A wonderfully refreshing escape into nature, far from the madding crowds that pack Marbella’s beaches in the summer, is to head inland to the picturesque mountain village of Benahavis, just over 20 kms from Marbella town centre.
Before I met my friend Moya who has lived in the village for the past 30 years, I’d been there only on a couple of occasions to sample the cuisine at one of the fine dining restaurants for which Benahavis is renowned, overlooking the area’s most spectacular rugged mountain and dense forest scenery.
Today, thanks to Moya’s “local insider” knowledge and her love of nature, we invariable combine one of my escapes from the Coast to explore the surrounding countryside she knows so well and immerse ourselves in the stunning scenery, instead of admiring it from afar.
A literal immersion and one of my favourite summer adventure outings, has to be what Moya blithely refers to as the “river walk”. This physically challenging trek that at a leisurely pace usually takes us over 3 hours to complete, begins at the Charco de las Mozas, located just before the entrance to village and follows the Guadalmina river down through the awe-inspiring Las Angosturas gorge, twisting and winding its way for over 1 km before opening out onto the so-named Charca de los Tubos, a shallow pond that is used as a beach by locals and visitors alike.
Climbing over giant boulders and jagged rocks; clambering on all fours to avoid slipping on the moss; pulling yourself, arms outstretched and belly-down over rounded river rocks in shallower water; swimming through deep cave-like pools where the tops of the giant rock face that flank the gorge meet; escorted by giant yellow butterflies, brilliantly coloured dragon flies, turquoise, orange, tiger-striped, skimming over the water’s surface; colourful small birds swooping overhead; lizards darting into rocks; basking turtles, necks outstretched towards the blazing sun; doves fluttering high above; the continuous mesmerising sound of the flowing river and the gentle shower-like dripping from the damp more sheltered rocks that have formed the most spectacular sculptures over the ages…
You have to have a certain level of physical fitness to complete this well-worthwhile trek and work-out in nature. As you have to immerse yourself totally at certain stages and swim, you also need to be a relatively strong swimmer. Although the water is icy cold, the sun is scorching hot in the more exposed areas, so I would advise wearing a t-shirt over your swim-wear to protect your shoulders. I always wear neoprene water shoes which give you a good grip and don’t weigh too heavily when you are swimming and because I spend most of my time crawling on all fours like an ape to avoid slipping on the moss, I also invested in a pair of neoprene fingerless gloves, as the first time I did the trek without, the palms of my hands were really sore from the pressure of putting my weight on them.
A signal that you are approaching the end is when you reach a man-made dam. This can be a bit tricky to get down but there is usually some other adventurer who will lend a hand to help you down a carved-out rock slide to the side of the dam’s wall which had a rope to hold onto the last time we were there. This is safe enough, as long you proceed with caution on your bottom!
Indeed, the last time we went a couple of weeks ago, we met up with an all-helmeted and harnessed abseiling group at this point, led by Cadiz-based outdoor adventure specialists, Aventuras Proema. The instructors kindly let us have a go down the dam wall (only about 6 metres high). Now if you asked me to do this down the side of a building in the city, I would say no way, as I am scared of heights; but by this stage, the innate adventurer that lies within me just said “yes!” and I stepped without hesitation into the harness and was amazed to find it was great fun and not frightening at all.
For me, this “river walk” is to experience Mother Nature at her most glorious and you emerge at the end, not only water-logged and pleasantly physically worn-out but overwhelmed by the sense of having journeyed back in time somehow to when the world was first created, connected to your primitive self, all man-made earthly worries simply washed away.