Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama Park
The trail (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-kilometre route follows a small stream, the Fogarate, and then 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, 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
We intend 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 kilometres through the Andalusian mountains, we slowly begin to realize – after many mishaps – that good preparation is half the battle.
Trail finding in the Axarquia
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. But, as we found out the hard way, an essential fact is that only one-way distance is given in the description of a Spanish sendero. So if you’re at the end of the trail, you have to walk back the same length unless it is a circular route.
Weather in the mountains of Malaga
This time we even checked the weather forecast, which looked promising. But, again, we have been caught out before with bad weather, rain, wind, etc.
Dress for the occassion
Another vital point is clothing. We checked the weather forecast, as we have to consider that the weather can be unpredictable in the mountains. Within minutes the temperatures can drop from nice and sunny to arctic conditions. But this time, I am prepared.
Layers are 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.
Bring supplies, even on short walks
Of course, we thought about provisions too. We usually 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.
Navigation in the mountains of Southern Spain
We are ready with a full breakfast in our stomachs, the hiking map and directions printed, and all three phones charged (GPS). With this thorough preparation, nothing can go wrong, right? After all, it is only a six-kilometre 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 kilometres 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 exciting glimpses into the gorge below us. That is fine, as long as we watch where we put our feet until the trench does what it was made for, that is carrying large amounts of water downhill. It is impossible to continue this way.
Gran Senda de Malaga
Fortunately, a right turn up the hill appears, which coincides with part of the GR-249, the Gran Senda Malaga, a circular route. Only this one is 660 kilometres. 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, surrounding pueblos blancos (white villages), the Mediterranean, and the Maroma. From here, we descend. The Gran Senda continues eastward.
Finally, 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!
The GR-249 near Salare
We arrive at a dirt track that directs us to Salares, but with a considerable detour. We decide to take a shortcut through an olive grove. Unfortunately, somewhere the path ends in 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. As the crow flies, A hundred meters brings us the best part of an hour.
Four hours later, we return to the bridge where we started.
Yes, I am a little disappointed because we failed again to find our way on the first attempt despite thorough preparations. 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.
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 are available:
- B & B House of Oranges. This bed and breakfast feature 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.
- The holiday home has two bedrooms and a pool.
Gran Senda Malaga
If you want to do more hiking in the area, 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 kilometres outside the centre of Sayalonga, 13 kilometres 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, which is not suitable for drivers with vertigo.
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