Back again, the sixth long trip to Sevilla
After six months back
in Norway where we bought a new house and earned our living, we finally
returned for another four weeks on Rocinante. Yes, we did buy a house
which was just the opposite of what we wanted to do last year. Life changes
and we longed for a place to call our own where you don't have to worry
too much about neighbours. We haven't regretted it so far. But now we
were back in Spain and the travelling feeling crept into us again.
Meeting Bente in Nerja
I came to Spain from Nigeria where I had pent the last
five weeks working and arrived on Saturday morning after 24 hours of travel
on boats, plains and motorcycle. Bente arrived the day before and had
arranged a room in hostal Miguel in the center of town. In Antonio
Luis Motor the staff was waiting for me with the bike prepared and ready
to go. I had tried in vain to arrange for new licence plates as the old
ones only lasted six months, but after several weeks of telephone calls
I was given a temporary driving permit. I mounted Rocinante and headed
straight for Nerja and Bente.
We spent the next hours catching up on each others lives.
Both of us had a nice feeling being back and in the evening we went for
a drink or four in the Tutti Frutti area, where most of the towns nightlife
is found. We had our favourite salsa de champinones at the Meson La Bodega,
said hello to Isabel and Antonio at La Cabaña and then went from
bar to bar for a few hours, getting drunk and happy.
On Sunday we made a short test ride on Rocinante up in the
now so familiar hills around Frigilliana and Torrox. Antonio and Nieves
greeted us in their little tapas bar in Torrox. We stayed a couple of
tapas and returned to Nerja.
Towards Jerez through the sierras
On Tuesday morning we packed our gear in the topbox, soft
saddlebags and tankbag and left for Malaga to pick up the temporary permit.
Permit in hand we left the city going south-west along the ugly towns
of Torremolinos and Fuengirola and then turned inland.
October, November and December had been three fantastic months in Spain.
Then we came and brought with us rain and cold. We were back on the road
again, and the farmers of Andalusia praised their creator. This time,
however, we were prepared. We brought with us warm underwear and proper
winter motorcycle clothes. It meant that we could keep it going in temperatures
just above the freezing point without killing ourselves.
We turned inland towards Mijas, one of the tourist converted
villages of Andalusia and drove through some nice scenery before we turned
southwards again through Coin and stopped for a coffee in the village
of Monda. The only clientel in the small bar was an expatriated woman
in her forties who was watching a wildlife programme on the telly. We
sat down and chatted with the owner and in between lines he turned up
the volume on the stereo, which was on together with the telly. He probably
thought that relative young people like our selves liked the up beat modern
pop that was on. This, however, meant that we had to raise our voices
which, together with the music drowned the sound from the TV-programme.
The expatriate gave the owner a hint, he turned and gave her an understanding
smile - and turned up the television volume as well. Now it was
impossible to speak or to seperate the different sounds, but it did not
stop the owner from continuing his conversation with us. We smiled and
pretended to understand.
A short drive later we found our selves in Puerto Banus - famous for it's
multi milionare collection of yacths. The harbour was arranged with the
30-40m yacths at one end then stepping downwards with smaller and smaller
yacths towards the other end. The dinner was consumed at a small pasta
restaurant, watching people coming and going in their Rolls Royce or high
The road led us south-west again along the coast. After
dark we felt like leaving the main road which was overloaded with
traffic so we turned inland towards Casares for the night. The mountain
town is one of the famous Andalusian white villages - it's located on
a hilltop as so many others and have spectacular scenery. The village
returned the feelings we had had so many times before in similar surroundings.
Twenty odd elderly people - mainly men - were gathered in the main square.
They turned and faced us with curious looks when we parked the bike. Some
of them came over to take us and bike in closer view and commented that
we had to be crazy to be driving in this weather. We were wearing all
the gear we had to our disposition and probably looked like we were going
to the Himalayas. One of the men smiled and set of on his scooter in T-shirt
and low shoes. We wondered who was crazy?
There was only one place in town were we could get a room
with heating. The room was like an ice box inside and the heater only
helped a bit. That night we had a war of sheets which I must have lost
because just before sunrise I woke up naked, shaking from the cold, although
it was Bente that caught a cold from it. A hot shower helped a lot. The
room had a fantastic view over the hillside so I sat in front of the window
for a while before Bente woke up.
The owner of our residence for the night was the barman
in the groundfloor tapas bar. When we went to pay the room and return
the keys the bar was closed. So we stopped people in the plaza and asked
if they knew where the owner was living. I guess everone knows everyone
a small village and the first person we stopped knew the answer with a
little help from the lottery saleswoman nearby and we headed for the address.
Just then the owner came running. He had forgotten to tell us that the
bar was closed on Wednesdays and to arrange for a time to meet. We paid
him and went for breakfast on a roof terrace by the main plaza. The weather
had improved a lot and the sun was warm enough to eat outdoors - with
most of our clothes on.
We were back on the road and soon came into the village of Gaucin. On
the way we had to stop to reduce the layers of clothes as the sun rose
in the sky and temperatures with it. The day looked promising. In Gaucin
we got involved in a discussion about the newly introduced Euro currency.
The bar keeper insisted that all European currencies would be equalized
once the Euro was released as hard money, so that one pesetas equalled
one franc etc. This caused a lot of confusion and finally a bankier entered
to explain the matters. The voice level had by this stage gone through
the roof and we waved goodbye and left with a smile.
We had been in doubt which route to choose that day, but now the sun was
warm and we made up our minds to take the inland route towards Jerez de
la Frontera. The road led us through some astounding hills and valleys
and for a while time disappeared and we drove slowly and silently. A roadside
cafe served an excellent lunch and then it was back on Rocinante down
towards the flat land that surrounds Jerez. At a crossroad a sign said
'Carretera Cortada' meaning the road was closed at some point. It was
the road we wanted to take and since we had seen the same signs in other
crossroads without it stopping us, we headed for it. This time it was
true, though. After a while we came down to lake del Mimbra with a water
level that must have been two meters higher than when the road was constructed.
The road went straight into the lake. I stopped for a little while, thinking
of shooting a picture, when Bente pointed towards some angry looking bulls,
similar to those you see in a bullring, behind a very low fence, so we
We came across to a village called Algar on a temporary
dirtroad, then crossed our paths from the first long trip at Arcos de
La Frontera, still beatiful located on a cliff and in the evening we stopped
at one of the central squares of Jerez.
Jerez de la Frontera and sherry wine
Jerez de la Frontera is not located at the border. It's
just one of many towns that was at some stage in history and the name
just got stuck. Among the things that Jerez is famous for is the Sherry
wine (vino de Jerez in Spanish) and the racing circuit. I would have liked
to try both, but the latter must be booked in advance.
That night we visited a few bodegas to taste the different brands of Sherry.
There's hundreds of brands and several different variations of sweet and
dry. Of the four different swetnesses we tried both of us favoured the
'cream', which is semi-sweet. The next morning we headed for the center
and ended up on the fish marked. Bente was suddenly everywhere and I had
enough trying to follow. "Como se llama la pescada alli, y alla? - What's
the name of that fish, and that one?". Everyone she asked smiled and gave
her the name followed by explanations of what part was the best and volunteered
the name of several others. She has a way of making people happy to explain,
even though the marked was full of people trying to buy and we were not.
This was an excellent oppurtunity to see all the different species we
had eaten so often but never seen uncut. Every imaginable species was
on the desks ranging from the smallest sardine to 70-75kg swordfish and
it took two full circles around the place to satisfy Bente's curiosity.
In the afternoon we mounted Rocinante and left for a roundtrip
to Sanlúcar de Barameda and Puerto Santa María. Sanlúcar
is the most common startpoint for trips into parque Doñana, Europe's
most important bird reserve. The park was badly damaged last year from
a toxic spill of dimensions, but had recovered enough to pay it
a visit. We were not really in a bird-watching mood, and come to think
of it, we never have been. But it's one of those things you have to do
when you're in the area, so we headed for the tourist office for information.
The girl in the office informed us about the two daily trips and where
to book them. We went for the booking office after an excellent but pricey
lunch in one of the squares in town, but the office was closed. We looked
at eachother and agreed that there was probably a guided tour arranged
on the other side of the park as well, and we were going there in a few
days. So we left towards Puerto Santa María. On the road
along the coast we passed the biggest military compound I've seen, the
fence were running for 10-12 kilometers along the highway. Puerto Santa
María was a quick stop just to have been in the town where Columbus
supposedly set sail on one of his trips to the new world. We had an ice
on the main plaza before heading back to Jerez for the evening.
That night we tried to find the heart of Jere'z nightlife and ended up
in a small backstreet tapas bar. The directions for this place came from
Fran and Juan, who we met at another very popular water whole for the
young and restless in Jerez. We had asked them for directions for a good
bar and thirty minutes after we entered the bar they came in as well.
Fran was from Jerez and studied history while Juan lived in Sevilla and
worked in marketing. The following hours we drank quite a few whisky's
and discussed all kinds of topics. For a while Bente tried to explain
to Fran that Norway was not the ideal country that he believed it was,
while me and Juan discussed Spain's conquest of America. Then me and Fran
argued about his Norway impression, while Bente and Juan continued on
the conquest issue, and so on. Fran shared some of his history knowledge
with us and although I claimed to know when the battle of Trafalgar took
place, I surrendered when Bente pointed out to me that it was Fran's current
topic at university. We covered the usual issues as the northern European
drinking habits, the Norwegian bureocratic hysteria, the spanish lack
of efficiency, and so on. It was a night to remember and when we left
it was not because we were pissed or because it was late - we were exhausted
from concentrating on their fast spoken spanish for so long.
Last time we visited Sevilla was on the Long Trip 1, but
it was only a lunch stop and we had promised ourselves to return. This
time the city was the main target for the trip and we planned to stay
five-six days and see most of the center. Juan from the night before had
tipped us not to take the freeway or autovia directly from Jerez, because
the road had a bad design, causing fatal accidents every week. He claimed
the engineers who built it was drunk at the time of construction. So we
chose another and much longer trip, and first stop was the race circuit
of Jerez, just east of the city. The circuit is the center of Spain's
largest gathering of bikers each May. When I stopped the bike outside
the circuit, we could hear 250 cc's racing on the inside and I was eager
to get in to see what was going on. A sturdy guard refused me to enter
the arena on Rocinante, and although I wanted to play stupid and just
drive on, I followed his order and parked the bike on the outside. At
least we didn't have to pay and after a minute or two we were on a hilltop
watching three 250's training. I had never seen it live before - Norway
is not the center of motor sports - and I was amazed at the speed they
were travelling. We stayed for half an hour while I was trying to get
a good shot of one of them, and after wasting half a film we set off again.
In Morón de la Frontera we had a small lunch consisting
of very tasteful filetillos. The clientel was again mainly elderly people,
but for once it was a mix of men and women. We were soon introduced to
everyone and the leading lady, a handsome widow in her sixties where in
charge of the conversation. She and her followers displayed a raw
sense of humour and Bente was warned about leaving me in town. A lot of
single men had passed through here, she said, and never left.
"If you leave him behind, or he gives you an exuse to return to pick up
something he forgot, then he'll never leave here again", followed by raw
laughter from the rest of the bar. We had to explain who we were, where
we came from and where we were going. When we left, they all came out
of the bar to wave us goodbye. The widow blinked one eye, as if saying;
"I know you'll return".
We entered Sevilla in early afternoon and after doing
the usual errors in navigation we stopped at a tapas bar close to the
cathedral. Someone had recommended the Rough Guide to Andalusia to us
instead of Lonely Planet and we had been searching for it in every bookstore
so far with no luck. The Lonely Planet had dissapointed us somewhat last
year with inacurate information and often saying the opposite of what
we meant of places. I left the tapas bar in search for a tourist office
close by and a city map. Just around the corner a display of books outside
a bookshop revealed the Rough Guide, just like that. So I returned to
Bente with a big grin a couple of minutes after I left her. We sat down
with the hotel listings and called hotel Sierpes where we got a room for
five days, parking included. The hotel was difficult to find in the maze
of streets that make up the barrio Santa Cruz but we tried. We tried to
enter from the Centro area and suddenly an old man on a bike came up to
us and shouted
"Are you looking for a hotel?"
"No thanks, we have made our arrangements, thanks, bye!". I accelerated
and left him behind. Fifty meter down the street the traffic jammed and
he was with us again.
"But it's cheap and very close!"
"No thanks, as I said last time, bye!!". A little more movement and he
was on top of us again.
"It's very very cheap and very very close!!"
"Listen", Bente said with a smile, "We've told you we already have made
our reservation. We are on our way to the hotel just now."
"Which hotel??", he wanted to know.
"Hostal Sierpes", we said.
"But that's on the other side of town, you wan't get there this way, and
by the way, the hotel I'm talking about is very, very close, very, very
cheap and very, very good!"
"Why don't you rather tell us how to find hostal Sierpes?"
Surprisingly he smiled and said; "Ofcourse, turn left here, left again
twice and head straight on towards Plaza Nueva, then ask a taxi"
Now we thanked him and did as he said. He was right and soon we stopped
on Plaza Nueva and asked a taxi for directions. After five minutes of
explanations I said stop and asked Bente to ride with him while I followed.
It was a smart move and ten minutes later after I don't know how many
turns we were in front of the hostal, in a street too narrow for a bike
to pass a car.
The hostal was located no more than 150m from the Cathedral and we could
have walked over to it from the tapas bar where we booked the room. But
then we wouldn't have met the old man on the bike or seen that part of
town. That's why I sometimes like to drop the map and just see where we
end up, or pretend to read the map but really just drive randomly, or
yet again, it might all be an excuse for being a lousy navigator. We unpacked
the bags and rested in the room for a while. The room had heating and
hot water, so it was up to our standard. When we left for dinner
the receptionist gave us a map with the route back to the hotel drawn.
They were probably tired of getting telephonecalls from lost souls. Just
a short walk from the hotel we found our selves in the very street we
had lunched last time we where here.
Eating and getting diarrhoea
We had dinner that night at Casa Robles, an upmarket restaurant
close to the cathedral. As I told Bente; "You can't arrive in or leave
Sevilla without having a large cognac, and with the cognac comes an expensive
dinner!!" - the rules are made as we go along. The Muslo de Pato in chestnut
sauce that Bente had was the most tasteful dinner both of us had tasted
for a long as we remembered. Now it was cognac time and, following Spanish
customs, the cognac was half a bottle in each glass. After an hour or
so we walked just around the corner, smiling and laughing from the huge
cognac, to an Irish pub where I could have a Guinnes and Bente a Kilkenny.
Just next to us in the bar was two Norwegian girls who were studying travel
in Sevilla and we spent the rest of the night in their company, exchanging
Spain stories and experiences.
The next day we were slightly hangover, so we took life
easy with a visit to the cathedral and La Giralda, the Moorish tower in
the corner of the same building. The trip to the top of Giralda was worth
it because of the fantastic view over the city from the top. In the evening
we had a couple of beers and returned to our room early, Bente had a cold
and I had started to feel sick. Sunday morning I woke up at five o'clock
with and urge to visit the toilet - diarrhoea. Bente's cold had gotten
worse so the day was spend in bed, me running to and from the toilet and
Bente supplying food from time to time. I was sick of bananas on Monday.
On Monday morning we were slightly better both of us, and Bente went to
get us breakfast. During the day we walked around the whole city center,
visited Casa Pilatus - a famous private residence several hundred years
old and filled with Moorish tilings and carvings, much like the Alhambra.
We visited the Indian archives, where most saved documentation from the
conquests and the years that followed in the New World is kept. There's
not much to say about it since we weren't allowed to look at the actual
Sevilla's bullring is one of the most famous and beatiful
in the world. It's the ring where Bizet's Carmen got killed in front of.
We had the regular guided tour and saw paintings, clothes and swords of
famous toreros like Joselito, Belmonte and El Gallo(Joselito's elder brother),
all of them from the beginning of the century and thoroughly described
in Hemningway's 'Death in the afternoon'. It made me wonder whether he
made them famous or if they had been on display without his help.
Why we never saw a bullfight
When we came to Spain last year, the first book I read
was 'Death in the afternoon'. I had seen a bullfight in Venezuela several
years ago, and although I found it disgusting in many ways, I couldn't
help being carried away with the rest of the crowd. Towards the end of
the last fight I shouted 'Ole' with the rest, fueled not only by the atmosphere
but as well from numerous drinks I was offered as a forreigner on his
first fight. The book made me a lot more curious and towards the end of
it I was eager to see all the different moves and styles that Hemningway
had described so vividly. Bente read the book after me, and although not
as carried away, agreed with me to see one bullfight. So on our trip to
Madrid to get married last year there was a 'feria de toros' (bullfighting
week) in the capital and we tried to book tickets in advance, without
luck. The days before arriving in Madrid we saw quite a few 'faenas'(final
stage) of the bullfight on television, and for each new faena, Bente's
dismal grew until finally, she exclaimed that this was not something she
wanted to support, let alone manage to see live. So, we never saw one.
I'm still curious though, and given the right opportunity I'll have a
The village of El Rocío
Rocinante had been stuck away in the hotel garage for
several days now and it was time to take her for a spin. We dressed up
for cold weather and headed out of the city towards El Rocío, a
small village on the western outskirts of parque Doñana, famous
for the annual 'Romeria del Rocío'. Each year sometime in May/June
a world catholic pilgrimage ends here with the carrying of 'virgen del
Rocío'. Last year about 2.5million people arrived from the whole
of Spain, Europe, North and South America and the Far East. 350 000 horses
participated as well. The virgin is carried out from the church for an
hour or so and then put back in again and the party can begin. For the
next few days people eat and drink, and last year it was said that the
pope had vaguely indicated that the Spanish catholics should spend more
time giving homage to the virgin and less time drinking.
The village itself looked like a desert town from a western
movie. People were riding around on horses, the main roads in the village
were unpaved and very wide, and in front of every other house was a bar
to tie horses to, just like in front of a western saloon.
Leaving Sevilla through communist territory
We where leaving the next day and I had to run an errand
in town before hitting the road. So we packed our stuff, Bente put on
her riding gear while I put on my regular clothes. When we left the room
on the second floor we were overloaded with luggage. Bente carried one
soft saddle bag, the tankbag, helmet and my riding pants. I carried the
other saddle bag, the topbox, helmet, jacket and boots. I walked in front
and on the first floor I just managed to grab the door knob with my thumb
of one of the double swing doors leading down to the reception. Bente
had to stop and catch her breath before continuing. She didn't let go
of the luggage, just leaned over so the saddle bag rested on the floor
and stayed in the awkard position, making face to me. While we stayed
in our positions we heard steps from one of the hallways. An english gentleman
in his forties, dressed in tweed jacket, soft hat and silk scarf entered
with his puddle following. He had to step to one side to avoid hitting
Bente and nodded politely as he passed her. I was still standing with
my thumb holding open the door, also awkwardly positioned from the load.
He passed through the door with his puddle following, smiled politely
and said "Thank you, sport". I looked at Bente, Bente looked at me, and
then we doubled over from laughter.
We left Sevilla going eastwards towards the village of Marinaleda.
The village is known for it's communist stronghold and has frescos of
Che Guevarra and other famous freedom fighters on the town hall facade.
When we entered the city there was a funeral going on and we asked three
old men where to find the town hall. One of the men looked at me and said
"It's across the main road and to the left but it's closed now, son".
"Oh, that doesn't matter, we're only going to see the famous frescos"
The attitude changed, a big smile came on, he walked closer, and with
a comrade slap on my shoulder he said go ahead. When whe came to the town
hall, there was by god another funeral and with daylight running out we
turned and headed for Estepa for the night.
Horses in the sunset
We came down towards Estepa in the sunset. The sunlight
was glowing warm from the olive fields to the right and on the hay fields
to the left. Estepa was also swimming in the same light and we drove slowly
and kept quiet, just enjoying the visual impressions. Then, out of the
olive fields came a white horse running. The sight was fantastic with
the long white mane waving in the sunlight. The only problem was that
it was followed by three darker horses and we were on collision course.
I hit the brakes as hard as I deared and luckily stopped about two meters
from the leader. The horses didn't stop for a second but continued across
the road before they circled behind us and disappeared into the olive
We stayed mute for a while. It was like seing a fata morgana
of some sort, very unreal. The camera was already in hand, hopefully waiting
for their return. But of course they didn't, but even without a picture
of it the image is still strong.
We stayed the night in Estepa and hit the road early the
next day which was our last on this trip. The final leg led us through
the now familiar roads in around Antequera and down towards Velez de Malaga.
As allways, the winds in the mountain pass in Antequera threatened to
blow us off the road and we were both tired and cold when we returned
to Nerja in the early afternoon.
Another trip is over and hopefully we'll be on our way eastwards
in a few days. Stay tuned.