20 December 2012
Reading time: 4 mins
On this occasion, I was accompanied by Meg, our border collie pup.
Words and photos from guest writer, Ian Tupman
I parked the car at the Hoya del Magalite, a group of cortijos just off the GR413, approximately 10km north of Almegíjar . From here we took the track heading west along the north side of the Sierra de Mecina. Looking down and across to the other side of the Río Trevélez, you can just pick out the remains of an old mosque built into the rock, now used as animal shelters.
To the north, there are wonderful views of the white villages of La Tahá and on a clear day, of the Sierra Nevada.
After a short, initial ascent, the track passes through oak and pine forests as it descends gently to a junction after approximately 4km. Ignoring the track to the right, we continued for another kilometre where, at the side of the track, there is an Arab well or aljibe in very good condition.
This is thought to have been a watering hole on the Arab trade route between Órgiva and the port at Adra. Retracing our steps to the junction of the tracks, we took the track signed GR142 which descends past a large goat shed and then becomes what is a stunning piece of civil engineering. The path takes a sinuous route down into the Río Trevélez gorge, hugging the contours where it can and, where there are no contours, the path has been built up and out from the valley side, an amazing achievement for the time. Despite being around two thousand years old, the path is in remarkably good condition and where landslips and rock falls have occurred; the path has been re-established across them. The views across to the north side of the valley are captivating but don’t forget to watch where you are putting your feet, a trip on this path may be your last!
Eventually, we arrived at the bottom of the gorge and crossed the Río Trevélez by the Roman bridge before taking the path to the left and ascending to the village of Fondales.
The path up to Fondales was lined with copper and gold-clad trees, much admired by Meg.
In Fondales we saw the only two people we would see all afternoon, two locals having a chat over something or other. We picked up the GR142 signs and headed east on the good path to Ferreirola. I prefer this to walking up to Mecina and along the road to Ferreirola although an advantage of the road option is a stop-off at the little cafe-bar in Mecina where they serve great home-made pizza.
The path brought us into the bottom of Ferreirola and we strolled through the empty streets (it was siesta time) to pick up the path again on the east side of the village. Passing smallholdings with various fruits on the trees and ignoring the left turn up to Busquistar, we continued on down to the river.
After crossing the bridge to the south side, the path climbs what is known as the Escarihuela de Panjuila. From the north side of the valley it looks an impossible slope but after fifteen minutes of zig-zagging and around 200m of ascent, it tops out giving splendid views back into the gorge where the remains of the old mill are clearly visible.
On relatively level ground now, the path continues past the ruins of the Baños de Panjuila. The baths were still in use in the nineteenth century and are even thought to have been in existence during the Muslim occupation of the Alpujarra where they offered travellers on the busy trading route a stop-off point. A sort of thirteenth century motorway services I guess.
From the old baths we continued for another 400m and the track brought us back to our starting place. The walk takes between 3 ½ and 4 hours and is roughly 11km long with around 400m of ascent. Care is needed in a couple of places where landslips have to be crossed but otherwise the route is well within the abilities of the average walker. It can be started and finished as described or from either Ferreirola or Fondales, either of which has adequate parking.