EPISODE 3: Todo completo
Finally a petrol station emerged at a remote highway junction. I pulled in and jumped out. The glass door, obscured of transparency by a crooked gallery of smudged and faded signs (abierto, tirar, Castrol) slid stiffly open. Far from the sanitised, bright white service station in Córdoba, it smelled like a real, proper garage: black, like rubber and grease.
I bypassed the windshield wipers and aisles of motor oil and headed to the back wall of the shop, where a pegboard hidden in the gloom held a small cache of pamphlets. Poking out of a little shelf like a cheeky tongue was an orange booklet I immediately recognised.
Michelin's excellent fold-out map of Andalucía. I was found.
The drive from Córdoba to Ronda takes two-and-a-half hours, but I was rapt to pull it off in five—and grateful for air conditioning. It must have been 40 degrees Celsius. Bloody hell, I thought. I don't want to lug my pack far in this. Without a navigator to read the map I entered Ronda blind and hunted for a parking lot I hoped was close to the festivities.
Parking a car in the old town's choked and narrow streets is an absurd idea. The Feria de Pedro Romero is Ronda's biggest festival of the year, and it attracts an influx of tourists that would turn Christ himself misanthropic. But a miracle upon me, I chose a parking lot little more than a hundred metres from the centre of the old town. Sheer providence. I could not have found somewhere closer if I knew what I was doing.
The man in the wooden booth of the dusty dirt lot charged me the fiesta price of €24-for-24-hours, and I hauled my pack to a nearby hotel to enquire about a room.
“Señor, it's the feria,” said the lady at reception. “Todo completo. All the hotels are full!”