Great Malaga Path (GR 249). Stage 28. Genalguacil - Casares
1. Initiation Stage:
Access Starting point: Genalguacil connects with the rest of the Serranía de Ronda via the MA-8304 and the MA-8305, which lead towards the Ronda-Algeciras road (A-369). On the other side from Estepona on the Costa del Sol, the MA-8301 goes up to the Puerto de Peñas Blancas. This opens the possibility of connecting with the village from Jubrique or arriving on the MA- 8302 directly. It passes by the village hotel but is still not paved in sections.
Starting point: Mirador de los Poyetes or de la Lomilla, in the southern tip of Genalguacil, very close to the church and at the end of the street Calle Real. There is a car park at the starting point.
Enjoy the walk safely: You will have to cross four or fi ve watercourses but only two of them are of any concern. El Arroyo de los Zaharames, about half-way into the walk has two makeshift bridges at the lowest point, one of them quite eye-catching as it is made up of one single log. It is up to you whether you prefer to use these bridges or wade through. It is important to stress here that trying to go back at this point of the walk could lead to a serious disappointment. Fortunately, with the fi rst steps of the stage, at km 3.5, you come across the ford across Río Almárchal which is a good indicator of water levels of the day. This permanent river is the biggest watercourse of stage 28 and so it marks the top level of difficulty related to watercourses on the day. If it doesn´t pose any danger, the following streams will not, either.
Los Montes del Duque, and other, less famous areas, manage big game and organise hunts from time to time. The legislation requires that the hunt areas are clearly marked, especially around the GR-249. When there is a hunt on, under no circumstances should you ignore signs and warnings. Hunting and walking in the same area should be able to be compatible, so, on the one hand you must scrupulously adhere to the sign-posted GR path, and on the other, walk as quietly as possible.
2. Completion of Stage:
Access to finish point: Casares also connects with the Serranía de Ronda and with the Costa del Sol. If you are coming from inland use the A-7150 which connects with the A-377 (Gaucín-Manilva). The above mentioned road also connects with the Costa del Sol, passing through Manilva, or directly via the MA-8300.
Finish point: Plaza de España, in the centre of Casares. The main streets which end here are the Calle de la Carrera and Calle Juan Cerón.
Possible "escape routes": The only two possibilities are retracing your steps or continuing to the end. For the first option it is best to use the GR or the circular PR (this is a shorter way to Genalguacil) which leads to Puerto del Lentisco. In the fi nal section of the stage, the only recommended way to retrace your steps is to use the GR. At Vega de los Zaharames, there is the possibility to cross the river Genal using a suspended bridge, arrive at Los Pepes, where it is normal to come across people.
Another quite diffi cult option would be to continue to Benarrabá or Gaucín, having walked many kilometres of tracks in a network which requires good knowledge of the intersections.
No return point: At La Vega de los Zaharames you will find yourself at half-way point of the walk which means that it is best to continue from here on, rather than trying to get back. Another key point is the Puerto del Lentisco during the fi rst half of the walk. From this pass, Genalguacil is a stone´s throw away, and this point is highly recommended as an escape route if necessary.
Connections to other footpaths and trails:
PR-A 236, Benadalid – Benalauría, link up at start.
• Road traffic circulating between the tracks and the end of the Stage
• Passing through an estate used for large game hunting, during the second half.
The drainage basin of the River Almárchal (Up to km 6)
The pathway begins in Genalguacil, heading south-east from the lookout point of Los Poyetes or La Lomilla, and surrounded by sculptures. At first, it runs through the backcountry of El Cerecillo, along a shaded path through farmland near the village. It soon turns into a track surrounded by terracing on the slate slopes with Olive trees and Prickly pears. You can see Holm and Cork oaks while the Olive groves give way to small plots that are not far from the Pasada stream (km 1.1). This is normally however, just a trickle of water, with a few Poplars and European Hackberry trees as cover.
A new stretch of pathway now begins to climb, passing by the house of Helechal. All around are Chestnut, Cork oak and Almond trees and there are views towards Genalguacil. It then meets the road that would take you to the Peñas Blancas pass. A short way further on at La Loma pass, the path turns off to the south along a narrower track that continues uphill. It passes the ruins of a winery with the curious name of Nuestra Señora de Vallyvana (Our Lady of Vallyvana) on the right.
The first high point on the path is Las Posteruelas ridge, where Olive trees mix in with Holm oaks and some huts and houses in ruins. At the start of the descent, there is a gate that leads to a couple of good lookouts over the villages of the lower Genal, in the shade of some Maritime pines. A bend brings the wide-open landscape (km 2.4) of the Sierra Bermeja into view up ahead and, to the south-east, the hill of Benestepar.
After a narrow footpath, you begin to go down the steep slate slopes of La Bañuela, through ancient Cork oaks. This offers views over the valley of the River Almárchal and the small farm on the Don Juan plains. The path then becomes more rugged as it turns west and passes along a steep and sun-blushed hillside. The old bridle path passes by the goat farm of La Mandanga or Las Madres, bringing you to the confluence of the Almárchal stream and the mouth of La Cueva del Vaque stream. A striking tower of rock helps to identify the Vega pool here (km 3.5).
After crossing the river, another narrow footpath takes you to a small section of track and the old path that climbs up through Las Rozas. You then come to a wider track that goes round a house with a vegetable garden, surrounded by luscious Cork oaks, before starting to level out. Then cross La Zarza stream without any problems, and whose rocky areas are covered in ferns. Just a little further on, the forest on both sides of the path contains some surprisingly large Chestnut trees. The white village of Genalguacil can be seen beyond, just as you reach the milestone of El Lentisco pass (km 6.0).
La Alharía (Up to km 8)
From the pass, the Benestepar track (to the northwest) and El Calvo path head towards Genalguacil, but you continue straight on, heading south along the wide track. The landscape gradually opens out to the right, overlooking the fertile plains of the River Genal and its mountains, passing between Orange groves and the country houses’ access roads.
The route passes three streams before arriving in La Alhar a, named La Fuente del Gas, Los Adrianes and Los Caldereros. Between these latter two is an aguardiente distillery at a meeting point of two locally important pathways. Arriving at the Barrionuevo pass, there is a small hill on the right, beyond which are the village of Alhar a (or Aljar a). A little further on is a junction of multiple forest paths, where you turn off the Camino de Casares. This continues straight ahead, and can be seen as it makes its way through the trees. However, you turn west at this point to zigzag your way towards the edge of El Monte del Duque (The Duke’s Uplands).
El Monte del Duque (The Duke’s Upland) estate (Up to km 15)
This is a large hunting estate with wild boar, deer, mouflon (wild sheep), European fallow deer and some roe deer. It covers a large area over the drainage basin of Los Zaharames stream and Las Alberquillas gorge, between the Genal and the Sierra Bermeja. Around its steep border is a forestry track that cuts through the meandering old path. Since it is south-facing, Cork oaks thrive here, along with Maritime pines and thicket of Gum rockrose. Halfway up the slope on the left, there are a few large Cork oaks and a building in ruins, which leads on to a more open area with views of the meandering Los Aljarames stream (an alternative name) and its meadows.
You soon come to some clusters of Tamarisk and Reed beds beside the stream, which you must cross over, to join a wider track that you take to the left. A field of avocados is close by, while the forested uplands lie beyond. Los Zaharames stream is very low lying, at some 130 metres above sea level, and signals 9.6 kilometres from the start. If you were to follow the track off to the right, it would bring you to an old suspension bridge over the Genal River, to Los Pepes.
Immediately after this you go through another gate on El Monte del Duque and take a path heading south, starting a climb of 7.5km to Las Vi as pass (640 m), gaining roughly 500m in elevation. The next landmark is the fertile agricultural land of Crespillo, where some citrus trees survive in the shelter of the ruins of a house. The track is surrounded by mature woodland here with many well developed broad-leaved species of shrubs dotted around. When you reach the saddle of El Amolador, a small pass or dip on the ridge, the Genal river lies to the west and La Cuesta to the east, albeit flowing in opposing directions. The sharp bends in the track make another steep slope ahead easier to climb, at what is known as Los Coloradillos line, named after the reddish colour of the earth.
You climb up the left-hand side of the small ridge until we reach a guard hut at kilometre 11.5. From this point, the slope levels out a little. A series of Dehesa estates of large Cork oaks now line the route, but then at another crossroads, the small hills by the Paloma pass soon cast their shadow over the pathway. You enter a beautiful Gall oak forest with Heather and Myrtle trees. Returning to a sunnier area, after a crossroads where a large slate rock stands out, there is an excellent natural lookout spot of the north of Sierra Crestellina and the Alberquilla gorge. Then comes a flatter area, El Cuartel (km 13.7), with warehouses, a chapel and a small heliport.
The route then passes the Majada de Madrid on your right, encircled by a Cypress hedge and surrounded by enormous Cork and Gall oaks.
The traditionally harvested cork ended up in the sheds adjacent to the house known as El Raspadero. The cork panels were then cut to be stacked and transported out of the forest.
The Sierra Crestellina and El Albarrán stream (To the end of the stage)
Continuing up the now gentler slope, Sierra Crestellina gets ever closer as you come to Los Guardas pass (km 16.6), a very important intersection of pathways and a viewpoint from which you get the first sighting of the sea. You then leave the estate, still climbing via a narrow pathway running parallel with the private lane. The Nature Reserve begins at Las Vi as pass (km 17.1), while the path of the same name now starts its descent down a gravel track with the Albarr n stream off to the right.
Rural houses appear on both sides while passing through the dip where the Casares water intake is located. The stream gradually winds its way through Pines, Cork oaks, Holm oaks, Carob trees and Wild Olive trees below you, while the route climbs up from the valley floor. Casares finally comes into sight up ahead, settled between sharp peaks and ravines, with the sea now as a backdrop. This improvised lookout spot and resting area a little further on, come just before La Arqueta (or La Arquita) fountain (km 19.9).
You now head towards the Casares ring road, cross it and walk south towards the centre of the village, the Plaza de Espa a. The Carlos III fountain found here, named after the financier of the square, along with its four jets of water, bring an end to this stage and a start to the next.
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