GR 141. Stage 04: Benarrabá - Benaluría
1. Benarrabá- km 0
The track starts in front of the Sierra del Espino rural school, near the local swimming pool and the Banu Rabbah hotel. It is extremely pleasant to walk absorbed by the chromatic nuances of mastic trees, labdanum trees, lavender, arbutus, brooms, pines and gall-oaks; but kermes oaks or cork oaks take the biscuit. Visitors from other places might find the bizarre tradition of reusing old mattresses as gates and fences to delimit properties shocking. This is common in all the Serranía de Ronda but specially in Genal valley, where it is a widespread practice. To find an explanation, we must go back to fairly recent times, when subsistence economy was dominant in the Mediterranean mountain and exploiting any resources was a vital task. This forgotten practice is called recycling nowadays.
Almost without noticing, we will arrive to a protrusion with a signpost that says SL-A 175 and informs us about the mountains of Benarrabá, which can be seen from this location. The signpost explains the importance of the valley of the Las Veguetas stream, where there used to be flour mills. Now we can understand the importance of the Concoste path, which was frequently used by muleteers charged with strings of coal, lime, cork barks, resin, honey, mushrooms, medicinal herbs, fruits and vegetables, almonds, chestnuts, oil, cold meats, cheese, moonshine, grape juice, etc. to supply the markets of the nearby coast; the return was not in vain either, they traded with salt and fish here.
Transporting goods on mules, arriería, was undoubtedly the main economic activity for some villages in the Valley, such as Igualeja, Parauta, Jubrique, Benalauría and Benarrabá. Thanks to the muleteers, many of the paths around GR-141 have been preserved. From this point, the slope is steeper and therefore we will find some short and bent stretches where the path is divided and joins further on to let the mules pass through the narrower parts. At the end, we will arrive at an esplanade used, when necessary, as a storehouse for cork barks. There are different branches, but we will need to continue by the central one, that merges with the El Lavadero path, which comes from Benarrabá towards the field of the big meadow of La Escribana and Genalguacil. We will follow the dusty path and soon we will see the meadow of La Escribana and the long meadow of La Tintorera on the left shore of Genal river.
In this place, we can see the ruins of the La Cuna mill, used for flour and oil, as well as a house. Its name stands for a ropes and pulleys gadget used in times of river swellings that allowed transportation from one shore to the other using a cradle, cuna in Spanish. From there, we will go to the mouth of Almárchar river, dry during the summer months, to the river Genal.
2. Prado de la Escribana – km 2,7
In the meadow of La Escribana, an old resting place for the cattle from El Cordel de Umbría to Genal river, we will find a place for recreation with tables, benches and children’s games. The night of the 24th of June is a special date in the calendar of festivities of the neighbours from Genalguacil and Benarrabá, who visit this place to celebrate the night of San Juan (St. John’s Eve). In summer, when the river is dammed to make bathing easier, it is possible to see the evolution of the bogas and bordallo fish through the clear waters.
The GR-141 bends to the north-west parallel to the river and continues close to the shore next to canes and tamarisk trees. It is worth visiting Genalguacil, a beautiful white village perfectly preserved and converted into an outdoor museum thanks to a great amount of artworks placed in the most picturesque areas of its streets. These sculptures, pictures, photographs, videos, etc. are the result of the Art Conventions of Genal valley, which take place every two years during the first half of August. The artists get free accommodation, food and the necessary materials in exchange for their works. Some of them are exhibited in the Local Museum of Contemporary Art.
We enter a poplar grove and then we get to the first of the three walkways that divide the river into three adjoining parts. There is a signpost warning about the risks of landslides, floods and narrow passages where you will need to use your hands. When we leave this place, we enter into a sandy land with a ditch parallel to the path and anchored to the rock. The foliage, due to the reigning humidity, is almost wild: growing here and there, there are blackberries, wild vines, butcher’s-brooms, redouls, soapworts, and also willows, osiers, and black poplars covered by thick ivies. When crossing a gate, the GR-141 takes advantage of the old ditches to continue with the cool shade offered by the gallery-shaped grove. One kilometre after the first metallic walkway, we will arrive at the second one. The next meadow is La Huerta de Juan Ruiz. The fences of the property have a gate that provides access to a beautiful pool in the river, fed by the influx of a couple of streams.
We continue through the abandoned ditch and we cross a relatively narrow flight area with a guiding cable along the wall. We can see the curious meander drawn by the Genal river. A new abandoned ditch appears in our field of vision; the Cuarterones, presided by two farms, the one in the plain in better conditions. Just as we continue we will start to see the former mill of Los Cipreses. In the course of the walk, just before wading across the Arroyo Hondo stream, a subsidiary of the river, we will find a water tank half covered by small vaults. We go beyond the municipality of Genalguacil and we enter Jubrique.
At around 75 meters we will find the third and last walkway and here we will connect with the path to access the meadow of Los Tiritones, where there are pomegranate trees and some olive trees with distinguished appearance. The stretch is no longer than 250 meters until we come back to the path next to the river. Further on, we will move away from the Genal river and advance to a plain between this river and the Monardilla river until the path divides in two. We continue towards the gate preceding the ford of Monardilla river. We walk next to the Genal river again, behind the San Juan campsite, which holds a beautiful rural accommodation covered with ivies. Afterwards, we will come across the split between the two constructions of the mill of El Álamo. The horizon on the west offers a beautiful view of Algatocín and further down, very close to the river, a garden of fruit trees that is well cared for and distributed in plots flourishes. Next, we go around the parking lot and we arrive at the bridge over the road.
3. Venta San Juan – km 6,4
The river defines the municipalities of Jubrique and Algatocín here. In the former, we will find the campsite and San Juan inn and, in the latter, the Genal campsite. The inn is famous in the region and it is very crowded, especially in the summer months. It existed before the road was built, as it was a compulsory stop on the way between Algatocín and the villages of Jubrique and Genalguacil. Under the road, there is the most bustling pool of the summer season. We continue along the roadside on the lefthand side, going around the installations of the Genal campsite, shaded by huge cork oaks that have earned the name of Arboleda Singular de Andalucía, Unique Grove of Andalucía.
We cross the road and climb a very steep slope to avoid a long turn of the MA-8305. The operation is repeated until the path ends in front of the path of the Monte. We open, cross through and close the gate behind us. This path enters the public hill of Algatocín: Coto and Vega del Río. The panoramic view to the North shows the sobriety of the whitish Jarastepar hill as opposed to the green Genal valley. We continue almost cruising through the cork oak grove, spotting, on the east, our path and the El Arabí country house, over a group of prickly pears. Once we are at the crossroads, there is a path to the west, while our path, now known as Carril de los Nogales, turns abruptly to the east, to find the ford shaded by black poplars. The place name Benajamón derives from Benahabú, a close Nazarí farmhouse abandoned after the Mudejar rebellion of Sierra Bermeja (1501). On the small slope we find a gate with an adjoining pedestrian walkway and, on one of the sides, a house for cattle. Finally, we arrive at El Arabí.
4. El Arabí– km 9,5
At this important crossroads we can see the promontory of the country house mentioned above and a path under it that goes to the shore of the Genal river, where we will find the Villarta, Enmedio or Tomás mills, covered by a thick tangled mess of hazel trees and alder trees. It is divided in two rooms, one for milling wheat and the other for the oil. On the front of the façade, we can barely read: It started to work the 7th of August, festivity of Saint Cayetano, 1735. It preserves a pave and the press. For a time, it was a gunpowder factory.
The GR-141 continues a few meters, from the pronounced curve, through a concrete slope and passes next to a farm. From there, a narrow path splits off with a big slope that connects, after a bit less than 300 meters, with a walkway from Benalauría to Jubrique passing by the pool of Esteban. Shortly after, we enter the municipality of Benalauría. We have to take these slopes calmly, especially in the steeper parts.
The cork barks and the swabs are very common, although from time to time beautiful gall-oaks appear. In one of the breaks, if we look towards the river, it is possible to see the meadow of the Capellanía and the facilities of the mill of Almenta, partly reconverted to rural accommodation. On the other side of the Genal river, there is the pronounced hillside of the hill of Higuerón, mainly covered by pines, holm oaks, kermes oaks and olive trees.
The slender path ends in a trail that we will follow until reaching the main one. We will find the reward for such a hard climb when we look to the west and our sight will come across the idyllic presence of Algatocín, presided by the tower of the Virgen del Rosario parish church, with clear Andalusian influence. When the path draws a pronounced curve, we will see a shortcut that saves a good amount of meters to the top of the hill.
5. El Bailaero – km 10,1
We are in the perimeter of the chestnut trees grove, the only flat area, which makes it an ideal place to celebrate dances and other festivities, hence the name of the place. At present, given its proximity to the village, El Bailaero is the destination for relaxing walks. We walk down the Carril del Castañar, with Benalauría and the cemetery in the distance. In the north are the mountains of Conio and the sharp hill Cerro de los Frailes; veering eastward, the high Genal appears in all its magnificence. The Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park closes the horizon, of which we glimpse its main massif covered by the pinsapar, Spanish fir grove, of Ronda and the majestic Torrecilla peak (1,919 m), located in the Sierra de Tolox. Among chestnut trees, and sumac cultivated terraces covering the edges of the path, we arrive at the Chorruelo fountain, located on the last curve before entering Benalauría.
6. Benalauría – km 12,3
515 inhabitants – 665 m altitude. Placed on the east hillside of the Cerro, according to some authors in Benalauría you do not walk it, you climb it. This fact makes this beautiful village a panoramic viewpoint over the ends of the mountains.
1. The Beginning of the Stage:
Bermeja Street, by the state school and a hotel.
2. The End of the Stage:
Plaza Teniente Viñas (Lieutenant Viñas Square).