Leaving Finca del Rio, La vina de la Iglesia in the early morning of a sunny February day, this walk is a there and back but encompassed such a variety of scenery as to make it far from boring.
The track is stony, dusty and uneven in parts, but opens up the character of the valley of the Guadiaro river. Like the tearing of a fabric picture would zigzag and split, views are across, down, up and along the valley. The track passes at first goat farms, smallholdings and a grand manicured estate that sits splendidly above a boulder defended curve of the river. Then buildings become fewer, giving way to wooded hillsides, rocky ravines and dry water-courses. One constantly running stream is passed which comes down from Salitre, which sits above, its white & red-clay roofed houses spread out under the jagged line of the Algatocin sierras.
A drove of goats, heralded by the soft clanging of a bell on the Judas goat appear on the track. No herder, just the goats moving from one pasture to another or to a farm for milking. They pass us by with a cautious but determined walk, the older ones at the front and a scampering crowd of young at the back.
The river Guadiaro is glimpsed below as the track ascends. Falls of rock and the narrowness of the gorge with its twists and turns compress the light-green water into a ribbon of glinting movement. It is then swallowed up by the darkness of the entrance to the Buitreras and the river only vaguely glimpsed as you look down from the middle of the German bridge.
Inquisitive steers peer down from high grazing land alongside the track, intrigued by our passing.
The Casa de Conte is an interesting ruin. Built at the very top of the track, which ends here, the house has thick walls with small loopholes or gun-slits along the main wall. Its location is near the canyon and surrounded by steep, rocky hillsides, with no pasture nearby. It pre-dates the railway line which runs through the valley below so was built for another use. Maybe a strategic stronghold or a hunting lodge. Maybe it dates from the 1700′s. Old fig trees sprawl amongst dry stone walls, near the house, that have fallen down but once must have been shelter for animals.
The so called German bridge, which was actually built by Belgians, so is mis-named, is reached by descending some precariously cut-out steps in the side of the gorge. Cables act as hand-rails to aid descent. The bridge is actually a water conduit or tunnel which sits under the surface of the bridge and goes for 8 kms back to the dam in la Canada. There is a small tunnel at the far end, in which is a metal grid covered top where you can look down into the water tunnel.
The entrance to the tunnel at the far end of the bridge is very low, so you have to crouch to enter it from the bridge, but is higher as it opens up onto the far side of the gorge. A new wooden rail prevents the inquisitive from peering down close to the edge!
The description below is on a sign-board, on the right hand side of the track, close to the Casa de Conde and gives a comprehensive explanation about the area and its naming.
The village of El Colmenar can be reached from the German bridge by a good path in two hours. The views into the gorge are amazing as you walk down. There are some good restaurants in El Colmenar and the train can be caught back to Canada del real Tesoro in the late afternoon. It takes 3 hours to reach the bridge from la Canada.
Returning along the track we met up with a small herd of black pigs, the famous “pata negra”, who range freely in this part of the valley eating acorns from the holm oaks. They look like small hippos, some sprawled in the shrubland while others were still scrabbling and scrunching acorns with a loud cracking noise.
A sheepish but curious look from one of the hundreds of sheep that graze on the hillsides longside the track. The walk took seven hours in total and covered 20 kms.