Moving swiftly on…. for a change

Alpujarras – Cabo de Gata

It is quite a wrench to come away from the western part of the Alpujarras. We slowly inch back down the steep hill from the Buddhist centre – so slow that every Serpentine turn gives us another chance to see all the places we have been to and made friends in, all the way from Salobreña to Capileira. We truly had an adventure here!

Once back on the road below Orgiva, we turn left into new territory. After a few miles, we find a spot for the night in one of the unused loops of the old road that weaves alongside the new road. It turns out to be a really good spot – no-one uses the road for anything anymore, it’s just a dead end. We hear some animals snuffling outside in the night – maybe wild boar? And we find the remains of a large white dog close by, totally parched and half eaten.

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As we travel eastwards the next morning, the landscape changes from very green and luscious to drier and hotter. We stop off by a little ravine. As soon as we turn off the road, we are enveloped in a magical atmosphere. The air is hot and dry and still, and it is humming with insects. A bird I have never heard before sings on the other side of the steep valley but I can’t spot it (later that day, we come across bee eaters, so maybe that’s what it was). Time stands still in this valley. Somehow I feel we might be meeting a snake, but walking along the stream, all we find are frogs, of all sizes and shapes, making a racket.

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A falcon is feeding its young in a nest high up above us in the corner of the bridge. We scramble up a pile of stones to try and get a better view of the nest when Frank disturbs a snake. I only see the tail end of it as it quickly slinks out of reach, slithering under stones and dry grass towards the stream.

I wonder how I felt this snake at the start of our walk (it was the first time since our journey that I have felt like I might see a snake)? Maybe we are much more connected to nature than we think, able to sense the presence of other animals around us, even when we can’t see or hear them…

 

Cabo de Gata – Cala Higueras

Cabo de Gata has probably the driest landscape I have ever come across. Having come from the luscious western end of the Alpujarras, this is a shock to our system.

We stay one night near La Isleta, but unfortunately are driven away the next day by a horrible stench of sewage that seems to hang over the water…

San José is a nice little town and it has a place for campervans right in the middle, near the beach. We spend a couple of nights there, enjoying swims in the sea, but otherwise generally wilting in the heat… We try to make an excursion to Cala Genovese, a beach that is supposed to be very nice, but as we come over the top of the hill at the start of the 3km long dirt road, we see a long line of cars all across the plains, so we decide to abort this plan – not happy to share a beach with up to 1000 people, however nice it may be – the dirt road was like a motorway in a traffic jam!

We really try to become friends with Cabo de Gata, especially as it had been recommended to us by so many people along the way. But the heat and the incessant hot wind, combined with the aridity of the landscape takes a lot of our energy. It is lovely to be able to go swimming, but beyond that, somehow we fail to connect with the place. I keep thinking we are just not looking at it in the right way, but after three days of trying, we decide to give in and leave for greener pastures.

As soon as you come away from the national park and travel up northwards, you are back in the ‘sea of plastic’. Go down to the sea to escape the plastic and you are confronted with horrendous sea resorts, miles and miles of ugly hotels, real eyesores, and all the accompanying bars, clubs, shops, etc etc., mostly catering for the Brits. Not just our collective incessant hunger for fruit from Spain but also our need for sun from Spain has really destroyed this region. It’s like looking at the worst of British culture in a distorted mirror. The next 30 kilometres of our journey are thoroughly dreadful.

We had just given up on finding anything remotely nice to stop for the night, when we come around a little rocky outcrop to find a beautiful hidden beach where about 6 other campers from Holland, Germany and the UK had stopped for the night. A little haven in the midst of all this trash. A beautiful sandy beach and warm water invites us for an evening swim before turning in with the setting sun.

Tourism can be so brash and have such a heavy impact, or it can be very quiet, in touch with nature and appreciative of its beauty.

 

Cala Higueras – Moli de L’Ombria

We wake up early, after a hot and humid night. I go for a quick dip in the sea which unfortunately Frank can’t join as he’s battling with another bout of bladder infection. Today we plan to clock some miles, so we set off as the sun comes over the horizon. We can’t bear any more of the horrendous seaside resorts from yesterday, so we head straight for the interior, towards Lorca and from there past Murcia and northwards, travelling sideways along the many different Sierras and crossing vast plains. It is hot and very windy. I’m normally happy with temperatures up to 30 degrees – I think it was probably around 35 degrees at midday! Every now and then, the road goes up and up and then straight away down and down, and we find ourselves in yet another vast plain. Spain certainly has a lot of rock, and a lot of plain! There are also a lot of castles along this route – every little town seems to have one. I wonder how much fighting used to go on between these towns. The castles all look very well kept, almost as if they are still in use! We find out later that we have just missed a festival called ‘the Moors and the Christians’ which, judging by the photograph at the tourist office, is very lavish and colourful. In some towns they re-enact fights!

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We make several stops, one for the internet, one for lunch and Siesta and the last one in Villena, to decide which direction we are going to take at the next big fork – towards Valencia, or into mountains, woods and nature? Frank would like to go to Valencia, so we decide to ask the internet a few questions before making a decision.

Looking for an internet café, we bump into a group of people, part English part local Spanish, who meet every Wednesday in the town square for a cup of tea or a beer and an informal language exchange. We join them for a couple of hours of entertaining conversation, as well as getting local recommendations as to where to go next. One man says, go to Banyeres, there are trees, you will like it there.

This leads us along a little road past Biar, another town with a castle, to a magical camping space just below Banyeres de Mariola, another town with a castle.

We have never felt the benevolent presence of trees so much, in contrast to their absence in the last 4 days. They really are mankind’s friends! The whole climate has changed in the last 20 km. The hot dry wind has disappeared. It is great to arrive in a place where it is green and quiet, where there are trees and you can sense a river nearby, where the air carries the smell of wild fennel and my bandoneon accompanies the rich and juicy sounds of nightingales!

More photos for this chapter on flikr


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