Great Malaga Path (GR 249). Alternative Route 3. Stage 1. Villanueva de Tapia - Cuevas de San Marcos
1 The Beginning of the Stage: Villanueva de Tapia
2 The End of the Stage: Cuevas de San Marcos
Connection with other paths and livestock tracks:
This Alternative route links with PR-A 234, Archaeological Park and Natural Belda, link up in Cuevas de San Marcos, and with the GR-7 E-4, Tarifa – Athens, link up at the end of the Stage
• Road traffic circulating on tarmacked sections
• Crossing the MA-6100 road
Towards the country houses of Zamarra, Parrilla & Blanquilla (Up to km 10.8)
After the 2.7 km the track share with Stage 14 of the Great Malaga Path’s original route, you come to a fork at the La Morena country house. This is found at the northern end of the Sierra del Pedroso, an island of vegetation in a sea of Olive trees. While the GR heads west towards Villanueva de Algaidas, 12.1 km away, this alternative route breaks off and heads north, passing the country house on your right.
Huge Holm oaks and some elongated patches of young trees with scrubland signal the first climb, and you are rewarded with good views looking back on the hills. Once at the highest point of this alternative route, at over 900 metres above sea level, the course changes from northerly to slightly more westerly, to detour around some Holm oak woodland blocking the path. This brings you to a crossroads of multiple tracks, which leads to a rural house on top of a small hill in the area known as Colonia de los Frailes (the Monks’ Colony). Turning to the right, you pass through a patch of Gall oaks with Blackthorn bushes and Mediterranean buckthorn. Then retaking the general direction of travel, you reach the MA-6100 road at kilometre 7.4, which you cross to continue along a larger track.
A gentle climb up the western slope of the Castillejo hill, with fruit trees on either side, takes you to the top of an area of mountain passes. Either side are the hills of Los Carruchos and Las Laderas, while close to you is the Benítez estate. There are other buildings in ruins nearby, among Olive trees, when the path starts its descent to the north-east. The small valley it goes down is very exposed to erosion, and so the gullies on either side have been concreted over. You cross the stream several times, while the embankments become even larger defences after the Cucarrete estate on the right.
Once at the bottom, turn left after crossing the Adelantado stream (km 7.8) and then take the tarmacked track to the scattered hamlet Zamarra Parrilla, belonging to Villanueva de Algaidas. It has an interesting chapel built in 1716, named Virgen del Socorro, with an adjoining fountain. On the right are some houses with vineyards and fields on the left. The main road then curves around the side of the olive cooperative and begins to climb. Leaving the tarmac, it takes a steep track (km 8.8) heading west with numerous tracks going off to the area of Cortijo Alto, until you come to the fields of fruits belonging to the Blanquilla district.
The hills of Los Bueyes and Los Puercos stream (Up to km 13.7)
As soon as you leave this neighbourhood, the tarmac ends and you must keep an eye out for a sharp turn north. It takes you onto a secondary track that descends a little through Almond trees to reach the main pass of the Los Bueyes hill. At another junction of multiple tracks, there is a solitary Holm oak tree almost as a precursor to the many more on the eastern flank of the hill. Just here, you turn to the north once again. Thanks to the steepness of the terrain, the hill preserves some of its original vegetation on its both sunny and shady slopes.
The track begins to descend again through Olive groves, and for the second time, gives views of Cordoba’s countryside and the Genil valley. You come to the impressive expanse of the Cerro de los Bueyes estate, once an important building. It is in such a bad state that the internal structure is visible. As you walk along the crest of a hill, you can make out Encinas Reales on the plain to the northwest as well as, on your righthand side the dramatic change in the valley’s vegetation. There is a greater variety of rainfed crops, despite the everpresent Hojiblanca olives dominating: patches of scrubland, but also woodland of Pine and Holm oak, such as that below you to the right in the area of zigzags. This also signals the change of municipal district from Villanueva de Algaidas to Cuevas de San Marcos. The next reference point is the Cortijo del Conejo estate in ruins and on the right, with its fruit trees and prickly pears. This leads on to the stream of Los Puercos, which you must cross.
Skirting the El Camorro hills of Cuevas Altas (To the end of the stage)
The route turns abruptly to the east, going upstream under the riverside’s covering of Poplar trees, with the occasional Gall oak and Elm. You pass some fields belonging to the country estate, which signal another change of direction (4.4 km from the end of the stage) growing Quinces, Cherries, Walnuts and Pomegranates.
Continuing uphill to the west past Esparto grasses on limestone and marl soils, you reach a viewpoint, which is an ideal spot to stop off. From here, the valley of the stream that you cross again in Stage 2 can be seen. Looking back over the terrain recently covered, the patches of trees and the two country estates are also visible. Gradually turning north-west, it reaches a high point at 700 metres above sea level. This provides excellent views of the sunny slopes of Cuevas Altas’ section of the El Camorro mountain range, named after the caves at its summit. To reach its edge, cross over Las Piedras stream and its band of riverside plants and pass a turn-off on the right, continuing along this main track.
The mountain range was declared a Natural Monument due to its geological and natural values, especially for the famous fault line which gradually comes into sight as you turn towards the north-east. It is still a long way back from the road as you pass the El Puntal rocky outcrop to your right. Turn left at a crossroads and some radio masts welcome you to Cuevas de San Marcos, with the Iznájar reservoir below, whose dam is just within Malaga’s territory.
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