All the way from the Town of Benalauría up to Genalguacil, which lies over a steep terrain while its white houses shine in the middle of the forest, you will be surrounded by chestnut trees, decorated with green colours in spring and summer, and ochre and red shades in autumn.
The villages of the lower Genal Valley lie on both sides of the river and at a similar height, and are connected by ancient pathways that cross the network of streams. In this particular case, crossing the main river itself, while also advancing along its flood plains for almost four kilometres. This is primarily to connect the traditional paths that come down from Benalaur a and climbs towards Genalguacil. The route heads mainly south as far as El Prado de la Escribana, then climbs east in the last stretch to the Stage’s end.
The landscape is entirely forested, with a variety of dominant tree species, in particular Cork oaks and Maritime pines on the sunnier slopes, and Gall oaks and some Chestnut trees in the more shaded areas. The multi-species gallery forest plays an important role at the bottom of a very narrow and steep sided V-shaped valley, with underlying schist and slate.
Although there are a number of tracks for forestry maintenance, the route links together sections of traditional pathways, which succeed in making the steep slopes more manageable through numerous bends. These also tend to cross or connect up with country tracks fairly often. The walkways of the Genal are a highlight of the day, and these use metal structures to negotiate three rocky spurs. Meanwhile, a very steep irrigation channel that navigates another rockface here and has been fitted with safety cables.
Approximately up to kilometre 2.9 is within municipal land of Benalaur a, just before reaching the historic site of El Arabí. This brings you to that of Algatoc n, continuing up until the San Juan bridge, since the River Genal separates this from the next municipal area, Jubrique. The section between the Hondo and the Perejilas streams (km 7.5) is the border between Jubrique and the Stage’s fourth municipal area, Genalguacil.
Walking along the Valle del Genal is already reason enough to love this stage. Firstly, because both Benalauría and Genalguacil have a special place in the Comarca de la Serranía de Ronda, (Ronda Region) due to the conservation and advancing of their original skills and, especially, for supporting arts and crafts.
Next, there are extensive woods of Quercus species occupying the steep hills, amongst them you will often see interspersed Maritime pines. These woods are replced in favourable places by chestnut groves which, to someone unfamiliar, are diffi cult to associate with crops.Also, the list of Mediterranean scrub species both on the sunny and shady slopes is very extensive.
However, the star feature of the day is the river Genal itself. It has been recovering the vegetation of its banks, the fertile plains,vegas, and its winding little corners until it has become a river which would have been hard do recognise by its ancient inhabitants. The past inhabitants of the river area had practically converted it into a long industrial estate where millers, gardeners, livestock breeders, charcoal makers, tanners, cork cutters and mule drivers toiled daily to support themselves. The remains and ruins of this old Genal have been left on the banks of the river as a reminder, visible from the ancient walkways which are being used again today. The path will also take the walker along the traditional caminos and symbolical places from the historical or ethnographical point of view, such as El Arabí, Benajamuz, the string of fl ower and olive oil mills, or the Prado de la Escribana.