ARDALES PARK and EL CHORRO Our area is one of the best places to enjoy mountain biking or road cycling, with its sunshine, maze of tracks and mountain roads; you can view sights tourists don’t normally get to see. The terrain and climate is ideal for improving technique and overall fitness.
ROUTES/GUIDED RIDES We have explored a range of on and off-road rides and can provide guided rides for 70 euros per day. John is an experienced mountain biker and has been guiding people around this area for 2 years. He and friends have built a number of trails, including some brilliant singletrack that can be reached directly from the casita.
‘The Hippo Trail’ leads down from Bobastro, through pine trees, following an ancient Moorish pathway with some challenging sections. There are routes around the beautiful lakes, through pine forests and along the river towards the famous El Chorro gorge.
‘La Messa Descent’ starts at the reservoir above Casita Bolero. Overlooking the village of El Chorro, with fantastic views of the river winding its way through the gorge and valley, this route has fast, wooded singletrack leading to rocky descents, dropping about 300 metres into El Chorro.
‘El Moabo’ is a new route over slick rock with fantastic grip providing an exciting near vertical experience! This ride includes wooded singletrack and tight switchbacks.
The lakeside restaurant of El Mirador is one of our favourite locals. Juan, the owner has created a unique establishment in a superb setting perched on top of a road tunnel and overlooking the ’Radox’ filled lakes. Some of his specialities are Coles rellenas – cabbage with minced pork in Malaga wine sauce with sultanas or Revvelto de esparragos – Asparagus with ham, mushrooms and prawns. Both dishes cost €6 each and there are plenty more of other tasty dishes to wet your appetite. Further along the lakes towards the picturesque dam, is The Kiosko. Great for a relaxing coffee or beer with tapas; but also offering an extensive menu for main meals throughout the day and evening. There are several more bars along the lake side as well as good restaurants in El Chorro and beyond. The proof is in the eating!
A typical Andalusian town, Ardales has narrow winding streets and whitewashed houses leading up to the Pena de Ardales, the remains of a 10th century fortress. Nearby is the Church of Nuestra Senora de los Remedios, originally dating back to the 14th century, but rebuilt in the 18th . The Mudejar church has a Baroque portal and inside you can see two aisles and a nave with interesting coffered ceiling. The Plaza de San Isidro is the site of the town hall and close to the former sanctuary of La Encarnacion and Monastery of Los Capuchinos. Human settlement in this area goes back to Prehistory and Paleolithic remains have been found in the Cave of Ardales. Due to its situation on the frontier between the reigns of Castile and Granada, Ardales was of particular strategic importance during the last stages of the Moorish period. With a population of around 3.000, living on mainly agriculture and livestock farming (sheep and goats), Ardales principle products are olives, cereals and almonds. The town is famous for its galleta de almendra (almond biscuits) and torte de aciete (olive oil cake). Local festivals take place on 15 May – San Isidro, and the romeria, or pilgrimage of 8 September where local people gather at the shrine of Nuestra Senora de Villaverde.
This cave was discovered in 1821, but later, in 1918 prehistoric paintings and carving were discovered. With a length of 1.5km, the cave contains chambers, galleries, columns, underground lakes and beautiful formations of stalactites and stalagmites. The Ancient paintings and carvings, dating back some 20,000 years ago to the Upper Palaeolithic age, portray images of deer, goats, horses and fish, as well as symbolic figures. Numbers of visitors to the cave are restricted and must be accompanied by a guide who can be contacted locally to arrange a visit. The cave can be reached from Ardales, and is about 3km along a path towards the village of Carratraca. You can also reach the cave from the casita, cycling or walking along the GR7 track towards Ardales.
The three large lakes are in fact reservoirs formed by the building of La Presa del Chorro dam built between 1914 and 1921, and a later construction in 1970. The surrounding landscape is remarkably beautiful and is known as Los Tres Lagos (The Three Lakes!). This area is the main source of water for much of the province of Malaga. Any non-motor water sports activity is allowed on the lakes, such as canoeing or kayaking, wind-surfing and swimming and it’s a fisherman’s paradise! Walkers can enjoy trekking around the lakes and through the forests and routes with maps and more details are available for use at the casita. There are a number of good bars and restaurants on the banks of the lake and all within 15 minutes of Casita Bolero!
We have counted as many as forty Griffon vultures flying together over the house at times vulture1this year! The vultures nest and roost on the cliffs of the El Chorro gorge and on another cliff leading up to the house and Bobastro. They really are an impressive sight in flight with an immense wingspan of up to 3metres! As well as Griffon and Egyptian vultures, other birds of prey found in the area are Bonelli’s, Booted and Short-toed eagles, Kestrels, Peregrines and occasionally Golden Eagles. Alongside the river in El Chorro you can spot different varieties of Warblers, Black Wheatears, Blue Rock Thrushes and Rock Buntings together with a huge variety of different species throughout the year. On the road up to the house, through the pine trees can be seen Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Short-toes Treecreepers, Crested Tits, Nuthatches, Jays and Crossbills. There are so many suitable sites in the Guadalhorce Valley area for watching that the list could go on and on. Come and see for yourself!
An easy walk from Casita Bolero, the ruins of Bobastro are a fascinating sight to see and a place of significant historical interest. The 10th century Mozarabic church was carved out of the surrounding rock face in the Mesas de Villaverde. The Christian church, made when Spain was ruled by the Moors, was part of a fortress occupied by Omar Ben Hafsun who led a rebellion against the power of the Ommiad dynasty. It really is a unique building, having a basicilical ground plan with a nave and two aisles separated by Moorish pillars and arches. There are three chapels, the centre one in the form of an arch, while the other two are square. The church measures 16m by 10m and is said to be the place where Omar Ben Hafsun was converted to Christianity, changing his name to Samuel.
Close to the city of Antequera, El Torcal is a high karstic plateau where the action of wind and water has slowly worn away and smoothed down the protruding limestone outcrops sculpting them into amazing and weird shapes. Walkers can follow a series of paths that lead through the rocks from the visitor’s centre, and there are some spectacular viewing points of the surrounding countryside along the route!
Since moving to Spain we have been amazed by the wild flowers that appeared on our land and in the surrounding woodlands. Starting in early March and continuing through to June, the colour and abundance of different varieties is awesome. Here are some we can put a name to, but we’re no experts – Purple Bugloss, Mallow leaved Bindweed, Pimpernel, Hare’s Ear, Mallow, Barbary Nut, Milk Thistle, different species of Poppy, Iris, Lavender and Orchids as well as wild herbs such as Thyme, Rosemary and Fennel. Perhaps you can put a name to some of those included in our photographs – or better still, come and see for yourselves!