(WITHOUT GETTING YOUR FEET WET)
Tim Shepstone takes us for a stroll out of the city.
This is one of the most popular walks in the countryside surrounding Granada, and one which has received a fair amount of TLC to make it as easy and enjoyable as possible.
The source of Rio Monachil is near the ski station Prado Llano, but you don’t have to go all that way to enjoy the walk. The route actually starts (and ends) near the car park just outside Monachil village.
You can get there by bus from the city five and a half days a week from Paseo del Salon. According to the timetable the buses leave every hour from 8:00am and take 30 minutes, but they only run until 2.00 pm on Saturday, and on Sunday not at all. However this isn’t such a bad thing because, judging by my experience last Sunday, the popularity of “Senderismo fin de semana” around Granada is now such that the Monachil walk is best started early-ish on that day. Weekdays you can have the walk all to yourselves, (until of course this article inspires the masses)
Whether you are going by bus or driving by car, you need to pass through Monachil and out the other side, towards Sierra Nevada, the car park is a good kilometre outside town. From the car park head down the road for 50 meters then turn left by the sign onto the gravel track. Follow this track for about 1 km until you come to a new house that looks like it should be a café (when you return you will find it was a café, but the tapas are “terminadas”).
You keep your feet dry courtesy of three suspended rope bridges which criss-cross the river early on in the walk. Thanks to the popularity of the walk last Sunday, waiting to cross these bridges provided ample opportunity to get to know the profile of Granada’s Sunday walkers. Many of them seemed to want to take photos of each other as they were embarking on crossing the gorge, and I have to warn you that, while safe, the bridges do tend to wobble, so people won’t cross in two directions, which can slow things down a bit. It’s certainly the only case I have seen of Granadinos voluntarily opting for a one-way system!
Another feature of the walk which brings people together is the need to shuffle along the ledges on your bottom in order to avoid falling into the river. Children and the vertically-challenged have the last laugh on this score as they fit under the overhang, but the rest of us have to resort to this ungainly posture for a brief spell.
It is on the return leg along the ridge overlooking the valley that you realise what a dramatic, narrow, sheer gorge you have walked and crawled through. Focussed as you are on getting on in the walk, eventually it is a relief to emerge into a broader valley, with meadowed knolls on each side, a good time to stop, enjoy a sandwich and take in the view.
At this stage an opportunity to cross the river presents itself and if you choose to take it (as many weekend walkers do), you can be back in the pleasant chiringuito before the tapas are finished, but the dedicated (and desiccated) amongst us trekked on another half hour into the mountains before crossing.
The return leg takes you up and up, imperceptibly climbing, until you reach a point on the ridge where your compatriots emerging from the gorge seem no bigger than ants. The air is clear and the 360 degree views outstanding, including Granada to the fore and the snow capped peaks to the rear. You sense rest and recuperation ahead in the local hostelry, but you should not be too hasty; the return leg is longer than the outbound. Take your time to muse on how wonderful it is to be in a city where such walks abound on three sides.
A none too gentle descent brings you back to the starting point of the walk, and by this time you will have been on your feet (and your bottom) for a thoroughly pleasurable 2 and ½ hours. The scenery has changed, and civilisation beckons with its pleasant distractions. If the first bar is busy, continue on to the car park and you will find several other watering holes, eager to please and reward the thirsty hiker.
More information on hiking and mountain trails can be found at www.turgranada.es