Chapter 7: Bikepacking the Altravesur - Jimena to Ubrique

Updated: Feb 1

10th April 2019


You can see my YouTube of this section here


It was bright and sunny first thing in Jimena, with rain later, so I thought I’d do some sightseeing early in the day. The owners of Case de Luna liked my vidoe and wanted to link it to their website. As I was going to visit the castle and make a video of the trip, I thought I’d include a tour of Casa de Luna, that would be more useful to prospective holiday makers. Something to keep me busy as I was getting itchy feet by now!


As I was due to leave Jimena on the Wednesday, with new tenants arriving Thursday, that Sharon had been so kind in negotiating a good deal for me, I really wanted to leave the house spotless for her. So, during my stay I had been tidying, sweeping, mopping etc. as I went along. To leave it tidy meant weaving tidying with living and living with a whole load of junk at that! To make a house-tour video I needed to tidy the house, so that was my first job, then a quick GoPro tour of the accommodation.


The castle is around two street levels higher than Casa de Luna, so only a short walk. Unfortunately, the tourist information office is only open Wednesday to Sunday, so I couldn’t gather any information on what I was going to see, I’d have to use my imagination!


There are some fabulous views of Jimena from the Castle, looking down onto the roof tops.

The site of the castle is atop the hill of Jimena, built into the Limestone rocks. It can be quite windy up there.


There are 360-degree views of the Los Alcornocales Natural Park from the castle, I guess that was important for a fortress! Looking south you can see the Rock of Gibraltar, I’m sure on a clear day the Moroccan mountains will be visible. To the north, off into the distance are craggy, rugged mountains, to the East lush farmland and the Hozgarganta river meandering through.

The castle ruins have had extensive rebuilding carried out, it’s been very sympathetically done, and is a credit to the craftsmen that carried it out. The entrance tower can be accessed, but the main lookout tower was locked, possibly open Wednesday to Sunday, I wish I could have gone up there, it’s considerably higher up than the entrance tower.

Apparently, the castle site is under-going further excavations, as it’s been discovered that a settlement there pre-dates the castle’s construction by the Moors around 750AD.

Jimena has been won and lost by the Greeks, Iberians and Romans. Also, the Moors, the Muslims, used Jimena as a stronghold. Eventually in the late 1800's the town of Jimena de la Frontera was settled by the modern Iberians. There is evidence of prehistoric human habitation so is of great interest to archaeologists and historians.


The site is over quite an expanse of ground. How I would love to see how it looked hundreds of years ago. It’s a shame it will never be restored to its former glory, but is worth a visit, nonetheless. Also upon the Castle hill is the Municipal Cemetery, a glorious final resting place.


I captured what I could of my castle visit on my GoPro, then took a walk down towards the shops, in the lower village. Perhaps I should have recorded the higher village instead or also, as the older town is quite pretty, and there are a few places of interest and some great views. But I didn’t, it had started raining as I got to the lower village. I made a quick edit of my days activities and published it before preparing to leave Jimena the next morning. You can find my film here


The next morning more house cleaning was required, washing and hanging out my bed linen etc. so I could leave the house with minimal work for Sharon. By the time I had packed my bike and finally shut the keys inside it was 10am, and who happened to come along! Sharon and Alan out walking their three dogs. It was so lovely to be able to properly say goodbye to them.

I was sorry to be leaving Jimena, but it was time to go.

Having been warned by Simon, the mountain biker, and Sharon and Alan, that it would be best to take the surfaced mountain road, as the off road camino would be very muddy after six days of rain, I started out on the quiet surfaced road. Very few cars use this road, but I saw many cyclists and motor cyclists.

I happened upon a random cow meandering along the road and a family of black pigs crossing the road on a tight bend. I would imagine there's been some accidents on this road, what with the wildlife roaming freely and motor cyclists enjoying the tight twisty tarmac. It must be a popular route for touring motor cyclists as I was passed by at least 10 in the two hours I was on it. And also cyclists, a German cyclist stopped to have a chat, he was on a solo tour of Andalucía, and as we were chatting several other German cyclists passed us, he had stayed at the same hotel as them in Jimena. Their tour was from South Spain to North Spain, with their luggage being transported to the next stopping point for them, by a supporting holiday company.


I was so pleased to see a sign denoting I was entering the Malaga Province, thus far I had been riding in the Cadiz Province, only for a few hours later to return to the Cadiz Province, dammit!! It’s a mental thing, just feeling like I was getting somewhere!

Just after the Malaga Province signpost I noticed a turning off-road, onto the Altravesur route, so I took it. If it was too muddy, I could turn back easily. A steep uphill at first, soon it transformed into beautiful mature woodland, upwards inclined but less steeply. On this blue sky, sunny day, riding through this woodland was a pleasure. Beautiful mature gum trees lined the route, it was very reminiscent of being in Australia!

Such a pretty woodland, with many wild flowers, grasses and tree varieties. The ground wasn’t too wet at first, it was a slightly sandy clay like soil. Later the muddy areas increased, but after a day without rain it was drying well, and I could always find a way around.

The road was uphill for many many kilometres, with a few downhill sections. I passed many cows and calves roaming free on this route, they are very beautiful creatures. I am slightly wary of the cows with calves, as I was when I happened upon a group of four adolescent bulls!!


The road is graded quite well, but ruts were formed by motor vehicles on the muddy sections.

I was on the surfaced mountain road for around two hours, then passing through the woodland for around three hours. Eventually the off-road route ends, at a junction onto a surfaced road, which now is the Ronda sierra.


I took the surfaced road towards my next destination, Ubrique. I was hoping to find a wild-camping spot, alas as is often the case, all sides were fenced in. And it had been a little too early to camp earlier, in the woodland. On reflection, I should have camped in the woods.


I kept on the mountain road to Ubrique, looking for camping, wild-camping or a hostel. By now I was getting very tired, after many hours of uphill riding. There was nothing, well not in my price range anyway.


I stopped a few people on the roadside, it was now time for the Spanish people to take their evening walk, asking for camping or a hostel. But no, there isn’t anything in Ubrique. I am finding this increasingly common, I wonder why someone doesn’t open a campsite in this area?


After around an hour in Ubrique, I came across a gentleman that I had earlier spoken to, the friends with him were Francisco and Rosamaria Borrego, and they took pity on me! I didn’t really understand what was going on, due to the language barrier, but I knew that Rosamaria wanted me to wait with her. Francisco had walked home, got his car and returned, with his daughter Joanna also along for the ride. Rosamaria got in the car and I was to follow. This was OK on the downhill sections, but on the uphill I struggled, so Rosamaria got out the car and walked with me. I still didn’t know what we was doing, but eventually we got to their Casita de Campo on their piece of land just outside Ubrique. The land has fruit trees, nut trees, vegetables and animals.

It is similar to an allotment or small-holding in the UK. Upon it is a Casita,, a small house. In Spain you can have a resting area on your country land, not for permanent living, but for weekend living. And this is where Francisco and Rosamaria had led me, for me to sleep the night!


The family had been busy, the land was full of fruit and vegetables, it's hard to keep a plot that size tidy, but theirs was immaculate.

I was so overwhelmed by how much they went out of their way on this Wednesday evening, for me, and wanting nothing in return. How absolutely lovely!


Rosamaria spoke a little English, as did Joanna. Later their other daughter, Rocio, arrived, she spoke very good English. I wish my Spanish was better so I could have communicated more! I'm so sad that I didn't get a photo of Rocio.


Joanna got out of the car, she had a beautiful budgie on her shoulder, Lily! She is very fond of the animals and them, her. I was shown Bitty the cockerel, who is human friendly, and some chickens with chicks. Also she has two rabbits that roam freely on their land.

The Casita itself was a large room with a separate flushing toilet with hand basin. There’s a kitchen area, a large family dining table, storage for all the kitchen items and a sofa bed.

The Borregos brought me water, and let me cook on their gas hob, I was embarrassed that they wouldn’t take any money, even just for the utilities. Rosamaria kept saying, when I offered money, they are doing this from el corozon, the heart. How bloody lovely!


It was soon dark, the electricity was not working in the casita so I used my headtorch. A beautiful sunset was to my right, adjacent, looming heavy black clouds over the mountains. I was dreading rain, and luckily it didn’t happen.

I had a good night’s sleep and didn’t wake until around 08:30, at this time it’s only just getting light. I had hoped to return the favour to the Borrego’s by sweeping the large patio area, alas I could not find a sweeping brush. Whilst having breakfast, Bitty the cockerel came to see me, he does this funny sideways walking thing when he wants you to stroke him. He spent quite a while with me, interspersed with returning other cockerel's calls!


It was beautiful, the campo opposite had around 20 – 30 rabbits running freely, and many chickens and what looked like turkeys! It was quite beautiful, with the sun rising, a heavy morning dew, and all the animal sounds. Rosamaria had picked around 10 oranges for me to have for breakfast, I ate one, it was succulent and sweet, the best orange I have tasted, by far! Because of the weight, I only took one with me, I wish I had taken more!

I mooched around until around midday, when I was finally ready to leave. I messaged Francisco, using Google translate, to say I was ready to go and could bring the keys to him if he let me have his address. Ten minutes later, Francisco and Rosamaria appeared! I thanked them, many times, we said our goodbyes and I left. I was quite sad to go and could have stayed much longer!

I was quite emotional after they had left, I was so touched by their generosity, trust and kindness, and humbled.

One thing that I had come to realise at this point was, I am doing this wrong. I was riding from town to town, reaching a town each evening. Which means there is nowhere to wild camp. Therefore, I decided I needed to change my schedule, I needed to be riding through a town midday, coming out the other side, into the wilderness areas and riding until I found a good camping spot. It turned out later that this strategy was going to take some fine tuning because this day I would need to pass through two villages. But I needed to take into consideration that if I passed through a town after 2pm, all the shops would be closed for siesta, so it was going to take some honing!

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