Red’s next day trip took her to El Chorro, which of course had its hiccups in terms of knowing where in the world we were going. I don’t think I can remember an outing in Spain when we didn’t get lost, which is all part of the adventure of learning your way around a new place. That, and the fact I have absolutely no sense of direction. I’m the driver in the family because, if you can believe it, my husband never learned how to drive. Yes I knew it when I met him, yes I knew what I was getting into, but it doesn’t stop it from being a sore point and driving me crazy!!!!!
Using a sat nav for the very first time!!
Anyway… my neighbour Mike offered to lend me his pre-programmed satnav for the outing. It’s the first time I’ve ever used one, so it was interesting. I don’t know what my favourite part was – watching my husband use spit to attach it to the windshield, or the holder not being the right fit for the device so it would fall out, then turn off when you tried to snap it back in.
For some reason Mike told me not to use the pre-programmed route for the trip out, but instead gave me other directions and said Stella (my husband named the sat nav!!) would re-calibrate and guide us from the new starting point.
Well, after trying to get me to make u-turns for the first few minutes, she finally understood I was on a different route and she’d have to adapt, which she did, thankfully! Mike’s directions made no sense so if not for Stella we never would have had the beautiful day out that we did.
Anyway, having someone tell me where to go was a wonderful change from me having to focus on crazy serpentine roads, while glancing at my written directions in my notebook.
Why isn’t my husband navigating since he doesn’t drive you ask? I ask myself the same question, but he’s a terrible navigator and it only leads to arguments. He refuses to understand that saying “there” is not a detailed enough description of where my next step should be. He also will not tell me the next part of the directions in advance.
Anyway, at one point Stella said “arriving at your destination” then stopped talking. Based on the scenery I knew we were in the general vicinity, but not actually in El Chorro. I knew that because there were no signs welcoming me!!
With Stella silenced we decided to keep driving, as much as aimless driving in foreign countries does not appeal to me. After 20 minutes of that we actually found what we were looking for…the beginning of it anyway.
A quick pit stop before the pièce de résistance
In my previous post on Red’s adventures in Antequera, I mentioned my husband’s need for coffee, and how it must happen before 12:00. Red seemed like she needed a pee anyway (she’s been drinking and peeing more and we know that’s never good), so we stopped at a gas station with a lovely outdoor restaurant. My husband skipped the coffee and went straight for the beer, usually allowed only after 12:00 even though it was 11:50 – his rule not mine!! Both dogs had a “comfort” break and Red had a snack.
Following the signs
No offence to anyone, but in my 3½ months of driving in Spain, I don’t think I’m wrong when I say the signs here suck! Not the signs per se, but rather the lack of them and their location. They put the sign with the arrow by a dirt road, many of which I have driven up in error, only to discover the arrow pointing to the road isn’t where they wanted you to drive. They expected you would carry on a bit further, then completely miss the turnoff because there’s no sign.
Anyway, thankfully El Chorro had some signs, and we just headed straight.
What is El Chorro?
Let me give you a bit of information here, then I’ll carry on with my experiences.
El Chorro is a small town located in Malaga province, in the Andalucia region of Spain, near a town called Alora. The area is breathtakingly beautiful with turquoise lakes and is hugely popular with mountain bikers, hikers and campers. As it is located next to Desfiladero de los Gaitanes (“Gorge of the Gaitanes”), it is one of the most popular rock climbing sites in Spain.
Caminito del Rey
The gorge is famous for a walkway called Caminito del Rey (King’s Pathway) which hangs 100m above the base of the gorge. A challenge for those with a fear of heights, it takes 3-4 hours to walk and is worth it if you can handle it. You have to book and pay in advance, so we didn’t do the walk…of course we had the dogs and I don’t like heights so I can’t use that fact as an excuse!! The newly refurbished walkway opened in March 2015, but here’s a bit of interesting info about the history from the caminodelrey.es website.
“El Caminito del Rey”, in English, (“The King’s little pathway”) was initially built as an access route. It enabled workers at the hydroelectric power plants of El Chorro Gorge and Gaitanes Gorge with an easier way to transport materials, maintain and inspect the workings of the two power plants. Construction of the “walkway” began in 1901 and was finished in 1905 and in 1921 King Alfonso XIII visited and walked along the path for the inauguration of the Conde del Guadalhorce dam and since that time it became known as the “Kings path… The area is a mecca for climbers and the Caminito del Rey became known as one of the most impressive and dangerous mountain trails in the world (as the many videos on you tube certainly demonstrate.) But, after several people lost their lives on the walkway (in 1999 and 2000) both access points were demolished by local authorities and access prohibited.”
Back to our day out!
I can’t possibly describe the sheer beauty of turning a bend in the road and looking down to see turquoise coloured lakes. Most of the roads here don’t have places to stop, but happily this one had lots of little areas to park for photo ops and to simply enjoy “being” in the magnificence of it all.
The ride up to the dam is made up of massive rocks on one side, and serpentine roads that somehow accommodate tour buses and cars that look like they won’t pass each other safely. It was a bit hair-raising a couple of times (a one lane road, two way traffic with a cliff on one side, solid rock on the other and no shoulder – somehow it worked though!), but thankfully there were no incidents.
One way in, almost no way out
As we continued our climb we came to another spectacular turquoise body of water which is where the dam was. Ready to stop, have a snack and just enjoy the beautiful hot sunny day, we followed all the other cars to a crazy congested area, a parking lot with no space, massive tour buses, hundreds of people and several cafes and restaurants.
After a moment of claustrophobia and wondering “how in the world will I be able to get down a road with cars and buses blocking most of it! I informed hubby there was no chance I was staying so we hightailed it out of there. I don’t know about you, but I can’t enjoy such a stunning vista with throngs of humanity around. Away from the crowds we found a little area off the road, big enough to fit one car. I tucked myself in there, Red and Jack had a bit of a break and another photo op.
Time for some peace and tranquility
As magnificent as the scenery is as you drive, not only do you want the chance to stand in the middle of it and stretch your legs, it’s only fair the driver gets to enjoy it, not just the passenger!
After we had seen and done and photographed, we headed back to find a quieter place to sit…and we found it. A place we noticed on our drive up, it was a beautiful spot, place for parking, right on the water with the sheer rock face in front, and a bird’s eye view of the Caminito del Ray. We parked, enjoyed and went across the road to a lovely little restaurant.
When my husband pointed out the For Sale sign I couldn’t resist asking. I love Spain, love the language, and of course the opportunity to help so many animals in desperate need. Asking price – around 1 million euros! Well it did come with 3 or 4 houses, the restaurant, land and the stray cats!!!
If anyone has that kind of money to offer I can make a huge difference with it!!
We sat, enjoyed the hot sunny weather, beautiful view of the mountains and the link of hikers on their 4 hour trek. I had a lovely cool agua con gas, hielo y limon (soda water with ice and lemon) and a delicious tortilla. I met a stray who lives there and saw her adorable 4 day old kittens. I usually give my “why don’t you fix your cats” speech, but my Spanish is too basic and they didn’t speak any English. I don’t usually let that kind of opportunity pass me by but…
What’s great about bringing the dogs is there’s no watching of the clock, conscious of how long you’ve been gone, or having to drag yourself to the pet sitter to pick them up. Stella did a good job of guiding us home, and we got to enjoy another beautiful site.
I hope you enjoyed reading about Red’s recent adventure, and another example of having your senior dog join in the family fun. If you’ve been leaving your furry friend at home because you aren’t able to lift him in and out of the car, or he can’t keep up, do what I did. Get yourself a ramp and a pet stroller – they’ll make a world of difference to all of you.