Zagan the motorhome’s being rained on. Yup, it’s raining in the olive tree hills above Málaga, and we’re holed up in the villa with the wood burner slow-roasting us and our four canine companions. Zagan has ventured out onto the roads once this week, to get us to the nearby Caminito del Rey gorge path, but that was enough to test his nerve!
Right! What’s this here cam-in-ee-toe all about? As it turned out, we’d accidentally got our house sit just a few miles from what was once an infamous, world-reknown-bonkers-all-out-death-walk – the King’s Little Path – Caminito del Rey. We’d heard of the walk through David and Karen’s blog (thegreygappers.co.uk), but hadn’t realised we were so close to it. Knowing we’d be here for six weeks – the longest we’ve stayed in one place for over a year – we got ourselves booked onto it when we arrived to give us something to do. Good job we did, as tickets are like hen’s teeth – rather rare. Reading up later on we found only about 10% of the tickets are available through the on-line booking system, the rest going to tour companies and local businesses to sell. Anyway, enough of the boring stuff – have a look at the end of this post for practical info for motorhomers on doing the walk.
This whole area we’re in is hillside – the flattest thing here is the football pitch. Rocks rise up from the olive trees like the Earth’s molars, vultures soar high in the blue, and when you’re driving a motorhome, it feels like the sides are closing in. Over at El Chorro the hills go ape, turning from mere cliff faces to a tight, sheer gorge topped off with a loony bridge, at the final part of the walk. It looks quite amazing from below; the idea that workers and locals alike would use the old path as a day-to-day way to get up and down the gorge is just mind boggling.
The path was first made about 1905, a wooden thing which was low down close to the water, and which was washed away whenever the river flooded. In 1920 a concrete and metal path was slung along the gorge, higher up, in some places 100m in the air. And that same ancient path was being used by climbers and nutters alike up until 2 or 3 years ago, despite the fact it was falling apart, was closed years ago, and even had the first and last 30m of the path destroyed to try and stop folks killing themselves on it. The final straw, our guide told us, was when three climbers died on a zip wire at the highest part of the gorge.
Usually climbers would go across the line two at a time, but one of the guys was, as she described it, a fatty (which seems unlikely to me – as anyone fat would surely not get there in the first place). So, inexplicably, three of the guys hooked up to the line and left the big lad behind, far behind as it turned out, when the zip wire came away from the cliff and dumped the poor souls dead far below in the gorge, requiring it to be flooded from the dam above to flush their bodies out. Nice.
So, after 20 years of wrangling over funds, three years of planning, a year long build and several million spondoolies later, the new path’s in place. It’s all wood and steel, but the old path’s still there for you to marvel at as you amble along in perfect safety, wide eyed at the madness of it all, trying to photograph the entire thing. It’s cool. Here are a few more photos.
Okey dokey. What else is going on in Team Zagan?
We’re three week’s into the house sit, which we reckon is probably about half way through, although we’re not yet sure of the exact date when the owners are coming back. The weather’s turned here and we’re actually enjoying the sight of rain hammering down into the swimming pool, the town below clad in fog, just visible. We’ve settled into a rhythm with the dogs, and have been spending far too long editing the second edition of our Motorhome Morocco book (books take forever to write guys, and make no financial sense, we’re doing it as we enjoy it, I think).
Ju’s made some new armrests for Zagan so my old jeans live on, we’ve Skyped some folks back home, and our thoughts are slowly starting to turn to the road again. Where do we head next? The landscape around here is pretty stunning, and we’ve enjoyed watching the Trip to Spain with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, so the idea of spending a wee while exploring Spain’s starting to take hold. Hmmm, decision time. Well, in three weeks it’ll be decision time…
Have a great weekend folks! Cheers, Jay
Practical Advice for Doing the Caminito del Rey by Motorhome
If you’re touring Spain in a motorhome, and fancy doing the Caminito del Rey, here are a few pointers:
- We’re staying in a villa near Valle de Abdalajis, so we didn’t need an aire or campsite. Looking on campercontact.com, there are a couple of options not too far from El Chorro, or on park4night.com there are wild camping spots in walking distance of El Chorro.
- The official walk website is: http://www.caminitodelrey.info/en. It’s in English, but confusing still.
- You officially have to book tickets in advance (€10 each), here: https://reservas.caminitodelrey.info/janto/. This website is available in English and Spanish. We found that the English version was booked out for weeks on end, but looking at the Spanish version, tickets for an €18 guided tour were available, so it’s worth checking both languages. When we arrived the tour was in both Spanish and English.
- For us the ‘tour’ wasn’t worth even the extra few Euros. There’s a great website about the walk here – read this and you’ll have more info than the guide gives you. Also, if you don’t have a guide, you can do the walk at your leisure, take a picnic and read information on the boards along the walk.
- The walk is linear – from the north near Ardales down to El Chorro in the south. You can no longer walk back up the path, but a bus shuttles from the south to the north and back again for €1.55 each way – you can pay in cash for the bus, or add it to your ticket price.
- We printed our tickets off, so we could hand the shuttle bus driver a voucher at the bottom of it. We’re not sure if the driver accepted a visual check on a smart phone, rather than a printed ticket, so if you don’t have access to a printer it’s probably best to not add the bus to the ticket and pay in cash (preferably the right change!).
- You need to walk to get to the start of the walk. It’s about a mile from the car parks at the north to the start of the walk, then another mile or so at the end to get to El Chorro. The tickets are supposed to be for a timed slot, this was the case for the tour, however we are not sure if this is true for those walking in their own. If you have a time on your ticket, you need to allow long enough between parking up, getting the bus if you’re coming from El Chorro, walking to the start and still be there 15 minutes early to ensure you get your slot.
- Tickets were being sold at the souvenir kiosk at the start of the walk when we arrived, and our guide told us tickets were sometimes available on the day, so if you’re desperate and it is fully booked online you could just chance your arm and turn up and hope.
- Parking a motorhome is, ah, fun. We got lucky at the El Chorro end, arriving at 10.30am on a Wednesday morning we popped Zagan under trees in a small, free car park next to the Caminito office at the end of the walk (N36.9110991, W4.7612789) – 300m after the El Chorro train station. When we came back we were pretty much blocked in. A series of 5 point turns edged us out, to a small round of applause as we left. There was far more parking at Ardales (N36.9286782, W4.8016468), with several motorhomes in the paid parking and along the side of the road, but the whole area was packed when we got there, including the access roads, so arrive early.
- Driving to El Chorro from Valle de Abdalajis was along narrow roads with the occasional need to squeeze past oncoming vehicles, and to slowly rumble over potholed sections. The bus from El Chorro took us up the MA-5403, and we were sooooo glad we weren’t doing the driving. The road’s too narrow for two large vehicles to pass, and coaches were using it in both directions, we passed five of them, inches away. If you bring your motorhome up here during the day, especially the bit around here (N36.9145909, W4.7732172) is very tight – we saw two busses having to reverse back a couple of hundred meters to let a lorry edge past, nasty.
If we were going to do the walk again, we certainly wouldn’t book a guided tour. We’d either look for a way to do it without driving our motorhome to the walk – getting a bus or train to El Chorro perhaps – or book an early walk and arrive the night before and park up for the night near the north entrance. It was worth the hassle though.
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