By John Keogh
THE Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama Sierras Natural Park – all 40,600 hectares of it – is an impressive mountainous mass which forms a geographical barrier between the provinces of Malaga and Granada.
It is a stark reminder of the harshness of life in Andalucía before the arrival of tourism and a fabulous place to escape for a wilderness adventure.
Echoing with the sounds of running water, the howling of the wind and, at times, the relentless downpouring of rain, it was always tough to make a living in these mountains.
But water is very much the lifeblood of these towering mountains that are filled with deep aquifers.
The huge amounts of rainwater are stored in caverns which are best appreciated at the Caves of Nerja. In the summer nothing moves – it’s so hot, but from October on until the following May, these mountains become my playground and workplace as a walking guide.
Here are a few options available to you should you choose to venture beyond the villages and into the wild.
Up Cerro del Pinto
Easy – Three hours
When Capitan Pinto literally crash-landed in Nerja about 200 years ago after surviving a horrendous storm, he made his way up to the hilltop he had seen from the beach to erect a wooden cross on the hilltop as a way of thanking God for saving his men and himself from drowning.
There is a monument there to this day and it is still regularly attended by locals when they wish to pray or offer thanks for something or someone in their lives.
I have stretched the route out a little so that it now takes about three and half hours with breaks and stops along the way.
It is no more than six kilometres in total with a combined total climb of about 450 meters.
From Frigiliana into El Higueron following Ruta Del Imán to Cuesta del Sordo, down into Corril Del Pinto and
then up to the top of Cerro Del Pinto for a look and a prayer and some lunch.
Return back to El Higueron by way of the road towards El Molino and then walk back up El Higueron past the waterfalls, we splash through the river until you reach Frigiliana once more.
It’s a nice way to build an appetite and a thirst. You can eat and drink in Virtudes Restaurant before heading home.
Medium – Four hours
The Stronghold (or El Fuerte, as it is known locally), was the site of the Moors Last Stand in Spain. There was once a large fortress atop ‘the rock’, which overlooks Frigiliana.
El Fuerte, was considered a holy place by the Muslim population and it was decided that here they would stand and fight and win or die.
From the bus stop in Frigiliana at 330 meters to the top of El Fuerte at 980 meters is a two-and-half-hour climb that is steep at first but the views from the top are incredible.
By incorporating the history of the battle as we walk through the old Barrio Mudejar or Barriobarto we can take about four hours in all. Strong legs and sound lungs are a prerequisite.
Fuente del Esparto
Hard – Seven to eight hours
There was a time when esparto grass was used to make so many different household and farm items that there was a living to be earned by harvesting and transporting it from all over the sierra back to Frigiliana where the grass would be woven into shoes, rope, saddles, window-blinds and much, much more.
This route is one of the oldest and best used although it is still little more that a path through the wilderness.
From Frigiliana down into El Higueron and up again onto Cuesto Del Sordo, the route then hugs the contours of the Sierra Enmedio or The Middle Mountains.
They are so called because they are the mountains in between El Higueron and Rio Chillar.
This walk is one of my favourites. At almost 20 kilometres, you need over seven hours including stops, for this walk with plenty of water and food to keep you going.
More info at www.hikingwalkingspain.com.