Nothing makes you feel like a typical tourist more than spending a day doing something long after it ceased being as cool as it was. Even in the hiking community, the hipster mentality runs strong. In this case, I’m referring to walking El Caminito Del Rey.
“The Walk of Kings” was once the “coolest”. It earned the title of deadliest hiking trail in the world, killing a number of hikers and climbers every year.
In 2015, the Spanish government renovated the trail, eliminating most of the ways you could accidentally die while hiking it. They also removed much of the hiking and climbing, turning previous death traps into a walk in the park – literally and figuratively. There is some beginner level hiking on the trail leading to the north entrance, and I recommend taking that scenic route rather than the quicker one through the mountain. Here’s one pic from that part:
The Caminito is still completely worth doing. If you enjoy nature and you’re in southern Spain, I believe it’s a necessity. Enjoy fresh air, ease of access (booking required, but I’ll get to that), wildlife, and some breathtaking views. You’re in luck if you forgot your hiking shoes, tennis shoes will be just fine. If you are physically challenged, injured, or just salsa’d your way to a nice hangover last night, you’ll be fine. Do it!
A (very) brief history of the Caminito Del Rey
The Caminito was built to allow workers access to the hydroelectric facilities built within the canyon, back in 1927(?). Much of the concrete and steel walkway was built by hand, stretching along the walls of the canyon of [river] on and off for 2.9km. The danger experienced by past climbers originated primarily from the worsening conditions of the walkway as it aged.
A Modern Attraction With Ghosts of the Past
You can still see some sections of the old trail, sinkholes and all. Walking the trail, it is easy to wonder what it was like hiking it before the rebuild. The straight drops and brittle walkway give merit to the blood-rushing accounts of past climbers. The memorials of climbers who lost their lives along the trail cause deeper reflection.
When visiting places like this, you can’t help but wonder what it was like for the people building it. They didn’t have the handrail I used today. They didn’t have the deteriorated walkway – They hung from ropes and scaffolding, making mounts and pouring cement to build it. They used whatever equipment was available in Spain at the time. How many of them didn’t live to walk it afterwards?
Those guys are the real deal. They did it wayyyyyyy before it was cool, and they didn’t even have instagram. The selfie stick wasn’t even a glimmer in the eye of it’s inventor (oh what a day).
They were just doing their jobs, and in doing so they paved the way for everyone who walked it after them. Sadly, the people who gave their lives climbing it paved the way for the rebuild. Their tragedies were not in vain, as they proved that it was something worth keeping and making available to more people. Because of them, anyone who can get there can walk it.
And here I am, a tourist. I walked it and had a great time. You cannot deny the beauty of the experience, even if the challenge is gone. At least there was not an ice cream stand anywhere on the trail (it’s at the very end).