When Sam came to visit we knew we had to give him an experience to remember, so we scheduled our return visit to Camino del Rey to coincide with his visit and my birthday (18th December). We didn’t have much notice – he sent me a text on Saturday to say ‘do you fancy a visitor’ and arrived on Monday!
The weather wasn’t as kind to us this time, just in that it was rather cloudy with the odd sunny spell. But we did need our tops most of the time we were walking.
As we approached the gorge this time we could see lots of soldiers in evidence. It seems there were some exercises going on in the area. I have to say they didn’t look very professional at all; a bit sloppy!
As we got closer, and the road got narrower we started to see signs of the recent bad weather, with parts of the road washed away.As normal in Spain the only concession to safety were a few road cones and occasional barriers…. We also noticed that the tunnel via which we had previously accessed the walk to the start of the camino was closed.
So we went the other way (it was nice to see a different route), but again spotting signs of landslips etc. along the way.
The walk itself is almost 8km long, with about 3km of it on the pathway clinging to the side of the gorge. You can still see several sections of the original pathway, about 1m below the new. I cannot begin to imagine how scared I would have been to use this original path!
Despite this it was well-used, not just by workers on the hydro-electric works, but also by locals as a means of getting to school, meeting friends or simply crossing the gorge. Eventually though it fell into a state of dangerous disrepair and had to be closed following 5 sad deaths in 1999/2000. These are commemorated at the end of the trail. After extensive renovation the walkway was re-opened in 2015.
See here for more of the history of the pathway.
Of course we knew what to expect this time (except Sam of course), but I loved it as much as the first time! For Calv however knowing what to expect wasn’t such a good thing…. With his total distrust of Spanish workmanship he was constantly looking at the walkway fixings and finding fault; thereby getting more and more nervous! I’m completely oblivious and don’t believe for one second that the walkway would be open if it wasn’t safe. His least favourite part is at the very end (after the bouncing bridge – on which I swear I could see Sam’s buttocks visibly clenching as he crossed!), where there is a fairly long series of steps (which you can see if you zoom in on some of the photos).
This time we saw climbers on the cliffs opposite a particular section of the walkway – not my idea of fun, but each to their own (again, you may have to zoom in on the photos to see). There were also people walking through the train tunnels, which was a bit confusing as trains were actually still running.
Having completed the walk at El Chorro we took the bus back to our starting point hoping to grab a bite to eat. Unfortunately the eateries are actually restaurants and there is nowhere to just have a snack (the other ‘restaurant’ wasn’t open – last time we got some chips from there).
So we found ourselves stopping at a cafe attached to a fuel station in Ardales for some lunch. It was actually quite busy and the food wasn’t bad at all! So on my birthday I’d been treated to a McDonalds breakfast (I had a croissant smothered in so much caramel sauce that even I couldn’t eat it – no worries, Sam finished it off for me after he finished his own!) and lunch in a fuel station cafe!
However, we finished the day with dinner in the campsite restaurant, Da Bruno’s. We went with a few friends, 1 of whom shared my birthday, and added a couple more when we had sat down 🙂
It was a very pleasant evening, but we must admit that we wouldn’t recommend Da Bruno’s. The food was okay, but it was overpriced and the addition of a cover charge for everyone, and a charge of 2.80 Euros for small bottles of water (that we were convinced was tap water) did put a slight dampner on proceedings. However, the waiters bringing out my dessert (a chocolate ‘souffle’ that turned out to be a fondant…) with a candle in it, whilst singing happy birthday to me was quite sweet 🙂
And so started a couple of weeks of pretty unrelentless partying – more of our christmas day and new years eve experiences in a later post 🙂