Great Cycling Climbs of Andalucia - Iznatoraf - The Eternal Lookout
A pleasant and picturesque little climb that seems to be mostly ignored by any form of traffic.
Avg. Grade: 4%
For cyclists, this avoidance is probably due to its distance from any major conurbation, plus the road surface being a little less than perfect. For vehicles, they opt for the more direct route to the ridge line that carries the main arterial roadway through northern Andalucia. For me, that direct route is a much less rewarding way to get to Iznatoraf. Added to that, it doesn't actually get you to the main objective without a significant "flat" detour that ruins the profile, and the enjoyment.
The climb starts from a nondescript farming town, Mogon. A strip of workers houses abutting the Guadalquivir, to be honest, a grubby looking place, but this is a working town with little time, or money, to be spending on frivolities like plant pots and gardens. The road to Mogon is decent and well tended, mostly, but beyond this the surface is pretty neglected. The neglect adds to its rural, picturesque character. No traffic noise, just the occasional low drone of a John Deere somewhere "out there"; no carbon-monoxide fumes, just the aroma of the Olives and the petrichoric fragrances from the rich soils. From its steep-ish start, the ascent settles into a few long, upward-trending, verandas, interrupted by short ramps as it meanders up the valley. All the while you are immersed in the olive groves, the trees breaching the verges, their heavy boughs casting welcome shadows, their fruits litter the soils and the road is covered in dark polka dots from their windfall. All the while the mountain top fortress town of Izantoraf looms over the climb. A startling white village against a piercing blue sky and set upon a landscape of rich and varied greens.
Although small in size, Iznatoraf has a long and important history, and is central to the story of the "reconquista" and the settlement and development of southern Spain. Fable tells us that the Moorish King that ruled this area in the late 10th century, (Ali Menon) tolerated the local Christians, until his wife started taking instruction. Feeling a bit peeved about that, he ordered that she be taken into the surrounding forests, and her hands cut off and her eyes gouged out. After suffering this awful fate, she apparently heard the voice of Mary, who told her to put her stumps in a stream that had appeared. Her hands grew back and, after washing her face, her eyes re-appeared and she saw an apparition of Our Lady. A Miracle! Hearing of his wifes recovery Ali Menon decided to let the Christians be and built them a sanctuary (now a significant church). Some may say that what actually happened is that the guards were also Christians and didn't actually carry through their orders, but maybe thats just the cynic in me!. In any event, the spot where the fountain appeared and the miracle occurred is one of the oldest attested Christian shrines in Spain and has been a place of pilgrimage ever since.
As the climb dips under the dual carriageway, you´re afforded a view across the sea of green back to the Las Villas mountains and Cazorla. The road now in much better repair as it zags its way to the castle walls. From every angle you can see from horizon to horizon, clearly an ideal location from which to protect your lands and peoples. The forests and woodlands of Ali Menon have long been cleared, providing the basis for the production of 10% of the worlds salad dressing of choice, Olive Oil. The climb wraps around the village and finishes through one of the 10 castle portals that are still preserved, and bear the coat of arms of its previous landlords. The narrow cool streets are richly adorned with hanging baskets and potted plants bringing contrasting colour and floral aromas to the cloistered alleyways that lead to its central plaza and a fine cup of coffee.
A Great Climb...