Up to the Collado de los Apretaderos
The first 5 kilometres consists of forest tracks in good condition, leading exclusively downhill. Almost from the beginning the track takes you into El Parque Natural de las Sierras Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama. There is only one intersection where you take a left, the track straight ahead leads to Barranco Romero and la Cuesta del Cielo. El Barranco de la Coladilla, which you cross as you go down towards Área Recreativa del Pinarillo, is before that, as you keep to the left of the track, and you can see in the east the forested slopes of Cerro Mangü eno. Vegetation here is unique, and there is an information panel at the beginning referring to the conservation of the fl ora by the Ministry of Environment.
First, underneath a thinned Aleppo Pine forest, find a good population of Maytenus senegalensis, a species of a spiny shrub which is threatened and catalogued as “vulnerable”; it favours climates with a coastal infl uence. The Spanish Boxwood (Buxus baleárica) is well-represented here due to the dryness of the soil, and it tends to grow in shady spots. Somewhat more diffi cult to fi nd, but present here, is the Cneorum tricoccum, a rare coastal endemic, typical of tropical climates and very restricted habitat. It grows along with Dwarf Fan Palm, Purple Phlomis, Esparto Grass, Lentisc, Juniper, Asparagus, Spiny Broom, a few Carob Trees and Kermes Oaks.
The Área Recreativa El Pinarillo has very good facilities and you can stock up on water here. The walk continues northwards passing by an “era”, a threshing circle, and then it crosses El Barranco de la Coladilla, leads steeply uphill and turns left onto a track. There is a fork which goes to La Fuente del Esparto, its name serving as a reminder of the importance of plants for the local economy in years gone by.
In this area of dolomite sands you can find the Spiny-footed lizard. Also due to the terrain, which is easily eroded, there has been a Málaga University, Tragsa and Junta de Andalucía Nerja region research facility built here, which measures erosion. This facility can be seen when climbing the mountain pass and looking eastwards. A little higher up you arrive at El Collado de los Apretaderos (de las Apretaderas on other maps).
El Río Chíllar and El Higuerón Riverbeds
The long gash of Canal del Chíllar is very visible as you walk along the gullies, keeping to the left side of the valley, where it later reappears in the next stage as Mirador de Chíllar. You will cross the channel when walking down the Cuesta de los Galgos towards the water and from here you can truly appreciate its size and how much water it carries. From the beginning of Cuesta de los Galgos, you will see the Cuesta Jiménez ahead, leading west and below the cliff Tajo de las Chorrerillas.
Cuesta de los Galgos then veers away from the forest track at km 6.8. El Río Chíllar is a border between the city limits of Nerja (to the east) and Frigiliana (to the west). You will cross it at km 8 of the itinerary approximately. This is a broad V-shaped valley, its bed excavated by erosion caused by the river into “cahorros” and enclosures which, although not very high in general, contain some extensive cliffs of varying altitudes. The climb towards the river is steep. In the current section there is an accumulated elevation of over 1000 metres, between the gorges and the challenging peaks of Sierra Almijara and mostly in the eastern ridges of the mountains. You can often hear the bustle of people at the river below however they do not tend to climb high enough as to reach the point where GR-249 crosses the river.
The majority of the forest consists of Aleppo Pines with Rosemary, Dwarf Fan Palm, Juniper, Esparto grass and Spiny Broom amongst the undergrowth. In some areas the trees are sparse, other areas are dominated by scrub and places which have escaped forest fi res are more densely wooded.
Passing from this area to the next is done by walking along ridges which cut across dry stream beds, one by one, with Barranco del Espejo and its twin Barranco Ancho at the end; both are tributaries of Río Chíllar. El Barranco Ancho shows signs of a recent forest fire; you will fi nd trees with blackened trunks and branches, and empty snail shells. In between the gullies there is a mountain pass with an interesting name: Pinillo de Aire (Little Pine Tree of the Air). Just before that pass, you will find a half-preserved lime kiln, remains of a past lime production of an almost industrial scale.
El Mirador del Tramo is situated on the Loma de las Garzas, the last rocky bastion of this section and a must-do stop to look back at the distance you have covered (eastwards) and what´s coming next. The descent to El Río Higuerón involves walking along a dry bed of a mountain stream and it is here, along the path called Cuesta del Sordo, where it´s easy to see Shrubby Violet (Viola arborescens). There is a good stretch of the Río Higuerón where you need to fi nd dry land to continue walking. You will actually be walking along the wide riverbed, at the beginning of which there is a concrete irrigation channel, which becomes a line of pipes running through the cane and dispersed oleanders. Passing by the Pozo de Batán waters is always pleasant to the traveller, especially when the weather is hot, although taking a dip here is not recommended. The rest of the walk leads in a slight zigzag between limestone outcrops which tend to be bigger and bigger in size and where shelters and caves appear until the steep concrete Cuesta Apero, which fi nishes at the very Plaza del Ingenio de Frigiliana.