El Caminito del Rey is opening to public visits after yearlong works thanks to the County Council investment of 5.5m euros.
The first visitors who registered on caminitodelrey.info, go along the boardwalks at the Gaitanes Gorge on this historic day for the province.
Mr Bendodo praises 'a huge international interest' that has been aroused by this tourist and natural spot, and he underlines that the annual profit of the path will be 20m euros.
Besides the service offered by shuttle buses which connect the two entrance points, there is the transport service provided by the Town Councils of Álora and Ardales to the path as well.
El Caminito del Rey was opened today after yearlong works, sponsored by The County Council which invested 5.5m euros in the refurbishment. 2.24m was spent on the path rebuilding and the rest on other works on the improvement of the access roads and different equipment for the natural beauty spot. The first visitors could go along the path in the Gaitanes Gorge, at an altitude of hundred metres above the level of the Guadalhorce.
County Council President Elías Bendodo officially opened El Caminito del Rey Path together with the mayors of Álora, Ardales and Antequera, José Sánchez, Juan Calderón and Manuel Barón. Government representative Jorge Hernández Mollar and Andalusian Government delegate José Luís Espejo were also present.
Mr Bendodo considered the event to be a historic occasion, considering that El Caminito del Rey 'has become the major inducement for a visit to the province. It is worldwide known, and of fundamental importance for the environment and local tourism and economy.' The forecast is that the annual profit of the spot will be 20m euros and that it will generate 180 permanent jobs.
According to the first and, as Mr Bendodo said, carefully made estimate, there will be 250,000 visits to El Caminito del Rey. 190,000 of them are supposed to be people who will go along the boardwalks, and the rest of them will visit the natural beauty spot. The only way to book the tickets, which are free, is on the website: www.caminitodelrey.info. All tickets for March, April and May have already been sold out.
Very soon: new tickets for September
Nevertheless, the County Council President told today that the tickets for September would be ready at the website for visitors at Easter, in order to appropriately meet the vast demand for them in Spain and abroad.
He underlined 'the great interest' in El Caminito del Rey shown by the mass media all over the world, from Japan to the USA. He added that 'there were visits, interviews and, continuous reports that prominently displayed information about this tourist inducement and the Province of Málaga'.
'The power of inducement of this spot is incomparable. This is a natural gem which had been closed for too long, and people form Málaga could not afford it to be closed any longer.' Mr Bendodo affectionately remembered Ignacio Mena, a deceased representative of the County Council's Department for Public Works. He said: 'the enthusiasm he put into this project was so infectious for all of us that it made this event possible.'
Then he emphasized the co-operation between different institutions, thanks to which El Caminito del Rey got refurbished, and he thanked to the Government, the Andalusian Government, and, above all, the Town Councils of Ardales, Álora and Antequera for their work on the new boardwalks.
8.5 kilometres-long route and shuttle buses
The distance between the control cabins in Ardales and Álora, at the ends of the boardwalks, is 6 km. Its length is 8.5 if we count the King's Chair and El Chorro train stop called 'Caminito del Rey' at the ends of the route. Visitors are recommended to come by train, although the shuttle bus service will connect the two entrance points thanks to an agreement with Consorcio de Transporte Metropolitano del Área de Málaga (the Malaga's Transport Consortium).
The mayors of Álora and Alora said at the opening that they would provide transport service that connects these villages with El Caminito del Rey. This action is supposed to make the access to the natural beauty spot easier and will benefit this tourist product (find more information at www.alora.es/Inicio/N.asp?IdArticulo=5800 y http://www.ardales.es/es/index.html).
Adults and children older than eight are allowed to come to the path. They should access the area half an hour before the time on their tickets no matter whether the starting point is in Álora or Ardales. It is forbidden to carry a child, backpacks, bags or any other big objects, to light a fire or use an umbrella, as the boardwalks are very narrow and maximum available space is necessary for transit.
As for the schedule, there are timetables for two periods. In winter period, which is from November 1st to March 31st, the path opens from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., while in summer, from April 1st to October 31st, it opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. The path closes on December 24th, 25th, and 31st January 1st, as well as on days with strong winds, blowing at 35 km/h.
Maximum amount of people per day is 600, and only 50 people can approach the path at the same time, which is every 30 minutes. There cannot be more than 400 people all along the path at the same time. This route supposes certain physical effort, although its difficulty is not high. Nevertheless, it is not recommended for people with respiratory or heath disease.
On the other hand, the County Council President emphasized the well done job of the building company Sando, which hired specialized climbers to perform works while hanging on the gorge, and helicopters in order to rebuild the new boardwalks. The old boardwalk was kept as a sample of architectural archeology.
Mr Bendodo claims that the path refurbishment has also been followed by the international mass media 'due to its spectacular carrying out', and has helped to increase the attention to the official opening of the path.
Everything started in 1901
El Caminito del Rey is an exceptional, modern and breathtaking site, but it is also a very special part of Malaga's history. This is because it has existed since 1901, when a Hydroelectric Company El Chorro started works on a path that would be used by their maintenance workers and for transport of materials.
The path was carved onto the rock on one side while the rest of it was hanging, and it was used for moving materials to the Count of Guadalhorce's Reservoir. The works on this service way were ended in 1905, and it had been used for labour and social purposes by the inhabitants for years.
On May 21st 1921, almost 94 years ago, its fortune got changed forever when King Alfonso XIII walk along it to open the Count of Guadalhorce's Reservoir. Thanks to this major event, El Caminito del Rey Path got its name.
The County Council President praised the fact that this spot was becoming an important tourist, historic, environmental, sport and active tourist attraction in agencies all over the world. He said they were reclaiming this site for everybody who would like to enjoy it, and that they had a clear goal which was to give importance to this natural spot and fit historical and environmental interests in financial ones.
The County Council President told the first visitors before their entrance to the spot: 'Today we are making history', he added, 'that is to say, we are continuing with a beautiful story about this site, which we are lucky to have in the province, and we are being responsible for its smart management, so it could remain a world-famous wonder it has always been.'