Date: Dec, 2014
Location: Serranía de Ronda, Andalucia, Spain
The A-405 and A-369 are a set of very scenic highways that take you from Gibraltar to Ronda passing through the mountain ranges of Cadiz and Malaga, continuing into Serranía de Ronda.
At the southern point, the A-405 passes through the eastern edge of Parque natural de Los Alcornocales (meaning the cork oak groves). Here, white storks (ciconia ciconia) can be seen nesting on top of power line poles along the highway.
The park stretches between Cadiz and Malaga, encompassing 17 municipalities with a total population of about 380,000. Nearly all of the uninhabited land in the park is covered by Mediterranean native forest. Some of the land has been cleared for cattle ranches, however, much of the human activity in the park is devoted to the forest’s resources: hunting wild game, collecting wild mushrooms, and foraging for tree heath, a small evergreen shrub which is the source of the reddish briar-root wood used in making tobacco pipes, and an excellent raw material for making charcoal.
Above all, however, the park’s forests are used for the production of cork. The cork oak (Quercus suber) is a tree with a spongy layer of material lying between the outer surface of its bark and the underlying living layer. Cork is generated by a specialized layer of tissue called cork cambium. Properly done, harvesting cork from a given tree can be undertaken every ten to twelve years without damaging the tree; the cork cambium simply regenerates it.
Throughout the Serranía are excellent views of pueblos blancos, traditional white villages, dotted across the mountains. Many have historical significance such as Jimena de la Frontera which was inhabited by the Phoenicians, Iberians, Carthaginians, and the Romans. The Moors used the town’s position on the hill to their advantage, using it as a strategic military position. Castillo de Jimena was built on the hill by the Moors around 750 A.D. as part of making Jimena a strategic military position. Views stretch as far as Gibraltar to the south. It is believed that the castle was built on Roman ruins, constructed using local limestone.
About 30km south of Ronda is the town of Algatocín located in the Valle del Genal, stretching from the mountains to the Genal River banks. The earliest evidence of human settlement in this area go back to the Bronze Age as pottery was found in Cerro Gordo. The remains of an Iberian oppidum or defensive enclosure dating back to around 1000 BC have also been found. Later, during Roman rule, a major city and a road emerge.