The heat hadn’t yet kicked in by the time we left Marbella, as it was before 8 am. I was on my way to Granada province to experience the thrill and magic of exploring the Rio Verde, with my friend Babak of Team Xtreme. He’s an expert in outdoor adventure activities and a trusted guide of river canyoning, a mix of hiking, jumping, swimming, climbing and abseiling.
It’s a 90 minute drive or so by motorway past Malaga city and east to Nerja. Just as we entered Granada province we left the motorway and took the winding road up to the village of Ortiva, a tiny community that is frequently invaded by visitors exploring the natural beauty of its surrounding countryside; cyclists, hikers, canyonneers and climbers are now an integral part of this rural economy.
It’s no secret that I tend to explore armed with bottles of wine and a good picnic, not squeezed into a wet suit, wearing harness and hard hat – but this time I was to explore parts of Andalucía that are normally extremely inaccessible. The Junta de Andalucía licenses activity companies, controlling access to the river – in an attempt to protect the pristine canyon of the River Verde. Although access is possible to anyone with the right equipment and enough courage, it’s strictly only legal with a trained and insured guide and also, it’s not uncommon for access or departure from the park to be denied without the right paperwork.
You can drive down to the river in a 4 x 4 or hike down – it’s an hour’s trek and the scenery is stunning. The heat in August can be intense, but the crystal clear water of the river is fresh and cooling, reminding you that at one time it was snow and ice on the peaks of the Sierra Nevada.
The river has cut a deep canyon through the mountains – the river has no banks, just steep rocky side, covered in twisted pine trees and Mediterranean scrub. Access is impossible unless you go through the river – and this is called ‘Canyoning’.
I quickly forgot about the tight fitting wet suit in the summer heat – the cool water is refreshing and I was thankful of the protection against the rocks.
The environment is magical – you really are in a special place, where nature remains as it must have been for thousands of years. The water is so clear and clean – just how rivers once were. There are an abundance of waterfalls, slides, and steep drops that we negotiate either by breathtaking jumps, abseiling or simply sliding down the smooth stones, like a kid in a water park.
There are inevitably a few moments when the brain starts to scream, ‘No, don’t jump’ but with the energy of the group and the feeling or support from the guides, we all manage to progress along the river; a 7 hour memorable adventure.
I can see how this might become additive – the rush of adrenalin and endorphins that are released throughout the day make you crave more, despite exhaustion and nerves! I also found the environment absolutely stunning.