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Period drama on the Caminito del Rey

The king and his entourage wore the compulsory 21st century hard hats with their 1920s period costume.
The king and his entourage wore the compulsory 21st century hard hats with their 1920s period costume. / F. T.
  • An amateur theatre group from Ardales relives the visit of King Alfonso XIII to the walkway that is now a major tourist attraction

Visitors to the Caminito del Rey gorge walkway were taken back in time at the weekend when they came across the incongruous sight of a royal party from the 1920s - wearing modern-day hard hats.

Fifteen actors from the Ardales amateur dramatics society marked the 96th anniversary of the inauguration of the hydroelectric power plant at El Chorro by reenacting the visit by King Alfonso XIII in 1921 to sign off the works.

It was that visit that gave the path, built around the side of the steep gorge to provide access for the hydroelectric company’s workers, its name - the Caminito del Rey.

The modern-day dramatisation of those events, repeated over two days, included the signing of the documents to mark the end of the works at the spot known as the Sillón del Rey, complete with a speech from the king, before the group set off around the walkway. As in the original visit, the king was accompanied by Rafael Benjumea, the engineer in charge of the hydroelectric works, the mayor and bishop of Malaga of the period as well as other dignitaries.

The visit was faithful to the reports of the time, with Alfonso XIII describing the plant as a “technological wonder, pioneer in Spain and Europe”. The group stopped, as documented in 1921, near the dam where the engineer offered the king technical explanations of the works that would take supplies of drinking water and electricity for the whole province.

The reenactment of the signing of the papers.

The reenactment of the signing of the papers. / F.T.

The reenactment helped the visitors lucky enough to have tickets for the special dramatised tours understand the significance of the visit for Ardales and the entire province.

The modern-day royal party ended their trip at the Cueva del Toro bridge although in the 1921 visit, the king went on to Pizarra, where he spent the night, before going to Malaga the next day for more official engagements.

Last week’s drama had been organised by Ardales town hall and the Caminito management. Pedro Cantalejo, archaeologist, director of the Ardales Museum and one of the actors, said that their aim was for future anniversaries to be marked with more activities. The reenactment, he said, had settled a debt with the people and the province.

“The king’s visit changed and boosted the area both in terms of industry and tourism,” he said. The reopening of the renovated path in 2015, he added, had “revived this beauty spot and it was fitting to pay tribute to the monarch who gave it its name”.

The mayor of Ardales, María del Mar González, who took part in the visit dressed in period costume as a member of high society, praised the enthusiasm with which the group had prepared the event.