SPAIN

GRAN SENDA de MALAGA: 26/27th Feb. Benalmedena to Alhaurin de la Torre ( 16km) to Malaga ( 20.5km)

It was my birthday so I allowed myself the luxury of the buffet breakfast, putting down energy stores for the day. I had to retrace my steps for the first 4 km or so, something that had prompted me to stash all my camping gear at the beginning of the overlap on the way in.
My fingers were crossed that it was still there and hadn’t got wet.
I passed, again, what I thought was an ancient quarry and continued up the sandy trail above a deep and steep ravine.

IMG_8428-0.JPG

IMG_8422-0.JPG
I was glad to find my stuff still there, disappointed to have to add all those kilos, but turning onto the new path it flattened out and led me through replanted pines above more quarries.

IMG_8437.JPG

IMG_8441.JPG

IMG_8438-0.JPG
I skirted around the peak that a cable car serves and carried on eastwards through low shrub across a limestone plateau. I was joined on the track by a group of kids and a few adults in camo gear that were obviously staying at the albuergue way up here. A little further there was a simpler refugio.

IMG_8445.JPG

IMG_8447.JPG

IMG_8450.JPG

IMG_8454.JPG

IMG_8448.JPG
All of this limestone had provided the materials for long thick walls running all over the place. This now abandoned land had been stock proofed at some stage.

IMG_8457.JPG

IMG_8455.JPG
And then below me, over a cliff edge I could see Alhaurin and it was time to descend from the hills for the final time. I felt a little sad to be rejoining the urban environment but had a nice route down on a narrow trail between the cliffs and into pine woods thick with creepers.

IMG_8465.JPG

IMG_8460.JPG

IMG_8464.JPG

IMG_8463.JPG
After being in the relative wilds for awhile I was sensitive to the sights of the border between natural and man made worlds.

IMG_8469.JPG

IMG_8472.JPG

IMG_8473.JPG

IMG_8474.JPG
Setting off on the last leg of the Senda de Malaga in the morning I was still musing on our disassociation from the natural world and could see symbols everywhere for our hurried lives blinkered from the reality of our damaged connection to it.

IMG_8485.JPG

IMG_8486.JPG

IMG_8487.JPG

IMG_8489.JPG

IMG_8488.JPG

IMG_8493.JPG

IMG_8497.JPG

IMG_8506.JPG

IMG_8496.JPG
And all of this before I got to the start of the final stage. My last signboard left me struggling to find the right way, through the crop area that left me very grateful I’m able to consume mainly organically grown food. The toxic smell from the milky waters was intense.

IMG_8521.JPG

IMG_8515.JPG

IMG_8522.JPG
Leaving the men to harvest the artichokes I passed under the motorway and around the perimeter of the airport.

IMG_8528.JPG

IMG_8526.JPG
I thought maybe I should leave this out but it’s all part of the GR249 and the strong contrast of surroundings shows the importance of keeping the good stuff good.

IMG_8535.JPG

IMG_8534.JPG
The waters had changed from milky to green as it struggled to reach the sea.

IMG_8537.JPG

IMG_8539.JPG
And finally back to the seafront I started at a year ago. I was received by the environment department of the council and awarded my diploma. They were very nice and are doing good and difficult work.

IMG_8546.JPG

IMG_8544.JPG

IMG_8542.JPG
That was it. Relief I’d managed to complete the route coupled with a slight sense of deflation that it was over. It’s a marvellous route around a truly beautiful province.
There is so much more to Malaga than the Costa.

IMG_8581.JPG

Advertisements

GRAN SENDA de MALAGA: GR249. 23/24th Feb. Beyond Entrerrios to Mijas (10km?) to Benalmadena (19km)

I must have come further than I thought before camping as it didn’t take me to long it the morning to climb up through a damp drizzle into Mijas. The batteries in my GPS had been exhausted and I cast around for markers.

IMG_8289.JPG
Approaching the village there was a mix of housing again, simple cabins and the enclaves of villas.

IMG_8290.JPG

IMG_8298.JPG
I was surprised to see a troupe of wild boar descending to the road, and they were equally startled to see me and shot off into the scrub.

IMG_8293.JPG
I emerged into the town under a leaden sky which did not detract from the attractiveness of the place. After settling in to my room adjoining a beautiful floral patio I set off to explore this remarkably popular tourist honeypot.

IMG_8314.JPG

IMG_8301.JPG

IMG_8310.JPG

IMG_8306.JPG

IMG_8315.JPG

IMG_8318.JPG

IMG_8321.JPG
I discovered a quaint little ( fittingly) museum of miniatures and spent some time gazing in wonder at the exhibits, including a painting of a bull fight on a lentil, portrait of Abe Lincoln on the head of a pin and a genuine shrunken head. Bizarre.

IMG_8322.JPG

IMG_8329.JPG

IMG_8323.JPG

IMG_8326.JPG
The town has marketed itself extremely well and even on this fairly bleak February day there were coach loads coming in to peruse the multitude of upmarket shops and maybe take a donkey or horse and carriage ride.

IMG_8333.JPG

IMG_8332.JPG
The forecast rain again failed to appear overnight although there was plenty of low cloud about as I set off next morning on the path above Mijas.

IMG_8340.JPG

IMG_8336.JPG

IMG_8337.JPG
I passed the Ermita del Calvaro chapel and continued up into the mountains studded with Maritime, Aleppo and stone pines.

IMG_8338.JPG

IMG_8342.JPG

IMG_8341.JPG

IMG_8339.JPG
I spotted a group of Ibex above me as I climbed the well made path up to a ridge at about 800 m and joined a broad and fairly level forest track.

IMG_8352.JPG

IMG_8359.JPG

IMG_8354.JPG

IMG_8358.JPG
The light was soft, filtered through the cloud that swirled around me, making the colours of the vegetation muted and giving the sunnier Costa a shine.

IMG_8348.JPG

IMG_8355.JPG
This Sierra is mostly made up of Dolomite, which breaks down very easily to sand and has been quarried on an epic scale to facilitate the building of the coastal resorts. They were remarkably sculptural. Land art on a monumental scale. Or looked at another way, hideous scars in the land that now have been thankfully replanted.

IMG_8362.JPG

IMG_8366.JPG
It was a Sunday and there were groups of people out enjoying the mountains in spite of the cloud. Flocks of cyclists whipped past me on the tracks, runners moved remarkably fast over the rougher trails and groups of walkers crisscrossed on the variety of tracks.

IMG_8375.JPG

IMG_8377.JPG

IMG_8369.JPG

IMG_8368.JPG
I was up to and over 900m a couple of times and hoping for some spectacular views over towards the north, to the Central Limestone Arch mountain range that had been such a feature of my first week or two on the Gran Senda. No luck however as the cloud enveloped the slopes. It made for atmospheric views of the sharp ridge as I made my way cautiously along.

IMG_8380.JPG

IMG_8382.JPG

IMG_8386.JPG

IMG_8381.JPG
At home in Ireland we’d call it a “fine soft day”, which it was, but I was happy to come to the antennas which marked the beginning of my descent on the sandy paths.

IMG_8390.JPG

IMG_8395.JPG

IMG_8394.JPG

IMG_8398.JPG
The dolomite allowed all water to pass through very rapidly so the almost soilless conditions made for hardy plants made to defend themselves.

IMG_8406.JPG

IMG_8410.JPG

IMG_8407.JPG

IMG_8405.JPG
There were also junipers, Rosemary, brooms and more familiar blackthorn and bramble in the lusher areas.

IMG_8397.JPG
Then as the sun began to appear again the noise of the motorway grew louder until I was right above it, under it, and past it on the pretty street of my accommodation.

IMG_8415.JPG

IMG_8413.JPG

IMG_8411.JPG

GRAN SENDA de MALAGA: GR249.22/23nd Feb. Marbella to Ojen (and beyond) 28km to Entrerrios (and beyond) 25km

Huge contrasts in the last two days on the trail. Starting off in the swank environs of Marbella with ultra luxury all around I passed through scorched desolation which primitive off grid fincas scattered about to end in a mixed zone with a bit of both cheek by jowl.
Big contrasts in the ease of hike as well with the first day full of hard scrambling over an up and down narrow path through a jumble of rocks and the second entirely consisting of wide graded tracks and Tarmac road.
But first I had to escape the villas. Maybe the local council didn’t want to encourage walkers or found the route marking red and white stripes distasteful but I couldn’t find any and so got lost for awhile adding a couple of Kms. No matter, I thought, as my info gave a time of 4 hours to Ojen. It took me a lot more.
Starting up the road past villas grand and abandoned I pondered on the effect of the famous Marbella planning corruption.

IMG_8123.JPG
There were derelict sites and half finished builds and smashed up mansions beside the most desirable homes you could buy. If you had the necessary millions.

IMG_8135.JPG

IMG_8138.JPG

IMG_8151.JPG

IMG_8152.JPG

IMG_8144.JPG
The flags were no longer flying over this planned piece of heaven and the rust had already set in on another.

IMG_8143.JPG

IMG_8156.JPG
But at last, having got back on track, I was off into the woods again and very pleasant they were.

IMG_8169.JPG

IMG_8172.JPG

IMG_8174.JPG
It soon became remarkably wild considering the proximity to the porche and range rover filled roads below. I came upon a large set of hives and getting a bit to close, was chased and stung. There was also a lot of boar rooted up ground and I wonder if they penetrated the villa security to dig up the lawns.

IMG_8175.JPG
This time last year I came across the prosessionary caterpillar and here they were again.

IMG_8178.JPG
It was lovely but the ups and downs were steep and uneven. Slow going, especially when you have to avail of ropes.

IMG_8179.JPG

IMG_8184.JPG

IMG_8187.JPG

IMG_8185.JPG
At one stage I got a strong smell of what I thought was marijuana and when I reached a ruined chapel there was some graffiti that made me wonder.
The local walking association was very good at erecting signs for a lot of different routes into the hills but one sign disturbed me when I got down onto a lovely level tableland with deserted finca.

IMG_8197.JPG

IMG_8194.JPG

IMG_8195.JPG

IMG_8190.JPG
The sea and associated costaization came into view but there were many beautiful flowers to admire.

IMG_8198.JPG

IMG_8204.JPG

IMG_8201.JPG

IMG_8202.JPG
I had crested a range of hills and came down into an area with scattered new houses and a backdrop of the vast area burnt in 2012. 8000 hectares went up and denuded the landscape for miles.

IMG_8205.JPG

IMG_8210.JPG
I was suddenly startled by a huge Alsatian. You never know. But he was friendly enough. More scrambling up and down and finally, as I reached the brow of yet another rise, I saw Ojen.

IMG_8211.JPG

IMG_8214.JPG
Looking so near- but proving so far, as the trail made a huge loop around the rocky hills. A moment of relief at a fine drinking trough and then more clambering until finally…

IMG_8226.JPG

IMG_8227.JPG

IMG_8228.JPG
I stopped briefly at the road side caves and longer at a bar to eat before heading on to find somewhere to camp. I wasn’t too hopeful after the terrain I been through.

IMG_8229.JPG
I wanted to shorten the following days stage if I could so carried on up into the hills again with the light beginning to fade. The surroundings became more desolate from the fire damage and when a friendly old hippy stopped and offered a ride a couple of Km to a place I could camp I jumped right in.
A tiny bit of flat ground beside a river amongst an empty landscape.

IMG_8241.JPG
The eucalyptus trees, designed for fire, were the only trees to survive but people stayed, in the small groups of houses deep in the middle of it all.

IMG_8244.JPG

IMG_8246.JPG

IMG_8245.JPG
I was on fine wide tracks that had been made to service the mines that were digging for talc and mica I think. The tracks slowly gradually rose and fell and turned this way and that to allow for different views. At one point I spotted in the distance the white buildings of a drug rehabilitation centre. They had to evacuate during the fire.

IMG_8251.JPG

IMG_8247.JPG

IMG_8249.JPG

IMG_8250.JPG

IMG_8253.JPG

IMG_8254.JPG
The first surviving pines were at the beginning of the Tarmac road I would follow down into the flat farm land around Entrerrios where young olives were protected from the cold and an odd mix of buildings appeared.

IMG_8255.JPG

IMG_8258.JPG

IMG_8259.JPG

<img src="https://stevebarhamramblingman.files.wordpress.com/2018/02/img_8264.jpg" alt="IMG_8264.JPG" class="alignnone size-full" /
The GR route has been altered recently but I was on the original or I was until getting lost again. I found some PR 170 signs which is supposed to follow the same route so off I went. Into another unfinished, or unstarted, industrial site.

IMG_8266.JPG

IMG_8267.JPG
I was heading the right way- up!
And so up and up again until I found myself a little bit of grass for my tent.

IMG_8273.JPG
Which I must get into now- it’s could and dark and I have (another) hill to climb in the morning.

LA GRAN SENDA DE MALAGA: GR249. 21st Feb.Estepona to Marbella(27km)

After 3 days deep in the valleys and high on the mountains on a constant roller coaster of ascents and descents it was a great relief to have a day on the flat. The altitude profile map had a maximum altitude of 12m although bizarrely there were sections marked as 2 or 3m below sea level. They must have known the tide would be out!

IMG_8042.JPG
With the dawn promising a fine day I headed off down the prom, remembering it was a year ago I was doing a similar promenade walk out of Malaga at the first stage of this epic circumnavigation.

IMG_8045.JPG

IMG_8047.JPG
I could see the Rock of Gibraltar rising from the placid waters and a line of jagged Atlas Mountains away in North Africa.

IMG_8048.JPG
Some of the old houses in the town came right down to the seafront and at high tide they could go swimming from the back doors.

IMG_8050.JPG
There was quite a bit of walking on sand and pebbles at the start of the stage which forced an effort I’d hoped to avoid.

IMG_8051.JPG
The big villas and exclusive enclaves started, with their high fences and security cameras. You could edit a strange film from the footage of an unlikely bearded man with rucksack hiking the Costa.

IMG_8052.JPG

IMG_8059.JPG

IMG_8060.JPG

IMG_8058.JPG
But it wasn’t all premium properties. Tucked away here and there there were still little pockets of scrubland, simple houses and fincas, camper vans and caravans.

IMG_8063.JPG

IMG_8064.JPG
Some stretches were very quiet. I know it’s not the summer season but many resorts and condominiums seemed deserted. Some were rusting and crumbling away with empty or green pools and broken windows. But eerily a couple of apartments were lived in in the midst of once upmarket desolation. It was like something out of a J G Ballard story.

IMG_8076.JPG

IMG_8074.JPG

IMG_8077.JPG

IMG_8079.JPG
But most stretches were pleasant enough with nice plantings and paving.

IMG_8061.JPG

IMG_8108.JPG

IMG_8075.JPG

IMG_8070.JPG
Every so often id pass an ancient watchtower or medieval beacon in a range of different settings.

IMG_8062.JPG

IMG_8080.JPG

IMG_8069.JPG

IMG_8072.JPG
Of course Puerto Banus’s had to be the most premium exclusive property.

IMG_8082.JPG
What an astonishing ostentatious display of wealth and desire is open to the rubberneckers in a couple of Kms.

IMG_8083.JPG

IMG_8093.JPG

IMG_8089.JPG

IMG_8084.JPG

IMG_8085.JPG

IMG_8096.JPG

IMG_8097.JPG

IMG_8099.JPG
Ironically the whole place was having its streets dug up and replaced so it was chaos with a lot of unwanted dust landing on cars,boats,restaurant tables, clothes and hairdos.

IMG_8095.JPG
But the Puerto is a small world apart and soon I was back to the beaches on the way to Marbella.

IMG_8102.JPG

IMG_8106.JPG

IMG_8103.JPG
There are a lot of rivers and streams that make their way from the huge wall of mountain inland trying to get to the sea. Most form kind of lagoons on hitting the beaches and slowly filter through but others contain enough flow to make it and these are bridged by the extensive boardwalks.

IMG_8104.JPG
On the outskirts of Marbella more mansions appeared, or rather the walls and gardens surrounding them did.

IMG_8113.JPG

IMG_8111.JPG

IMG_8112.JPG

IMG_8105.JPG
And suddenly a signboard for the next stage which led me up a landscaped path beside a stream with a deep bank displaying the trees roots.
It had been a big change from the last few days but variety is the spice of life they say. I can’t say I won’t be glad to head for the hills again tomorrow though.
The grass is greener up there.

IMG_8118.JPG

IMG_8117.JPG

LA GRAN SENDA de MALAGA: GR249. 18/20th Feb. Benalauria to Genalguacil(18.5km) to Casares(20.5km) to Estepona(27km)

It was a bit of a journey just getting to the start of my last journey on the GR249. Getting to Benalauria where we had left off last October involved a late train from Malaga to Antequera Santa Ana, which is in the middle of nowhere miles from Antequera. This big ultra modern station was thought to be a huge white elephant when it was built but since the new high speed lines have made it a major junction.

IMG_7865.JPG
My connection didn’t leave till the morning and with nothing in the surrounding area and the building closing at night it was a rather cold night in my sleeping bag around the back. The day dawned very misty.

IMG_7868.JPG
The sun slowly burnt it’s way through on the journey to Cortes de la Frontera and I was joined on route by a crowd of runners who set off from the station after being cranked up by the MC.

IMG_7876.JPG

IMG_7879.JPG

IMG_7873.JPG
No taxi available early on a Sunday morning so I reluctantly set off on a steep 10km hike. Lady Luck sent me a young man who picked me up and set me down just outside Benalauria where, after a cafe with the publican who taught us how to make a whistle from an acorn cup back in Oct, I was on my way down out of the village among the almond blossom and chestnuts on a sharp descent to the valley bottom.

IMG_7885.JPG

IMG_7884.JPG

IMG_7881.JPG
On reaching the waters the vegetation got lush, with moist and fertile gardens lining the track and thick clumps of rush and canna. Yurts and other “alternative” structures were tucked away here and there alongside the traditional campo cottages.

IMG_7887.JPG

IMG_7894.JPG

IMG_7904.JPG

IMG_7890.JPG
The river Genal etches a deep line for miles through this region not reaching the sea until it leaves the province and enters Cadiz. My route coincided with local walks along the river on specially constructed walkways through the verdant growth.

IMG_7896.JPG

IMG_7904-0.JPG

IMG_7902.JPG

IMG_7907.JPG

IMG_7909.JPG

IMG_7908.JPG

IMG_7911.JPG

IMG_7913.JPG
It being a Sunday there were a good few walkers on the track and as I left the river and started up a steep and narrow path I had to stand aside for a seeming never ending stream for awhile. I begrudge them not, it was great to see the trails used as sometimes it seems like I’m the only one on them.

IMG_7921.JPG

IMG_7917.JPG

IMG_7920.JPG

IMG_7924.JPG
At long last after a 500m ascent I spied the town of Genalguacil, since 94 the home to visiting artists on residences to create and leave a piece of work. I didn’t have time wander around looking for them as I needed to push on and find a camp.

IMG_7930.JPG

IMG_7932.JPG

IMG_7929.JPG

IMG_7926.JPG
Which I luckily did a few km on. An unoccupied goat shed would protect me from the forecast rain better than my tent. The place seemed to be someone’s abandoned dream with an old foreign car and dilapidated caravan engulfed in briars.

IMG_7938.JPG

IMG_7939.JPG
No rain, no goats in the night and the morning sky was clear. I had heard a horse at some point and I met him on the trail down to the river that was forded easily.

IMG_7941.JPG

IMG_7947.JPG

IMG_7949.JPG
Up again and then along a level track giving views through the trees of Benalauria and Genalguacil.

IMG_7951.JPG

IMG_7950.JPG
The cork harvesters had been out in this neck of the woods and I was hoping to come across them to see them in action but the only workers I found were wheedling chainsaws.

IMG_7957.JPG

IMG_7956.JPG

IMG_7954.JPG
Down again for 250m on a rough track to cross another river, this time dry, although I could hear the Genal gurgling not far away.

IMG_7963.JPG

IMG_7962.JPG
And so began yet another long 600m haul up through the woods. I climbed into a fire lookout tower to lookout for fires, it must be a lonely job. This was all part of a huge (really huge) hunting estate, and at the top of the climb I came upon a great estate with liveried workers driving about in liveried jeeps. The place was impressive but the massive gates closed on my approach.

IMG_7973.JPG

IMG_7966.JPG

IMG_7969.JPG

IMG_7970.JPG
Another slight( comparatively ) rise and I was finally on the way down into Casares where I was delighted to see on a signboard that the next day’s stage had been changed to reduce it from 33km to 24km. Good news. This meant I didn’t have to carry on for another long haul in order to shorten the next day. It meant I could eat, shower and sleep in a bed. Luxury.

IMG_7985.JPG

IMG_7977.JPG

IMG_7986.JPG

IMG_7984.JPG
The sky was clear again. The forecast rain had yet to appear. The sun sparkled on the dew and I got my first real view of the costa lying below.
Setting out on the road in the gloom I was mindful to take notice of the warnings before I headed off down tracks that would take me past some very “civilised ” gardens and mansions that would not have looked out of place in the Home Counties. Perhaps the owners were trying to recreate the old country in the sun. The flowers were nice.

IMG_7992.JPG

IMG_7999.JPG

IMG_8001.JPG

IMG_8003.JPG

IMG_8007.JPG

IMG_8004.JPG

IMG_8009.JPG

IMG_8008.JPG
Ironically, as I crested the ridge above the ideal homes I came upon the bizarre sight and worse smell of a huge landfill site. The poor GR runs down on a neglected path ( I guess it’s not a popular section) right to it and alongside it before thankfully turning its back and beginning a torturous climb into the Sierra Bermeja.

IMG_8012.JPG

IMG_8021.JPG

IMG_8019.JPG

IMG_8020.JPG
Up and relentlessly up into the admittedly beautiful mountains on a mixture of incredibly rough footpaths and tracks made to service the pylons that stride across these slopes.

IMG_8022.JPG

IMG_8027.JPG

IMG_8029.JPG

IMG_8025.JPG
Lovely spring flowers poked their delicate heads through the hard stone surface of the track and there were many rockfalls and landslides.

IMG_8023.JPG

IMG_8030.JPG

IMG_8024.JPG
It seemed absurd to suddenly come across a road works sign on a track that even a digger would have problems navigating but they had replaced a bridge over a steam I soaked my feet in.

IMG_8031.JPG

IMG_8032.JPG
At some point ( I think I know where) I missed a turn off. It was around the point where the route had changed and I blithely followed the main track for too far before realising my mistake. It meant carrying on to the Tarmac road from the mountains down into Estepona which was a long hot slog I didn’t need at the end of the day. I passed some very comfy looking chairs I thought I could probably sleep in and some inviting benches placed for the setting sun but carried on and now I am happily set in a air b+b with a view of the sea contemplating my 27km beach walk tomorrow.

IMG_8034.JPG

IMG_8035.JPG

LA GRAN SENDA DE MALAGA: GR 249. 21st OCT. JIMERA de LIBAR to BENALAURIA ( 17km)

Our last days journey along the trail for this trip was going to take us through the Rio Guadiaro valley on fairly flat ground for about 8km and then on a long steep climb up and over Penon de Benadalid at over1000m before a steep descent a couple of km into the Rio Genal valley.
We set off under a clear blue sky luckily on the shady side of the valley, stopping to admire the Fuente and washing house on the outskirts of the village.

IMG_6177.JPG

IMG_6171.JPG

IMG_6170.JPG
We were again passing through the Natural Parque de Sierra de Grazelema and after following a little cobbled path through patches or parcelas of vegetable gardens we crossed a cattle grid and entered a vast area of cork and acorn covered Holm oaks, perfect for raising pigs, but here sheltering herds of impressively horned cattle, flocks of sheep and a lot of goats all seemingly free to mix and mingle.

IMG_6179.JPG

IMG_6188.JPG

IMG_6189.JPG
The freshly peeled cork oaks were a beautiful bloody shade of red in the early morning light.

IMG_6184.JPG
As we climbed higher we crossed grazing lands, leaving the oaks and coming to walnut plantations.

IMG_6193.JPG
Further on the landscape changed again to a mix of low shrub and more open grassland where the path was lined by stone markers.

IMG_6206.JPG

IMG_6208.JPG
Sally let out a shriek when a little adder on the path struck out at her.

IMG_6196.JPG
As the sun climbed higher so did we and we reached the little gaggle of buildings at Siete Pilas, named after the natural spring Fuente that made this an important intersection of ancient paths.

IMG_6210.JPG

IMG_6212.JPG
A cobbled path took us up away from the village and we were joined by a tabby kitten who followed us for 3 km to the peak.

IMG_6215.JPG

IMG_6220.JPG
There is an abundance of powerful springs in the area which makes farming possible to a great height as the rain filters down through the limestone until it hits the underlying clay and emerges from the ground. The fuente near the top which we were very grateful for was dated from the 1700’s.

IMG_6225.JPG

IMG_6228.JPG

IMG_6229.JPG
Finally, hot and sweaty, we clambered the final few steps to the top where we discovered a car full of a young family that had come up the easy way, a steep concrete track on the eastern side. The towering slab of Penon de Benadalid was impressive and offered a couple of via ferrata routes. We preferred to rest and soak up the views.

IMG_6236.JPG

IMG_6235.JPG
I’m pretty sure that view included the Rock of Gibraltar and the Morrocan Atlas Mountains.
We left kitty to walk with the other family and hopefully avoid the soaring vultures and started down the track. Crossing a main road at the bottom we were suddenly into chestnut country, an important crop over a huge area here.

IMG_6239.JPG
Briefly getting lost when our usually reliable markers abandoned us on the last leg we made in down into the attractive village of Benalauria with spectacular views of the surrounding hills.

IMG_6242.JPG

IMG_6241.JPG
Our friends were waiting in the plaza for us, so we settled down for some cold beers and tapas, with the publican teaching us how to use an acorn cup as a whistle.
A great weeks walk, very varied,was over and the GR249 will have to wait till next year for me to complete it.

IMG_6244.JPG

LA GRAN SENDA DE MALAGA: GR249. 19/20th OCT. EL BURGO TO RONDA(27km) to JIMERA DE LIBAR(26km)

The loud pitter patter of raindrops on clay tiles lasted most of the night but by dawn had gone silent. Not because it was dry but because, as we discovered on leaving our shelter, the fine misty drizzle made no sound. Draping the surrounding hills in a gauze of grey it seem to impose a quiet over the river valley we started up out of town.

IMG_6048.JPG
Everything was coated in sparkling shiny water droplets and the air had been washed of all haze creating particles leaving what could be seen below the drifting, swirling cloud to stand out in sharp relief.

IMG_6045.JPG

IMG_6049.JPG

IMG_6053.JPG
It was all about the water. The river was below us, winding through the walls of layered and undulating seams of sandstone and bursting from dams.

IMG_6058.JPG

IMG_6047.JPG
It also burst from the ground next to us in “Fuentes” nicely planted and with seats that would have tempted in sunnier conditions.

IMG_6054.JPG
And it also covered our heads in a ceiling that rose and fell and drifted around us on unfelt currents.

IMG_6056.JPG
Although we were wet and a bit chilly and had concerns that it should improve before we got too high, it was very calming and a silent beauty pervaded the vast forests of the Sierra de las Nieves Natural Parque.

IMG_6059-0.JPG

IMG_6055-0.JPG

IMG_6062-0.JPG
We left the forest track to descend on a trail to cross the river and clamber up a steep and rocky slope past the ruins of old cortijos that once clawed a living in these wild spaces. The landscape opened around us as we climbed out of the forest and up into the high plateau guarded by the remnants of a cliff top fortress.

IMG_6064.JPG

IMG_6066.JPG
The flat ground, at over 1000m high, was occupied by a working farm of grain and sheep. A lonely spot to be sure, we followed its track up to the pass at 1160m and then down towards their nearest neighbours 5km away.

IMG_6070.JPG

IMG_6072.JPG
As we got lower the flat plain around our objective, Ronda, revealed itself.

IMG_6074.JPG
The rain / drizzle/ damp was long gone by now and after reaching the cortijos lower gate and starting across the agricultural land ,that now did not seem so flat after all,we began to feel the Kms covered and anticipated our arrival

IMG_6080.JPG
in Ronda.

IMG_6082.JPG
Glad to have arrived we had to negotiate swarms of meandering tourists to get to our bed for the night and climb into the shower before taking to the streets again in search of a back street local frequented eatery before collapsing wearily into bed.
Up and out before the sightseers clogged the streets we crossed over the famous bridge and down the beautifully cobbled path into the gorge, only making way for a mass of runners with an axe to grind.

IMG_6089.JPG

IMG_6087.JPG

IMG_6092.JPG
The path was magnificent. The cobbling superb. The light a delight.
What’s not to like.

IMG_6103.JPG

IMG_6099.JPG

IMG_6093.JPG

IMG_6102.JPG
A couple of Kms out out town we turned off onto an old dirt track that serviced a small group of houses and a gaggle of rough and ready farm buildings. After the swish 5* buildings of Ronda this was a forgotten outland or edge town.

IMG_6109.JPG

IMG_6106.JPG
At the edge of edgetown we joined the railway track that was to accompany us all the way the to JIMERA de LIBAR.

IMG_6116.JPG
It became the day of the insects with the air full of flying ants, the vegetation full of snails and busy dung beetles crossing our path.

IMG_6114.JPG

IMG_6115.JPG

IMG_6110.JPG
We left the railway to climb a beautiful ancient cobbled path up over the mountain, passing a flock of sheep on the way.

IMG_6119.JPG

IMG_6124.JPG

IMG_6122.JPG
From the top of the pass and down into the town of Benoajan we unfortunately passed some animals not best looked after. A horse tangled on a few inches of rope, sheep grazing on layers/ stratas of rubbish and one of so many dogs we heard chained and wimpering.

IMG_6132.JPG

IMG_6126.JPG

IMG_6131.JPG
Perhaps ironically, the town is famous for its pork products. Supposedly made from free ranging pigs happily gorging on acorns in the holm oak forests. We have our doubts.
Moving on through town on an old track past the station we continued on a beautiful riverside trail.

IMG_6138.JPG

IMG_6137.JPG

IMG_6141.JPG

IMG_6134.JPG
The valley was spectacular, and just the railway and our track ran through it.

IMG_6143.JPG

IMG_6148.JPG
Our views alternated between far reaching vistas of the railway, river and mountains and intimate ones of trees and trail.

IMG_6147.JPG

IMG_6150.JPG
Eventually we crossed the railway on an elaborate bridge and walked alongside the river before starting the final climb towards our days end.

IMG_6155.JPG

IMG_6156.JPG
Stopping briefly at a Fuente beneath some towering and randomly decorated palms

IMG_6158.JPG
we climbed our last hill of the day, a 2km, 150m ascent to JIMERA de LIBAR.

IMG_6160.JPG
Tomorrow is our last leg of this trip. A hopefully relaxed 17 km walk to Benalauria.