Spain > Andalusia > The White Village of Cartajima

CARTAJIMA, 18-19 May 2009
We have just landed Malaga from Brussels (thanks to RyanAir) – it’s a hot day, the roads are unfamiliar, the language is somewhat incomprehensible, and they drive on the wrong side of the road, but what the heck, we soon find ourselves roaming the mountains west of Malaga, in western Andalusia of southern Spain. We are joined by our son, who flew in from Toronto with his friend.
A beautiful fine day and spring is evident everywhere.
We have decided to spend the night in the village of Cartajima, one of the famed ‘pueblas blancos’ of the mountains of Andalusia … somewhere on the horizon.
Along a narrow road, we spot the village, nestled between hills of chestnut trees.
A short drive later, we are in the only village square, a cramped patch of space next to the church.
This is a typical Andalusian white village, a legacy of the Arab Moors who ruled Iberia between the 8th and 16th centuries.
A short walk from the car, and there it is, our home for the night.
The owner-manager, ‘Botz’, a genial Englishman from Plymouth, is full of tips and stories – he has been here for 5 years.
But first he invites us in for coffee …
… followed by an invitation to climb the ‘ladder’ to his terrace, atop the house. Spectacular views all around, and fresh breezy air too.
And there’s another white village a few kilometres away.
I said ‘ladder’ because that’s what we use to move from floor to floor. Definitely not for kids or old folks.
And our comfy bedroom, tucked in this 250-year-old building. Well at least 250, Botz says, but there’s a Roman marble at the front door which could easily be 2000 years old!
Apart from phones (both cell and wired), this is the main link to the rest of the world.
I check emails while a group of friends keep me company.
Host Botz used to be a chef and in no time he puts together a great-looking salmon dinner (except for Sabar, who’s no fan of salmons). Well, we emailed him in advance our dietary preference.

I’ve never had such a tasty salmon steak, washed down with great Iberian coffee, … or maybe I am just plain famished? But it’s a wonderful meal, compliments to Chef Botz, who also sits down with us to have his fish.

Dinner done, we hurriedly go out to see the setting sun.

In failing light, we do a quick village walkabout.

Nice setting, but some dwellings have been abandoned. A global problem this, kids moved to the cities to work, leaving the old folks behind. Soon nobody’s left any more. Cartajima now has less than 250 inhabitants, mainly senior citizens.

Rusty intricate balcony railing of a deserted house.

Green logo of ‘Junta de Andalucia’ – the local Andalucia Autonomous Community council’s office. The villagers’ only contact with the government.

Exploring the undulating, twisting cobblestone lanes is very interesting.

We finish off our quick tour of Cartajima at the church, built early 16th century, but still looking great.

A new day and I climb up the ladder to the rooftop terrace to survey the domain.
It’s cool, and serenely peaceful. I think every creature is still in bed, except the birds.
Even Botz is still asleep as we gingerly let ourselves out of his house, whose only reminder the night before was to shut the door behind us, and not to worry about it being unlocked.

And yes, we just have to test the only phone booth in town … and it’s working perfectly.

Back to our car a hundred metres away, and fitting our bags into our trusty Ford Fiesta 1.4 Diesel is always a challenge. This puppy gives me 20km for every litre of diesel, which is fantastic!

The craggy mountains beckon.
In the distance, somebody builds his mansion in the middle of nowhere.

As we drive along the narrow twisting road back to civilisation, we spot another white village.
And beneath us in a valley, maggot-like sheep forage for food.
The road ahead, and our next stop is the white town of Ronda, the birthplace of bull-fighting.


10 thoughts on “Spain > Andalusia > The White Village of Cartajima

  1. Yes, terrain and Mediterranean climate similar to some parts of Australia & California. But summer can hit mid-40s celcius with winter going down to freezing. We were there in spring, hence the greenery & wild flowers. In summer it’d be brown & hot.


  2. Wow, what a brilliant holiday doc. I need to do this one day…

    Also, next time bring some brochures with you and drop them off at schools in your travels!! 🙂


  3. Thanks for sharing the experience.

    I used to travel to a few of these places before (Granada, Cordoba, Ronda, Malaga), in the mid 90s, but didn’t had the chance to put it nicely on paper (or electronics) like this. I wish I could recollect them.

    Travelling on the narrow, windy, mountain road, on the right hand side of the road, and probably with a manual car, is a challenge. I don’t know how you managed it. Occasionally my memory lapsed not knowing which side of the road I should be on, esp when you are on your own on the road.

    Anyway, great to hear such ventures. More of us should undertake this. I spent 10 days in UK at about the same time as yours, driving with wife, wheel-chair-bound mother in law, and UK based daughter and nephew. I drove, as a lone driver, 1750 mi, over 10 days on our 2.0 liter Ford Mondeo. The challenge was how to adapt from auto transmission to manual, and having to use the clutch through the heavy London traffic. Otherwise, everything else went well.

    Hope to hear more of your experience later.



  4. Yes, jet-lagged, driving on the right side of the road, unfamiliar paths and traffics, strange language (hola!), hot day, manual car, take right lane to turn left, etc, etc, these are the nuances that make independent self-drive travel interesting, unless you get into an incident. Hehehe!

    We clocked up 1,600km doing the Andalusia circuit, plus that detour to Roman Merida, in 6 days. In hindsight it was quite a pleasant journey, just make sure one ate and slept well, and the Islamic remnants/heritage in Andalucia were simply mind-boggling. Imagine ruling for some 800 yrs and to be driven away?

    On the way back via London Stansted, we did rent a car for a day to drive to both Cambridge and Oxford. I told missus, I’d never drive inside the M25, but we had to use the M25 to get to Oxford. That was fun, esp. when running into jubilant Burnley supporters on the way home from Wembley (they got premiership promotion that very afternoon), but petrol at a quid a litre was no fun at all!


  5. Doc Naim, thanks for sharing…a flair for photo blogging truly u hv…excellent shots, great commentaries…

    if i were u i would rent a Golf GTI mk5…both auto and manual 🙂


  6. Awesome! I knew there’s more to this journey when I read your missus’s blog! (hee.. hee…)

    The winding road, the Moors, the white village… these are the things which I can only dream of right now. Hope I’ll be able to make the same journey with my husband in the future.

    Great stuff!


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