over a period of time the cool and stable environment (temperature wise) under the rock was used to store local produce in big rooms – it was this that led to the second name of the town being established.
I gather the town is also known for its wines and in the 15th century it was well known for its olive, almond and wine trade. As ever travelling light on a bike deosnt really lend itself to bringing home local produce, so the wine, olives and almonds will need to wait for another day.
Sentinel picture gallery
Click any image to open a picture gallery of the town od Setinel. The gallery can then be clicked or scrolled through
A stunning road – Ronda to Marbella
To be honest when I woke up on the Sunday morning I was a little undecided about whether or not to have a day off the bike. I thought I might have a walk into the caved town and have a pretty lazy type of day.
However whilst enjoying a decent breakfast I read about the road that runs through the Sierra Blanca Mountains from Ronda to Marbella Ronda was about eight miles from where I was and Marbella was only about 50 miles up the coast from Gibraltar.
I decided it was something of a no brainer to get out and ride the A397 – who knows when I might be down this way again.
The A397 is a superb road. It’s really really twisty, rises to about 3,800 feet and then down to see level as you reach Marbella.
The road is well surfaced, with good corners, tight bends, constant radius bends and packed with some superb views and I understand that on a good day Morroco can be seen from the high points
Thirty or so good miles
The A397 is about 30 or so miles long and doesn’t take a great deal of time to do.
The road really is a gem but the downside for me (and I did it both ways) was that it was a Sunday, which in turn meant it was relatively busy.
I think if I was down this way again, I would absolutely repeat the ride but I’d make sure I was in the area duirng the week and so make the ride on a weekday and perhaps first thing in the morning.
It’s worth checking out this link to more information on the A397.
Although it really is a brilliant road – the nature of it meant there was little opportunity to stop and take pictures, additionally it was a very ‘involving’ sort of ride and one to really concentrate on and enjoy at the expense of ‘picture stops’.
A couple of miles out of Marbella and on my way back towards Ronda, I was stopped by police for a ‘safety check’. A couple of other local bikers were stopped but they dealt with me last and separately.
It was pretty routine really – licence, insurance etc.
I didn’t have a Green Card and the officer insisted I should have one. Eventually he conceded that my papers were in order and said next time I was in Spain I should have a Green Card. He then asked, if I had ever been to Spain previously, and when I said I had we were back to square one when he told me ‘then I need your green card’
Fortunately at just about the same time a mobile home/camper van type thing approached making a right racket as the front offside tyre was flat and it sounded like it was being driven on the wheel rim. To say the Officer went mad would be making light of it as he and his colleague from the other patrol car pretty theatrically took control, shouting at the driver to get out and telling me to go – which of course I did.
Pictures from the A397
Click any image to open a picture gallery that can be clicked or scrolled through
Back at the hotel and back into the caved town
Freshly showered and changed after my trip to Marbella on the A397 I went into ‘full tourist mode’ and wandered around the pretty caved town of Setinel before returning to my hotel and finsihing the day with a drink and a bite to eat on the terrace.
Another Setinel picture gallery
Even more pictures of the fascinating caved town in the picture set below. Click any image to expand and scroll through them.
Click here to go to Part 7 the final part as I start to head north with overnight stays in Guadix, Cuenca and Fromista