Rivers and Waters
The only adapted drinking fountain that is known along this stage is located, as no surprise, between the dolomites and sandstone along the camino which goes down to Casares. This is the Fuente de Santa Catalina, hidden away to your right where an old convent (later converted to barracks) and many shelters dating back to various eras all testify to the importance of this water source. As a curiosity and a very common practice to avoid the accumulation of algae and insects someone has added fish to the water source from the nearby river and you can see them if you approach stealthily to see them hide away in the opening where the water is coming out.
The rivers and streams you discover during this stage have their own idiosyncrasies which are the cause behind treating them here as a separate basin, which fl ows in to Mediterranean directly. These are short watercourses but surprisingly not as seasonal as one could expect because of their lack of length and their steep gradient. This is mainly due to the hydrological characteristics of the peridotite, schist and gneiss of Sierra Bermeja. The exception is the Arroyo de los Molinos, which is a karstic spring with a significant volume of water.
The Arroyo de los Molinos flows along a narrow limestone gully at the level of Molino de Arriba. There are tall poplars, reeds, brambles and important plants for the local popular culture such as the Great Yellow Gentian and watercress. The stream, as its course develops along the way and downstream, continuously supports such structures as the mill, until the point where, together with other tributaries, it flows into the Garganta de la Sierra de la Utrera to come out as Río Manilva in the famous sulphurous Baños de la Hedionda. As mentioned before, a link to a PR footpath lends the Gran Senda an opportunity to access this recommended site not only because of its natural value but also historical and ethnological significance.
The Streams and Rivers de Sierra Bermeja
The remaining streams and rivers follow the above description and their origin does not tend to be of limestone nature despite that all of the cross marble terrain at some moment. At the Barranco de La Acedía you ford the first stream, Arroyo Vaquero, with certain amount of water which can even support some stable populations of fish. This is the southernmost of the streams which are influenced by the Sierra Bermeja, given that it comes from a col situated between this Paraje Natural and the one of Sierra Crestellina, the well-known Puerto de las Guardas. Upstream from the Acedía, this pretty grove whose gardens and residences are supplied with water by the stream is given the name of Garganta de los Palos on maps.
In the vicinity of the landfill, El Vertedero Comarcal you must for the stream which significant amount of water compared to the size of its bed. There is a rubber pipe supplying water to a tank just above the landfill. Typical vegetation of such watercourses is composed of oleanders, rushes and frequently, the still natural pools contain pond skaters and water beetles. This and the next arroyo which carries more water, is more enclosed and also has its own subterranean water outlet (fl owing to Parque de Los Pedregales) form together the Arroyo de Enmedio, which can be seen from the fi rst vantage points of the stage, as it leads away towards the sea.
Next there are torrential watercourses, normally dry, which fill with water in rainy season; the white raging waters are caused by the steepness and rockiness of the terrain. These are headwaters of Arroyo de la Miel and Arroyo de los Polvitos. The following streams are bigger, the Barranco de las Minas and, above all, Río Guadalobón, which the previous stream flows into as a tributary. The volume of water carried by the Guadalobón is quite significant even at this altitude; it supports a beautiful natural pool at the foot of a great waterfall a few meters away from the walk. Below, in the valley, you can see a few ruins surrounded by the remnants of a dense forest, protected by the river bed.
At the ford of Arroyo de la Cala, having crossed the second road, the walker will discover a pretty stream amongst reed beds and willows which emerges from a small schist gully. It is not the first time you will be crossing this stream. As ithe walk descends, the GR-249 gets close to two watercourses as their flow becomes calmer due to more level terrain. If there is a curious section along this walk, it would definitely be the narrow isthmus separating the Valle del Río Padrón from Arroyo de la Cala; it is a narrow strip of chalky ground which the track follows. On the left, El Padrón proves to be a generous river as its waters are used for gardens and fruit trees, some of them subtropical ones thanks to the mild climate.
This is one of the most signifi cant rivers in the area, rich in fish and associated aquatic fauna; it also maintains a dense thicket of tamarisks and willows. At times, during the dry season, it disappears because of the many irrigation channels draining it; it reappears lower down, recuperated.
However, the star feature of the day is the Arroyo de la Cala which you follow for quite a stretch, having to cross it several times which doesn´t pose any particular difficulties. It is quite easy to see Barbel and Chub in its waters when allowed by the depth of the natural pools and the dense vegetation. The name of Camino de los Molinos is due to a series of hydraulic mills which dot the path; some have been restored, some are ruined and one has been used as a swimming pool for a holiday home. They are named using ordinal numbers and you can see the Fifth mill up to the Second one at the last ford of Arroyo de la Cala.
And as if to claim its importance back, lost at the end of the itinerary, this humble watercourse arrives at the very place which as given it its name: la Cala de Estepona, and constitutes the end of the stage at the Paseo Marítimo.
Casares is a star site for birdwatching, both the sierra and the village centre, since they hold a breeding population of Lesser Kestrel and various pairs of Griffon Vulture in the rock faces visible from the viewpoints. Around the Arroyo de los Molinos you will be able to see river birds and species typical of cultivated areas. You will be walking along this characteristic environment of the Strait of Gibraltar region having flanked the southern corner of Sierra Bermeja. Here, the substrate changes to metamorphic rock.
The great attraction of this stage is the Sierra, composed of plutonic rock, which offers beautiful views that include the African continent. The final section leads to Arroyo of La Cala, which takes you to the Paseo Maritimo of Estepona. This beach promenade provides an opportunity to see coastal birds.
The very start of Stage 29 produces a great number of birds which, depending on the season, can be highly diverse and abundant. In spring and summer the are the swifts, swallows and the most frequent House Martins, accompanied by Griffon Vultures (often in the village itself), Common Kestrels, Collared Dove, Spotless and Common Starlings, Jackdaw and House Sparrow.
Next, as you enter the flysch of Aljibe, the wild olive and mastic bushes support Turtle Dove, Robin, Stonechat, Mistle and Song Thrush, Blackbird, Blackcap, Sardinian Warblers, Spotted Flycatcher, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Eurasian Siskin, Greenfinch, Serin and Rock Bunting. Around the Arroyo de los Molinos the following birds may turn up: Great Spotted Woodpecker, White and Grey Wagtail Wren and, on occasion, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin (which also occurs in the vineyards in Cortijo del Robledal). It is a peculiar fact that during the breeding season Spectacled Warbler and Tawny Pipit can be seen here, species linked to higher altitudes in the rest of the province.
From this area until you pass through the settlement called Acedía, dotted with houses, and cork oaks mixed with scrubland constituting the main vegetation; again the already mentioned forest species occur, alongside those typical of open spaces: Spotted Woodpecker, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Eurasian Jay, Blackcap, Great Tit and Chaffinch along with Crested Lark, Sardinian Warbler and Stonechat. Upon reaching the viewpoint of Peñas Blancas you can enjoy a broad view of Sierra Bermeja, and this is a good moment to scan the sky for raptors. Here you can see Griffon Vulture, Booted and Short-toed Eagle, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Common Kestrel, and with a little luck, Golden Eagle. During times of migration passage you can also observe Black Kite and Honey Buzzard. Next, you will come to Arroyo Vaquero and enter the sierra.
Following the stream along the slightly uphill section among pines and cork oaks, you can find European Turtle Dove, Wryneck, Robin, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Golden Oriole, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Greenfinch, Serin, Goldfinch and Common Linnet, plus Starlings and House Sparrows around the buildings. The climb leads to an esplanade where you will be able to see the section of mountains ahead and the town landfill, which sometimes attracts concentrations of thousands of birds. The majority are gulls (Yellow-legged, Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed), although there are also Cattle Egrets, Griffon Vultures and, during migration periods, large numbers of Black Kites and White Storks.
The sierra Bermeja slopes are covered with loose rocks which can be hard on your ankles and you must tread carefully. The history of forest fires of the Sierra is clearly visible here, looking at the scarcity and dispersion of maritime pines. However, there is a single stand of pine before Barranco del Infierno. This area is dominated by larks, Stonechat, Black Redstart and Sardinian Warbler, together with finches, such as Goldfinch, Common Linnet and Greenfinch. You do need to keep looking at the sky as you may see some of the previously named raptors and gulls coming and going to the landfill. You could also spot the Black Wheatear and Blue Rock Thrush here. With luck, you may hear and see the Eagle Owl.
Near Guadalobón river the abundance of birds increases, as they flock to the water, something that frequently happens during the summer months. As you leave behind the area of loose rocks and reach the road which connects Estepona with Los Reales de Sierra Bermeja, you are still 10 kilometres away from your destination. You are now at the basin of the stream of La Cala, where young cork oaks and cistus scrub plus inhabited areas with vegetable plots appear. Here, again, there is a community of forest bird species accompanied by the birds accustomed to human presence, named above. Grey Wagtails and Reed Warblers, which nest in reed beds, remind you that you are walking close to a watercourse. It is not uncommon to observe the Booted Eagle, Common Buzzard, Eurasian Sparrowhawk and Kestrel before approaching the centre of Estepona. As before, you will notice Collared Doves, Starlings and House Sparrows approaching the town centre. Along the beach promenade of Estepona you will have a chance to see marine and coastal species, which are listed in Stage 30 (Estepona - Marbella).