As usual, we took our ‘summer holiday’ in September.  Again we opted for one of the National or Natural Parks.  This time it was the Parque Natural del Cabo de Gata-Nijar, a wild and isolated landscape with some of Europe’s most original geological features.  It is the only region in Europe with a “warm-desert” climate, having an average annual rainfall of less than 20cm and is, thus, the driest place in Europe.

The Cabo de Gata (nothing to do with a female cat, it is named after the agate that was mined there) mountain range is Spain’s largest volcanic rock formation with sharp peaks and crags in red/ochre-hues.  It falls steeply to the Mediterranean Sea creating jagged 100-metre (330 ft) high cliffs, which are split by gullies leading to hidden coves with sandy beaches.

Walking the dogs

Walking the dogs

Offshore are numerous tiny rocky islands and underwater, extensive coral reefs teeming with marine life and the wreckage of long past shipping disasters.  One can easily imagine the easy pickings that the corsairs from the Barbary Coast might gain by driving other vessels towards the rocks of this shore where they might be wrecked with their cargoes being thrown up onto the adjacent sandy beaches to be collected at leisure by the pirates.

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Next to the lighthouse on the very south-eastern tip of the Iberian Peninsula are jagged rocks known as Las Sirenas (the Sirens) which many an unsuspecting vessel must have immolated itself in the dark and it is easy to understand how such disasters might have been attributed to the call of those mythical creatures.

Las Sirenas

Las Sirenas

Much of what might have offered pleasant vistas has, unfortunately, been covered with plastic in the form of greenhouses growing vegetables and salad stuffs, a lot of which goes to satisfy demands from northern European countries.  They also provide employment but not, as one might suppose, for Spaniards but, more often than not, for immigrants from North Africa who seem to be better able to tolerate the inhospitable temperatures within the plant houses.

Plastic

A small sample

We rented a two-bedroomed ‘cottage’ near the village of Los Albaricoques for a week.

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Los Albaricoques SAM_1219

Any movie buff will recognise Los Albaricoques as being the pueblo of Agua Caliente in the seminal films of Sergio Leone.  The final shoot out in the film “For a Few Dollars More” took place in the centre of Los Albaricoques.  The economy of the village relies heavily on the agriculture that surrounds the village and arguably some of the best tomatoes from Spain are grown in this area, notably the ‘Raff’.  There is only one shop and two bars in Los Albaricoques.  One of these bars Hostal Alba, is a mecca for film buffs and a tribute to the village’s cinematic history. Not far from the pueblo of Los Albaricoques is the infamous Cortijo del Fraile, the backdrop for Federico Garcia Lorca’s seminal play, Bodas de Sangre (Blood Weddings – for a résumé go to: http://www.wikisummaries.org/Bodas_de_Sangre_(english)), which features a crime of passion that took place close by.  Again, film buffs will recognise the XVII century Cortijo del Fraile as the location for “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, among a number of other films.

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Cortijo del Fraile

On the southern coast of Almería are salt marshes where sea salt is gathered.  The salt marshes are a haven for birds, among them, flamingoes.

Wading flamingoes

Wading flamingoes

Nearby is the Torreon de San Miguel constructed in 1756 on the orders of Fernando VI to replace an earlier one that had been destroyed.

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Unfortunately the coastal ‘road’ is little more than a track northwards from Cabo de Gata, so some diversions inland were necessary and we missed a good part of what would have liked to see.

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Moving up the coast in a roughly northerly direction we found more sheltered coves and Los Escullos a habitation that dates back some 10,000 years and with a castle – Castillo de San Felipe.  The castle was built in 1771 in the reign of Carlos III.

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Further north is Rodalquilar a nice little town, marred only by the former gold mine workings and the uninhabited semi ruined barrio of the former mine workers.  Good little tourist info shop, managed to get pics of the newspaper reporting the murder near the Cortijo del Fraile (see above).  The town is a haven for artists and there are many galleries showing off paintings, photography, pottery and ceramics.  The town also gives its name to a rare mineral: Rodalquilarite which, typically, occurs as stout green prisms and encrustations.

Rodalquilarite

The road from Rodalquilar back to our accommodation was horrendous, being, in many places, little more than rock strewn rubble through the mine workings.

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This is part of the better stretch.  We went to the desert – it rained!

While it may not rain often, there is, nevertheless, water – much of it underground.

The Moors brought much to Spain, especially in the form of agricultural practices which of course required water, so they introduced irrigation and means of lifting the water from the underground sources.  They also devised storage facilities, not just simple wells or pozos, but more complex and larger stores such as the Aljibe 

Aljibe

Un aljibe

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Key:
1. the aljibe;  2. Basins;  3. Drinking trough;  4. Door;  5. Sediment tank;
6. Source;  7, Overflow

We did go to other places but didn’t get much in the way of pictures.

Next will be Rubio and Scruffy’s column.

One closing picture:

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Sunset

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