The town of Mijas is set high up on a mountain in the Costa del Sol region of Spain. It affords spectacular views of the Mediterranean, as well as of several cities thousands of feet below.
We reached the town by car, ascending by a seemingly infinite series of hairpin curves on a narrow crowned road that pulled the car toward the rocky face of the mountain on the way up.
I didn’t have to imagine how the descent would threaten to topple my car over the guard rails—that is, in the places that actually had rails—because I saw how descending cars and, occasionally, buses leaned as they flirted with the outer edge.
Often as not those vehicles appeared at the blindest spots on the curves, a shock that made me clench the wheel so hard that I frequently had to shake my hands to restore circulation.
When by some miracle we arrived at the top and saw the beautiful white houses with their orange tops, and the tourists walking about among the shops and taking pictures of the steep, narrow streets, I was pleasantly distracted. Yet I could not help thinking about the return trip down the mountain.
After a few hours of enjoying the village square, making some obligatory purchases for friends back home and some impulsive ones for ourselves, my companions and I decided to take a tour of the village in a golf cart. Our driver/guide was Magdalena, a young Mexican graduate of a fine arts college in Italy. She maneuvered streets too narrow for cars and showed us through numerous plazas, gardens, and churches that still wore architectural reminders of the Moorish conquest and their conversion to mosques.
At one point I asked Magdalena whether she lived in Mijas and she said no, she lived at the bottom of the mountain in Marbella.
“Do you mean you drive up and down that treacherous road with its hairpin curves twice a day?” I asked.
“No,” she said, “the road I take is much safer,” and she gave me directions, which for obvious reasons I promptly memorized.
And so it was that our return trip was made on a three-lane highway through a number of attractive neighborhoods. To be sure there were many curves, but they were all gentle and well graded with no cliffs at their edge, and we arrived back at our hotel on the Mediterranean in 25 pleasant minutes. (This compared to the 90 hair-raising minutes going.)
As I think back on my delightful day in Mijas, my thoughts are dominated by one perplexing question: Why are virtually all the visitors to that lovely town offered a treacherous white-knuckled route when they could as easily be given a safe, more enjoyable one.
I’m sure there is an answer to the question. But for the life of me I can’t imagine that it is a good one.
Copyright © 2016 by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero. All rights reserved