A few kilometres from Ronda, just outside the white village of Benaojan lies one of the most spectacular cave systems in Spain, Pileta Paleolithic Cave Paintings at Benaojan 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.
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. When walking in the countryside, always wear sensible walking shoes, adequate clothing for the time of year and take water.Continue reading Mr Henderson’s Railway walk between Benaojan and Jimera de Libar
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. 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.
Arriving by train you’ll see Benaojan to your right and up the hill, it is a steep walk but is more or less suitable for most fitness. Begin by crossing the railway line and following the signs for the Hotel Molino del Santo. You’ll have to pass the little venta next to the drinking fountain at the station, and this is a great place to have a drink or some tapas while you wait for your return train.
Continue past the hotel and just beyond you’ll see the first of Benaojan’s many small reasons to visit. Below the path you’ll see a small pool of water, which is the Nacimiento de los Cascajales, a fresh water spring that is one of the sources of the Rio Guadiaro.
At the first little plaza entering Benaojan you come across ‘Fuente del Zuque’.
During Moorish times this plaza was where the local market would be held, the zoco, a modern word derived from the Arabic souk. It was also a popular livestock watering station, and is historically important for being the former laundry of the village, Benaojan used to have a soap factory, and this fountain is where local ladies would wash clothes and blankets.
As you wander the streets of Benaojan you will see several factories of local pork products, and the best is a little shop at the end of the main street, in the direction of Montejaque, the shop is called Jamones Isidoro, and everything sold is made in Benaojan, from legs of ham (Pata Negra), to chorizo, and other products, and everything is hermetically sealed making it easy to take home.
Benaojan has the appearance of a modernish village, in fact people have lived near Benaojan since pre-historic times and one of Europe’s most important sites of paleolithic cave paintings is just 4.5km away at the Cueva de la Pileta, though the people who inhabit the village are a more recent wave of migrants.
Prior to the Christian reconquest of Andalucía, Benaojan was a small Moorish village, part of the defensive tower line that defended Grenadine Andalucía from Christian incursions, and her people were herders and lumber merchants. The village is named after the clan leader Ojan whose people settled the area after 712 AD, thus naming the village Benaojan.
After the Christian conquest a Moorish uprising effectively spelt the end of Muslim people in the Serranía de Ronda, and Benaojan was not spared, in fact the entire village was cleared and on the 6th November 1571, 60 families loyal to the Spanish crown were given alotments to rebuild the village as they saw fit.
The Mosque was destroyed, and in its place the Christian church built, the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Rosario, evident by the octagonal shape of the nave and squashed outline of the church which is completely surrounded on all sides by homes.
The church has undergone several improvements since it was first built, notably in the 17th and 18th centuries as the population of the village boomed, and then again in the 1940’s to restore the church after the devastating effects of the Spanish civil war. Within the church the original gothic vault near the main altar can still be seen.
In the upper streets of the village you will also see several narrow alleys where the rock outcrop covers the street and seems to push the houses down into the valley below. In fact the village is generally quite stable, and those rocky outcrops you see have been in place throughout the occupied timeline of the village.
As you wander the streets, do not miss seeing the painted fountain, Puente Pintada, the most important of Benaojan’s many fountains, and the one which gives the main street its name, Calle Fuente. This little fountain has been retiled and decorated by the Asprodisis Association, but has been in use since ancient times, and was the main fountain on the road between Cortes de la Frontera and Villaluenga del Rosario.
Be sure to appreciate the karst mountains surrounding Benaojan while you are here, most are still growing as Africa pushes under Iberia. To return to Ronda, simple retrace your steps back to the station, or at around 1:30 you could catch the bus outside the Unicaja bank.
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.Continue reading Benaojan Walk – Station to the Cueva del Gato
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.