Route: Sayalonga Ridge Walk

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Difficulty: Easy-Medium

Good Walk for: Staying on the flat (rare here): no steep climbs, only gentle downs, all on good track. Exposed to weather, so avoid on wild days or hot days: otherwise all year. Visiting each village. Views over the farmed valley

Distance:  7Km to Sayalonga;

Options: Detour to visit Bodegas Bentomiz, an excellent winery and restaurant (adds 0.5 Km, but worth it.

Continue reading Route: Sayalonga Ridge Walk

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Route: Silk & Salt

Sedella to Salares. Click on the image to see it full-screen

Difficulty: Medium+. The uphill section from Sedella’s Roman bridge is on eroded paths, is fairly steep, and includes occasional exposure to drops.

Good Walk for: cooler days (the uphill warms you) – but a bit exposed for very rainy days or summer heat. Geology (the bones of the land, laid bare); wonderful open views on the route; village link up to see Sedella and Salares, both worth spending a little extra time in to take a look round. Lifting the spirits – love this walk.

Distance:  5 Km (about 2hr )

Description:

This is a linear walk from Sedella to Salares – the silk and salt of my title. If you taxi to Sedella stop at the bus stop (parada de autobuses) near the townhall (Ayuntamiento).  If you have time take a look round the village – it is very attractive. Or at least, pass the end of the first road into the village, heading to the big white building: this is the Natural Park’s Visitor’s Centre. Hours are variable but if it is open go in for 10 minutes – it is free and rather good. Then back track and walk up that main street (Avda Villa del Castillo). You pass the townhall on the left straight away, then Restr. Lorena. At the top of the street just past Bar La Frasca, TL onto Calle Andalucia, then TR into Calle Daire. Quickly you TL again, away from a house with beautiful metal railings, towards a plazoleta with a mini statue. Opposite this statue TR and go down to the track, where you TL beside the sign saying ‘Puente Romano 806m’.

On the track look right over the valley and you’ll see the Fogarate ridge, which divides Salares/Sedella from our own Sayalonga valley. You can see a big house on the ridge. You reach and cross the Puente Romano – a very pretty bridge – then head a few steps to the left to pick up the steep path uphill; steep but fairly easy, though the ground is shattered. Since walkers, hunters, goats & goatherds use it there are multiple paths, but the direction is consistently up and generally right across rock beds; the path is never close to a serious drop and there are a few GR249 posts on the way. After 25 minutes at a rough cairn you arrive below the ruined Cortijo Herreriza. Follow the path that leads ahead and right passing the ruin on the terrace that has a big walnut tree growing on it; at the end find another footpath small but clear footpath leading into the rough. This heads away from the farm, right and gradually up; it is fairly clear. After 5 minutes you cross a gully and tiny stream; keep going on and up. You twice reach a junction with another small path; TR each time. Finally you get to the crest of the ridge, beside a big broom and another GR249 post: below is a concrete acequia, or water channel.

A sandwich in the holm oak’s shade

Go down to the acequia (be careful, it’s a bit steep), turn right and walk gently downhill along the channel, enjoying the wonderful views back of Sedella. You can walk on the concrete banks but mostly there is a little path to one side or the other if you prefer. I sometimes stop under the holm oaks (there are a couple beside the acequia) and have a sandwich in their shade.

After 15 minutes walking or so, keep an eye on the left hand side looking for a clear little path that heads uphill. If you miss it you’ll soon know: almost straight away the acequia becomes alarmingly steep – back track until you find the path. The path brings you up immediately to a track on which you turn right; it heads downhill past a rather grand house and comes out after a few minutes on a larger track, opposite a fairly large but somewhat delapidated goat farm. Turn right and follow the track for some 20 minutes. It comes out onto a road. Turn right and, as you come round the corner you will see a lovely view of Sedella. Cross the road; to your left is a track down into the town of Salares. Head down here.

It goes down quite steeply; at the bottom go right and you will be shortly find yourself at the town-end of the parade – where they have the party stands and activities during their fiestas. If you go up into the town and round the corner  you’ll come to Bar El Theo – Theo is something of a character but I’ve always enjoyed his humour and found his and María’s food to be excellent. Equally you might enjoy a drink at the Los Arcos bar – I confess I don’t know what the food is like here – before heading home.

 

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The Watchtower Walks

AtalayaI had a go at Cerro Atalaya a few years ago. The name means ‘the watchtower’ and this rocky pinnacle, which rises to 1,259m just beyond Cerro Verde, certainly has all round views of the Sierras Almijara and Tejada. I was intrigued by its dramatic stone summit and wondered if I could work my way up. It is easy to get to the coll below it and tempting to try to find a route.

That wasn’t truly my first look-see: I’d done a reccy before, but I was with a friend with no head for heights and so, having left him at the coll, only gave myself about half an hour to explore. When I got back he said that he’d thought I would appear on the summit any second because a small herd of ibex, disturbed by my approach, appeared and danced down from the rock above. No photos: he’d lent his camera to me!

Atalaya approachBut my solo attempt did not go well because I am just too damn clever for my own good. Go right round the back across nasty broken ground? What, when I can see a way to scramble up on a short-cut just here? I have to add that I do have good balance and am confident in scrambling as well as being reasonably fit, so I attacked the route I thought I could find with gusto. It took me about 20 minutes to decide this was a bloody silly idea. It took me nearly 45 minutes to get safely back down again.

Atalaya peak is not a good place to experiment. The rock is eroding, the surface unstable. You bank on the thick roots of spiky bushes holding but even these are in shifting pockets of soil. Large chunks of rock will occasionally come away under hand pressure. Yes, you can see a route that looks plausible, just up head, you just need an extra three foot … but it turns out that extra three foot is veering into High Risk. I love to walk and scramble but I don’t count myself a climber and this was close to climbing territory.

 

Sue on the firebreak below Atalaya
Sue on the firebreak below Atalaya

I tried again with another friend, on a cloudy January day, starting in sunshine from Canillas de Albaida’s Fábrica de la Luz and ascending via the firebreak to be enveloped in scudding clouds. The change in vegetation at the top of the hill was as dramatic as the change in weather – no more swathes of rock-roses, Jerusalem sage and rosemary – lots more tiny flowers peering from cracks in rocks. The lemon thyme was intensely scented, and there were plenty of stone crops, and some shrubby helichrysum. There are prickly juniper and gorse bushes quite high and lots of common orange lichen on the rocks and branches (I guess this is Xanthoria parietina!).

Stonecrop
Stonecrop
Orange lichen
Orange lichen (Xanthoria parietina)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The summit itself is quite accessible, provided you have a good head for heights and we delighted to make it to the top. We were just disappointed to see no ibex waiting for us there and that the views were completely lost in cloud, so I had to make do with trying to capture the drama of the cliffs.

Atalaya cliffs

Atalaya cliff
Atalaya cliff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last year I went up again in March on my own, taking the way described here in Route: Atalaya! and it was simply glorious. For one thing, being alone in early spring, all the wildlife came to see me: a fox ran across my path as I walked from the turning circle; ibex looked out from the pine woods on the right; when I turned off at Fuente Borriquerro there were great tits, blue tits, a goldcrest and chaffinches in the trees. I heard a woodpecker drumming. Heading up towards the firebreak I saw a Short-toed Eagle drifting up the gully on the left hand side.

Ibex
Ibex
Short-toed eagle
There’s a Short-toed eagle here (honest)

 

 

 

 

 

Views of El Fuerte
Views of El Fuerte

I reached the coll and then took the little trail past the stony block that forms the summit. The views as you come out between a couple of holm oaks are wonderful. This is the perfect place, ordinarily, to find a spot to picnic and enjoy the height and sunshine, but I wanted to do the full climb.

 

Route to "The Tooth"
Route to “The Tooth”

The last stretch before you get to climb the rock is only about 200 metres, but it’s tricky. You have to track right across the slope, round and up to pass a big separate rock I call “the tooth”. There is no clear path, nor any significant way markers; the ground is steep and difficult.

View from "The Tooth"
View from “The Tooth”

As I had done before I found myself unintentionally losing height and had to back track and start again, but eventually, after 40 frustrating minutes I got there. I’ll bore you by again saying the views… no, you can already guess! Fantastic!

 

Route to Atalaya summit
Route to Atalaya summit
view of the Sierra Almijara
view of the Sierra Almijara

The final path up is not as challenging; it needs a good head for heights but the route is obvious and even the final scramble isn’t physically challenging though the broad clefts you step over and the vertical drops at hand can make you a little … edgy!

Cerro Atalaya summit
Cerro Atalaya summit

The summit itself is almost level. There was even a little patch of grass. I sprawled out and ate my lunch with great contentment. I was looking forward to see some big ocellated lizards. Andrew, a friend who has climbed Atalaya many times, said that he sees them on the summit if he stays quiet for a bit. None came out for me: I only saw a little psammodromus. However on the summit’s edge a lark perched and hopped confidently, giving me the chance to get my favourite summit shot.

Thekla lark
Thekla lark

I have identified it as a Thekla lark, rather than a Crested Lark, but they are fiendish to separate – this is simply on the basis of probability given that the latter prefer cultivated fields and the former prefer rocky wilds (me too!)

I came down very content and, having come back across the nasty slope below the tooth, picked up a trail that leads to the Cruce de Canillas, near Venta María on the Silk Trail. This path is rather overgrown, but not difficult to find; you do tend to blunder through bushes so I was surprised (and a little alarmed) to come across a Montpellier snake. I might have expected it to have sense my approach and disappeared before I saw it. I came down to the crossroads, ready to take the track down through the pine forests and, for a final hurrah, saw more raptors sailing through the blue sky. The larger I believe was another Short-toed Eagle, but what the smaller bird was, without a better zoom, I couldn’t guess.

Atalaya and the Sierra Almijara
Atalaya and the Sierra Almijara

As you can see I love this walk. It can be done in 4 or 5 hours and it has something of everything. I have, however, written up the route without the summit ascent, which is risky enough that I would hesitate to recommend it and, unlike Andrew, or local ‘multi-adventure’ company, Salamandra, I’d be dubious of guiding people up it.  But it is not necessary. I hope you get a chance to do the Atalaya route with or without the final climb. It’s terrific!

 

 

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Route: Atalaya!

Atalaya route - click photo to see full screen
Atalaya route – click photo to see full screen

Difficulty: Medium+

Good Walk for: Spring and Autumn: varied terrain right in the Park, with lots of wildlife about. Stretching your legs – a good uphill and down. Superb views.

Distance: 12Km

Option: You can extend this circular walk by walking out from the town along the road to the Fábrica de la Luz; take the upper road when you reach a division just past a sign welcoming you to the natural park and continue til you reach the “Curva grande,” a large hairpin bend with a dirt track leading off from the outpart of the loop. At the end of the walk you retrace the same route to return to the town. This adds 5 Km easy road walking.

Description: Drive to or Get a taxi drop off at la Curva Grande (debajo de la Cruz de Canillas). If you want to rebook for the pick up now, since the last stretch lacks good mobile cover, the walk is about 4½ hrs including picnic time (3km/h, rough ground). This hairpin taxi point is where the lorries turn; the track that leads off it goes all the way to Puerto Blanquillo. Follow this track and stick with it. After about 20 minutes you pass a track going uphill on the right (you will come down this way); a bit later you ignore a path off into the woods. You pass a house on your left, Finca Buenavista, once used as a fire look-out point I believe – you might walk around it since the views are attractive but it is always closed up. A little further on you will pass above the Montossa Quarry (you sometimes hear it before you see it if work is in progress). You pass a track going down on the left (to Pepe’s farm opposite the Cueva del Melero).

Finally you come, after about 1¼ hrs, to a large concrete water tank (Fuente Borriquero) on the right, which used to be just about always full of tadpoles, but since it was renovated and painted seems to be less wildlife-friendly. Perhaps they will have come back?!

Now head off to your right along the track into the little dry valley that the water tank marks the end of: stay in the (dry) water channel, looking on your right for the start of a path up the bank, just before you reach more old concrete water tanks. The path, once you find it, is fairly clear. It is a bit steep and in late spring rather overgrown, so take it easy and look out for wildlife, which the woods are full of. There are all the small birds you might see in UK pinewoods (finches, tits, warblers etc) and I’ve seen foxes, eagles, ibex, snakes and a flock of bee-eaters too, as well as abundant lizards and butterflies.

Firebreak below Atalaya
Firebreak below Atalaya

After about 45 minutes you will reach a glittering white firebreak that heads up towards the rocky crest of Atalaya. In cooler months I sometimes see snakes warming up here, but they are brilliant at vanishing before I catch a shot. Turn left and walk up to the head of the firebreak (5 min): you will then easily find the path on the left that leads, once again into the woods. This shorter path is a little more open – it takes you up to a col: the low point between Cerro Verde to your left and Atalaya to your right. Straight ahead are views down towards El Fuerte and the coast at Nerja. TR here and follow the footpath that leads you to the left side of the rocky crest of Atalaya: there is a little exposure as the land falls away on your left, but nothing too alarming and great views. As you pass out from beside Atalaya’s rocky side you have panoramic views south of the whole landscape, which is breathtaking: this might be a good spot for a picnic lunch.

Ahead of you from this spot you can pick out Cerro Gávilan, with the fire station on its summit. The name means Sparrowhawk but although I have seen Sparrowhawks in the area I have never seen one just here – Bonneli’s Eagles, Honey Buzzards and Peregrine Falcons yes, but not Sparrowhawks. The path heads on towards this, skirting to the right of one or two outcrops: keep following it (it may be a bit overgrown) until you come down onto a track at the “Cruz de Canillas” junction. A left turn on the track would take you towards Gávilan and Cómpeta, while a footpath on the left leads off on the “silk route” – but these are for another day. Instead turn right and follow the broad and recently relevelled track zigzagging downhill.

After about an hour you meet a junction with the Puerto Blanquillo track you were on at the start of your walk. Here you turn left and follow the track back – another 20 minutes brings you to the “Curva grande” and – hopefully – your taxi will be waiting for you here.

I absolutely love this walk. It can be done in a morning, is enormously satisfying as a neat circular that encompasses height, mountains, woods, maquis and open spaces. Hope you enjoy it too!

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Route: Shepherd’s Cortijo Walk (short or long)

Shepherd's cortijo route (click on map for full screen)
Shepherd’s cortijo route (click on map for full screen)

Two options: a longer circular walk, starting with a road walk into the natural park  then the track walk OR a taxi drop in the natural park then the track walk

Difficulty: Medium. Two thirds of the walk is on tracks with the final third on paths zigzagging down and then up on steeper ground.

Good Walk for: Views. Almost any time of year. Avoid very hot  or really windy days.

Distance: Full walk 9.75 Km (about 3hrs 20m). Shorter walk 5.45 Km (about 2 hrs)

Ascent/Descent: 15-20 mins zigzag down followed by 15-20 mins zigzagging up. Steep but not very.

Description:

For the short walk take a taxi to Canillas de Albaida’s Fábrica de la Luz, a recreation zone and picnic site.

The longer Walk starts in Canillas de Albaida’s main car park, between the primary school and “polideportivo” (sports ground). Having parked, walk up the hill opposite the mini roundabout and at the T-junction turn left. Follow this road up towards the chapel of Santa Ana, passing it on your left to find a cross roads. Don’t go right and up, don’t go left and down: go almost straight, on the level, heading away from the town. Follow the road for about 20 minutes – you pass a sign welcoming you to the Sierras just before a junction to the right  (stay left), then you pass a road off to the left just before you pass the quarry on your right. After that you pass a ruined building on your left and reach a parking area near the river, picnic tables and the building of La Fabrica de la Luz.

For both walks from the Fabrica do not take the steps up to the building (except to have a look or visit the toilets) but walk forward on the track towards the ford. You get over the stream wherever is easiest (there are several good crossing points to your right) and then follow the track running straight on. It leads you gently north then, after crossing another stream that trickles, usually toe deep across the path, it begins to zigzag slowly uphill.

The Shepherd's cortijo
The Shepherd’s cortijo

As you get higher, look around. Behind you will see a distant tiny white building – the shepherd’s cortijo, an old bothy in this obscure location, after which the walk is named.  You may see sheep and goats grazing or hear their bells.

Further on you will pass stands of cork oaks: beautiful trees. Their bark was harvested in 2013 and will take about 7 years to grow back. You will also be able to see (looking essentially back and down) the Fábrica, which you started from. It will seem a long way below!

Eventually the zigzag track joins a main track on the top of the ridge. Turn left and walk south, on this ridge top: on either side there is farmed land, mainly olives and almonds, with some rough ground in between. When you see a little rocky rise on the right you might scramble go up it to look at the views: to the north the Sierras, to the east the town of Cómpeta, to the west Malaga and, on a clear day you might see Gibraltar and even the peaks of the Riff mountains in Morocco far to the south. Now go back to the track and continue until you come to a big pylon, next to an old, rather overgrown firebreak.

Go to the pylon and head to the right hand side of the firebreak in front of you, in the same general direction of travel as before. After 150m or so, before the ground starts to really climb, find a path on the right that runs along the level. Follow this path; there are glimpses into the Cájula valley on your right.  You will shortly arrive at another track. Cross it and pick up the path again, following this as it leads you gently down through open pine woods ‘til you come to another firebreak. You cross this too and again pick up the path on the other side. This leads you down to a tarmac road.

Cross the road and find the path yet again zigzagging down among open pine woods. This is a little steep in places so take it steadily. It brings you to the valley bottom and meets another path; turn left and you’ll find a bridge over the Rio Turvilla. Of course, having come down into the valley you now have to get up to the town, sticking to the main path as it zigzag uphill. You arrive by the white walls of the village cemetery and can get onto the road by heading up the concrete slope just before it. You are now back in Canillas.

To get to the car park turn right and follow the road down and round. When you come to a side street on your right that runs uphill take it. You pass a beautiful lemon tree hung with gourds! Go on to the plazoleta behind the church and head diagonally across it to go, on the level, into the plaza. Continue through the plaza, past the town hall and on through narrow level streets until you come to a broad opening with a road uphill on your left and the main road just below. Go up the hill, turning right past a fountain and you have reached the carpark again. Well done!

What did you think of this walk? Add your comments below or send your pictures (low res jpegs only, please) to grasshopper@wildingmalaga.com

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