Day 9: Andalucian hill climb

Soutpiel Safari
John & Jenny
Sun 14 Nov 2010 08:21
Day 9: Saturday 13 November 2010. Castellar de la Frontera. N36 18.943  W005 27.581. Distance driven 242 km.
We drove to La Ronda with it's old city perched on a mountain top and explored the old town with it's charming alleyways and decorated entrances. We fell into the tourist trap by selecting a lunch spot for it's prominent position with terraces in the sun and suffered from poor service and indifferent food.
Leaving La Ronda we continued along a mountain ridge road in the direction of Algeciras, a road with almost no traffic, stunning views and frequent stopping places - miradors - that had been absent on the N roads so far. Thinking that it would continue to be cold at night, in spite of the very hot daytime sun, we started looking for a pension or small country hotel, but with no success.  One place in a fabulous position was closed "for the holidays" and a hostal we looked at was very basic and over-priced. We then found the Castellar Hotel, a huge new building with an empty car park except for a lone Ferrari. With a room rate of 167 Euros, no wonder it was empty; perhaps the Ferrari belonged to the owner.
On leaving new Castellar we saw a sign to the Hotel Alcazar and started to follow it up a mountain road.  I suppose I should have realised that as all Castles are perched on impossible mountain tops in the part of the world, the Alcazar would be high up.  We soon encountered a procession of traffic coming down, followed by police cars, police motorcycles and then, about 50 Rally Cars, all being driven down at high speed against our over-laden Land Rover struggling up the narrow ascent.  It went on and on and the views in the evening sun became even more spectacular.  Right at the top, overlooking a huge lake 500 m below, was the Alcazar encircled by massive stone walls and cobbled walkways.  Unfortunately, it was full! We then found that we were in the middle of some Spanish motor rallying or hill-climb event which was due to continue on Sunday.  On the way up we had noticed a rough grass pull-off where a few tents had been pitched so we went down to join them and put up our tent just as it became dark.  Jenny soon had a curry cooking and we had dinner in moonlight overlooking the lake.  A group of friendly Spaniards informed us that we were in the middle of a major event and that the road up would be closed at 0830 -  we decided to stay and enjoy the atmosphere of Spanish petrol heads at play, especially on a day when Fernando Alonso would be trying to clinch his position for his third World Championship in Abu Dhabi.