Category Archives: Guest Posts

A Small river in the Gaidovar valley

Lovely observations from Rachel who stayed in the Grazalema area with her husband for a few months last year (2019). After exploring the main footpaths such as the Garganta Verde, Pinsapo forest and the high peak of Torreon they found a small River in the Gaidovar valley and walked upstream finding some nice surprises in the heat of the summer.


At the beginning of August, when the heat was turning up towards its maximum for the year, Dave and I decided to walk for a couple of kilometres up one of the smaller river beds within the Sierra de Grazalema natural park to see if any small pools lingered through the summer and just what treasures they would hold, we were more than pleased with the results!

Dried, bleached algae blankets the river bed rocks
Dried, bleached algae blankets the river bed rocks

The striking images above show a blanket of algae that has been bleached and baked dry in the sunshine clinging onto boulders, in stark contrast to the heavy flooding just 4 months earlier!


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Expecting a dry river bed

The first part of our walk turned up several dried exoskeletons of crayfish that had dried out as the exposed shallow pools diminished in the heat. Tamarisk, oleander, willow, brambles and smilax at times virtually closed off our access as we traced the dry waterway upstream. The first water filled pool that we came across had a distinct autumnal feel despite the time of year. Some trees drop their leaves in the summer to conserve energy. These ash trees overhanging the pool had cast a yellow cover of dried leaves, crunching through them at the edge were a couple of terrapins unsuccessfully trying to avoid detection. The pool at about half a metre deep and 20 metres long may provide a safe haven for many creatures.

leaf covered pool and a Spanish terrapin (Mauremys leprosa)
leaf covered pool and a Spanish terrapin (Mauremys leprosa)

The next of these pools that we came to was teaming with tiny frogs. As we developed an eye to pick out their tiny forms we could count 10 or so in a metre squared, some clustered in small groups on rocks and others with just a pointed snout breaking the water’s surface.

Left: Young Iberian Water Frogs. Right: Tiny fish looking for a meal.
Left: Young Iberian Water Frogs. Right: Tiny fish looking for a meal.

A larger body of water which stretched for perhaps 50 metres had many small fish that were extremely inquisitive, shoaling around my feet looking for an interesting snack. There were less frogs in this pool for a very good reason. Further upstream some larger boulders held what would be an impressive cascade in the right season but, for now it simply retained a higher pool with amazingly bright green algae and families of terrapins sunbathing on exposed rocks. It seems that each wet area is host to different creatures depending on depth, overall length, shade etc. This small pool has more sunshine hence the algae growth and terrapin occupation as an important need for their metabolism is warmth from the sun.

Snakes!

The next pool may have put some people off as I noticed a Viperine snake moving around the edge despite its impressive camouflage against the gravel base. Once it realized that we had seen it, this small aquatic snake made a dash through the open water before hiding briefly around Dave’s sandals and then disappearing around rocks into the deeper area. And next we had to climb out and over some large boulders to avoid breaking long strands from a spider’s web!

Left: A Viperine snake underwater. Right: A spider's web blocked our path.
Left: A Viperine snake underwater. Right: A spider’s web blocked our path.

Deep in the shade of overhanging trees we found a pool with ripped apart remains of large fish. But just the bones and scales with none left swimming around. These enclosed water bodies had made catching a summer meal much easier for the hunter. A strong odour emanating from rocks along the banks quickly led us to numerous spraints laced with fish bones and crayfish shells which confirmed to us that we were in otter territory. We were surprised to find that an otter could survive through the summer on an area that virtually dries out but having walked it, and given the over grown nature of the banks an otter could easily wander up and down stream undetected to the various pools in order to find a meal.

The frogs were plentiful down stream and further on we found a good selection of large fish in an area with slow flowing water with plenty of grassy cover on the banks. This new area was popular with dragonflies and damselflies which danced lightly through the air in colourful displays as we briefly disturbed their tranquillity before leaving the river and returning to our car.

Left: An otter spraint. Right: A Small Pincertail dragonfly (Onychogomphus forcipatus)
Left: An otter spraint. Right: A Small Pincertail dragonfly (Onychogomphus forcipatus)

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A walk in the Garganta verde.

Digging up old articles and reviews from 10 years ago or more I came across Steves great trip report about a walk in the Garganta Verde. First published in 2012.


“After recently enjoying a family holiday in the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park, Steve has written this article to share his experience of hiking the Garganta Verde.”

Remember that to enter this restricted area you need a permission from the park authorities. Read here about how to obtain permits for restricted areas in the Sierra de Grazalema


As part of our week at the end of August with Clive and Sue (of The Grazalema Guide and Wildside Holidays) we had permits for a visit to ‘La Garganta Verde”‘ a “must do” for the more adventurous visitors to the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park.

Continue reading A walk in the Garganta verde.

Conquering Torreon peak in Grazalema

I have rebublished this wonderful article from 2010. Fantastic memories of a wonderful person. Yes you Sacha Burton 🙂

It’s been far too long since I viewed the Sierras from our highest peak here in Grazalema and as we have a friend from Canada visiting us I thought it would be a good excuse for me to take a day off the computer to show her the view from the top of our particular world…The walk of Torreon takes about 5 or 6 hours there and back depending, of course, on how long you stay at the top. It is a steep incline to the summit of 1654 metres which can take around 2.5 to 3 hours to trudge.

This article was first published on Wildside Holidays in 2010

Remember that to enter this restricted area you need a permission from the park authorities. Read here about how to obtain permits for restricted areas in the Sierra de Grazalema

Over to Sacia for her thoughts and observations 🙂

Torreon adventure story! by Sacia Burton.

Ooh, STOP! I want to get out and take a picture… please?

Lady birds at the very top!
Lady birds at the very top!

Clive, my friend and nature guide for the day, shrugged and pulled to the shoulder of the road; I had cause to be excited — we had just turned the corner on our way to Torreon and the Puerto de Boyar Mirador, or “golden view“.

Spectacular views of endless mountains dispersed between verdant valleys lay before us. I hopped out of the car, camera in hand, and snapped a few shots of mountain tips peaking up through morning mist.

I am diligently not a morning person, so with such enthusiasm early in the day (early being any time before 11 a.m.) I was surprising even myself. Torreon, the highest peak in the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park, standing at 1654 metres, was to be my first mountain hiking/climbing experience here.

As it turned out, my early morning enthusiasm wasn’t the only thing that surprised me that day.

Continue reading Conquering Torreon peak in Grazalema