By Sally Harrison
YOU can almost hear the cry ‘Stand and deliver!’ as one of the most feared outlaws, El Bizco, gallops towards you on his black Andalucian stallion.
El Bizco, or the ‘one-eyed bandit’, has a museum in his honour in the village of El Borge, where he was born in the 19th century.
It is a daunting prospect, the thought of being caught by him in this sleepy village high in the Axarquia hills.
This is all part of the so-called ‘route of the raisin’, loosely a wine tour, that takes in the best sweet wine producing villages of the Axarquia.
Your route starts at the turn off at the Torre de Benagalbón at KM 257 of the motorway along the coast.
Head from here towards Moclinej which should take about 10 minutes.
Just before the village is the VistalMar Hotel where you should stop for refreshment and take in the magnificent views from the terrace.
The food here is particularly good as is the local wine which you can buy from the warehouse a little further up the hill on the left.
The route leads on up the steep and winding road towards Almáchar with breaktaking views.
Marking the entrance to this village, a huge bunch of grapes rises out of a fountain!
There is a large car park in front but you can drive right up the hill into the village where there is a new modern square with parking and several bar/restaurants.
Like several other Axarquia villages this one has had a recent facelift and the new look has lost a lot of the old charm!
However, the bars and restaurants all serve good traditional food in particular Tapa Attak, next to the police station, which serves traditional food with a twist! and has a conversation exchange night every Thursday between the locals and foreigners.
There is a small aparthotel attached to the bar so you don’t have to drink and drive!
Once in the village a good snack is a handful of raisins as you walk its steep streets.
On the first Saturday of September this village throbs with tourists who come to sample the cold garlic soup at the annual Festival of Ajo Blanco.
We continue our route by turning left at the bridge up towards El Borge where apart from the bandit El Bizco’s birth house don’t miss the parish church of Our Lady of the Rosary on the Plaza Mirador a Gothic-Renaissance structure of the sixteenth century.
Driving onwards and upwards we are now only a few kilometres from our next stop ‘The Fountain of Paradise’, Cútar, known for its oil and raisins.
This village remembers its Moorish origins every year at the Monfi Festival where history, culture and tradition unfold in the streets with displays of falconry, music, tea ceremonies and belly dancing.
The Moorish rebels – called Monfi – resisted being evicted from a land they had inhabited for eight centuries and the locals hold this celebration to honour their memory.
Our next port of call is the famous mountain top village of Comares.
In summer when the river bed is dry you can drive from Cútar down to the river and come off again at Salto del Negro bridge, turn left and then right up the 7 km road to Comares.
For the less adventurous the route continues down into Benamargosa, turn left after the bridge and continue until you see the left turn up to Comares.
The first watering hole on the way up to the village is the mayor’s bar, Atalaya where you can sample delightful local cuisine while taking in magnificent vistas down to the coast at Torre del Mar.
The next bar along El Mirador offers mouth watering food suitable for the very hungry as the portions are huge!
Further up in the main square do stop to take photos of the view and see if you can spot the villages of Cútar, Iznate, Benamocarra, Vélez-Málaga, Torre del Mar, Benamargosa, Canillas de Aceituno and Alcaucin.
A tour of Comares can be enjoyed on the back of a mule or donkey which you sometimes find waiting in the car park below the main square.
Having finished your tour do make sure to stroll into the beautiful courtyard of the Molino de los Abuelos Hotel for a well deserved cool drink before descending back towards Málaga and the last village of the route Totalán.
To get to Totalán you need to turn left just before Olías.
Totalán is a place whose gastronomy is closely linked to the Mediterranean diet with Gazpachuelo, a stew of chickpeas, gazpacho and the famous Chanfaina stew with peppers, sausage, black pudding, pork and offal.
Stomach full it’s time to head back to the coast but don’t forget the shopping centre at the entrance back onto the autovia Centro Commercial Rincon de la Victoria where if you are not already too exhausted you can shop ‘til you drop!