GR 249.5. Section 4. Arriate - Ronda
The stream of the Ventilla and the Guadalcobacín River (until km 1.4)
The Starting Sign of the last Stage of Variant 249.5 is located in the Plaza de la Aurora, in the northeastern area of Arriate, and leaves to the west by the Ronda Track or Camino del Cortijo del Marqués leaving a small fountain on the right. Boxed between sandstone escarpments with some caves and a high wall, the cobblestone immediately crimps with the asphalt, overlooking Arriate and the First and Second Gardens. You descend to the level of the stream of La Ventilla with its beautiful chopaledas and you reach the meeting with the Guadalcobacín (km 0.650), where you pass from the term of Arriate to that of Ronda, which is no longer abandoned.
Momentarily on gravel, it is changed to a southwesterly direction on the first branch after crossing the Marquis stream, and a small port allows you to contemplate the hamlet of Arriate with the imposing Residence of San José and its church. Leave the tracks to the Vallecillo and de los López orchards to the left and take a small path between crops known as the Camino de la Fresneda.
The crops of the Llano de la Cruz (up to km 6.5)
Now you walk along the marked line between the fields of cereals, olive trees and other rainfed crops and the holm oak grove that, to the left, precedes the bottom of the river valley. When the road opens a little, you can see in the background the city of Ronda with the Armola Court and the Jarastepar mountain range behind. The river, on the other hand, comes out of the small gorge and is now seen below marked by orchards on both sides.
The Path makes a break upwards, goes to an olive grove that crosses and reaches a concrete track (km 1.9) that ascends to the Merced area and descends among numerous country houses, some of them converted into rental homes for tourism. It is usual that they have the name on the access gate.
The area that follows is extremely interesting because it coincides with an irrigation ditch that allows productive orchards on the left with abundant walnut trees and leaves the olive grove and cereal on the other side. It flattens to the next junction, from which it ascends slightly to pass through the imposing building of Santo Domingo, which is left to the right, and begin to draw a new loop through the area known as Los Frontones.
The Smugglers' Way that is carried now crosses at km 3.8 the paved Ronda Track, a main road marked by hotels, wineries and larger farms. It is in the area of Panta where, overlooking the mountains of Cadiz, a break to the south goes down to the Path to the vicinity of the Polvorilla where it turns southwest accompanying the Guadalcobacín, which is now closer. The ditch of the orchards is branded here with quinces like a vegetable fence, an outpost of a fruit and vegetable production famous in the region. A building with religious reminiscences, the hermitage of Don Pío, is left and, surrounding a high wall in curve, you descend to the river, which must be wading (km 6.5) taking extreme precautions.
The Dehesa del Mercadillo (until the end of the stage)
The undergrowth of the Guadalcobacín, although very influenced by the proximity of some orchards, brings to the landscape a plus of biodiversity with groves characterized by poplars, poplars and some willows. Already in an ascending southerly direction, two first-rate infrastructures stand in the way. The first, the Algeciras Bobadilla railway line, which is crossed by a barrier-free level crossing; the second, the A-374 road, is bordered leaving the embankment to the west, among old holm oaks. This way you reach the Llano de la Cruz road, in the vicinity of two unique establishments, the Badillo Pyrotechnics and, on the other side, the Stallions Stop (a tradition that dates back to the nineteenth century and is currently being developed by the Armed Forces) with a riding school. Stage 3 of the GR 7 E4 Tarifa Atenas also crosses here as it passes through the province of Malaga, which is heading southwest-northeast.
A few meters away you reach the Recreational Area of the Dehesa del Mercadillo (km 8.0), where the Variant partially coincides with the interesting SL-A 10 Professor Paco Marín, passing again among centenary holm oaks under which some tables with benches are located. The Forest Defense Center is quite close, and looking back from this place you can see very well where the Stage has run, with Arriate, La Cimada and Los Prados in the background, to the northeast; to the west, the crests of the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park.
The pine forest of the Dehesa del Mercadillo is a repopulation from the middle of the last century with numerous holm oaks interspersed that was declared a Periurban Park in 2000, seeking a forest of almost 140 hectares very close to the city of Ronda. The second part of its name is probably due to the celebration of a livestock market in times, and we know that it was partially occupied by vineyards until the appearance of the plague of phylloxera.
Already by a wide track that splits from the Local Path, the Variant describes a wide curve leaving high pine trees to the right while numerous sidewalks link with it. There is a dry stone wall on the left that separates the Park from the almond and olive trees, a large abandoned house is left on the right and an underground passage allows crossing under the Ronda ring road. Now using the Camino de la Fuente de Don Pedro through a similar landscape, some slides in a southwesterly direction lead to the end of the stage at the curve of Calle Sevilla, at the height of the Barrio de la Dehesa.