Wednesday, 28 April 2010

La Garganta Verde.....

.....the Green Throat, a walk in the protected area of the Grazalema Natural Park. Walking in the park is strictly controlled to protect the natural habitat and as such we had to obtain a permit, which we did from the tourist office in Zahara de la Sierra. They faxed a permit request and details of my passport to the tourist office in El Bosque, who in time duly issued us a permit by return fax. Good job that we did as twenty minutes into the walk we met up with an official of the Junta who asked to see it. The photo above, which can be enlarged when clicked upon, shows a house in the centre of the picture that is the starting point of the walk.

By we, I mean myself and Dan, our friend who is visiting Olvera for a few days. The walk starts about three or four kms from Zahara, on the CA-9104 road heading into the mountains towards Grazalema. Initially, the path is a pleasant uphill stroll for about a kilometre before descending steeply the 400 metres to the valley floor. The ultimate aim is to visit "La Ermita", a pink cave at the bottom. Before starting the descent, a sign indicated that it was a nesting area for birds and silence was requested.

Dan surveying the spectacular scenery.

In places the path was very narrow and extreme care was required. Good footware and a sturdy walking stick are definately recommended.

Some of the flora along the way

Although the descent is 400 metres, it is over a length of about 3.5 kms via a very windy and in places extremely steep gravel path. One of the many caves along the way though not our final destination.

The scenery is stunning. Can you imagine the work required in creating this stairway !!.
The wildlife around us was equally stunning. Eagles and vultures were flying over and swooping below us on the walk, flying into their nests amongst the rocky crags. We also heard but did not see what we assumed to be an eagle owl. We also saw a wild Ibex, mountain goat but I was too slow to get a picture before it disappeared into the undergrowth. Fantastic.

We did expect to see a river or stream at the bottom of the gorge but it was completely dry. Here a couple in front of us getting assistance in clambering over the rocks and boulders in the riverbed.

A triumphant me, pleased that we had reached the bottom, standing next to the sign indicating that the "Ermita de la Garganta Verde", the Pink Cave was only another 250 metres. Thank god.
The walk down had taken us just over two and a half hours.

A well earned rest before exploring the Pink cave.

The cave was actually more of a huge alcove, cut into the rock by presumably thousands of year of water erosion creating stalactites and stalagmites all over. My pictures do not do justice to its beauty and the fantastic pink colour of the stone. Absolutely fantastic.

Not very clear but to gauge the size of the opening to the cave entrance, Dan is stood right at the bottom, centre left of the picture. Click on the picture to enlarge it.

We sat for an hour eating our rolls, gulping our water and listening to the birdsong and the cries of eagles and vultures bouncing off the canyon walls.

The gorge did continue further on but by this stage we were trying to prepare ourselves for the long uphill climb back to civilisation.

Although the river was dry, there were a few rock pools around. The picture right shows how the river has eroded the rock to a smooth surface finish while the spider below was happy to bathe in the pool.

We started the climb out of the gorge at about 4pm knowing that it would be a hard slog back to the top. I don't profess to be a walker, the streets of Olvera are a big enough challenge, but I was really pleased to have completed this walk and in the company of Dan who was more than patient with my huffing and puffing and constant stops for breath on the uphill return. Definately worth doing though as the natural, unspoilt scenery was absolutely stunning.
Apologies for the number of pictures but it's probably not a place I will ever return to.


Francisco said...

Hey Alan! How is it going? I guess fine as i can read :)

Nice pictures! Do you know? i´ve never been in this part of the Sierra of Grazalema, i wonder how one doesn´t value his enviroment until he´s abroad... But anyway i let you know that i´ve planned to come back in Olvera in the middle of June to enjoy the summer there and leave far the cold estonian weather for some months so... hope to meet you over there! :)



Alan said...

Hola Francisco. Great to hear from you again. Yes, the natural park is a truly beautiful place and well worth a visit, perhaps on your next time in Olvera. If you have some free time, we would love to get together for a coffee and a chat. Please contact me on and we'll make an arrangement.
Best wishes, Alan