GR 249. Stage 34: Benalmádena - Alhaurín de la Torre
La Garganta del Quejigal
Beginning on the Calle Luís Cernuda the walk. takes you under the autovía del Mediterráneo motorway through a tunnel that is also the watercourse of Arroyo Hondo stream, then twists to the right and leads for a kilometre on a gentle incline beside the AP-7S. You will pass the gauging stations of an old supply of drinking water, now abandoned, and ignore the road to the Ruta 4 path on your left. After the fifth gauging station there is the second link with the pink path, which is also ignored, and then the path, so far northbound, veers sharply north-west. The sparse scrubland of Esparto tussock grass, dianthus and thistles (including the interesting and unusual Carthamus arborescens and Ptilostemon hispanicus) is giving way to an understory beneath dense and tall Aleppo, with European dwarf palm, gorse, fennel, Terebinth, Mastic, Mediterranean buckthorn and Juniper.
You will pass by a very shady abandoned quarry and from there the slope is much greater whilst the path enters the narrow valley. After this there is a hillock before you wade through the Regajo del Quejigal, which has the best panorama of the rocky cirque that closes above you, highlighting the Tajo del Quejigal cliff with its Terebinth, Holm oaks and contorted pine trees.
The oleander, rushes, and mare’s tails imply that there is moisture from the substrate, although the water spring here has long been disused.
The walk then goes past a confluence formed by two streams that make up the head of the valley and here, in a sunny area, is where the scrub is best represented. There are mature specimens of junipers, myrtles, Terebinth, Lentisc and buckthorns accompanied by rosemary, European dwarf palms, rockroses and spiny brooms among the Maritime pines. It is then at (kilometre 2.7) where you encounter a sandy area, cross a new streambed and then conquer another steep slope. Toward the east
you can see the stark hillside on the other side of this little valley. Being devoid of protective vegetation it has suffered soil loss.
Thus you reach the junction, seen previously, located close to the Tajo de la Sabia, which is situated a few meters behind the watershed line. Here there are links to Ruta 6 (blue path); you take the right-hand path along a sector which is extremely sandy. Here is the ideal habitat for xerophytic plants that are adapted to the dryness and instability of the terrain (many of them have restricted distribution) and animals such as the Spiny-footed lizard (Acanthodactylus erythrurus). Note how the examples of Stone pines are gradually increasing in size on the re-planted terraces. They give an appearance of combed lines over these peaks.
The Mountain Passes
Gradually the slope will level out, and you will leave behind, to the west, the views of the Cerro del Moro bristling with antennas, through which runs the last part of stage 33, coming from Mijas. The first pass is the Puerto de la Cruz (km 4.0), where Benalmádena and Alhaurín de la Torre come together, the GR maintains a level of 650 metres with good views towards Benalmadena initially, and then the Cerro Calamorro peak, after walking through Kermes oak that rest on the rocks at the highest point of the day.
You will reach the Puerto Viejo pass, a hill where there are paths that climb Calamorro from Benalmadena (it is common to see groups of people at all of the viewpoints). The selected itinerary opts for the northern slopes, along a power cable that, for a moment, seems to be alarmingly close. But the most striking is certainly the clearing created by mining activity below, on the area of Sierra Llana between the two streams Arroyos Blanquillo and Pinar. Several companies are dedicated (in the district of Alhaurín de la Torre) to digging and preparing the white limestone to obtain aggregates of different particle sizes used for construction. In some places the slope has been terraced and planted with conifers, the best plant to thrive in this bare environ. There is no doubt that this is a controversial issue, as it is diffi cult to combine conservation with production, but even more so in an environment as fragile as the Sierra de Mijas.
The following vantage point is the Puerto de las Ovejas (km 5.8), signifi cant because here you can access a track that ascends from Arroyo de la Miel. The branch that turns to the right serves to climb up to the cable car station. This is also the headwaters of the Arroyo de los Muertos and el Saltillo, and therefore this is where some of the alternative paths described lead from, in particular Ruta 1 (red path), in the perimeter of Calamorro. Continuing along a dirt track now, with views of the coastline, you reach a junction of paths that marks the Puerto del Viento. As it is usual at this height, the GR selects the path which goes to the summit. The others are lead towards the south-east to the Arroyo de la Miel (a good escape route) and its cemetery and to the north to the Arroyo Blanquillo quarry.
The Cañada del Lobo complex is something that the GR will discover shortly. The municipality an infrastructure for tourism and the natural environment, connected by public transport access which is even lit at night. The combined series offers 30 places (in the hostel and the refuge), a gazebo, the watchtower and a Nature Hall. You abandon the tracks in pursuit of a path that zigzags along a thin limestone pavement and leads to Puerto Blanquillo (km 8.1), recognizable by a new crossing leading to Arroyo Blanquillo stream and the quarries. Just before that you pass under a power cable (between Torremolinos and Alhaurín de la Torre) and next to an old turret of steel and concrete.
The limestone is gradually changing as you pass through the bleak upland known as Loma or Llano de los Pajaritos, devoid of trees or thickets and dominated by aromatic and prickly plants. The decline begins in a copse of tall Maritime and Aleppo pines through an interesting area from a geological point of view due to its folded and blue limestone that was once used to build the dry stone walls known as the Corrales del Tío Caliche (km 9.1). This is a curious place name that testifies not only to hundreds of metres of built walls, but refers to a type of geological formation, Caliche, which is nothing more than upper crusts hardened by lime in the sediments of sand and edges of the quarries. Maybe Tío Caliche (Uncle Caliche) had nothing to do with this phenomenon, but it is certainly possible to see it lower down on the slopes of the arroyo.
The Arroyo Zambrano
A small ruin is located near to a good place for a little detour to the north which allows the best views toward Alhaurin de la Torre, now very close. At the Choza del Caliche hut there is one of the cairns marking el Monte Público (public mountain land) that became visible from the Puerto de las Ovejas, the next one being at the Puerto del Canuto. This is another emblematic place, as passage through here isrequired on the traditional roads between Alhaurin de la Torre and Torremolinos. It is also a place where there are three legally approved trails of the three different types existing in Andalusia (SL, PR and GR).
The access to the Pico de las Palomas, which is to the east, and the Pico Jabalcuza to the north also is in the Puerto del Canuto. The Great Málaga Path changes to the northwest and descends deeply into a ravine, the Zambrano, where the lush vegetation takes on the appearance of a jungle with abundant growth oF Lentisc, Terebinth, Buckthorn and Carob trees with rough bindweed tangled amongst other climbing plants. The density of the vegetation contrasts with the two rocky escarpments that flank the valley, the Jabalcuza to the right and the Coto Alarcón left. Terebinth thrives here, interspaced with other broadleaf shrubs. This area is a good place to look for rock fauna that characterizes the sierra, among which must be emphasized the Spanish Ibex, eagles and smaller birds.
Always with the cables of a new electricity layout above, the valley will progressively open; you must cross the stony stream several times until you reach a flat area inhabited by tall pine trees. Among the leaf litter and the shrubs you can discover the crop retaining walls which are disused and even a roofless hut. Perhaps the vineyards used to be here, given the name used further along the road.
You cross the Arroyo Zambrano again, just before it turns into a small pit by the escarpments where you can see the aforementioned calcareous concretions and the slope is hollowed out by landslides. This leads to a fenced olive grove and soon to an asphalted track. It is the Camino de las Viñas (Vineyard Road), that descends markedly to Alhaurin de la Torre among orchards of subtropical crops and labourer’s houses that are gradually being replaced by modern housing estates that welcome the end of the stage.
1. Initiation Stage :
Access Starting point: The A-368 road, accessed from the AP-7S motorway, the main road which crosses Benalmadena. Where it changes name to the Avenida Juan Luís Peralta is where this stage begins.
Starting point: Calle Luís Cernuda de Benalmádena street, in the higher area close to the Autovía del Mediterráneo motorway.
Enjoy the walk safely: There are two cores of human activity during this stage should you need assistance. One of them is the Cerro Calamorro, wait here until a cable car arrives from Benalmadena, the exception being it does not run in very bad weather. Climb to the peak following the directions provided by the signs of Ruta 1 (red path) from Benalmadena.
The other point is the refuge or the lodgings at Cañada del Lobo, which are often occupied during the holidays and have a municipal guard. Otherwise, it is a solitary mountain very close to the shore but it receives countless visits from walkers and
mountain bikers. There is no drinking water during the entire walk despite the fact that there are a few sources within walking distance. You would need to know of these in advance and remember that the water has not been treated for human consumption.
The network of paths is extensive and you would have to be sure of what you are doing if using any of the connections, especially in adverse weather conditions. Although it is an unlikely event, be careful with telescopic walking poles in the event of a storm or if the relative humidity is very high as you skirt the Cerro Calamorro, where you pass beneath a power cable that, due to the terrain, seems to be lower than usual.
2. Completion of Stage:
Access to finish point: The network of roads that lead to Alhaurin de la Torre has its reference in the autovía del Mediterráneo motorway when it bypasses Málaga in the South. The most logical access is the A-404 road, which also communicates with Alhaurín el Grande. From the Carretera de Cartama (A-357), the access road is known as Carretera de Churriana A-7052 which is linked to the fi rst.
Finish point: The housing developments to the south of the old town of Alhaurin de la Torre are the highest in the village, situated in the folds of the mountains. One of them, Los Manantiales, is based on both sides of the Camino de las Viñas, which is the road that leads to the fi nal destination of the stage.
3. Alternatives :
Possible "escape routes": The escape areas are located between the Puerto de las Ovejas pass and the tourist facilities of Cañada del Lobo. You have to look out for the forest track that goes down in a south-east direction from the crossroads at the Puerto del Viento.
No return point: Prior to the point described above, once you have seen the view of the Calamorro summit (km 4.8) the best thing to do is to continue forward. On the other hand, near the end of the stage, reaching the Corralones del Tío Caliche, there is an option to continue down into Alhaurin de la Torre, which is the closest village.
Connections to other footpaths and trails: As in other aspects, this stage also complements the previous one in terms of the different alternatives. For the fi rst 3.1 kilometres both coincide in layout but in the opposite direction, so that successively you leave two detours to your left: the two branches of the Ruta 4 (pink path) called Tajos de la Sabia. Take Ruta 3 (green path) to Tajo del Quejigal.
Where the two stages of the GR-249 fi nally separate, rejoin the Ruta 6 (blue path) of los Cazadores. When you reach the Puerto Viejo, at the foot of the Calamorro, you will see Ruta 1 (red path) the Arroyo de los Muertos, which offers different alternatives. Along this path, provided by the Town Hall of Benalmadena, you can reach the Estación del Telecabina de Benalmádena (Cable car) or you can walk around the flanks of the Cerro Calamorro, ascending the hill up to the Puerto de las Ovejas or to the west to the Puerto Viejo.
The PR-172 Puertos de Torremolinos takes its name from its central axis, which runs along the ridge between the Puerto del Canuto and Puerto de Viento passes. It therefore coincides with the GR between these places, during 2.8 kilometres in total, but it begins and ends in Torremolinos, to the south.
Either of the two is a good alternative if you want to fi nish in Torremolinos. The length of this almost circular PR is 9.9 kilometres and it leads in the opposite direction to the Great Málaga Path.
The other offi cially approved itinerary is the Sendero Local SL-50 (Local Footpath) Arroyo Zambrano-Pico Jabalcuza. It coincides with the fi nal part of this Stage and is 4 km long, one way only. This is the ascent to one of the most emblematic peaks of Alhaurin de la Torre, the Pico Jabalcuza or Abarcuza, which with 609 metres of altitude is the highest peak in the vicinity of the town and so it is also the place to visit for avid walkers.
Last but not least, there are the three colour-coded walks offered by the town hall of Torremolinos. What they all have in common is their use of the valley of Arroyo de la Cueva de la Higuera stream to arrive at the Puerto del Canuto. The Red path then encircles the Pico de las Palomas and comes back parallel to the point of origin in the area of los Manantiales. The green path takes you on an anticlockwise journey, along the ridge line between the passes, and then from the Puerto de las Ovejas along
the footpath that goes through the bottom of the Arroyo de los Muertos gorge (which is the border with Benalmadena).
In regard to the blue path, from the Puerto del Canuto it turns to the east and then gradually to the south so completing a tour as long as the green path, but having walked a section on asphalt to return to the origin of the three paths at the source of the Fuente del Pinar.