From Antequera to Loja by Bike

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We leave Antequera having passed both the Arco de los Gigantes (Giants' Arch) and the Collegiate church and we notice how history has made this city into a conglomeration of cultures (Iberians, Romans, Abbadids, Zinds, Almoravids, Almohads, Nazrids, Castillians) which give it an intimate and welcoming character, the same as we will encounter in the other towns and villages which we will pass on this stage.

We look for the Camino de las Huertas and glancing to our right we see the hill where the Dolmenes (megalithic tombs) of Menga, Viera and El Romeral are to be found. Soon we cross the Guadalhorce river and see in front of us the Peña de los Enamorados (Lovers' rock) and the town to which we are heading: Cartaojal. This town we leave crossing the Arroyo (stream) de Carmona and, proceeding between olive groves and woods of holmoak, we notice how the Cerro (hill) del Condestable now again hides the city of Archidona from view. Once we get round this hill, we will able to observe this city in its entirety.

The Path to Archidona

The path is not easy. Nevertheless, we will enjoy the sight of the Peña de los Enamorados where, legend has it, Tazgona and Tello decided to unite their lives forever, fleeing from the religious intolerance which demanded their separation. Finally we cross the Moheda stream and ascend to the Sierra de los tres Picos (three peaks) or the Dracia, where Archidona "the lady of the heights", is situated.

Reaching Villa Alta

By way of a long and hard climb, we get to the city which gave shelter both to the Emir Abd al- Rahman who brought splendour to the Omeyan Caliphate, and to the rebel Umar ibn Hafsun, who was responsible for the break up of this kingdom into the taifas (factions with local power) which predominated in the 11th century. We still have to go up a little further to reach Villa Alta, and from there we can make out the whole Vega (fertile plain) which spreads out from the banks of the Genil river. We bear witness to centuries of history amassed in the walls, towers and doors which make up this medieval enclosure. For the same reason we understand why the churches and old mosques of the city face eastwards.

rural road to loja

Heading to Loja

We leave from the Plaza (square) Ochavada and we take the back streets of what was once capital of the Malaga Cora (small territorial division) of Rayya, and look for the main road to Loja so that we can take a path which runs close to it. Soon we head down towards the Dehesa (pastureland) de los Montes. Holmoaks and olive groves predominate, with the odd unexpected burst of cypress trees. Riding over smooth hillocks we can enjoy the scenery and shortly we will see the Hacha Mountain, the Sierra de Loja and "Madina Lawsa" (Loja) between the two. First, though, we pass through the small village of Santa Barbara, where after crossing a medieval bridge we alternate between paths and road to arrive at the Fuente Santa (holy fountain), from which water has flown to quench the thirst of travellers since the 16th Century. Shortly we come across Loja, described by the prolific, Loja-born writer Ibn al - Jatib in his work.

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