The bus moves out of the Malaga bus station, heading towards Mijas, the first of the white Andalusian villages on my itinerary. The Malaga area at this time of the year is heaving with the seventy-five years plus generation from across Europe, trying to escape from harsh winters to the sunny side. And all of them seem to be headed towards Mijas with me. As the bus climbs higher into the mountains, the average age in the bus climbs with it. Soon, I have given up my seat and the rest of the journey is spent sitting on the steps by the door!
"We are just 3 minutes walk from the bus stop. Don't worry you will find us easily, Mijas is a very small village," Marga, from my hotel had told me the previous day over the phone. Of course what she forgot to mention was that the 3 minutes walk was besides the 40 steps and what she did not realise was I would be carrying a 20 kg suitcase! But the struggle is worth it as my hotel is located at the top of the village overlooking the mountains and the deep gorges. After catching my breath for a bit I set off to explore this tiny village. In the last few years Mijas has become a popular destination for day-trippers from the Malaga coast. Busloads of them come up to Mijas in the morning, shop for souvenirs and sit around in the many cafes around the square and head back to the coast after sunset. The village has thus largely orientated itself to pander to the visiting tourist. Fortunately, it has enough quirks that help retain its charm.
I first go up to the church which is perched at the top of the village. It is surrounded by well-planned botanical gardens which extend right up to the edge of the mountain. A promenade at the edge gives spectacular views of the steep drop-off, the busier towns along the Costa del Sol and the blue waters beyond. On the way down is the bull ring, special for being an unusual oval in shape unlike most bull rings. The main square of the village is crammed with souvenir shops, leather jackets and handbags and ceramic pots are the hot sellers here.
Amongst all these souvenirs shops is the 'almond-man'. He exemplifies the promotional power of word of mouth. He has a little cart on the street where he makes fresh sugar-cinnamon almonds. Some visitor probably tried these a few years ago, blogged about it, word spread and put this man and the almonds on the map of Mijas. Today, no visitor leaves Mijas without a bag of these delicious almonds! Another must-see here are the 'burro taxis' i.e. donkeys carting tourists around the village in little carts. I pass by the taxi stand and their sad brown eyes look at me with dread. I assure them with my brown eyes that I am looking for a photo-op only and not a ride. Last on the round tour is the miniature museum. I guess it is fitting that a village of this size should have a museum that literally fits into a old train bogey. It has an interesting collection of miniature antiques ranging from Churchill carved on a piece of chalk t ballerina figurines carved out of matchsticks!
After a brief siesta I step out for dinner into the village square and the village dons a serene appearance in the glow of the street lamps. The souvenir shops have shut down and the orders in the cafes have quieted down. The visitors have returned to their holiday rentals in Malaga and Mijas can for now reclaim its sleepy village identity till morning dawns and brings new busloads of holidayers.