Exploring Los Cahorros, Walking

    LAST UPDATED: 9 Nov, 2006 @ 07:33
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     by Judith Cooke

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    TRYING to find somewhere new and exciting
    to take young children is often a challenge here in Andalucía.  At Los Cahorros, with its dramatic gorge to
    explore, shallow river and inviting "tunnel" through over-hanging
    cliffs, there is much to keep lively legs occupied for a great day out.  Our energetic two-year old walked a good
    stretch of the path and it made such an impression on her she repeated the word
    "tunnel" all the way home. There are shaded picnic spots, a small
    paddling area under one of the bridges, daredevil mountaineers to watch with
    bated breath as they scale the cliff-faces, and the sheer drama of walking
    under the massive rock formations. This green and rocky valley is particularly
    picturesque at this time of year as it is full of alamos (poplars) whose leaves
    are just changing colour. Walks here can be as long or as short as you like, a
    simple circuit can be done in 40 minutes, while longer walks can go on to the
    vega, a grassy plain, where the ravine opens out, or further still to the
    ‘Central Eléctrica’, a small hydro-electric power station, beyond.  We spent about four and a half hours doing a
    full circuit along both sides of the river.

    Paths leading down into the gorge start
    just beyond Monachil, a small village at the foot of the
    Sierra Nevada. Approaching Granada, from the
    south, turn off on the Ronda Sur and then take the first exit off, signposted
    to Cájar and Monachil. Continue following signs for Monachil up out of the
    valley, with the river Monachil down on the left. Once in the village itself
    bear left over the river and then turn sharp right to drive up the left-hand
    side of the river.  There are big wooden
    signboards at the bridge directing you onto this old road which winds its way
    up into the
    Sierra Nevada.  After several speed bumps
    you leave the village and the road snakes its way upwards. You know it’s time
    to look for somewhere to stop when you spot the roof of a bar below on the
    right, and you can park either on the access road here, off to the right, or a
    few metres further on in the small and often overcrowded car park (best to get
    there before mid-day to find a space).

    The bar, La Terraza del Puntarrón, is a
    good place for that welcome coffee or beer to start off a walk, and there is an
    open terrace down below for children to run around in. Meals and drinks are
    served here at weekends, opening at
    10 am and closing at 6 pm (but
    no ice-cream!) From the bar head back up to the access track which forks off to
    the right, leading down into the valley of the Monachil river.
    There are big wooden signs here pointing you towards the "Puente Colgante",
    the hanging bridge (in fact there are three altogether, two smaller ones as
    well as the dramatic big one – the path crosses the river several times).  There is also the "Tunél de las Azuelas"
    to explore: the path along the river literally creeps beneath overhanging rocks.  (
    Wellington boots
    might be advisable here in winter months for children wishing to splash ahead,
    the water comes directly down from the mountain peaks!) 

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    After about ten minutes the main track ends
    at the gates of a big house, and the path continues to the right, following the
    acequia (irrigation channel). A few minutes later the path divides, one branch
    heading down to the river and one up onto the cliff-tops. They meet up again
    about 20 minutes later, so parties can split up here to regroup at the main
    hanging bridge. I was glad to find it only took five minutes to reach the top,
    following the grey, dusty path steeply up to the left and from some craggy
    rocks we could wave down to pin-size people below. The views from the tops are
    impressive and give you a clear idea of the weight of rocks the river has had
    to channel its way through. You also get to look down on the climbers from here
    and onto one of the hanging bridges. If you go straight down to the river on
    the lower path, ignore the first set of steps right down into the gorge and
    continue alongside the acequia for a short way until you reach the first of the
    hanging bridges.  After the bridge steps
    take you down to the river and back up the other side. Simply follow the path
    to the left until you reach a second bridge. At this point children can
    scramble down onto a small sandy patch with a waterfall behind some rocks; it
    is a great spot for paddling, making dams and, if you are already hungry,
    getting out the picnic. 

    A short circuit of around 40 minutes can be
    done just by combining the higher and lower routes in whichever order. Don’t
    leave though without venturing across the "Puente Colgante", a long,
    swaying, hanging bridge which takes you diagonally across the river, with
    fantastic views (not always popular with dogs though!). If you decide to carry
    on after the bridge, you will find a narrow, concrete path that runs along the
    river’s edge. The route becomes rather more exciting and challenging along
    here, as the cliffs drop down low over the path making it impossible to walk
    along upright in parts, and at some points it is safest to sit down and edge
    along (the shiny surface proves that this is often done!). Our toddler was able
    to walk along most of the path, watching her head on the walls, and holding
    onto my hands. 

    The entrance into the "tunnel" looks
    daunting, but is quite feasible if taken slowly and gently.  We passed many families with children of all
    ages who were clearly having a great time. 
    It took 45 minutes, walking at toddler pace, to reach the Vega from the
    bridge; this is where the land flattens out and there is plenty of space for
    picnics, running around and exploring the river which is still shallow at this
    point.  There is another hanging bridge
    here, and a path leads off to the left opposite, but this involves a long,
    steep haul back up the hillside (we did it last time, not to be recommended!).  For families, it is probably best to retrace
    steps here, and vary it slightly back to the beginning by following the
    alternative path.

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    Older or more energetic walkers may like to
    explore other options though, and continuing on to the
    Central Eléctrica, you reach
    the small hydro-power station 30 minutes further along the right hand side of
    the river.  Our child was now exhausted
    and sleeping soundly in the backpack, so we had a break at the Central
    exploring rocks and mapping out possible future walks into the hills.

    We used the 1:40.000 Sierra Nevada map, Editorial
    Alpina, and the book "
    Sierra Nevada, Guia de Montaña" from the Editorial Penibetica, for detailed
    directions of the area.  A vehicle track
    comes down to the power station, which if followed back up the hill would bring
    you out at the camp site at Purche, a good way further along the old Sierra
    Nevada road (a challenging walk for those who are adventurous enough and can be
    picked up at the end).  Retracing our
    steps, about half way back to the Vega there is a path forking off down to the
    right to the river at the Puente de las Chorreras. We crossed the bridge here
    and then zig-zagged up the hillside for about 15-20 minutes and stopped for a
    banana break on the top looking down on the grassy plain below, letting Olivia
    stretch her legs again while we breathed in that lovely dry smell of wild thyme
    that abounds here amongst the rocks.

    This path is clearly signed, and brings you
    out on the cinder track coming up from the river. We crossed straight over the
    track, following a red stripe on the rocks (always a useful path indicator) and
    this cut off the very winding route that the track takes around the country
    houses.  The last part of this path was a
    bit steep and overgrown, but brought us out on the same track leading out of
    the valley, and turning left it took only ten minutes to the car park.  It had taken us one hr and 15 minutes from
    the Puente de las Chorreras, with a 20 minute stop, and we were glad to find
    the bar still open serving a refreshing clara and
    plate of patatas con huevos.  Just what’s
    needed if you’ve left too late in the morning and haven’t packed enough of a
    picnic! 

    If you have time, continuing on along the
    old Sierra Nevada road that winds on up into the mountains is a wonderfully
    scenic route back, bringing you out just below the ski resorts on the main road
    that descends down to the Ronda Sur.

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