GR 249. Stage 35: Alhaurín de la Torre - Málaga
Las Huertas del Guadalhorce
The GR leaves from la Avenida Gran Canaria del Peñón de Zapata, an area of pretty gardens which shortly enters a dirt track leading through farmland. The history of these settlements, the Peñón (or Peñón de Zapata) and the Zapata, situated nearby, is closely connected to the fertility of the flood plains of the Guadalhorce. Crossing the Canal Secundario de la Margen Derecha marks the passage to the productive terraces covered with citrus trees and seasonal fruit and vegetables.
The tracks which are now being used correspond to the designed right angled-grid plan of the roads and the huertas (vegetable gardens and orchards). As a result, whilst you are walking along the irrigation channels you make several turns while maintaining your direction north-east.
As you cross the channel for the second time you end up on a slightly more elevated track from where you have a good view of irrigated fields, mostly of herbaceous plants. The first large obstacle you encounter is the Autovía del Mediterráneo A-7 motorway; pass underneath its slender double bridge. Some distance later, arrive at a major intersection of tracks where you need to follow the one direction Zapata to see the Acueducto and Puente del Rey (km 3.9). Many of its arches are taken up by houses sheltered underneath.
A little detour takes you to a bridge over the recently channelled and regulated stream Arroyo de Ramírez Bienquerido. Little by little keep on approaching the coast eastwards, passing underneath another very low bridge.
El Río Guadalhorce and the Aeropuerto Internacional de Málaga
The airport´s take-off and landing runways follow the direction of the river. The GR-249 leads along both the airport and the river for many long kilometres, a landscape of cosmopolitan Málaga and natural Málaga, both of which you can discover thanks to the Gran Senda. The river bed tends to be quite close and always to your left. It is crossed by a section of pipeline and then the train line at the level of the Industrial Estate Polígono Industrial del Guadalhorce. The airport runways and utility buildings used both for transit of passengers and goods are separated from the GR by tall fences and service roads until you arrive at another road, the MA-21.In order to overcome this new obstacle the path takes you underneath the road, very close to the river, making a loop which serves to take you to the other side of the motorway where you can use the pedestrian hard shoulder.
It is worth stopping at the bridge as this is the place where the Río Guadalhorce (km 9.5) branches into two, with reed beds on both river banks, also some tamarisks and a few dispersed white poplars. This is a busy area: bicycles and people are passing to the other side of the Paraje Natural and enjoy a personalised outing on the outskirts of the large city.
A short section of a dirt track takes youunderneath the MA-20 in the vicinity of Palacio de Deportes José María Martín Carpena, where you walk along the pavement of Calle Pacífico up to the roundabout Rotonda de Sacaba, where you turn northwards and off the pavement (km 11.5) and walk along the beach. One of the greyish chimneys belonging to the area of la Térmica, brings back with its presence and its very name the industrial times of the Málaga coast and also welcomes the walker to the Paseo de Antonio Banderas, where Kilometre Zero of the Great Málaga Path is located. The Gran Senda de Málaga has managed to guide the visitor during its 35 stages through the authentic Málaga province, which has been built by all of the “malagueños” throughout the millennia in a privileged natural environment.
1. Initiation Stage :
Access Starting point: Utovía del Mediterráneo (A-7S) ring road from Málaga passes by very close to Churriana, where
there is an exit to Alhaurín (A-404), turn off immediately and take the Carretera de Churriana, A-7052. It passes right through the starting point in the district of Alhaurin called El Peñón. The A-7052 also constitutes another recommended direct connection with Carretera de Cártama (A-357).
Starting point: In the area called Peñón de Zapata, in Alhaurín de la Torre, at the beginning of Calle del Quinto.
Enjoy the walk safely: There are very few stretches of road and what´s more you can walk on the hard shoulder and pavements adapted for walking. However, these are high-speed roads with plenty of traffi c which means you can´t be too careful. There is
some traffi c on the dirt tracks; fi rst it is farm vehicles and then traffi c related to the industrial estates and the airport. Normally, country roads which are often used by vehicles are also wide enough so that you can walk safely. During the design process of this stage the rising water levels of the Río Guadalhorce were taken into account as they can seasonally flood normally passable areas.Should this happen, you should not cross the potentially problematic point which is the pass underneath MA-21 road.
In order to continue safely you must cross the road using one of the road bridges (sign-posted as “cambio de sentido”) which you will find direction south-west. There is no source of drinking water anywhere along this stage
2. Completion of Stage:
Access to finish point: In order to avoid crossing all of Málaga you need to walk around its southernmost tip. The exits, sign-posted as Palacio de Deportes Martín Carpena, are a good landmark or, as well, Paseo Marítimo Antonio Banderas in the area of La Térmica. This is the area where the MA-20 and MA-21 roads lead to, following the old surface of the N-340.
Finish point: Kilometre Zero of the Gran Senda de Málaga in el Paseo Marítimo Antonio Banderas, in front of Diputación Provincial de Málaga.
3. Alternatives :
Possible "escape routes": At the beginning of this stage the best escape plan is retracing your steps. Obviously, in the metropolitan area of Málaga it should be quite easy to find alternatives, however there are two obstacles blocking your way: the International Airport and the very Río Guadalhorce, especially when the water level is high. It is recommended to follow the walk until you fi nd a road taking you to an industrial estate or a motorway which are abundant around the GR..
No return point: Having passed the airport (km 7) it is more reasonable to continue ahead rather than trying to go back.
Connections to other footpaths and trails: Are related to agriculture of the Guadalhorce valley. If the traditional paths used to exist, they have disappeared in the vortex of the big city. Anyway, the Guadalhorce has always acted as a frontier and an obstacle during a large portion of the year. At km 3.1 there is an intersection with Camino de los Chopos, which crosses the river very close to the Puente del Rey bridge.
When the river water levels rose, there used to be no way of getting to the right bank of the river from Málaga to the fertile gardens and grain fields. This was always a big problem in winter to the point of having caused food shortages. This was so serious that a grand project was started during the fi rst quarter of the 18th century in order to remedy the infrastructure and water supply problems at the same time; however the constriction work of the Acueducto y Puente del Rey was never completed. This stage allows you to get close to this unfi nished construction, which is compelling but not at its best where the path corsses it.
On the other hand, the Paraje Natural Desembocadura del Guadalhorce actually is an island between the two branches of the river which split off just as the GR crosses the river. There is public pedestrian access which is best approached from the Urbanización Guadalmar, west of the protected Natural Area, Paraje Natural. The environmental section of the regional government, Junta de Andalucía, has prepared a series of five observatories of the fauna in the lagoons and beaches in the fluvial triangle. They are connected by two footpaths called Senderos de Uso Público, Río Viejo (in the north) and Laguna Grande (in the south). Both are correctly sign-posted and they end at the beach.