Upon reaching Almería, the desert-like, hilly landscape levelled out and was replaced with a sea of greenhouses and poly-tunnels as far as the eye could see, I couldn’t find a camp site and it wasn’t anything like I had imagined. To be honest, I don’t know what I was expecting, probably something a little more of the good or the bad and a little bit less of the ugly. Anyway I decided to make my way back to Portugal, where the camping was considerably cheaper and there were less tourists. So I headed west along the Mediterranean coast until I reached Benalmádena where I camped for the night near some radio masts on the top of a mountain. It rained during in the night and this meant my tent was all soggy the following morning. Undeterred, I packed my camping gear up and made my way back down the mountain until I joined the coast road heading west.
When I got through Marbella, I turned north onto the A-397 which was built in the 1970s, this road links the town of San Pedro de Alcántara on the coast, with the town of Ronda 50km away to the north. The road climbs to 750m above sea level and crosses two mountain ranges. It skirts the Parque Natural de la Sierra de las Nieves on the right and on the left the Sierra Bermeja. It is a very busy and bendy road and any straight bits were replaced by some spare bends they had left over at the time of construction. There is a mountain to the right and a gaping chasm to the left for the first few miles, but there are plenty of laybys where you can stop and admire the view, take pictures and drink vast amounts of water from the frequently occurring natural springs. The views were quite spectacular from the mountainside.
Ronda is a very nice, picturesque place, it was founded as a fortified post by the Romans around 200BC. There is this huge canyon, about 100m deep runs right through the middle of the town, with a river in the bottom of it. I didn't hang about, because I was on a mission to get back to the campsite at Castelo Branco, as it was the nicest one I had stayed in during the whole trip. So I just kept riding and following the signposts for Seville. On reaching Seville I just kept going, I'd already had a quick ride round the place a week earlier, so I rode straight through without stopping. On through the Parque Natural Sierra Norte, over the dam where the river Viar leaves the El Pintado reservoir and only stopping to take a photograph or two and to stretch my legs. The Sierra Norte is a very remote area but also a very unspoilt area with few people. It was well worth the detour to visit the Sierra Norte, but it was starting to get dark by the time I chanced upon a little place called Monesterio in the province of Badajoz, where, as luck would have it, there was a campsite, where I subsequently stayed for the night. The next morning I resumed my journey and reached Badajoz before lunchtime, from where I crossed the bridge over the river Guadiana and re-entered Portugal. By mid-afternoon I was back on the campsite at Castelo Branco where I made camp for the next few weeks while I explored the surrounding area.