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February 11, 2021 at 2:07 pm #187Anonymous
When Spain lifted the State of Emergency on June 21st after almost three months of enforced isolation what I most craved was a breath of fresh air, in both the literal and metaphorical sense. And what better way to escape the nightmare of lock down and rediscover a sense of space and freedom than with a long hike through the mountains?
I live in a small village twenty minutes from Ronda and so hiking ‘La Gran Senda’ was a natural choice for a trek close to home.
La Gran Senda de la Serranía de Ronda to give it its full title – is amongst several GR walking routes that have recently been created in Andalucía. GR stands for Gran Recorrido and comes from Grande Randonée, a term first used in France to designate a long distance hiking trail.
The Gran Senda is a six stage, 110km circuit that begins and ends in Ronda. The walk links several of the prettiest villages of the Guadiaro and Genal valleys via tracks, footpaths and an ancient drover’s route that once linked the Campo de Gibraltar with the summer pastures of the Serranía de Ronda. All end point villages have small hotels and restaurants so you don’t need to carry camping and cooking gear.
High summer wasn’t an ideal time to be tackling a long distance walk in Andalucía. But I knew that by carrying plenty of water and making early starts, the hike would be the tonic I needed. Leaving Ronda’s old town via a spectacular path that snakes down beside its famous gorge I felt elated to be back on the trail, my thoughts turning to Laurie Lee’s on-foot adventure, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning.
The 24 kilometres of stage 1 of the Gran Senda are its most challenging, leading across the depression on front of Ronda’s towering cliffs before descending into the Guadiaro valley. Passing through Benaoján the trail leads south to the sleepy village of Jimera de Líbar via a riverside path where I chanced upon a kingfisher, a grey heron and – rare luck! – a family of otters gliding through the clear waters of the Guadiaro.
From Jimera the trail’s second stage runs south past Cortes to the plunging gorge of the La Buitrera where you’re guaranteed close encounters with the colony of griffon vultures that nests on its vertical cliffs. Reaching Colmenar after another 23 kilometres of trail, with the temperature in the high thirties, the beer I gulped down in the station’s railside bar could not have tasted better.
Leaving Colmenar a steep climb leads to Gaucín where the trail swings back towards Ronda. Here you enter the cork oak forest of the Bajo Genal before descending to the valley floor and a beautiful section of riverside walking. Oak forest gives way to vast stands of chestnut trees as you pass through Benarrabá, Benalauría, Atajate and Alpandeire. These middle three stages of the Gran Senda are shorter than the first two but still tough enough, with a couple of punishingly steep ascents.
The final leg of the Gran Senda – from Alpandeire back to Ronda – proved to be unexpecetedly challenging. Sections of the trail were washed away by flash flooding in 2018 whilst the narrow path leading up towards the Puerto de Encinas Borrachas is overgrown with prickly gorse and thistles; by the time I began my descent into the sandstone gorge of El Tajo del Abanico my legs were looking like one of Jackson Pollock’s messiest creations.
If you’re looking for a challenging week of walking La Gran Senda de La Serranía de Ronda has much to offer, and in these troubled times there’s nothing quite as good heading out into the hills.
1 Ronda-Jimera de Líba, Medium/difficult, 23.3k, 7hr
2 Jimera de Líbar-Colmenar Medium/difficult, 22.9km, 7hr
3 Colmenar-Benarrabá Medium/difficult, 18km, 6hr 30min
4 Benarrabá-Atajate Medium, 11.8km, 4hr30min
5 Atajate-Alpandeire Medium, 14.5km, 5hr
6 Alpandeire-Ronda Medium/difficult, 18.7km, 6hr
Highlights of the GR-141
Ronda, one of Europe’s most spectacularly situated mountain towns
Riverside walking beside the Genal and Guadiaro
The stunning gorge just north of El Colmenar
Quiet mountain villages with charming small hotels and restaurants
The chestnut forests of the Genal
Ancient stands of cork oaks in the Parque Natural de Los Alcornocales
My new book (and others) about the walk is available in Kindle and paperback via Amazon….
February 11, 2021 at 2:42 pm #190clive
- This topic was modified 3 years ago by .
- This topic was modified 3 years ago by .
Thanks Guy! I moved your post to the literature area…. As you probably noted there are some issues with posting copied and pasted text… I’ll get it fixed. In the meantime I have edited yours to make it readable..
Great news on the new book.!!! 🙂
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