Ollie, our van, was riding high heading east out of Tarifa on four shiny new tyres. Tim was equally riding high feeling like a dog with an extra appendage at having the said tyres fitted! Oh the little things?! To be fair it had been touch and go as to whether the tyres would be done as, when we duly arrived at the garage at our allotted time of 16.00hrs, the tyres had yet to be delivered. Several phone calls confirmed they were on their way being couriered from Cordoba. They finally arrived at 18.00 and we were on our way 90 minutes later.
We stopped for the night at the aire at Castellar de la Frontera where we’d stayed before which is conveniently located just 8km off the main A7 Algeciras to Malaga road. Whilst there we popped over to the cafe across the road to pick up some wifi and saw on the news that in fact the whole south coast of Spain had been battered by severe gales for 24hours. Maybe our experience in Tarifa had been on the extreme side then!
Our next destination was to be Garganta del Chorro, a huge canyon in the limestone massif above the Río Gualdalforce, 50km north west of Malaga. It’s a major centre for rock climbers but we wanted to walk the Caminito del Rey, a walkway traversing halfway up the steep walls of the narrow limestone gorge. The 3km long narrow path, clinging precipitously to the mountainside by pins driven into the rock, is set some 100 metres above the Guadalhorce river and is just a few feet wide. Just my kind of thing! If you don’t really have a head for heights then I suggest you look away now!
Now a tourist attraction, the Caminito del Rey was originally built between 1901 and 1905.
With the construction of the El Chorro and Gaitanejo hydro electric powerplants, the path gave workers the ability to cross between two nearby waterfalls. It effectively provided a shortcut so the workers didn’t have to climb down the mountain on one side to then have to climb up the other side. After all, we all love a shortcut!
It wasn’t until 1921 that the path became known as El Caminito del Rey (the Kings pathway) after King Alfonso XIII crossed it to reach the dam for the inauguration ceremony.
Over the last century intrepid climbers used the path, also as a short cut, to reach Makindromo, a famous climbing sector of El Chorro. Throughout the years the walkway fell into a serious state of disrepair with gaps in the guard rails and pavement areas which were completely missing but still the climbers came and risked life and limb to cross it.
However, after four fatal accidents in 1999 and 2000, the path was closed by demolishing the initial section to prevent any further fatalities.
Plans were afoot in the early 2000’s to restore the path but lack of the old wonga prevented the project going ahead. Fast forward now to February 2014, the Provincial Deputation of Malaga finally had the cash to restore the path. The new path was constructed one metre above the line of the old one and was reopened to the public in March 2015.
The actual path is now run by a private company but for €11.55 each for the walk and the return bus I don’t personally think they are ripping us off!
The whole route from where we parked the van at the North end to the finish at El Chorro is about 7km on a mixture of woodland path and board walks.
So what did we think? Well, despite definitely feeling like a tourist attraction, we thought it was superb.
You can only walk it in one direction, north to south, and the numbers are limited entering the path at different time slots to prevent overcrowding.
I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
It felt all very safe but I imagine if you are a tiny bit wobbly about heights then I guess it wouldn’t be your idea of a dream day out!
It’s also probably not advisable, like I did, to keep walking whilst gawping upwards at the vultures soaring across the top of the canyon which at some points is 700m high. A sure recipe for vertigo and a tumble I think!
The final part of the walk, which traverses the gorge at the southern end by way of a suspended (read MOVING!) bridge, continues on down and around the corner giving far reaching views down the valley from El Chorro.
It was just fantastic. It’s not until you look back at where you have been that you suddenly realise the sheer height and precariousness of it all.
The whole thing took around four hours and we got back to the van at around 2pm for a rest and a regroup. Whilst it did seem a shame to wake Tim up from his afternoon kip to go for a further walk I felt it was necessary as I’d hate to feel he was missing out! It was worth the effort though for the views we had over the three reservoirs.
We would have ideally liked to have spent another day in the area but, due to the uncanny lack of others vans around, and it being in the natural park, we thought that wild camping here would be a no no and we’d risk a fine.
We drove to the very good free aire at Altequera, a prosperous looking market town with several fine churches. What it is most famous for is the three prehistoric dolmen caves dating from around 2500 BC.
Call me a heathen but I found it a little underwhelming but it was free!
Today we’re off to the Parque Natural de El Torcal, south of Antequera, to do some walking and look at some rock sculptures.