Expedition to Andalusia, Spain - The Pictures
Below is a short
overview of our time spending in Andalusia, during
the Leonids 2002 expedition. It's a small sample of
pictures, showing some of the Andalusian gems that
Kathleen and I explored.
November 16, 2002
We left Brussels
airport on the morning of Saturday November 16th.
And apparently, we were not the only ones on the
plane travelling towards an Andalusian Leonids
experience : we met some meteor
observers from the Gamma
Andromeda team (Belgium), headed by veteran
observer Michel Vandeputte. They were traveling to
the Calar Alto observatory in Spain.
ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM !
before landing on Malaga Airport, we flew over
the Guadalhorce reservoirs of "Ardales
Nature Park". We knew our hotel was
situated very close to this nature park, and
exploring one of the canyons in the
Guadalhorce area was on the top of our list of
At Malaga airport, we
rented a car and started our journey to the Andalusian
interiors. Our destination was Cortijo
Valverde. It's an old Spanish cortijo (farm),
turned into a very special retreat, that nestles
peacefully on a rising spur between two river valleys
near Alora, in the midst of olive groves. For sure,
this is amongst the best small hotels we ever visited,
offering a perfect combination of tranquility,
excellent food and above all hospitality we never
experienced before in a Spanish hotel. Cortijo
Valverde is run by Moyra and Rod, two of the nicest hosts we have
encountered. Highly recommended !!
our room in Cortijo Valverde on the hotel
properties. Perfectly situated for our
astronomical activities, far away from any
source of light pollution.
The afternoon of our
spent hiking the immediate surroundings of Cortijo
Valverde. There's an excellent walk of about 2 - 3
hours, starting right away at the hotel, that will
take you through the Andalusian landscape with its
citrus fruit trees, olive groves, rocky outcrops and
rolling hillsides. We walked past small farms, and
enjoyed spectacular views of the white Andalusian
One hike, that
we absolutely wanted to make in the Alora
area, was to walk the Garganta del Chorro,
or El Chorro Gorge. The gorge has been carved
by the Guadalhorce river, and is up to 400m
deep, and in places as little as 10m wide. The gorge, about 4 km
long, is traversed not only by the main railway in
and out of Málaga (with the aid of 12 tunnels and
six bridges) but also by a footpath, the Camino
del Rey or Kings Path, which for long stretches becomes a
perilously decaying concrete catwalk clinging to the
side of the gorge up to 100 m above the river.
The camino has been in a
state of alarming disrepair for years and has been
officially closed since 1992.
The head of the
Garganta del Chorro, as well as part of the
Camino del Rey, are visible in the picture at
left. One will also notice the small bridge in
the gorge, that brings the Camino Del Rey from
one side of the gorge to the other.
We first tried
to approach the head of the Camino del Rey
following the train tunnels, close to El
Chorro village. This is an easy walk, and
contrary to what some have written on other
Internet sites, absolutely not dangerous.
Whenever a train is passing the tunnels, you
will hear it approaching from far, and you will see
it passing the tunnels slowly, exactly because of
the hikers !
When we arrived
at the start of the track, it immediately
became clear it would be impossible to hike
the Camino del Rey from this side : the first
30 meters of the path have completely
collapsed (see picture at right)!
strongly recommend to continue the walk
through the tunnels, as it offers superb views
of the canyon and the Camino del Rey. It gives
a perfect impression of how wonderful this
hike would have been. We were told that plans
are getting more or less official now to
restore the Camino del Rey (which is the good
news) and to turn the entire Guadalhorce
region into a big leisure park (which is the
|We knew there was
a second entrance to the Camino del Rey, that
was part of another hike we had planned in the
El Chorro region. It starts off at the "El
Mirador" restaurant, and after
approximately 40 minutes brings you to an
electricity central, right at the entrance of
Unfortunately, the situation
at this part of the Camino del Rey is not any
better. Again, the first 20 to 30 meters of
the path have completely collapsed, making it
impossible to start the hike at this
Although we didn't manage to
locate alternatives, there must be another
possibility to reach the Camino, as we saw 2
persons walking the path !
Addendum January 2005 :
we received following email from Mr. Jason
Moffat, UK, regarding accessibility of Camino
del Rey : "The Camino del Rey can be
gained by several methods : (1) ab-seil onto
the electricity station end, (2) rock climb
onto the lower gorge end, (3) scrambling up
onto the catwalk from the middle of the flat
valley, still need rope for ab-seil descent
from the lower gorge.
Also, the paths did not collapse, the Spanish
authorities destroyed the beginning and end
after numerous accidents in the gorge. The
worst being the flying fox across the gorge
that snapped when three people tried to ride
it all at once. "
Addendum August 2005 : email from Mrs. Jo Willett,
UK: "I found your website when I was
searching for pictures of the Camino del Rey.
I thought I would let you know that it IS
possible to walk along the Camino, but you
need to be a rock climber, or to hire a rock
climbing guide to take you along it.
If you walk from El Chorro village, through
the train tunnel where you can see the head of
the walkway, and through the next tunnel, you
will be able to see across the gorge to the
start of the Camino. You can scramble down to
the river, cross it and scramble up the other
side to the start. Then you need a climbing
harness and a head for heights! There are
metal cables fixed to the rock all along the
Camino, and you clip your harness into the
cable and follow the walkway - you need to do
some climbing as bits of the walkway have
disappeared. At the end, you can either abseil
(rappel) down to the ground, or retrace your
steps back to where you started.
It is great fun, my husband and I did it in
December 2004, but I would not recommend it
for anyone who has not had any climbing
experience as it is a little dangerous."
Conde de Guadalhorce reservoir is
depicted at left. El Chorro was founded
as a village to accomodate the workers who
built the reservoir, and who had access to it
through the Camino del Rey.
"the" day, with the Leonids meteor storm
predicted to occur in the night of November 18/19th.
Since it was still a long time to go, we decided to
undertake a long walk. On the menu was the Sierra
de Aguas (949m high, where Alora itself is about
200m above sea level).
de Aguas ("Range of Waters")
mountain range is located on the road from
Alora to Carratraca. We walked part of
"Rutas 5", which is well signposted
(taking into account you are walking in
was the mountain top at the left of the
picture. We were very lucky with the weather,
as the sky was extremely clear, offering views all the way from the coast to the
Andalusian interiors. We
could easily see Malaga airport, the El
Torcal National Park, the Guadalhorce
reservoirs, Sierra Nevada, etc. This is
probably one of the finest walks in the entire
On the way to the top of Sierra de
Aguas. View towards El Torcal National Park.
was quickly approaching, when we left the Sierra
de Aguas walk and entered Alora village
in the evening (picture at right). It's a
typical white Andalusian village, with many
picturesque streets (easier to walk than to
drive). Worth a visit is the castle, that
is constructed over one of the two hills of
We enjoyed our
stay in Andalusia from the very first minute till the
... well, not exactly. See what happened to our Leonids
2002 - Tonny Vanmunster.