GR 141. Stage 01: Ronda - Jimera de Líbar
1. Ronda – km 0
We begin the first part of the GR 141 Gran Senda de la Serranía de Ronda (Great Track of the Serrania de Ronda) in Plaza de María Auxiliadora (María Auxiliadora Square), also known as Plaza del Campillo. It is located in the historical centre of the city and near a row of natural balconies that look over the Hoya del Tajo (river basin of the Tajo de Ronda), a great steep depression through which the Guadalevin river runs. The quickest way to get here, taking the Municipal Tourism Office next to the bull ring as reference, would be to get to the nearby Plaza de España and to cross the famous Puente Nuevo (New Bridge). Then, we just have to follow Armiñan and Tenorio streets.
The wide and stone paved path starts with a steep slope that twists and turns in between the almond trees, known as the Cuesta del Cachondeo. In front of the worn walls of the Albacara, which were once plastered with rammed earth and lime, we find a fork on the road. The path runs alongside the wall and connects the Puerta del Viento (Gate of the Wind), to the left, with the Puerta de los Molinos (Gate of the Mills), to the right. After crossing the Puerta del Viento, we turn to a path which descends to the right. This path is made of slippery pebbles that can make the walk more difficult when it rains. If so, be careful not to fall and watch out for any passing vehicles.
2. Mirador del Tajo – (Lookout of the Tajo) km 0,8
We make a stop at this wider part of the trail to enjoy a wonderful panoramic view of the Tajo, which is higher than 100m in some points. The deep breach that splits the old town in two was formed by the erosive force of the river, cutting through the softer minerals to make its way to the river basin. The remaining detritus is carried there by the flowing current.
The Puente Nuevo is an important piece of engineering that stands 98m tall. It took forty years to build and was finished in 1793.
There are many irrigation channels (known as acequias) that run through the river basin to carry water to the more than fourteen flour mills, to the hydro-electric power plant and to the productive vegetable gardens that cover the river banks of the Guadalevín. The avifauna is another added value of this location, and will soon be declared a Natural Monument in Andalucía. Amongst the most representative local species we could name the noisy red-billed chough and others like the common kestrel, the peregrine falcon, the Eurasian eagle-owl, the Alpine swift or the blue rock thrush. There is also a small lane that climbs up to this point from the Arco del Cristo and the walls of the Albacara.
We resume our journey in between fields of olive trees until we reach some mills that are being restored. We then cross the Guadalevín and start walking towards the puerto de la Muela. Spectacular sights of the Tajo await us, with its Asa de la Caldera (literally, Handle of the Cauldron). Upon the southwest edge of the basin, we can appreciate the shapes of the enormous stone pines and the small caves of the monastic rock complex of the Virgen de la Cabeza, of Mozarab origin (11th century). A popular romería (religious pilgrimage) is celebrated there each July.
If we look North, under the cliffs of the lowest part of the Tajo, we can see the ancient Trinitarian convent (1505). The convent has been turned into a winery, hence the presence of vineyards.
3. Puerto de la Muela (Pass of La Muela)– km 3,1
After a steep slope, we finally surmount the mountain pass of la Muela, superb balcony to make a stop and to look back. Up to here, the track coincides with the local trail SL-A 38 Molinos del Tajo (Mills of the Tajo). This itinerary is also part of the Montejaque-Ronda section of the GR-7 (E/4) and the small routes that lead to Benaoján (PR-A 251) and Montejaque (PR-A 253), that converge from this point onwards.
We continue straight at first, until we find a pair of little, ruined houses known as del Consumo and del Fielato. They used to be checkpoints for the products that arrived to the city of Ronda. We continue through a clear piece of land that used be a sand mining area (Arenas de Santander) and then descend among the country houses of the Cañada Real del Campo de Gibraltar, with which we will also share our itinerary from now on. The track ends at the road from Ronda to Benaoján (MA-7401). We will follow the road for 400m and then, after crossing it, continue down the track that goes to Junta de los Ríos.
4. Junta de los Ríos (Confluence of the rivers)– km 5,3
From the small bridge that crosses the Guadalcobacín river, we can see the point where the two rivers (Guadalcobacín and Guadalevín) meet. From this point onwards the river is known as Guadiaro. Black poplars, poplars, willows and ash trees grow on the river bank and barbels are easily spotted in its waters. Further on, we will see a small stream, the arroyo del Cupil, flowing into the Guadiaro river. We leave the paved track and cross the railroad at the level crossing, after which we will find another fork in the road.
We are now entering the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park. At this point we can cross the Cañada Real del Campo de Gibraltar through the itineraries GR-7 and PR-251 to Montejaque and to the Boquete de Mures. Our choice is to follow the track that overlaps with the PR-253 and the GR-249. We walk alongside railroad track and the Guadiaro river. We will see the limestone mountainsides of the cerro de Mures and the sierra del Algarrobo to the West, dedicated to dry-land farming. After leaving behind the wide meadow known as Vega of Huertas Nuevas, at the point where the Guadiaro approaches the Cañada Real, we find a prominent and solitary ash tree.
5. Fresno de la Pasada de Gibraltar (Ash tree of the Pasada de Gibraltar)– km 7
We stand in the shade of the historical ash tree of the Pasada de Gibraltar, unavoidably tied to the more recent history of the Serrania de Ronda. Both the Cañada Real del Campo de Gibraltar and the Algeciras-Ronda railway (finished in 1892) were once vital connections to the region. The Cañada has been, since time immemorial, the entry point for the commerce that came form the several seaports of Cádiz. After the English colony of Gibraltar was established, it became one of the most frequently travelled roads of the 18th and 19th centuries. It was frequently followed by mule drivers (known as arrieros), smugglers and the so-called romantic travellers, many of them British soldiers from “La roca” (as Gibraltar is known) and Central Europeans, who wanted to get to know and live new experiences in this picturesque region of the Serrania de Ronda.
However, the railway marked a milestone in the trade relationships with Gibraltar. With its arrival, this exact point will become one of the many chosen by the black marketeers for their accomplices to pick up the stashes (tobacco, coffee, sugar, fabrics, etc.) that where thrown out of the windows of the train to dodge controls at the Ronda station. Afterwards, smuggler women (known as matuteras) would deliver the goods to houses and businesses. In fact, entire families would take part in this illicit activity that, nevertheless, fed a lot of people until well into the 20th century.
We leave behind the municipality of Ronda and enter that of Benaoján. A road crosses the railway towards the Pasada de Gibraltar, fording the Guadiaro river and resuming the Cañada Real together with the PR-251 and heading to cueva del Gato, estación de Benaoján and Benaoján. We continue straight into a well marked trail, the Camino Viejo de Ronda (Old Road to Ronda), which gradually climbs higher and higher through huge retamas (a species of broom bush) and groups of fan palms. Asparagus plants, thorny brooms, buckthorns and wild olive trees also grow here. If we look up to the sky we will surely spot committees of griffon vultures, which are abundant in the area.
We must highlight the preservation of the stone pavement, the steps and gutters in several parts of the road, which confirm the high value of this connection in between Benaoján and Ronda. If we pay attention we will discover fossils of seashells on these Jurassic limestones. Just before reaching the highest point, we recommend you to stop and watch how the cold waters of the Guadares merge with the Guadiaro. A few more meters and we will finally conquer the puerto de Ronda.
6. Puerto de Ronda (Pass of Ronda) – km 9,9
This small hill offers us a unique vision of the mountainsides of Benaoján and Montalate, perfect models of this karstic landscape. The road turns into a narrow path between stone walls that separate us from the fields of olive trees. From there we can see the barrio alto (high quarter) of Montejaque and Benaoján, that sits on the mountainside and stretches out to the polje of the Vega. You will be able to glimpse portions of the ancient Roman road on your way. Soon, the rains will uncover the rest of the pavement. After a couple of zig-zags, we will arrive at Benaoján, famous among other things for its renowned delicatessen industry. However, it is mostly known as the location of the cueva de la Pileta (cave of the Pool), one of the most important cave painting sites in the world.
7. Benaoján – km 11,8
We follow our journey through the town of Benaoján. We recommend you to make a stop by the pozo de San Marcos (well of Saint Mark) to cool down a bit. Back on the track, we continue going up to the Estación de Benaoján (Benaoján Station). From the top we can admire the wonderful Benaoján river source (also known as los Cascajales), where the aquifer of Montejaque- Cortes (or of the Sierra de Líbar) flows into. After heavy rains it is a worthwhile sight, and both locals and foreigners come to see the pouring waters. By the river bank, we can see an old mill,that has been transformed into a hotel. We will then descend through the Vereda de la Trocha and get to Estación de Benaoján.
8. Estación de Benaoján (Benaoján Station)– km 13,3
The neighbourhood of Estación de Benaoján was built due to the construction of the Bobadilla-Algeciras railroad. It reached its peak in the mid-20th century, when the delicatessen lived its best moments. The industrial restructuring of the 80s caused its decline and many abandoned factories remain as proof. Nevertheless, we can still buy different pork products (like manteca de lomo, zurrapa colorá, caña de lomo, salchichón, etc.). In the last few years tourism activities have developed and we now find numerous restaurants and accommodations. From Benaoján Station we can follow several tracks of great interest. The one that takes you through the SL-A 139 towards the cueva del Gato (2.2km long), and the one going up to the cueva de la Pileta and through the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park (3.2km) are highly recommendable.
The GR-141 continues its way to Jimera de Líbar after a level crossing and the bridge over the Guadiaro. The path that we see by the river leads to the charco de la Barranca and the cueva del Gato. We will turn South, following the signs of the GR-141, GR-249 and SL-A 138. We will encounter the ruins of some old mills associated near the river banks and inns like the one of María Joaquina, located on the left bank and easily recognisable for its two palm trees in the front patio, devoured by the red palm weevil. We can see again how the erosion removes the soil that hides the stone pavement.
Once we arrive at a mound on the road, we can look out to see a splendid panoramic of Benaoján and its mountain range. Afterwards, we will follow our path along the oak-covered mountainside. We will also find oaks, ardiviejas (a type of rockrose), furzes, matagallos (a type of nettle), and osyrises. On the other side of the river, in the paraje de la Fresnedilla, we will observe the water supply facilities of Benaoján and the old vegetable gardens of Andalusi origin, which are still cultivated. After a small descent, the road crosses a bridge over the arroyo del Agua (Stream of the Water). Once we have crossed the river, which is covered in rosebays, we can visit the ruins of the inn of arroyo del Agua with the ruiniform Cachón background on the opposite bank. Behind the walls and looking to the river, a part of the old stone paving is still preserved, as well as some fig trees and a marvellous laurel. It is here that the road turns into a small path. After a light ascent, we reach another fabulous hillock where the path cuts through the rock.
9. Mirador de las Angosturas (Lookout of the Angosturas)– km 15,1
This spot on the road offers and extraordinary view of the Angosturas, a dry section of the Guadiaro dug into the marl formations from the Cretaceous, predominantly auburn in colour. The railroad runs under the rough terrain through a tunnel. We can see one of the mouths of the tunnel while placidly walking the trail. In the backwater of the river we can see Andalusian barbels, eels, Northern Iberian chubs and bogues. However, otters will be harder to spot, although many live in this river. Other notable inhabitants of the area are the grey heron, the mallard, the sandpiper and the cormorant, who flows with the current as if it were a game.
We will immediately descend to to proper river bank, surrounded by rosebays and other species typical of gallery forests. If we look carefully, we can see the base of the puente del Moro, of Andalusi origin, in the narrowest part of the river. This part of the trail is usually flooded during the rainy seasons. Therefore, it becomes one of the difficult parts of the track during those times of the year. We ascend and soon stand upon a dominant spot that offers us a view to the west of the canchas de la Mesa, the location of the famous cueva de la Pileta. We can also observe the bridge of the Guadiaro that precedes the second tunnel, on which we stand. We can see gall-oaks, fan palms, spurge flaxes, mastics, thorny brooms and some carob trees. We will also find a mosaic of thorny plants including blackthorns, briars and hawthorns. Their fruits are the delight of the small passerine birds. We downwards for a while, sometimes surrounded by holm oaks and yellow brooms, and others by gall-oaks. A newly placed handrail offers safety during our way down the following slope: we will soon arrive at the Arroyo Seco.
10. Arroyo Seco (Dry stream)– km 17,4
We are near the borders of the municipality of Jimera de Líbar. We cross Arroyo Seco through a plank bridge, although it only carries water during rainy seasons. From this moment on, we will be very near to the railroad track and the Guadiaro river. You should spend a moment to take a picture of the valley and the surrounding cliffs of the sierra del Palo, especially if it has rained heavily; then, the landscape acquires majestic colours and water pours down wonderful falls. A large boulder fell onto the railroad track on the 19th January 1979, due to these heavy rains. This caused the derailment of the Algeciras-Madrid express. There were no victims, although the train engine had to be retrieved from the river. Thick, metallic nets have been placed to prevent any future landslides.
Now we must go down the cuesta de los Recoveros. We will have to walk carefully because there are many loose stones and the iron studs that hold the nets in place are not well protected. After this, we will reach a tremendous, green bridge and we will avoid the trail of the SL-A 138, that also leads to the Estación de Jimera (Jimera Station). Once we get to the other side, we will walk in between a meadow of walnut trees and the river. If it has been raining heavily, it is probable that part of the road may be flooded with the water of a nearby acequia or the river itself. If it is the case, either cross with extreme caution or turn back and follow the SL-A 138. We will then reach the swimming and canoeing areas of the Estación de Jimera.
11. Barriada Estación de Jimera de Líbar (Neighbourhood of the Jimera de Líbar Station)– 20,9 km
As it happened with the Benaoján Station, this neighborhood rose thanks to the construction of the Algeciras-Bobadilla railroad. The nice climate of the town, in which vegetable gardens and citrus fruits proliferate, did not come unnoticed by the tourists, who made the area the leading edge in rural tourism in the region of Málaga. From here we can make different itineraries: on one hand, across the Cañada Real del Campo de Gibraltar and the Guadiaro, and through the proper town of Jimera de Líbar on the other. You can also practice canoeing, as the section of the river in between the stations of Benaoján and Jimera is perfect for doing so. Several whitewater rafting competitions have been held here.
The GR 141 runs through the street parallel to the river until we get to a small tunnel. After it, we have to go up the street that takes us to a roundabout on the MA-8307 road. We follow our journey to Jimera, among olive and almond trees.
12. Jimera de Líbar – 22,4 km
We arrive at Jimera de Líbar, where many signs point us towards the different trails of the Serranía de Ronda and show us the diverse tourist attractions that this town has to offer. Next to la Fuente (the Fountain), dating from 1789, we can find the signs indicating the next section of the GR-141, that will take us to El Colmenar (Estación de Gaucín).
1. The Beginning of the Stage
Plaza de María Auxiliadora, a square in Ronda at an altitude of 696 m.
2. The End of the Stage
Lavadero de Jimera (Jimera Washing Place). By MA 8307 road, at an altitude of 499 m.