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Cartijama - to Júzcar, The Bandit Route

Location: Serrania de Ronda

Start and Finish: Cartajima

How to get there: Leave the A7 road at San Pedro de Alcantara. Take the A397 towards Ronda. Stay on this road for about 35 kilometres. You will see a good junction to your left signposted Cartajima and Juzcar. Take this road that rapidly degenerates into a single track road and make your way to Cartajima. Drive through the village and keep on descending to your right. You will leave the village on a track on which there is space for parking and the start of the walk that is at a fork in the track below a spindly electricity pylon.

Distance: 6 kilometres

Difficulty: Medium to Low

Time: 3 hours there and back

General Description: The single track roads that cling to the side of the steep valleys of the Serrania de Ronda follow each indentation into the hill with blind bends that seem to sweep out into space as you emerge from a deep defile. There is no safety barrier on one side to prevent you tumbling down the hill if you make a mistake and a sheer rock face on the other. Every few kilometres there is a respite when a small village is reached either clinging to the rock at the end of a ridge with panoramic views for miles or on a natural flat area in one of the defiles. The driver avoids the occasional rock or boulder that has tumbled down overnight, he has little time to appreciate the view as he makes his way at little more than the speed of a horse or donkey, for which the roads were originally designed. He certainly will not have time to peer into the depths of the valley and in any case, if he did, the vegetation appears so impenetrable that he would see very little. It is only when you are on foot, horse or bicycle that you discover the hidden trails that follow the valley bottoms hidden from the curious gaze of the Guardia patrolling on the roads above. These are the bandit trails along which the bandolero travelled between villages and along which their cousins the contrabandistas carried their illicit goods from the coast to the inland villages.

Route: Follow the right hand fork of the track as it descends into the valley. You will be walking through groves of olive trees and chestnuts, one of the main crops in the valleys and holm oaks. To your right, across the valley, there is a ridge of limestone with strange formations caused by erosion of the soft rock and caves in which the bandits lived as fugitives from their own villages.

Cartajima to Júzcar ~ The Bandit Route

After about 1 kilometre you will arrive at a junction with another path. Go ahead and to your left, keeping to the better track. You will pass a small finca with a spring emerging from the hill just below you.

The descent to the bottom of the valley becomes steeper and the vegetation more lush as you approach the stream. Broom and heather provide contrasting yellow and purples against the deep green foliage.

Rock Buntings (Emberiza cia) perch on overhanging branches waiting to swoop down and finish off the seeds in the grasses near the stream.

Cross the stream and stay on the path that now starts to climb back towards the ridge line ahead. The wispy, delicate foliage of almond trees provides contrast to the robust gall oaks as you emerge onto the main road

Cartajima to Júzcar ~ The Bandit Route

Turn left and follow the road for two hundred metres before turning off onto a concrete track that first of all crests the ridge giving fantastic views down the Genal valley with the village of Pujerra visible on its ridge ahead across the valley and then leads steeply down into Júzcar emerging, fortuitously, alongside a café bar.

To return to Cartajima you can retrace your steps back up the very steep concrete path or follow the road past the Bandolero Hotel to where you leave it to descend into the valley thereby adding about 1 kilometre to your walk.

© Nicholas Craig Nutter 2004 - 2012. Nick Nutter asserts his rights as the author of this article and all associated images. This article and images may not be copied or reproduced in any way without written permission of the author.

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