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Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama Park
The walkway, or sendero in Spanish, called Puente Arabe starts in a sundried village called Salares; a hamlet of 175 souls and a cat in the Axarquía region. The white village or pueblo blanco lies on the edge of the National Park Sierra de Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama.
The six kilometer route first follows a small stream, the Fogarate, and then goes through a Mediterranean oak forest. Once up at the top (863 m) of Monte Umbria La Casa de Haro, you have a fantastic view of the gorge, the surrounding pueblos blancos (white villages), the Mediterranean and the Maroma.
The Maroma, also known as Tejeda is the highest peak in the Sierra de Tejeda (2069 m). The summit is on the border of the provinces Granada and Malaga.
Hiking in the mountains
Our intention is to hike the sendero Puente Arabe, a signposted walk in the Axarquia mountains. And this time we actually plan for it because after dozens of hikes and hundreds of kilometers through the Andalucian mountains, we slowly begin to realize – after many mishaps – that a good preparation is half the battle.
We studied the map and confirmed that it is indeed a circular walk, which means that the trail ends at the same point as it begins. An important fact because we found out the hard way that in the description of Spanish senderos only one-way distance is given. So if you’re at the end of the trail, you have to walk back the same distance, unless it is a circular route.
This time we even checked the weather forecast, which looked good. Again, we have been caught out before with bad weather, rain, wind, etc.
Another important point is clothing. Even though we checked we have to take into consideration that in the mountains the weather can be unpredictable. Within minutes the temperatures can drop from nice and sunny to arctic conditions. But this time I am prepared.
Layers is the keyword: a t-shirt under a sweater and a light jacket against wind and rain. I also wear seamless hiking socks (against blisters) and hiking boots.
Of course we thought about provisions too. Normally we take at least water, this time because it is winter, i.e. ‘only’ 20° C, we consider that unnecessary ballast given the length of the trail. If we go for long hikes we also take concentrated food like: raisins, nuts or chocolate.
With a full breakfast in our stomachs, the hiking map and directions printed and all three phones charged (GPS) we are ready. With these thorough preparations nothing can go wrong, right? It is after all only a six kilometers trail and the total height difference is just 300 meters. According to the directions the walk takes about three hours.
Puente Arabe Hike
The route begins in the village near a medieval bridge, the Puente Arabe. Next to the bridge is a large information sign. According to the sign, the route is five kilometers, instead of the previously mentioned six. But who cares? Soon we find out that the sign also marks the last point where we see any markers, although the directions describe the route as a signposted trail.
Indeed, within minutes we notice that we are on the wrong trail, so back down, we now follow the aqueduct upstream. The path, or what once must have been the path is largely washed away. The only way to go up is hiking through the aqueduct, which gives some interesting glimpses into the gorge below us. That is fine, as long as we are watching where we put our feet, until the aqueduct does what is was made for, namely carrying large amounts of water downhill. It is impossible to continue this way.
Gran Senda de Malaga
Fortunately, there appears a right turn up the hill, which coincides with part of the GR-249, the Gran Senda Malaga, a circular route. Only this one is 660 kilometers. A bit too much for a day hike. We follow the GR-249 to the Casa de Haro, a ruin of an old farm and one of the attractions on this route.
Here the trail goes up and transforms into a dirt road. Once up at the top (863 m) of Monte Umbria La Casa de Haro, there is a fantastic view of the gorge, the surrounding pueblos blancos (white villages), the Mediterranean and the Maroma. From here we descend. The Gran Senda continues eastward, we must return to Salares. Marked on the map are two peaks to the right of the road, although it seems more logical to continue our walk at the other side of the hill, we follow the route as indicated on the map against our instincts.
A big mistake!
We arrive at a dirt track that directs us to Salaras, but with a huge detour. We decide take a shortcut through an olive grove. Unfortunately somewhere the path ends on the middle of a steep hillside. On the other mountainside we see the road that we should have taken in the first place. We decide to wade through the bushes, slowly step by step. Hundred meters, as the crow flies, takes us the best part of an hour.
After almost four hours we return to the bridge where we started.
Yes, I am a little disappointed, because despite thorough preparations we failed again to find our way on the first attempt. Until now I was convinced that this was due to a lack of planning and partly to a lack of orientation. I get lost even on a ferry, in fact I once even got lost (totally sober) in a bar. But this time everything was prepared to perfection and the guys in my group know how to find their way, even in foreign lands.
In short, my point is if you go hiking in the Spanish mountains be prepared for bad weather, getting lost, heat, etc.
If you want to stay a bit longer than there are in the tiny but beautiful hamlet of Salares several overnight options available:
- B & B House of Oranges. This bed and breakfast features a sun terrace with mountain views, a pool and a bar.
- Casa Torre Antigua is an Andalusian-style villa, located next to the Puente Arabe.
- Holiday home has two bedrooms and pool.
Gran Senda Malaga
If you want to do more hiking in the area have a look at the Gran Senda Malaga website. Unlike many other walks in Andalucia, the GR-249 is well marked (at least in this area).
Bodegas Bentomiz is a beautiful award winning vineyard with Dutch owners. It is located a few kilometers outside the centre of Sayalonga, 13 kilometers from Salares.
Salares can be reached via Velez-Malaga and Algarrobo. In Salares itself is a long street where you can park, the rest of the town is a pedestrian zone. In particular, the route through Algarrobo has a lot of winding mountain roads, it is not suitable for drivers with vertigo.
Download the directions of the Puente Arabe here.