GR 249. Stage 26: Jimera de Líbar - Benalauría
Attention please, there are some changes regarding this stage
Project in progress. The Access road to Benalauría is changed for a new path that starts at the local swimming pool.
La Dehesa de Jimera
You must leave Jimera along a side road heading for Atajate which you turn off almost immediately in favour of a tarmac track to the right which then leads along dry farmed fields. This is the track to la Dehesa, but the GR abandons it to follow the old camino, still paved with stones and quite wide, lined with Holm oaks. At km 1 this camino connects again with the previous one at the level of Arroyo de Atajate. A gate leads to Monte Público la Dehesa, which belongs to the town hall (Ayuntamiento de Jimera de Líbar) with an excellent dehesa-type wooded area of mixed Cork, Holm and Portuguese gall oaks.
This is located on top of an isolated island which generates this acidic soil. The wood has 257 hectares. It contains an old sealed landfill 8a few metres away from the gate) an industrial building dedicated to snail keeping and the Cortijo de la Dehesa which manages livestock such as goats, sheep and cows.
The best views of Jimera de Líbar, north-east, and la Sierra del Palo to the west are at the beginning, at the only sharp bend. Next you will be passing by the facilities of the snail farm and some houses and a disused rickety Área Recreativa picnic area on the side. Having passed by an animal enclosure and a majestic Cork oak you can imagine the area on your right where the natural pool should have formed, in reality just a puddle forms after it has been raining.
The gravel track passes on the right el Cortijo del Pastor and goes down a little towards the Arroyo Judío or de los Judíos (km 3.5), which can be waded through or you can use if necessary the nearby farm bridge named after the stream. The current direction south-west is now changed to a decidedly southwards direction.
Between farmland and scrubland
You enter a much more open area now, with clay terrain where the walk ascends leading through many gates you must close behind you. On your right pass the Cortijo de Bernardito, with the eucalyptus trees, a broad view to Sierra Blanquilla ahead and Cortes de la Frontera in the middle. There is a hill where the walnut grove starts. This is where the old Venta de la Alfacara used to be, now no more than a pile of rubble. As you cross the upper part of the walnut grove you arrive at a watering deposit and then descend and find the footpath. Now the Mediterranean scrubland is replacing the olive groves and farmland while the fence along the path marks the borders between large houses and gardens.
As a souvenir left behind the still recent agricultural past there is a threshing circle you cross just before a few bends which lead to the Arroyo de la Alfacara. At the banks of this stream Oleander is mixed with creepers and deciduous bushes forming a dense tangle. The water deposit you see on the side of the path takes water from the stream, uses the needed amount and returns the excess lower downstream.
The walk leads slightly uphill and at the level of Cortijo Nuevo with its turret, you need to ford Arroyo de la Fuensanta (km 5.9). The stream is equipped with a couple of wooden bridges; however, they are located at the lowest point of the whole itinerary. Thus you must climb along the substantial copse of Holm oaks, the forerunners of the closed scrubland and woods which cover the slopes on the left. To your right, as before, there are clearings composed of the clay soil typical of the “bujeos” type of farmland characteristic to here, and belonging to Cortijo Lobato.
This sort of open landscape awaits you from now; sometimes through olive groves or wild olive copses and sometimes crossing farmland, grazing land or fallow land. Keep going through gates in the fences dividing the different parts of livestock areas and pass by bee hives at the Cortijo de los Capitanes. A slight descent takes you to Arroyo del Paliche (or de la Vega) which is very closed-in and covered in thick brushwood.
Las Dehesas de Benadalid and Benalauría and la Alquería de Siete Pilas
La Laguna Florida (or Honda) is a small natural pool; an inland endorheic lagoon situated a few metres from the main track. The vegetation on its banks is limited to a few clumps of rushes as the pool always dries out in the summer; however during rainy season the lagoon recovers and is adorned with the white crowsfoot fl owers which are the reason behind one of the pool´s names (Florida meaning flowery). The lagoon affords good views to Cortes de la Frontera and its sierras and makes an excellent rest stop. There are two walks branching off from here: the GR-141 which leads to Estación de Cortes and the PR A-255.
Now the real uphill section begins. First you pass through la Dehesa de Benadalid and Benalauría (which covers the most terrain in this Monte Público) of about 248 hectares of Holm and Portuguese gall oaks. As you arrive at the network of wide tracks, cross Arroyo del Peñoncillo (or de la Bovedilla) and bear right ignoring the track which goes up to the Sierra.
Along the track you are following note the flow of excess water coming from the fuente where the Gran Senda is headed. You are changing district boundaries as well marked by one of the fences close to the concealed Fuente de los Garbanzos.
As you arrive at the hamlet of Siete Pilas you will discover a great fl at area, the Descansadero (km 9) where there is the Ermita Escuela school similar to the one at La Indiana. This Chapel-School is the only one in all of the Serranía which still performs its original function, basic education, forming part of the rural primary school system called Colegio Público Rural Asociado Sierra del Espino, whose other centres are in Benarrabá and Algatocín. The walk makes an abrupt turn off the GR-141 (which continues on to Estación de Cortes) and changes direction to the east. First, it passes by Fuente de Siete Pilas and then takes one of the traditional paths lined with scattered houses.
Las Sierras de Almargen and del Espino
El Camino de Benalauría climbs from Siete Pilas parallel to irrigation channel which, higher up, runs through a pipe. It carries the water from Fuensanta. Sometimes it crosses a track but most of the time it runs through the uncultivated land.
At the Cortijo Maja (or de los Bujeos) the walk intersects with a new track. This was built to connect with the other side of the mountains, but, most of all, with a quarry in mind or maybe drilling for water. Continue as you were, now on a smaller secondary track and undertake the long last climb.
The two rock masses you pass on both sides of the track as you set off to attack the steep slope are very different as far as their composition (more dolomite contents on the right) but mainly regarding the type of vegetation they support. On the left, covering limestone rock is the Monte del Cortijo de Almargen y Frontón, with planted pine wood of almost 200 privately owned hectáreas but managed by the local government. On the other side is La Cancha, with predominantly prime Holm oak woods extending over 73 hectares which belong to district of Benalauría, however in this spot the latter shares part of the land and, separately, part of the forest with Benadalíd.
This phenomenon is known in the local forestry language, quite poetically, as “el suelo y el vuelo” (land and flight) when the land belongs to one entity and what´s on it to another. El Puerto de Benalauría (km 12.6) is an excellent place to enjoy the broad views of Valle del Guadiaro to the west and Genal to the east; each one with its own idiosyncrasies; one of them broad, steep and wild and the other hilly, varied and wooded. Just as you start walking downhill with the cliffs of Tajo de los Aviones on the left, pass by a faint path to your left marked with a “home-made” cairn. This path leads to a rock climbing school and the two vias ferrata installed thanks to the tourism project Plan de Dinamización del Producto Turístico de la Diputación Provincial de Málaga. The GR leads down between sunny oak woods towards the A-369 road, just before it meets up with the Gran Senda de la Serraníaagain, coming from Gaucín and on its way to Ronda. Crossing the road carefully, arrive at the old Venta de los Pavos (km 13.9), at the junction with Benalauría road. A widening in the road, a little lower down, houses some of the leading artisanal companies of the area selling food and agricultural products, plus the public sports centre. The lack of even minimally level terrain around the town centre (which you will be able to see for yourself soon) has caused many facilities to relocate here, close to the main road of the Genal Valley, even though some infrastructures and equipment would normally need more space.
Despite your having to walk on tarmac, the stroll along the shady chestnut grove and the picturesque landscape are rewarding and you will be leaving the MA-8306 soon behind (at the Punto Limpio) and will continue along the second access to the village which becomes Calle Fuente. Benalauría welcomes the GR-249 with its white-washed houses and the atmosphere of a pueblo which has managed to stay faithful to its roots whilst looking into the future with a good understanding of what rural development means.
1. Initiation Stage:
Access Starting point: From the A-369 between Ronda and y Algeciras, crossroads with the MA- 8307. Another connection with the same road starts from MA-8401 between Cortes de la Frontera and Benaoján.
Starting point: Jimera de Líbar, Fuente and Lavadero in the village.
Enjoy the walk safely: The main streams can be crossed using the light-weight makeshift bridges but there are a few you have to ford. However, in no case we are talking about long or dangerous watercourses, even in rainy season.
There could be cattle grazing in some extensive farming areas (Andalucían breeds: pajunas, retintas or berrendas). They do not
pose a particular danger but neither are they characterised by any special geniality. It is best to keep your distance, same with the bee hives which are at km 6.5.
The worse section of the day is the junction with A-369, which must be crossed at a place with best possible visibility. The section along Benalauría road must be walked according to the usual rules even though the traffic is not heavy. In order to get to the village you will be using the old tarmac track with no apparent assigned road number but used by the tough young locals as a short-cut to get directly tothe village square.
2. Completion of Stage:
Access to finish point: Benalauría can be accessed only on one road, the MA-8306, which connects with the A-369 between Ronda and Gaucín.
Finish point: Plaza del Teniente Viñas, in the pueblo of Benalauría.
Possible "escape routes": Your main strategic point for any emergencies is Siete Pilas, located more or less half-way through the walk. It is also feasible to go back to Estación de Cortes using the alternative walk, the GR-141.
No return point: Keeping in mind the two previous options, from the walnut country house onwards it is best to continue. Once you are close to Puerto de Benalauría it makes more sense to continue towards Benalauría or the Ronda road before the village.
Connections to other footpaths and trails:The GR-141 Gran Senda de la Serranía de Ronda matches our GR up to la Laguna Honda (where there is an option) and then up to Siete Pilas where the other GR heads for Valle del Guadiaro below, to the settlement called El Colmenar and passing through La Garganta de las Buitreras.
The PR A-255 (from Jimera de Líbar to Cortes de la Frontera) is 12 km long. It crosses La Estación de Cortes and connects only for a few metres with our GR in the vicinity of Laguna Honda. The PR A-255 uses a path parallel to the river, the Cañada Real del Campo de Gibraltar, coming from Estación de Jimera until the junction of the station at Río Guadiaro called Pasada del Retamal.
The PR A-237 (from la Cañada del Real Tesoro to Benalauría) coincides with Gran Senda de Málaga from Siete Pilas till the
end of stage 26. These two PR footpaths are good alternatives if you want to do a circular walk between Estación de Cortes, Jimera de Líbar and even Siete Pilas, combining the two GRs coming from the river.
There are two other officially approved walks which are described in next stage: PR A-238 (from Benalauría to Algatocín) and PR A-291 (from Jubrique to Benalauría). In any case, the natural passage between the valleys from Puerto de Benalauría results
in existence of many traditional public paths connecting the village to that area, which, lets not forget, also belongs to Benalauría.
El Camino from Gaucín to Jimera is a traditional path which, as mentioned is used by GR-249 until the close vicinity of Siete Pilas, and Venta de la Alfacara (whose ruins are at the border of the property with walnut trees). This Venta catered to the public at the intersection of the Camino with Cordel del Guadiaro to Fuente del Espino and Camino de la Fuensanta.