It was a bright sunny morning when we woke up in El Chorro this morning.
I'd set the alarm for 07.30 so that we could be at breakfast in the hotel when it opened. The hotel had a rather wide range of breakfast hours, serving from 8am all the way up until midday. The breakfast selection was one of those which would probably have been great in the old days as a buffet, when you could look at things before deciding whether you wanted to try them, but was less good these days when you have to order everything from a waiter. I ordered scrambled eggs and ended up with a portion that looked like it contained at least four eggs, so at least it was going to keep me full for a while!
I'd chosen to stay in this particular hotel in El Chorro because we had booked to do what promised to be a very spectacular walk today: El Caminito del Rey. This is a linear walk which ends in El Chorro, so the first step was that we needed to catch a bus to the walk's start point. I'd struggled to find exact timetables for this bus online, but was hoping there was going to be one at 09.30. We could literally see the bus stop from our bedroom window in the hotel, so we didn't have far to go!
The bus duly turned up as expected and we had a short drive of around 20 minutes to the start point of the walk in Ardales. The bus tickets were only €1.55 each, which was good value. It was only possible to pay with cash though, so a good job I'd brought Euros.
The bus deposited us at the side of the road, from where we had a walk of 1.5km to the official starting point.
Luckily the entire 1.5km wasn't through this rather dark tunnel!
As soon as we emerged from the tunnel we had some great views of the rocky landscape around El Chorro.
We weren't yet sure though whether we were actually going to be able to get the views we really wanted to see. For reasons that will become clear once you see the photos, the Caminito del Rey walk is closed when the weather becomes wet or windy.
I'd had a text message yesterday saying that there was a risk of closure due to wind today, so until we got to the ticket office I wasn't sure whether we were going to have to retrace our steps back to the road.
But it turned out we were in luck! While we had heard some gusts of wind during the night, it wasn't enough to close the path and when we arrived at the official starting point we had our tickets scanned and were handed our helmets. Yep, that's right, this is a walk where you have to wear a helmet (I think there's a small chance of falling rocks!)
We had been slightly worried as to whether Tim was going to be able to fit the helmet onto his head, but luckily it just about worked
I'd booked the tickets online a couple of weeks in advance and we had a slot for 10.45. A limited number of people are allowed onto the route at any one time so that it doesn't become too crowded.
It's a really popular attraction and the tickets sell out unbelievably quickly. I'd been online the day the November dates were released and just about managed to buy tickets for the date I wanted.
Now that we'd arrived, the views didn't disappoint
The Caminito del Rey is a famous walkway, built along the sides of a narrow gorge outside El Chorro.
It was constructed at the start of the twentieth century as a route for workers building a hydroelectric plant at El Chorro to transport materials.
It gets its name from the fact that in 1921, King Alfonso XIII walked along the route as part of the inauguration of the nearby dam.
The original pathway fell into disrepair in later decades and was notorious for being an extremely dangerous route.
Around ten years ago the local regional government decided to put some money into restoring it and turning the route into a tourist attraction.
Today's pathway is extremely safe, with new wooden boards and a sturdy fence all the way around the edge.
Although it looks scary in some of the photos, it was really easy to walk on and I was relieved to find that I didn't have vertigo
After an initial series of wooden walkways high above the gorge, the path began to descend.
The views back up towards where we'd been were spectacular
After this the path continued at a lower level for a while.
We walked through a forest with great views down towards the river.
The path was quite wide here which was good; a lot of the tickets for the route are sold as guided tours, so it enabled us to overtake a few large tour groups
The path never felt overly crowded though.
And the views of the countryside were amazing.
I've been really pleasantly surprised by how beautiful this part of Spain is. Definitely not what I would have expected to find a short drive away from Malaga
As we walked through the trees we caught sight of the next set of wooden walkways on the side of the gorge.
The gorge is really spectacular here.
We attempted a selfie but only managed to get our heads and no view
It's forbidden to bring selfie sticks, umbrellas and large backpacks on the walk to prevent people causing a blockage on the path.
The train line to Malaga runs along the opposite side of the gorge. As we walked we saw a train appear on one side of the rocks...
...before travelling through the mountain and emerging on the other side.
We also realised that we could see the original historical pathway a few metres below the modern pathway that we were walking on.
It must have been a very scary route to take to work!
Today's pathway with it's big fence definitely felt a lot safer
And I was very grateful for the fence with drops like this!
Eventually we turned a corner and saw what I'd read was the scariest part of the walk - the bridge across the gorge.
The bridge sways a bit in the breeze, which is why the route is closed if the weather becomes too windy.
We attempted another selfie, with somewhat limited success
There were a few more corners to walk around before it was our turn to cross the bridge.
The drops were incredible here!
And the views of the old pathway were slightly terrifying
Then we were crossing the bridge.
It did sway a little bit, but it was sturdier than I'd expected
Once we'd walked a bit further on and could look back on it we really got a sense of how amazing it was.
From here we started to climb downwards via a series of steps. We could just make out a rainbow in the water spurting out from under the bridge
Soon we could look back towards the tiny pathway clinging on to the side of the gorge.
We now just had an easy pathway of around 1.5km back towards El Chorro.
It was hard not to keep turning around and looking back to where we'd been, though.
We even managed a slightly more successful selfie at one point
This is definitely one of the most exciting and adventurous walks we've ever done
The beauty of staying in El Chorro was that we could actually now see our hotel in the distance behind us.
We went back for a late lunch of steak and chips in the hotel restaurant, followed by a rest and an afternoon stroll around El Chorro.
It's been a really great day and I'm so pleased the weather cooperated with our plans today