Before the children arrived, we had a think about the best places to go to have maximum fun, and the choice is pretty overwhelming. It had been suggested by some friends that Almuñecar, on the coast, was a good destination for New Year’s Day lunch and a stroll, so the coast was certainly on the list. I knew, too, the the children would probably want to see the snow up in the Sierra Nevada, so that was the second choice.
On the day before the children arrived, I did some further research on the beaches nearest to where we live, and came across a blog post about a walk along the Maro-Cerro Gordo section, crossing from Málaga Province and into Granada Province. Strangely, this is probably the only section of the coast from Málaga to Motril that Andrew and I have not had a look at, and the description looked ideal, so the decision was made. This would be a gentle and temperate day that might well be needed if we had a heavy celebration the night before.
As it happens, none of us was too badly effected by any heavy drinking on New Year’s Eve. The children had, in fairness, been travelling most of the day, and the dinner was too lovely to have warranted any excessive alcoholic accompaniment. We didn’t rush, we had a leisurely breakfast and then set off for Maro, just to the east of Nerja.
The weather was perfect for a walk, and any early cloud looked set to disappear as the day wore on. Arriving in Maro, the directions on the blog post recommending this walk were not massively helpful, and we did spend a little while trying to find a ‘car park with a bus stop’ to no avail. In the end, we simply decided to press on along the old coast road, the N-340.
This is a gorgeous stretch of road, and we had no idea that it lead to such beautiful bays. Along its length, there is bay after bay, some of which have little roads leading down, others tracks and some are all but inaccessible except by boat. We were, ideally, looking for a beach called Playa de Cantarriján, as there is restaurant right on that beach and I thought that would be as good a place as any for lunch.
Rounding one corner of the road, we saw a lay-by with a cove below and thought we’d stop to have a look at try and get our bearings; the blog directions had all but been abandoned. A little track dropped down from a neighbouring lay-by and onto this gorgeous cove below - shingle and stone edged with perfect turquoise sea that was flat calm. I think we could have happily stayed on that beach all day - gazing at the beautifully coloured stones along the shore, the bamboo fringes beyond, the rocks that punctuated the outer edges of the bay. A New Year’s Day walk could hardly have been more perfect: skimming stones (I have always been rubbish, but my daughter is probably worse!), finding the most perfect stone, looking into the clear water, holding competitions to hit a target with pebbles (Andrew won).
We eventually decided to press on with the intention of finding somewhere for lunch, and drove past Cala de los Cañuelos, another delightful-looking bay that we will explore soon. Cantarriján was next along the coast, and a track leads from the N-340 down through trees to the beach below and the rather lovely Restaurante Barraca. With the appearance of an elongated beach shack, this proved to be delightful stop! The place was full - it was a Sunday and every Spaniard and his uncle goes out for lunch on high days and holidays, but the staff managed to find us a table inside just beside the outside terrace area; beyond that line of tables, there was the beach and the glistening sea. It felt like mid-summer in the UK, and after lunch, we enjoyed another stroll along this particular beach, and along to the adjacent beach - a well-known naturist enclave! Fascinating….
New Year’s Day was idyllic. The walks were far from strenuous, but just what we all needed, and the weather was fabulous.
The next day was in marked contrast.
Andrew and I have already done the walk from Monachil to Los Cahorros in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, but thought that this would be the ideal trek for a more active second day. At the sound of rope bridges, narrow walkways and overhanging cliffs, I think Lucie was slightly trepidatious, and when we arrived at the car park above Monachil, there was a decided nip in the air.
This walk has everything, and is magical. There is a gentle introduction, passing through farmland filled with olive trees, almond trees, grapevines and allotments. Locals were busy pottering around, and everywhere had a rustic, untroubled air. The walk then divides into two: alto and bajo, and we took the lower road into the gorge. The first rope bridge leads you into a world not dissimilar to a corner of Middle Earth, as pathways lead through increasingly towering cliffs, and crystal-clear water cascades down over rocks and stones. I worried that, once the path narrowed, Lucie might get jittery, but not a jot. I had found this walk tricky when we first did it, as there were a fair few other walkers, and meeting people coming from the opposite direction on these very tight walkways was not hugely enjoyable. As it happened, we made remarkable progress, crawling beneath low-hanging cliffs, scurrying along easier sections heading out of the gorge and into an open area before starting a climb upwards. As we emerged from the gorge, we passed through thick undergrowth past a contented herd of cattle and into a scene straight from Narnia. Thick frost lay white on the grasslands, trees and shrubs, untroubled by the day’s bright sunshine protected, as it was, by the shadows cast by the bulk of the valley side. For a brief moment, we were in a winter-wonderland, with temperatures to match, but as we started to climb out of the gorge we emerged into the sunshine where the temperature started to soar.
The walk was perfect - the drama of the gorge, the adventure, the climb upwards to over 1,000 metres and then stunning views.
We managed the 8 km circuit in 2.5 hours and had lunch at the bar just below the car park, sitting on the terrace outside, in the sunshine.
We had decided, after lunch, to continue the drive from Monachil up to the Sierra Nevada Ski Station, so that the children could see the snow! The road that leads upwards goes through some really beautiful countryside, giving some glorious views of the snow-capped mountains, and it never seems to take that long before you are above the snowline, and the atmosphere changes completely.
Andrew and I have been to the ski station on a couple of previous occasions, but it was normally before the ski season gets into full swing. Being the 2nd January, this was full-swing time, and the resort was alive with skiers, apres-skiers, families, visitors….you name it. Terraces were packed with people catching the sun, enjoying a beer, or moving to and from the ski-lifts. On these lower slopes, we could see skiers on their way down, and I think all of us felt pangs of envy. Today was not the day for a ski, so we had a quick coffee and decided to head home.
Today, the third day of this New Year, and the children left to get back to their jobs and their own little homes. The house suddenly felt very empty, as did we, but what a wonderful few days we had.