October 22, 2014

Hiking the gorge

Next time I go backpacking in Europe (or anywhere), I promise I'll invest in the innovative invention called a hiking shoe. You know those things great for walking long distances? However, for this time round, I had been living in Italy prior to venturing out onto the rest of the continent and who really has the money for Italian shoes? Not this girl. 

So, that in mind, welcome to the day I hiked down the gorge in Ronda, in my Reef flip flops, which I stand by as the most reliable shoe I own. I am, in fact, wearing the same pair right now. They're just that wonderful.  

After crossing the glorious Puente Nuevo, I found the head of the trail that curved down the steep descent. 

The sky was just a little hazy again, trapping that electric energy in the town, but releasing at the horizon into a bright airy blue sky. 

I thought the bridge was impressive from above, but that view is nothing in comparison to a distanced perspective.

With the waterfall gushing from deep in the gorge, I could just imagine a white knight riding up above across the bridge, claiming he had slain the dragon in some majestic manor. 

Surely the dragon would have been protecting the hidden treasure behind the waterfall, which I had seen some cave divers submerging near earlier that morning. 

The path down the mountain varies in its standard as an actual trail. Some of it is partially paved and wide, then it narrows against the embankment as you tread carefully across loose gravel. Or if you're me, you tromp down it merrily, enlivened by your day's adventure. 

Part way down the path, the directions fork, and you can either veer right to stroll beneath the bridge or continue downward. I began with a venture under the soaring structure. 

In this direction, I found a whole system of manmade waterways.

The water ran along the edge and then would suddenly disappear into a dark cavern. 

I was a bit devastated by how close, yet just to hazardously far away the waterfall was. 

Considering its age stamp of over 260 years, I had a good amount of faith in the bridge's construction. However, the tight path under it was less confidence instilling. 

But not to worry, I popped out the other side, safe & sound. 

I explored a bit on the other side of the bridge, but the path kind of just dead ends into a sketchy water container, so it was time to switch directions.

I made it to the fork, this time heading left. 

The vista from this direction just kept getting more and more magnificent.

I couldn't decide which way to look, with an architectural wonder in one direction, and a glorious valley of fruitful land to the other.

Even in a third direction the cavernous cliffs, topped with little buildings in comparison, stood tall. 

I utilized an old city wall for my trail, avoiding the wobbly rock walkway to the left.  

Sloping down, I navigated through several venerable archways, persevering in their weathered conditions.

Curious, adventurous, (precarious?) little thing I am, I found another branching trail hidden in the foliage. And by "trail", I may mean dried waterway, but it was walkable and my heart pumped a little harder with the thrill of exploring, so that was good enough for me to continue forward. 

One moment it was like I was on top of the world, with vantages in every direction, then suddenly, with one twist I was immersed in the green light of the shadowing trees. 

The plants spurred away from the dry grass atop the mountain, becoming lush and tropical, feeding off the imposing waterfall that rushed below.

For something so impossibly large, the Puente Nuevo began to recede from view, only popping through the coverage at brief intervals, until it finally disappeared from sight altogether. 

I plunged deep down the cavern, daring to get as close to the waterfall as I could manage. 

Finally, I became trapped by a very steep down slope, with some helpful looking, but really more hazardous iron pieces jutting out, and I had to resign myself to venturing no further*.

*Though honestly, if I had not had on flip flops I may have just taken the jump and hoped for the best...so really it could be argued that my questionable shoe choice probably aided me in the end.

My station in the deep greenery really wasn't the worse place to get stuck. It was a bit like a secret garden, one where I could imagine mythical creatures crawling out of the trees at any moment.

I took a moment to just sit down here and hang out, I wrote a bit, had a snack, and then just lounged, once more awed by the the world around me and my luck in having the opportunity to explore it.

Once again, I began my ascent up the range (note the lack of ascent pictures, because I was focused on steadily breathing up the very steep incline).

No worries though kids, I made it (half way) up and stopped for a photo op'. 

The incline actually became less daunting with my method of stop. picture. go. stop. picture. go. 

Then I found this cool thing, which I'm going to call a lookout tower, and really qualified an more substantial climbing pit stop. 

Like wearing sensible shoes, I should maybe also work on the joy I get out of standing on high things; but really, if I did that where would the fun in life be? 

After a bit more exploring, I eventually made my way back to the tippy top of the pathway. I was a bit tuckered from the hike, but every perilous step was worth it. I love the adrenaline that comes from exploring and adventure. I felt so invigorated after the hike, ready to take on whatever new challenge I found in Spain, but none would compare to the incredible landscape of Ronda.

Yours, Kenna

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