GR 249. Stage 27: Benalauría - Genalguacil
Los Caminos de Jubrique and El Arabí
In Benalauría, at Plaza del General Viñas, fi nd the streets Iglesia and Cruz (towards the east) and arrive at la Fuente de la Cruz, at a terrace which looks down to the Camino de Algatocín, used by the GR at the beginning. After a bend in the path as you walk between steep slopes with almond trees, olives and prickly pears, arrive at Fuente del Chorruelo and turn south-east onto a forestry track gradually lined with more and more chestnut trees.
At km 1.3 you will arrive at an area called Bailadero (dance floor). This place was a favourite for fiestas and celebrations as it is located on top of a long slope with a very comfortable flat area, especially when compared to the surrounding wild slopes of Benalauría. It continues being used for entertainment, as it is evident from the electricity panels installed in a majestic Cork oak, a water connection to the fountain and a surprisingly well-equipped Parque Biosaludable (outdoor gym) frequented by the locals during their constitutional strolls.
Two paths split off from Bailadero; the PR A-238 on the right which leads to Algatocín (the pueblo visible behind the foliage south-west and immediately after that, to the left, the PR A-291 direction Jubrique. On the horizon, in the east, the are white hamlets of Alpandeire and Faraján amongst the grey rock of Sierra del Oreganal and the green scrubland. The GR-249 embarks on a steep descent through a sunny slope covered with a Cork oak grove where you can find Flax broom (Teline linifolia). The wood is interspersed with Holm oaks, Portuguese gall oaks and pines. Pine trees are abundant when, at km 2, 25 you must turn off the track and take a narrow path to the right, which might have crossed the track in a short-cut before.
At km 3.0 ignore a less steep path to your left. This path leads to Molino Almenta and Charco Esteban and it´s called Camino de Jubrique. Meanwhile the GR takes you down to a dirt track where there is a wide curve. This is El Arabí where there are a couple of houses and two tracks which you ignore (one towards Molino de Almenta, crossing the river twice and the other one to Molino de Enmedio). Follow the GR direction northwest, then turn almost 180º as you ford Arroyo de Benajamuz (or Benajamón) stream. The stream shares its name with an abandoned Moorish settlement situated in the Monte Público de Algatocín, also called Coto y Vega del Río). You are now walking through a spectacular Cork oak with heath and myrtle. The hill ahead in the Pago de Higuerón is equally impressive, where there are also some Maritime pines. The track arrives at a junction with the MA-8305.
Here you have good views to the Charco Picado and a long straight line of the Genal in the area of Molino de Enmedio. The GR becomes a path and crosses the road twice, takes you by a water tank and an old sawmill where The Great Málaga Path leads down to the tarmac again and crosses Puente de San Juan over the Genal (km 6.3).
El Río Genal
The Venta de San Juan had already been an inn and a small restaurant before the road was built, due to the fact that in the vicinity there was the ford over Río Genal along the Camino from Algatocín to Jubrique, between the mouths of Arroyo Algatocín and Arroyo La Pedrera. Currently the building has been refurbished as a restaurant however you can recognise the part where the old inn used to be quite easily. There are two campsites on either side of the river, one in the district of Algatocín and the other in Jubrique.
The path continues at the back of the Venta and heads for the latter facility, passing by Molino del Álamo. Next you need to cross the El Monardilla river where there are poplar and willow copses and later an abundance of hackberry, tamarisks, oleanders. There is a slight climb along the bank until a flat area where there is a ruined house with eucalyptus trees, called Ventorrillo. This ruin marks the beginning of the most valuable area from nature’s point of view of today´s walk. It is a forgotten, quite enclosed meander of the river where exuberant Mediterranean vegetation has taken over the old irrigated fields. It is worth identifying the components of the surrounding fine thicket which has developed under the pine trees, Cork oaks and olives: Kermes oak, Butcher´s broom, Mock privet, Hawthorn, Strawberry tree, Spiny broom and Lentisc; all entangled by the many creepers.
You will be in the company of these plants during the whole river section of the walk, sometimes mixed with river woods and sometimes with Cork oak and pine woods on the sides. First pass through Huertas de Juan Ruiz, then along the track again and climb a little around a river bend where you turn off the track and take a pretty path which leads up and down the slope, always keeping the river to your right, avoiding the chalky cliffs which the river has been excavating during fl oods.
Pass by the Arroyo Hondo, a watercourse which lends its name to the whole upper area where there is a water outlet. The overgrown riverbed favours the existence of an unusual plant, the reach a large fl uvial plain called los Cuarterones, where there are a couple of houses amongst the old cultivated land whilst the path hugs and follows the ancient irrigation channel. The effort spent on adapting the walk in this area was quite major, given the level of deterioration of the old path. Past the ford across Arroyo de las Perejilas the GR enters an area where the valley gradually opens up until it reaches another dam which has been destroyed by latest floods. Walk between a poplar plantation, the river and high chalk cliffs (connected by two sections of spectacular metal walkways), pass through tamarisks, reed beds, willows and white and black poplars until you are very close to Charco de la Escribana (around km 9.5).
El Camino de la Umbría
This place is worth a detour because of its open landscape and to catch a glimpse of the forest tracks leading to Benarrabá (crossing the river southwards) and to the other side of the valley to Almárchal and Genalguacil, resulting in a maze of tracks. If you wish to use one of these tracks to go up to one of the villages, you must explore them beforehand. At the Descansadero there is a small park and a few tables and benches.
The GR joins the PR A-240 (Benalauría Genalguacil) and the SL-157; it faces a beautiful uphill section along the Cordel de laUmbría al Río Genal, also known as La Cuestade las Viñas (Vineyard Path). Throughout the ages the path had been gradually enclosed by the chalk slopes, reaching the height taller than a person. This happens mainly when you arrive at the fi rst intersection of the track to Los Duros, in the section where the slope is steepest. Before then, there are a couple of viewpoints over to the Valle del Genal where the valley widens, its fluvial plains covered with citrus trees and poplar plantations.
Underneath the mix of pines, Cork and Portuguese gall oaks, walking east, arrive at another junction. This track is quite significant as it could be used to go down to Prado de la Escribana (to the right) or up in search of the road to Genalguacil. The walk however keeps climbing quite steeply until you arrive at a small building and begins to flatten in some sections. The landscape is now much more open and from many spots there are views over the last part of Río Genal throughout the Serranía de Ronda.
It is especially worth stopping at a fl at area where the path is lined with tall Cork oaks on both sides. Here you can admire the peaks of Los Reales de Sierra Bermeja behind Genalguacil, which is getting closer with every step. To the south you can see another Paraje Natural in the area, Sierra Crestellina. Looking west, there is Benarrabá on the other side of the valley. Smallgardens start appearing along the walk, some with sub-tropical fruit trees, sprouting around tiny water springs. Holm oak, Cork oak and pine woods become thinner, usually ploughed underneath or with hardly any undergrowth. Enter the las climb, walking on the traditional path with sections of access roads to nearby houses. On your right, pass by the Camino de los Limones (which leads down to la Escribana) and arrive at a major junction of paths where you will find some of the sports facilities of Genalguacil and a Venta (roadside innrestaurant). Here, with one of the best views of Genalguacil ahead, stage 27 end.
1. Initiation Stage:
Access Starting point: The only possibility is to use the MA 8306, which leaves from the A-369 between Ronda and Gaucín.
Starting point: Plaza del General Viñas, in Benalauría.
Enjoy the walk safely: The distance between the starting and finish point is very attainable but walking along the
road in between is complicated. It is advisable to plan your return or your overnight stay well.
The two intersections of Algatocín to Jubrique road and especially the little stretch you have to walk along this road to cross the river Genal must be approached with caution. There is no usable hard shoulder and there are two diffi cult bends
before and after the bridge. (km 6.3).
Although the path which runs along the river Genal has been designed with walking in mind, minimising any risks, the riverbed is quite formidable and the water level can rise substantially, to the point of becoming dangerous. Common sense must be used in case of storms or long periods of rain even if it may result in your having to cancel your walking.
2. Completion of Stage:
Access to finish point: From the A-369, the MA-8305 takes you to the intersection of the MA-8304 which accesses Genalguacil. Starting point is before the village. It is also possible to come from Estepona, either directly
along the MA-8302 or through Jubrique via the MA-8301.
Finish point: Pistas Polideportivas Municipales de Genalguacil, (sports centre) close to Venta Las Cruces.
Possible "escape routes": It is feasible to leave at Venta San Juan, on the MA-8305 at km 7 marker, close to Venta San Juan.
No return point: For the fi rst section this would be before Puente de San Juan; and the intersection with the path to Molino Almenta is your chosen point of no return. As for the second part of the stage, once you have passed Arroyo Hondo it is best to continue ahead.
Connections to other footpaths and trails: The path which comes down from Benalauría to the river has been known as Camino de Jubrique. It used to lead to the other side at the Charco Esteban. Locally, the name Camino del Molino Almenta is used more often.
It is registered as Vía Pecuaria (right of way) path, second class. It is a known fact that in the past the riverbed of Río Genal itself used to serve as a path, the Camino de la Costa, with direction to La Línea. The riverbed was completely devoid of vegetation back then. Once the water level has risen, paths started appearing along both river banks, especially given the fact that there were not many permanent bridges and the riverbed was very winding.
The Puente de San Juan bridge was one of those places chosen to cross to the other side because of its strategic position; it lead
along the Camino de Estepona passing through Jubrique. Such was the signifi cance of the crossing that the construction of the viaduct was started much earlier compared to similar places in the region. These traditional paths have been adapted to modern times with the conception of Senderos de Pequeño Recorrido (Short Distance Paths). The Gr-249 is accompanied by two short-distance paths on the way to Benalauría, until the Bailadero: the PR A-291 from Jubrique to Benalauría and the PR A-238
from Benalauría to Algatocín.
The new Camino de Jubrique from Algatocín leads down to the Genal and keeps on crossing the road time and time again until it finally matches the Gran Senda de Málaga at its fi rst intersection with MA-8305 and up to the bridge. The A-240 (from Benarrabá to Genalguacil) crosses the Río Genal through el Prado de la Escribana. This is another walk offi cially approved by the mountain federation Federación Andaluza de Montaña. The walk is about 5 km long, takes close to 3 hours and coincides with the GR until the destination village. There is a Descansadero also used as Abrevadero (former lives tock rest stop and a watering station) at the Prado de la Escribana, as the Prado used to be an obligatory stop along another Camino de Estepona. The SL A-157 Prado de la Escribana also meets the GR in that spot.