It resembles something out of an Indiana Jones film and, at least for the last 14 years, it has been considered too dangerous to use, but from the end of this month daring hikers will once again be able to tackle el Caminito del Rey, known as the world’s scariest walkway.
At more than 3km long, over 100 metres high and never more than a metre wide, the King’s Pathway, was closed in 2001 after five people fell to their deaths. But, following a €2.5m renovation, paid for by the local Andalusian government and the city of Malaga, the path has been reinforced and extra safety measures put in place.
Despite the additional protection, sweaty palms are still guaranteed. The renovation work, which began just over a year ago, has tried to remain faithful to the original design of the Caminito and only in a few places, where walkways had become rotten, have new structures been built. For vertigo sufferers, the new steel bolts drilled deep into the rock face might not be enough to overcome the occasional glass floor over the Gorge of Gaitanes, 100 metres above the river below.
Thankfully, the fee that is expected to be charged, and the limited number of daily walkers allowed along the renovated path, might give some the excuse they were looking for to avoid the Caminito altogether.
It acquired its name in 1921 when King Alfonso XIII walked the length of the Caminito for the inauguration of a dam at the site. A decade later, Alfonso was forced into exile when the second Spanish Republic was declared and he was still claiming his right to the throne when he died in 1941. However, his great-grandson, the current King Felipe, is expected to cut the ribbon on the new Caminito when it opens to the public on 28 March.
Five walkers lost their lives between 1999 and 2000 with the path having fallen into disrepair. Despite being popular with thrill seekers, it was closed in 2001 and a fine of up to €5,000 has been levied on anyone attempting the walk since – a pretty tricky task given that until the work to restore the Caminito began, bits of the pathway were missing.
The original path had no safety rails and in recent years holes have appeared in the walkway itself. A cable ran alongside the path allowing walkers to clip a safety harness to at least something nailed into the rock face. Even those who have been given access to the Caminito since it was closed have described it as ready to crumble at any moment and nobody was charged with maintaining the site.
Adventure blogger, Matthew Karsten, who has completed the Caminito with the help of ropes and harnesses, wrote on his blog about the experience: “large gaping holes in the concrete are common. Sometimes whole sections of the treacherous walkway are completely missing, after they’ve crashed down to the bottom of the canyon 100 meters below. If you’re afraid of heights, it’s the stuff of nightmares.”
But while the purists may begrudge the safety improvements, the area around the Caminito is one of outstanding beauty and the Lonely Planet guide for 2015 has it was a leading recommendation for visitors to the Costa del Sol, in case they want to see something other than a beach.
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