Open pastures with cattle, wild game hunting, mushrooms and most of all, Los Alcornocales in Andalucia is known for its cork trees. Not all meandering is easy in the park, as our travel expert Robin Graham attests. The park is located in Andalucía near Tarifa and rich with native Mediterranean plants and trees.
By Robin Graham
At the end of ten-or-so gut-wrenching kilometres on a rough dirt track we finally reach a little gate signposted El Arroyo de San Carlos del Tiradero: the name of the walking route we’ve been looking for. To get here we’ve driven through forest, farmland and across a lake whipped up by the strong winds to look like a choppy sea and you’d think our souls would be well and truly soothed after such a soujourn across such beautiful country; in fact our eyes have been glued to the track directly in front of the car.
It is in appalling condition with extensive flood damage and comically deep potholes and is a real hazard for our small vehicle, guiding me easily to my first recommendation – to come here you should drive a sturdy four-by-four and not, as we do, a cute little Kia Picanto.
The walk is another matter; arroyo means river bed and sure enough, the footpath descends in a matter of just a few minutes to a boulder-strewn, fern-laden stream. The shade is as welcome to our frazzled nerves as is the shelter from the levanter (name of fierce wind in area) wind that has been ravaging the area for days. A clearly marked but unspoilt little track leads us for an hour or so through another world – quiet, wooded spaces filled with the cork trees this area is famous for, many of them recently harvested, stripped of their bark to head height.
When the path ascends again to return us to the “road”, we are reminded how Spain’s mountain country, even in the deep south, can look so alpine at times. We saunter back to the car along the kilometre or so of track, taking note of all the pocks and potholes we know we will have to navigate.
We’re in Los Alcornocales Natural Park and little box sets of hiking trail maps are available from their visitor centres. Our beautiful walk today, serenaded every step of the way by the persistent charm of the cicadas, has been just one example of many.
Robin Graham writes about Andalusia, Spain and some other stuff. His stories can be found, with accompanying photography, at alotofwind
He’s a private person but, strangely, doesn’t mind being followed: @robinjgraham or liked: alotofwind
Photography at 500px.