How about walking in the footsteps of dinosaurs for an afternoon? Well, yesterday lunchtime we switched off the PCs, got in the car and headed for a late lunch in Antequera; followed by an afternoon in the breathtaking El Torcal natural park.
Taking a hike in the extraordinary landscape of ‘El Torcal’, about 30 kilometres north of Malaga certainly makes you feel as if you are in another world if not another time.The nesting vultures that take advantage of the inaccessible high ledges on the gorges add to the eerie feel; they loud dinosuar like crys echoing though the canyons.
But to be honest, I don’t think there would have been any dinosaurs walking here in the past, because during the Jurassic period, this was in fact the seabed. Over millions of years seashells and other ocean detritus created the limestone that we now see today. Later, this ocean floor was violently forced upwards by immense pressure creating the mountains near Antequera; all about 100 million years ago.
This stunning place now reaches over 1,300 metres above sea level now, and the vulnerable limestone has been sculpted by the natural forces of rain, wind and freezing winters, creating a remarkable landscape. Geologists call this a karst environment and supposedly this is one of the best in the whole of Europe.
Some of the sculpted rocks are thought to resemble familiar sights, like a camel, a canary, or a screw; it’s fun to look out for these formations as you explore the park.
There is now a visitor centre, with museum, restaurant etc, and from there, one can follow a series of sign posted walks. The most established and longest is the yellow route, and for the less adventurous there is a much shorter green route. The hiking isn’t challenging in terms of distance or stamina, but the paths are more like rocky, dry river beds, with a totally uneven surface. So you need to be agile and have decent walking shoes.
The paths take you past some fantastic sights, through narrow stone corridors, under the canopy of trees and through wide open gorges. Huge balancing stones look as if they are about to fall, whilst others show fossilised fish and other Jurassic period life.
There are some stunning view points too, where you can look right down to the Mediterranean – in fact, we can see our house from el Torcal!
If you’re a nature lover, the park is teeming with life – even in the heat of late summer, there were all manner of birdlife in the trees; lizards amongst the rocks; and vultures in the sky. If you’re lucky, you’ll see mountain goat and fox. I’m looking forward to returning in Spring to see the wildflowers including orchids.