Tag Archives: Benaojan

Nestled along the edge of a wide ravine leading from the Guadiaro River up to the plains behind Montejaque, Benaojan is from a distance amongst the most scenic of the white villages. Historically, Benaojan has always been a bit lost, but is famed for it’s local jamons (ham) and embutidos (dried meats), is very close to the Cueva de la Pileta, and is the centre of some truly wonderful nature walks.

Benaojan in Malaga province of Spain

A Short Trip to Benaojan

When visiting Ronda, getting out into the little villages is one of the must do excursions that would render your vacation incomplete if you didn’t do, however a lot of visitors to Ronda don’t have access to a car, so Benaojan is one of the options to see an authentic white village.

Located on the southern boundary of the Sierra de Grazalema, Benaojan is convenient because both bus and train visit the village, and the trip is only 25 minutes from Ronda. My own trip saw me take the train along Mr Henderson’s railway walk, a comfortable and air conditioned journey that does however stop at Benaojan Estación, a small hamlet below the main village that requires a 20 minute walk before you see what Benaojan has to offer.

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Mr Henderson’s Railway walk between Benaojan and Jimera de Libar

Ronda Walk: Mr Henderson’s Railway, Benaojan to Jimera de Libar

Mr Henderson’s Railway walk between Benaojan and Jimera de Libar is one of the most popular walks in the Serranía for visitors, particularly because it is long enough to be a challenge for some, but short enough to really enjoy the walk, see some lovely nature, and be located between two railway stops giving peace of mind if anything untoward were to happen help is close at hand.

The walk is just 7.5km from start to end, and the return walk is listed as a three and a half hour walk. The terrain is suitable for all bar those with serious health concerns, though there are two sections of the track that could be more difficult because the path has been cut into rock.

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Painting at Pileta

Pileta Paleolithic Cave Paintings at Benaojan

Just outside Benaojan lies one of the most spectacular cave systems in Spain, and in the mouth of one, several galleries of cave paintings that are as old as 30,000 years, and were created by paleolithic people of Ronda before the last great ice age. Best of all, the caves are open to the public with a local tour guide to explain the significance of the artwork.

Tours often start late while the guide waits for enough people to make the tour worthwhile, but this doesn’t mean visitors should arrive late, especially since the door to the cave is closed after a tour starts. There are three groups per day at 10am, at 1pm, and at 4pm, with each guided tour being 90 minutes.

Pileta is 670m above sea level, and the cave entrance 40m above the road so views of the surrounding land are wonderful though the walk to the cave entrance can be difficult for some people, but inside the cave visitors have no problems, acually even people with poor staminac are able to enjoy the guided tour.

The cave is owned by a local family and they also guide the tours, and even though the caves are now commercialized, you can still believe you’ve stepped into a time machine from the 19th century because members in your group are given paraffin lamps to light the way.

The caves were rediscovered after thousands of years of being closed to the world, by Jose Bullon Lobato in 1905, a local farmer who followed a group of bats because he wanted to collect their droppings to use for fertilizer. The bats seemed to be living inside the mountain, and when he managed to crawl into a small space and explore, he was surprised to discover discover pictures on the walls, pieces of ancient pottery, and human bones on the floor of the cave.

At first he thought the artifacts were from the medieval times, and thinking they weren’t important, he abandoned his search, but in 1911 a retired British colonel heard about the paintings and visited to see for himself. It’s lucky he did, because the significance of the paintings was immediately obvious to him.

Painting at Pileta

Since then, numerous discoveries of animal and human bones dating back more than 30,000 years have been made, and the paintings dated to over 20,000 years old, which proves that Ronda and the mountains have been home to people for a very long time, making the area one of the most important crossroads of human migration in Southern Europe.

Paintings you will see include pictures of cows, birds, deer, dolphins, tortoises, people, fish, and numerous lines that seem to be an ancient calendar. The precise meaning of many of the pictures has yet to be deciphered, but this hasn’t prevented the owners opening the cave to the public so you too can enjoy seeing what our ancestors wrote on cave walls.

Cueva del Gato

Benaojan Walk, Station to the Cueva del Gato

Ronda Today recently caught up with Tony Bishop, the author of a new walking guide entitled “Walking in the Ronda Mountains: 30 half-day walks in Andalucía” due to be published by Editorial La Serranía in October 2010, and we believe will soon become the guide against which all others are judged.

As part of our interview, Tony kindly escorted us along the Guadiaro River from Benaojan Station to the Cueva del Gato, explaining the birds and wildlife we saw through the binoculars he provided. Tony isn’t a professional walking guide, though he enjoys nothing more than to show friends his favourite walking tracks.

The walk we did can be completed in an hour, it is only 3km, though there is a lot to see so Tony recommends 2 hours. The walk is easy and certainly within the capabilities of the majority of walkers, but in the colder months can be muddy.

Birders and keen nature lovers will be enthralled at the fauna and flora of this stretch of river, we saw Barbel in the river, and White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Griffon Vulture, Golden Oriole, Alpine Swift, Melodious Warbler, Grey Heron, and Bee Eater. We also heard Cetti’s Warbler, and Tony regularly catches sight of Iberian Ibex on the rocks above the Cueva del Gato.

Start the walk at the railway station in Benaojan, and cross the line about 100m past the station, then follow the road another 150m till you cross the Guadiaro River. At this point you’ll see a sign pointing to the three walking tracks that lead from here, we’ll take the Ronda direction.

There really isn’t much to the track, just keep following it straight ahead, you can’t miss the cave entrance as you approach it, though at the hotel Molino Quatro Paradas you should continue past the side of the hotel and not up the hill to the carpark.

Whilst the walk is relatively short, it does allow people staying in Ronda or the Guadiaro Valley the opportunity to see some native wildlife, the beautiful limestone mountains of Benaojan, and the cave entrance; the Cueva del Gato which is a popular picnic spot.

After you return, you could stop for a drink on the terrace of the Molino Cuatro Paradas Hotel, but if they’re closed, probably the friendliest barman in Benaojan is Pepe from “Bar STOP”, located directly across the street from the station. Don’t forget to try his wife’s tapas menu, it really is quite authentic and absolutely delicious. Bar STOP is especially known for the Solomillo a la Pimienta.

Between the train dropping you off and the return service, you’ll have 3 hours to explore the river and enjoy a cold drink or tapas, the day isn’t too strenuous, and is perfect for visitors staying in Ronda who have a few hours to get out of the city.

Holiday Season Rain Worst Since 1947

The last two weeks of 2009 saw a deluge of rain falling on the Serranía de Ronda, and a Yellow Alert declaration in Ronda. Rainfall in the week prior to Christmas was described as the worst since 1947 when 12 people lost their lives from drowning or lightning strikes. Flood damage is expected to cost many millions of Euros in insurance claims.

Rainfall on certain days exceeded 80 litres per square metre, whilst winds of 70km per hour were common, gusting in exposed places. Over the entire two week period an estimated 450-500 litres fell depending on location, though most days saw only moderate rain which unfortunately kept the river levels up resulting in further damage as rainfall became heavier.

In Ronda the worst affected area was the Llano de la Cruz and La Indiana districts with several homeowners reporting flooding inside the home and water damaged furniture and white goods. The through road in the Hoya del Tajo (the valley situated below Ronda), is still closed to traffic due to a bridge spanning the rio Guadalevin being submerged. Another road in Ronda, the Camino de los Tejares was closed twice as a nearby stream flooded a depression in the road, requiring a bulldozer to clear silt and mud.

Recent work by La Empresa de Gestión Medioambiental (Egmasa) in cleaning up clogged and overgrown streams and rivers in the Ronda district was credited by Remedios Martel, the councillor for the Environment in the Málaga Province, with preventing widespread flooding in low lying areas of Ronda. A further consequence of cleaning the rivers in Ronda was that flooding was felt downstream in other parishes where cleanup efforts hadn’t been as extensive.

In the Guardiaro valley massive flooding and extensive damage to trees, roads and houses was reported along the banks of the rio Guadiaro amid reports that rising river levels and high winds had caused chaos in low lying areas and on mountain roads. Some homeowners reported flood waters of upto one metre in their homes, whilst in Jimera de Libar at least two cars were submerged by rising water.

The Atajate-Jimera de Libar road was closed for two days whilst workers cleared fallen rocks and mud. On the A-366 Ronda-El Burgo road a small section of the road had to be closed for repairs when a rockslide damaged the edge of one lane. The A-373 between Cortes de la Frontera and Berrueca was also closed for a few hours as high winds knocked over a tree.

In the first week of January 2010 many of Ronda’s car parks remain closed due to the risk of landslides or falling trees, they being El Castillo, Alameda del Tajo, San Rafael, and San Lorenzo. None of Ronda’s underground carparks were affected by flooding.

Older residents of Ronda remember flooding in 197 that breached the lowest of Ronda’s bridges, the Puente Arabe near the Arab Baths, and the terrible loss of 9 lives between Montejaque and Benaojan in the same year when 9 people were drowned. Closer to Ronda 3 people were killed when a small cabin they were sheltering in was struck by lightning. We can be thankful the rains of December 2009 weren’t as destructive.