Great Malaga Path (GR 249). Alternative Route 3. Stage 2. Cuevas de San Marcos - Cuevas Bajas
1 The Beginning of the Stage: Cuevas de San Marcos
2 The End of the Stage: Cuevas Bajas.
Connection with other paths and livestock tracks:
This Alternative route links with GR 245, Mozarabic Way, link up at the end of the Alternative Route, with the PR-A 234, Archaeological Park and Natural Belda, link up in Cuevas de San Marcos, and with GR-7 E-4, Tarifa Athens, partial overlap.
• Road traffic circulating on tarmac roads
• Temporary flooding on the flood plains of the River Genil
Centuries-old Olive grove (Up to km 4)
Two main country tracks set off from the western part of Cuevas de San Marcos, towards the valley of the river Genil 100 metres below. The Path takes the more northerly route down El Martillo street, although it joins the other a short way past a gentle downhill section, soon to cross the first gully. The Olive grove that you now cross has centuries old trees, recognisable by their enormous bases divided into two to four trunks and which are planted in ridges on both sides of the path.
This alternative route arrives at Los Puercos stream for the second time. The appearance of the channel here is quite different, since it has excavated a deep gully in the unsettled ground, revealing its sands and gravels. The varying texture and hardness of the rock has caused a number of small meanders along this stretch, creating an idyllic image. The occasional more serious floods mean only the strongest Poplars, Willows and the well-adapted Reed beds remain standing.
A second uphill section after the ford takes you up to a rise where a track in good condition joins from the left. This comes back from the A-7300 and has signposts to the waterwheel and the river. You now descend, still to the southwest alongside a small stream (km 2.0) getting ever closer to the valley bottom, just as the River Genil comes into view.
The River Genil’s waterwheels, riverside and lake (To the end of the stage)
A couple of access roads go off to the right leading to the first area of lakes on the River Genil’s flood plains. Just a short way on from here, the path reaches the riverside. After this bend, the river channel steepens, forming rapids which La Aceña (or Seña) waterwheel takes advantage of. It is conveniently signposted and explained on information boards (as well in English) about 100 metres further on. These waterwheels were fully functioning, providing industrial services during the last two centuries. It is not unusual to see canoeists and rafters in these usually turbulent waters.
The path then goes straight on and cuts across the meander. When it rejoins the riverbank, there is an important junction where the Northern Branch of the GR 7 E4 breaks off and can be used as an alternative way of reaching Cuevas Bajas. The Stage route, by contrast continues along the riverside towards one of the most interesting sections from an environmental point of view. Following the river’s wide meander to the north-west, it takes you round the Castillejos hill, and then to the south-east.
The secondary track ends when it crosses an Olive grove and then turns into a footpath. This climbs a little above the river after passing some enormous Tamarisk. Using some small earthen steps, you reach the banks of the river again with its intriguing Poplar trees, and soon ford the very deeply embedded stream of Las Pozas. On the other side, there is a meadow of Almond trees you must go around, leading to an abandoned gravel pit that is now a rafting jetty. Continuing along a wide track with a couple of bends, you pass the new aggregate quarry on your right and a little further on, leave the main track to take a minor track that is closed off to traffic.
Once again, the along the riverside grove is the backdrop for the Stage’s second waterwheel, La Agusadera. It is kept in good condition, particularly the walls of the building and the metal structure. Although it is similar in diameter to the other, it has a greater number of spokes, crosses, paddles and buckets. Whereas the stones are better preserved in the first, it is the arches that carry the water that are most impressive here. After passing under the aqueduct, there is a large low-lying area prone to flooding, where the Path returns to the riverside vegetation. It follows an arc ending up at the main lake, until you reach the road that allows access to the birdwatching site.
Birds may in fact be this section’s main attraction, since it is a resting area during migrations as well as a permanent residence for forest and riverside species, with some fascinating species. Despite the water levels changing frequently, these lakes provide a very different habitat to that of the river, which broadens the range of animals found in this valley yet more.
Continue along the riverbank until you meet the main track again and, a little further on, you will see the bridge used by the Mozarabic Way to cross over to the Cordoban side. Instead of going to Cuevas Bajas via this accredited track, return to the riverbank, where the last flood-prone area is on your left. The town comes into sight and after some large bends in the track, you come to the end of Stage 2 of this alternative route GR 249.3 and arrive in Cuevas Bajas.
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