The Walk of Death
Dubbed by many as the World’s most dangerous path, the Camino was officially closed after three people fell to their deaths in 2000.
Several accidents later and people are still flocking to southernmost Spain from all over the globe to walk the Camino before it receives an extensive makeover, no doubt losing some of its alluring, treacherous curves in the process. Something the Spanish government has been threatening to do for the last few years.
The current economic crisis has put any cosmetic refiguring on hold, but the work is scheduled to be carried out before 2015.
So if you want to experience the Camino in its original, unedited version, now is the time to do it.
Video of the Caminito del Rey
El Camino del Rey: What, Where, Why
The Caminito del Rey is a three-kilometre-long path suspended more than 100m off the ground. The one-metre-wide path is built into the walls of the impressive Desfiladero de los Gaitanes, the Gaitanes gorge.
It is located between the villages of Alora and Ardales in the depths of Màlaga province. The path was originally built to connect two hydroelectric plants situated at either end of the Gaitanes gorge.
A Brief History of the Caminito
The Camino del Rey was used as way to transport workers and building materials between the two plants. Work started in 1901 before finishing in 1905. To much fanfare, El Chorro power station started to produce electricity in 1905. Despite its technological and industrial importance, it was the bridge overlooking the gorge that hogged the limelight.
Los Balcones was the name given to the bridge hanging 100m above the ground. It was designed by Rafael Benjumea and his specialized team of workers. Most of whom were sailors who were used to climbing ropes and working while suspended above a void.
The path was built using sand and cement, and held in place by metal brackets. A simple iron railing was put in place along this decidedly non-frills path.
The name was changed to Camino del Rey when King Alfonso XIII inaugurated the power stations in May 1921. He walked along the Caminito from the El Chorro pantano (previously known as the Conde de Guadalhorce). A walk that so impressed him that a plaque was erected in recognition of Benjumea and forever celebrates this most momentous day.
There are numerous rural myths surrounding the path. Some have been verified, others remain mere folklore. It’s said that a young and beautiful English woman threw herself to her death from the Balconcillo. The exceptionally beautiful, blonde-haired woman is said to have ridden her white horse along the Camino before launching herself off the bridge.
El Camino del Rey: the nitty-gritty
There’s no doubt about it, walking the Caminito is dangerous. With a capital D. People who tell you differently are just plain wrong or maybe friends who are actually enemies.
The path’s in a bad way and continues to deteriorate. There are huge sections that have fallen away and hundreds of little potholes. The safety wire is thin and of dubious strength. An Italian climber fell in March 2013 after the wire snapped.
In saying that, walking the Camino is a buzz. A big one.
- Be prepared, use the appropriate equipment and, if necessary, a professional guide
- Don’t walk the Camino alone
- Avoid the walk when it’s been raining. Bear in mind that the marriage of sand and concrete is over a century old and does crumble
- If walking in a group, spread yourselves out. Too much weight in one place is not a good idea
- Rope up. When crossing over the more exposed sections, it’s a good idea to rope yourself in as well.
- Bring at least 60m of rope with you if abseiling down at the end
- Tread lightly. Most of the accidents have been caused by human error with people jumping, hanging off the safety wire and just generally messing around
- Treat the Camino with respect. Your life depends on it. Literally.