This is where the first of two big gorges that form part of this route can be found. Gaitanejo can be reached after a short hike along a dirt track and past the entrance area. This gorge is hardly 10 metres wide, and marks the beginning of the first boardwalk. This part of the route consists of:
- The viewpoint, commemorative plaques, and the first boardwalk
- Marmitas [Cooking pots]
- The rests of the old electrical grid (old lamps and iron struts)
Round viewpoint, commemorative plaques and the first boardwalk (from meter zero up to the entrance zone)
Some metres forward, you will see a board with the information about the 'History of the Caminito del Rey', where you can also access the first boardwalk and the entrance to one of the two large gorges or canyons that this route comprises. The gorge is rather narrow (hardly 10 m from one wall to the other), high and deep, so its tall chalky walls seem absolutely breathtaking. This is the first big surprise for our visitors. The route starts with a small round viewpoint, and a widening where the commemorative plaques are, as well as some steep steps that go downwards to the river. Little further on, you will step on the boardwalk, which consists of 15 cm-long and 5 cm-thick wooden boards, which perfectly maths the surroundings and are marked at every 50 m. This boardwalk, which was made of 19,939 m-long boards, 29,725 screws and 3,075 iron fittings or bolts, took less than a year to be refurbished.
Did you know that there was a wrong date on El Caminito del Rey plaque? Look at the marble plaque which says 'EL Camito del Rey was opened again after its refurbishment on 26th March 2015', although it was actually opened later, on 28th March. This was because there was a plane accident along the route from Barcelona to Düsseldorf with 150 passengers on board of a Germanwings' plane. All of them died in the accident, so public events were cancelled during the mourning period of three days. As the plaque had been already made, the date was not changed. There is another plaque above it from 1921 in memory of Rafael Benjumea y Burín, Count of Guadalhorce, who carried out that project.
The current boardwalks are the third that have been made up to date. The first ones were made in order to provide the maintenance of the canal through an access way that went through the first canyon. The first boardwalks were actually made of iron sticks that were anchored in the rock and supported thick boards at the spots where horizontal struts were placed so the rope would go through them and be used as a handrail. These boardwalks existed only in this canyon until they were flooded, and then changed for higher ones in 1920. They reached the altitude of the 'balconies', where railway pieces were used, such as corbels and iron strut bars, which were built in the walls as three-part frames that supported a small brick and cement vault. At the top of it, there was a concrete flat cover, pilasters with supporting bannister bars and a brace on the arch.
One of the absolutely spectacular places along Gaitanejo gorge or canyon are shapes created by erosion. One of them is the group of small holes, gullies or naturally made hollows called 'Marmitas' or 'Cambutas' [cooking pots], which hang on the walls or can be seen in the bottom of the gorge, where water from the river and eroded rocks make a kind of chalky solution. These formations are rather common in two first canyons called Gaitanejo and Tajo de las Palomas. This is an excellent place to stop and admire the gorge, as the narrow boardwalk makes a semicircle with handrails, like a small viewpoint, from which you can safely look downwards.
It is important to know that this river is a dividing line between two towns, Antequera (the railway) and Ardales (the walls along which the path El Caminito del Rey was built), all along the part of the route that comprises gorges and canyons.
This is where you can see the rests of the second cement boardwalk and the railway. If you look up, you will also see some old power grid between El Chorro and the Count of Guadalhorce Reservoir.
We recommend you to keep looking upwards, above your head, while you are walking along the boardwalks. There are iron struts in the shape of a U, which used to be part of the old cable system that lightened the boardwalks in the night. Some of them still have lamps for isolation, made of glass or ceramic on the part of the boardwalk that hangs at the end. The struts on the old boardwalk will probably attract your attention. They make an arch on the pilastrers of the bannister and get into the wall. The series of this struts, which can only be seen along this stretch, looks like the typical old balconies from the late 18th century. Some people believe that this supporting elements are the touch that Rafael Benjumea used to give to his architecture works of art.
At the end of the firs canyon and before the entrance to Lugar del Soto, there are the rests of the first metal structure (beams, boards and cords) under the new boardwalks, which had been used during the work on the canal, and was then changed for another higher buildings called 'Los Balconcillos' [the Balconies]. These were named El Caminito del Rey after the visit of the king. The second structure was made of iron, bricks and cement. Cement was also used in refurbishment of the downwards slope that connects two first stages of the boardwalks.