You Gotta Help Me, Rhonda*

Spain - Ronda 03With Kim leaving on Saturday, our final refuge was the French café for our good-bye breakfast and an Internet fix. After two hours, we walked over to the taxi stand, but noticed a crowd milling around across the street, looking down at the park below. Curious, we went there to see what was happening. It just turned out to be a few young men hanging around. Being the Easter weekend, they did not have anything better to do than show-off for the public.

Ron really wanted to go to Ronda, another town in the province of Málaga. It was not high in my list of things to do. After Kim left, sulking was up there on my agenda. When he suggested he would see if any of the travel agencies were open on his returning home from church to book a tour, I was confident being Easter Sunday, it would be failed effort.

Every time I heard the name Ronda, all I could think about was the Beach Boys song “Help Me Rhonda”. Little did I realize how pertinent some of the lyrics would be.

When he returned from mass, he mapped out our plans for meeting the tour bus. Are you kidding me? He found the British run variety shop open for business. Damn heathens! He booked us for Monday morning leaving at 9:10, but thankfully, the pick-up point was almost at our door.

The day’s itinerary included taking the bus to the train station, where we would ride the historic train. “The line was originally built between 1890-92 by the Algeciras Spain - Ronda 14(Gibraltar) Railway Company Ltd to enable British garrison officers and their families to escape the claustrophobic atmosphere of Gibraltar and enjoy the surrounding campo.” Our guide informed us we had reserved seats in a particular car, so we were to sit all together. The views were stunning as we trained past mountains, forests, and farms.

At one station, as we were looking out the window, we spotted a strange man two tracks away. He was wearing an oversized sombrero, with a long cowboy duster coat Spain - Ronda 23and mid-calf boots. His face completed the stereotype caricature with a ruddy complexion, a bushy handlebar mustache, and a wild look in his eyes. As he passed by our window, still two tracks apart from our train, I was tempted to photograph him, but the baton in his hand gave me pause. Still, I thought, we would pull out of the station long before he could reach us, but still that inner voice said “No!”

Thankfully, there are times when I do listen to the inner workings of my mind. Minutes before we pulled away from the station, the delirious cowboy was roaming our car. Based on his apparel and the fact that this was a historic train, most of us thought this was a show included in our ticket. As this crazed eyed person stuck his face within inches of other passengers’ faces growling words presumably in Spanish, we were all entertained. It was not until we reached the next station, our destination, when six police officers boarded the train, handcuffed this man, and dragged him off to heaven knows where.

Chasing our guide who walked at a fast clip, he directed us to the center of town. There was not much commentary as we walked other than we learned we would Spain - Ronda 46meet at the bus station to return, not the train station. If we stopped to take a picture along the way, we would have lost him. With the bus station pointed out as our meeting place, we continued. Once we were in the center, the guide pointed out the Plaza de toros de Ronda explaining it is the oldest bullfighting ring in Spain. There is still a historical bullfight held here once a year called ‘Corrida Goyesca’. We never did learn why it is historic or unique, but since I have no stomach for animal cruelty, we did not seek out the answers. What was more important to me by that point was the bathroom next to the bullring and behind the tourism office.

At this point, the guide informed us we had 2 ½ hours before we were to meet at the bus station. This certainly was not much time, but Ronda best known for its deep gorge where the Guadalevín River passes through is where knowing tourists run first. The Puente Nuevo ‘new’ bridge was new in the 18th century and spans the chasm of 100 meters. The views of the Serranía de Ronda Mountains are definitely breathtaking.

We had little time really to wander, but it seemed that apart from the shops and Spain - Ronda 31restaurants catering to the tourist euros, there was not much to see or do. Had we had more time, other interests may have consumed us, but what had the focus of our attention was finding a restaurant with an available table to sit outside.

After blocks of walking, we did find two busy restaurants, but a table opened just as we approached. Our good fortune, the tables were directly across from a park separated by a circle drive where the only transport vehicles allowed were horse and carriages. With the warm air, the swaying branches of the trees, and the horses passing us by, a more enchanting romantic atmosphere would be difficult to uncover.

Knowing our time was short, we headed back toward the bus station where other Spain - Ronda 07magnificent views of the gorge and valley astounded us. These vistas are the true stars of the area. A couple of signs caught our attention as we strolled. One named for Ernest Hemingway and another for Orson Welles. As it turns out, they both spent much time here. Hemingway, we later heard, wrote his novel For Whom the Bell Tolls here in Ronda. Orson Welles chose Ronda for his summers in residence in the old town quarter called La Ciudad. Both included Ronda’s famous bullfighting traditions in their works, which has increased the town’s popularity.

Back at the bus station by the appointed time, our first part of the journey was to a Spain - Ronda 22midpoint stop where those of us going to Estepona changed buses. The rest had further to go for their destinations. By 5:30 pm, we were at the place where we started. Spending so much time just with transportation would have felt like a waste of time had the scenery not been as lovely as it was. However, I could easily have spent a few more hours in Ronda just exploring more than time allowed.

Well, Rhonda, you caught my eye (caught my eye)
And I can give you lots of reasons why
You gotta help me, Rhonda
Help me get her out of my heart
I really love Spain!

*This has been backdated due to lack of Internet and then later lack of time.

After completing my Ed.D., the frustration of finding a teaching position where I was willing to live, led to Ron and I leaving the country. We intended to travel for a year before settling somewhere in MA or RI. We left the US without any credit card debt, no car payments and our house mortgage paid by renters. We had $10,000 in the bank to make our way through a year.