GR 249. Stage 16. Cuevas Bajas - Alameda
The Andrés Ridge (Up to km 4.2)
Stage 16 leaves Cuevas Bajas heading south, and soon joins the River Burriana, which stays on your left and there is a channelled section just as it enters the village. The first section of the stage follows the river walkway above the Barranco Hondo, goes under a road bridge, where brave resident pigeons often reside and then passes some livestock sheds. Barranco Hondo is often a small but dried up river channel where Tamarisk trees persevere, having adapted to the saline soils. Once you have crossed the watercourse, there is a climb up the Andrés ridge, between the Burriana river to the east and the Barranco Hondo ravine to the west. From the peak, you can see both valleys and the village.
On the crest of the hill is the enormous Pajariego country estate, the first of the day, in surroundings of Olive groves and rainfed crops. Thanks to their fine architecture, some of the Andalusian country estates seen on this stage appear in specialised publications. The appeal of the properties can be put down to their mixture of grandeur, how suited they are to the inland climate of Malaga and their role as the epicentre of productive activity. In the past, the number of workers who lived in, or at least depended on them during the busy seasons was such that they resembled small guesthouses. Some of them even have a chapel and, more often than not, the central element to the whole complex, is the cobbled courtyard.
The path begins to drop and you reach kilometre 4.2, where the GR-7.9 deviates from the Great Path and continues south. At this point, you make a 90 degree turn to the west and continue winding between country houses.
The small lakes of the Sarteneja country estate (Up to km 10.5)
The next country estate you come to is that of San Ramón (or Casa del Conde on other maps) with a wide-open space at the front. A little further on is La Sarteneja. From kilometre 7, the small lakes can be seen during selected months, in a small valley between rolling hills covered in Olive groves and set back from the road to the south.
The first lake to come into view is the largest and is right in front of the estate. It is a very shallow but fairly large expanse of water which attracts Coots, Herons and Flamingos. At a crossroads in the tracks, you take a left between an abandoned house and some Pampas grass hedges. This leads to a ditch separating the house from a deeper lake. Although it is out of the way, it is worth a visit (authorisation necessary) since it holds water for longer periods, as demonstrated by the Reed beds around the water’s edge and there being diving ducks such as Grebes. Large Eucalyptus trees and a grove of Tamarisk trees occupy the space between the two lakes.
The third lake, called El Perezón (the Sloth) is further up on the right and seems to have given the area its name. Lacking any vegetation, it does appear that the summer heat has had a greater effect on it than its two neighbours. After heading south for a kilometre along the service road, you cross the A-45 motorway using the overpass (at its kilometre 83 mark). If instead of crossing it, you walk two hundred metres to the east, there is another small lake with Tamarisk trees. Once away from the fast road, you go past through the numerous outbuildings of the next country estate, La Capilla, at kilometre 10.5.
The islands of Woodland (To the end of the stage)
Following a gradual curve to the southeast, you are greeted with an impressive view over the province’s Olive groves and rainfed farmland. Walking this section at the right time, especially summer evenings, there is a good chance of spotting an array of wildlife. Populations of Hares, Rabbits, Partridges and European Turtle doves are the reason for the numerous small game reserves in the area. The next country estate is El Realengo, just next to the MA-6413 road, which heads north to Palenciana and which walk along for a short distance.
The route passes the high ground known as Vega Alta on the left and you are once again surrounded by Olive trees, while it heads towards the Cortijo de la Serafina (km 16.2). The route uses both minor roads and at times wider tracks. Just next to the property are some pockets of Holm oaks, as a reminder of what the area once was. Thanks to the high productivity of the land, this was perhaps one of the best Holm oak groves in Andalucia. Some of the clumps of woodland are quite a distance from the pathway, especially the largest one, to the north of the estate.
At the next crossroads, turn northwards, passing the main façade of the Cortijo del Duende country house on your right. You now approach the top of the catchment area of the Arroyo Gaén, which you cross at the 18.3-kilometre mark. Although the area has a rather lifeless appearance, further down there are several areas of original, native shrubland with autochthonous trees. The stream eventually flows into the River Genil, in the province of Cordoba.
From a bird’s eye view you can see the rocky hilltops covered in woodland. You cover a short stretch through the Olive grove of Yedrecillo, past a large caravan park, before you reach the Ventorrillo crossroads to the east of the village of Alameda, where this section of the route comes to an end.
1. Initiation Stage:
Access Starting point: from Villanueva de Algaidas the MA-720.
Starting point: Barranco Hondo, the ravine and riverbed of Burriana, after crossing the village of Cuevas Bajas, at the south-western tip of the village.
Enjoy the walk safely: A stage as long as this one, even without big elevation gain, must be planned carefully. There are is no water points on the walk, at least with public access, and abandoning the walk in the event of problems could be a bit complicated. Although the path is public for the most part, the properties are not, neither the buildings nor crops. We must try not to disturb the normal functioning of these farms.
2. Completion of Stage:
Access to finish point: Alameda can be reached from La d de Andalucía (SE-775), Fuente de Piedra (MA-701), Mollina (MA-703)
or from the Autovía A-45 by the MA-708.
Finish point: Junction of the Ventorrillo, in the vicinity of Alameda.
Possible "escape routes": each of the large farmhouses can be reached by at least one main lane in very good condition which inevitably becomes a road at the end. You also walk above the A-45 up to km 83 and cross the road to Palenciana (MA-709).
No return point: his long stage requires you to consider the possible escape routes mentioned above, considering that there are no pueblos which would be closer than the ones at the start (and at the end). In whichever case, starting from km 9 at the motorway it is best o continue towards Alameda.
Connections to other footpaths and trails:
GR-7 E-4, Tarifa to Athens, Northern Route – links up at start, GR-7 E-4, Tarifa to Athens, overlap until km 4.2 (Variant), GR 245, Mozarabe Way of the Camino de Santiago, links up at start.