Rivers and Waters
The two main activities of the environment surrounding the walk, tourism and irrigated farming, coupled with increasing housing demand, require enormous amounts of water. As you can see during Stage 3, the water network is extremely poor and carries very little water. This is due to the geology of the terrain made up mostly of shale and some limestone, and the short running courses of the natural drainage system of surrounding hills which are very close to the Sea (with the exception of the two main rivers). With what´s available, in order for the area to be populated and the economy to function, water has to be found further north-west (El Pantano de la Viñuela reservoir) and north east (Sierra Almijara), as well as searching for underground water.
Streams have always been important in the development of this part of the Axarquía region, but it is a very common occurrence that during much of the year and the height the Great Path of Málaga crosses, the streams turn to a mere trickle or dry streambeds with very little vegetation consisting of some cane, oleander and tamarisk. Río Torrox and Río Seco are important to the GR as you walk along them to go down and up from the starting point and towards the fi nish. Between the two main rivers, to list the most notable ones, there are the Río de Algarrobo, El arroyo Mamelucos, Los Ríos de Lagos and Gui, and
El arroyo de Manzano.
El Río de Algarrobo y Sayalonga is doubly important. Back in the area between the 9 th and 6th century B.C. the sea level was higher and the beach was shaped into a cove (not merely a river delta as nowadays) and the elevated parts of the river’s banks were home to Phoenician settlements of Morro de Mezquitilla and Chorreras. On the other side of the watercourse and according to the Punic tradition, in the east, the Necropolis of Trayamar is located, which, together with the previous sites have been protected as part of cultural heritage from the year 2010. The above-mentioned river has its source in the Sierra Almijara, between Canillas de Albaida and Cómpeta, in an area that the walk runs through at a later stage, and so this river´s waters are higher upstream. The other major river in the area is, of course, the Torrox river, and it also boasts an archaeological site, in this case the so-called Mansio de Claviclum de Itinerario Antonino. At the mouth of the river a salt fish factory, garum industry and ceramic production were started. Later converted into a Necropolis, these ruins are now directly visible from the walk. The residential areas and the baths are at the back on the “peninsula” which forms the tip of Torrox. Torrox River also has its source in the Sierra de Almijara, between Frigiliana and Cómpeta (Stage 5) where it is known as Patamalara, with beautiful crags and waterfalls.
Water is as important to the current inhabitants as it was for the Phoenicians and Romans; along the walk´s itinerary you will find ponds holding water for the irrigation of terraces of subtropical trees, and irrigation channels called “asequías” that carry the water. Arriving at the beach of La Caleta you will find a type of well called an “aljíbe”; the base is built of stone and vaults are made of brick, it is elongated in shape, and equipped with a waterwheel. And a little further down is the Fuente el Pilar, in the middle of the N-340 road, a popular water supply in the village. Finally, and as it has become the norm in the Axarquía coast, waste water management faces problems because of the narrowness of the coastline. This way, wherever the valley is wide enough the spot is used to build a water treatment facility, as it happens at kilometre 18.2 on the east side of Torrox river, while the manholes and pumping stations are scattered along the walk. This place, on the other hand, is a superb spot to learn about the type of irrigation used in the Axarquía region, with crops under plastic tunnels and others grown on terraces on both sides. In the gardens at the beginning of the walk, projects to improve the irrigation involve the complementary use of the wastewater, with additional water supplied from newly dug wells and from the reservoir of La Viñuela.
Along Stage 3 you have a chance to see communities of urban-dwelling birds, birds typical of transformed areas covered in ruderal vegetation and, mainly, sea and coastal species as this stage largely runs along the shoreline. You will also be crossing streams and riverbeds, which, in spite of being dry a lot of the time during the year, still bring lots of interesting elements. The highlight here is shore birds, mostly waders and gulls, given the seasonal presence of water at the mouths of the rivers.
In the urban environment where Stage 3 takes you, you will see the Collared Dove, Pallid and Common Swift, Barn Swallow, Blackbird, Spotless Starling and House Sparrow, among other species. During winter you can observe Crag Martins in urbanized areas near the beach as they arrive from higher areas to spend the cold months sheltered near the sea; also Wagtails, Common Chiffchaffs and Common Starlings. The area at the beginning of Stage 3 where ruderal vegetation is predominant, you can watch Common Kestrel, Little Owl, Bee-eater, Zitting Cisticola, Crested Lark, Sardinian Warbler and different species of finches (Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Serin). Upon reaching the coast, birds typical of the marine environment take the grandstand, for example the gulls: Yellow-legged, Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed, Mediterranean and Audouin´s.
Sandwich Terns and waders such as Sanderling and Turnstone are common at the first line of the beach. Cattle Egrets, Little Egrets, Cormorants and Monk Parakeets also show up during Stage 3, together with some specimens of Mallard, Moorhen and Coot in the seasonal pools which tend to appear around the river mouths. Thanks to the closeness of the Vélez river mouth the numbers of species along the coast can elevate greatly during the migration. It is the spring and autumn months when you should pay close attention to anything that flies and you might spot some exceptional species.