Friday, 8 January 2016

Cabo de Gata Nijar Nature Reserve

Cabo de Gata Nijar Nature Reserve

Monday 4th January 2016

Today we said goodbye to our friends at Bolnuevo (after our 18 night stay),  and commenced our journey to Cabo de Gata Nijar Nature reserve.   On the way we stopped of at the Bodega to replenish our wine supplies for our little 'holiday' in Portugal, and as we only had crumbs left in our food cupboards, we also stopped at Lidl in a Tent (the proper one was being rebuilt so they'd housed a temporary on in a tent!)

Therefore, by the time we got on the road properly it was well past mid-day, and although the sun was still shining the wind was blowing up a hooley, and this steadily got worse as we went along. Our journey was to be about 200kms in total and it wasn't particularly scenic - dry scrub land and lots of industrialised areas, with huge dust clouds blowing across any open flat lands that we traversed.  Then as we got nearer to our destination we drove through mile after mile of green houses - mostly growing tomatoes -  I'd no idea the world could eat so many.  Indeed, by the time we only had about 20 kms to go I was getting quite worried that the nature reserve would be marred by them, thus to some extent, spoiling our walking and cycling outings.

However, I needn't have worried! As we passed through the looming hills (which we later learnt had been mostly formed by volcanic activity), there was no sign of green houses and it was almost as if we had entered another world.  The dry arid-ness persisted, but the landscape now resembled something out of a spaghetti western with cactus covered dunes and dusty hills looming around us.

By now it was well into the afternoon, but the wind was still gusting dramatically - and at times alarmingly - so we were very keen to get settled into our chosen  camp site at Los Escullos.  However, when it came to the first job of putting the kettle on for our cuppa, we came to a bit of a halt - the site had no power, and were unable to give us any indication of how long it might be before it was restored.   Happily, it was sorted by about 6pm but the wind storm persisted well into the night - I thought it might rock us to sleep, but for me it had the opposite effect.  John went to Deafcon 4 - he took his hearing aids out and put his ear plugs in - and slept like a baby.   But for me, hearing the f..ting noises coming through the air vents and feeling the van swaying in the wind, sleep was quite hard to come by.

Tuesday 5th January 2016

This morning the wind was still quite bad, but the weather forecast indicated that things would improve around lunch time so we decided to postpone our planned walk until then, and for once the weather man was right!

We set off from the camp site along a rutted stony path which initially led us passed 2 inactive volcanoes, and then continued down to an awe inspiring beach called Playa del Arco.  This beautiful sandy beach is bordered by amazing fossilised erosions that provide the base for The Casillio de San Felipe - a fort that was built in 1771 by Charles III of Spain and restored in 1991.  Sadly, the gate was padlocked so we were unable to go in and explore, but from what we could make out form the Spanish information board, it's main purpose was for protection against pirates!

And with pirates in mind, one of the erosions looked a bit like a 'plank' but I couldn't get John to walk out onto it to have his photo taken - he said he was worried that the overhang might give way - and when you saw the honeycomb effect - he was probably right.

The Plank
Erosion caused by wind and sand

Instead he decided to see if he could prop it up!

Anyway, we continued on our way, along what was loosely identified as a 'footpath' that closely followed the craggy shore line all the way to the little village of La Isleta de Moro where there is a view point called Mirador de la Isleta del Moro.

We did eventually make it that far, but I think the term 'footpath' was a bit misleading!  In some places the going was very easy, but in others the path wound it's way around and over rocky sandy outcrops where the path almost vanished altogether - in one place I had to hold on with both my toe and finger nails, and although John rarely takes my photo - he did catch me this time!

The only thing on my right was a long way down to the sea!
Now, my main problem was, this was another there and back walk, so I knew I would have to negotiate this precipitous position again - therefore, when we paused for a rest on the top of a high crag that went straight down to the ocean I decided to sharpen my claws so I could gain a little extra purchase for our return journey.

Anyway, we made it safely home and the walk had been spectacular and well worth the effort - only thing is, that with my newly sharpened claws, John might have to watch I don't try and get my own back for making me walk in a precipitous location 😀!

La Isleta de Moro from a distance

Wednesday 6th January 2016 - El Dia de los Reyes

Well , from an English perspective  Santa is now well and truly back in the North Pole preparing for next year, but in Spain today is another major gift giving day - The Three Kings Day.  The Three Wise Men followed a Star for twelve nights across the desert to find Baby Jesus in Bethlehem, and the 'Feast of the Epipany' (the 12th night) is marked with celebrations in many Hispanic areas.  However, traditions are slightly different - instead of leaving mince pies and sherry for Santa and Rudolph, the Spanish children leave a box of hay for the camels, and because camels are messy eaters, they leave a trail of hay that  leads the children to their pressies.  Apparently, there are also street processions and parties but we didn't see any such goings on!

Anyway, enough of that and back to our adventures - or was that challenges.  When we arrived in this area we brought a guide book so that we could plan our activities according to our ability, and today we chose a bike ride from it that was identified as 'Medium Difficulty'!  The book describes a beautiful ride over a dirt track that sets out from Playa del Arco (the beach about 1 km from the site), and that is watched over by the Cerro de los Frailes.   These are the highest peaks in the Park and are the remains of inactive volcanoes that last erupted 8 million years ago.  The book also states in it's description, that the sea is in view throughout the journey and that there are hardly any slopes on the route.  The former was correct but the later may have been lost in translation!  Right from the start the path rose steadily and relentlessly, and with the rough terrain under our wheels the going was moderately difficult (just like the book said).  However, after about 4kms the path deteriorated further, and although we did manage to keep going, it was now much more challenging

- and then it got worse!

And at this point we had no choice but to get off and walk!

Our ultimate goal was the village of St. Jose and John had calculated that the distance should only have been about 6 km, but by the time we arrived my bike computer claimed we'd covered 9kms with the last section being very steeply downhill over loose crumbly chalk and shale - we even struggled to push/carry our bikes down, never mind ride!  Having said that we made it safe and sound, but later while we were eating our picnic lunch we decided not to push our luck - we made a circular ride out of this one and came back via the quiet roads.

One of quite a few Windmills

Thursday 7th January 2016

On our previous excursions we'd spotted a track that ascended some high hills that form the backdrop to this coastal region, and for today's outing we decided we'd attempt a little jaunt up Cerro Penones - the one that seemed to be the highest!  On checking the map John had identified that the ascent would be about 480 metres, but maybe what we hadn't taken into account was the very hot sunshine that shone on us all the way up!  (not that I'm moaning about the weather!).  So at this point we needed to make a decision as to if we were walking up or cycling, but as we knew it was going to be mega steep we were sensible and chose the former.

At the bottom of the climb we met a group of young Spanish mountain bikers who seemed to be undecided if they should tackle the hill or not, but with a bit of encouragement from us they decided to have a go!  Now, to say they were over dressed - in long tights and jackets - was an understatement, and they didn't get very far before they were shedding layers, and then not much further before they were pushing, and then not much further before turning back!  They smiled and waved as they flew past us, but we bravely continued our journey, but by the time we were about three quarters of the way up we were both 'leaking' quite profusely, so we sat for a while to appreciate the views,  along with a refreshing glug of juice!

Following our break we 'pushed' on, and when we got to the top we were rewarded by some absolutely magnificent views, so although the walk had been quite hard work it was well worth the effort.  Sadly, the photos don't do the panoramic 360 degree views justice - but maybe they'll give you some idea of how far we could see - just about as far as the snow capped Sierra Nevada's.  We arrived back at the T4rdis a bit foot sore and weary after our 10 mile hard hike - some would say we're a bit 'mad' but we'd both enjoyed it.

Friday 8th January 2016

After our previous 2 days exertions we'd decided that today would be a rest day - especially as the weather forecast was for another scorcher!  So in the morning we pottered about and caught up with the washing and 'housework', and then sat out in the sunshine with our Kindles.  At about 1 ish  we broke off for lunch, and then we decided we'd go for a short walk down to the sea to explore the lunar landscape that fronts the water a bit more.  The almost pristine white rock is the result of the eruptions from the volcanoes, and over the millennia  the wind, sand and sea have sculptured it into the amazing formations that are found there now.

We hadn't gone far when we decided to sit and have a minuet, so with our legs dangling over the edge of the rock above the deep blue Mediterranean Sea in the very warm sunshine, we sat and contemplated our walk of yesterday.  From where we were we could easily see the track we'd, followed but there wasn't another sole in site following in our footsteps - not many would be daft enough to undertake such a walk in these ongoing hot conditions - but that would be their loss and they would certainly be missing a treat!

Our path up the hill from yesterday
After a while we recommenced our wanderings, but with great care, because the erosions popped up like huge matchsticks ready to trip you, so quite often we ended up stopping to stare in wonder at the different sculptures as they came into view.  In some places there fragility made them appear as if they would give way with the next puff of wind or wave, and in others, they almost looked skeletal!  Additionally, with a bit of imagination, it was possible to form them into characters or  objects that you wouldn't expect to find in this setting.

We thought, with a bit of imagination, this looked  like a Darlek!
Our little walk didn't take us far, and after a couple of hours we were back in the T4rdis sipping tea and then it  was a  little more reading for me and a short nap for John,  but later we also had a discussion concerning should we stay or should we go.  The weather forecast looked a bit grim for Monday, and there was still a lot more we would like to explore in this area so 'Stay' won, probably until Tuesday at least.

Click here to see our Spanish camping spots