Leaving Nerja behind the sunshine had disappeared, now turning grey and quite windy we stopped briefly for one night further down the coast. There were kite surfers out on a wild sea and we got blown to bits walking along the beach to watch them.
Driving leisurely eastwards along the coast road, the villages along the way seem to edge the beaches, dotted with unoccupied hotels all waiting for the new season to begin. We can see the Autovia set well back from the coast, some parts on the high, towering ‘viaductos’ edged with blue painted barriers, carrying traffic east and west much faster than we need to travel.
Stopping off next at Camping Don Cactus, near Carchuna on the Costa Tropical of Granada, we found a large well planned site with excellent facilities. The weather is still mild, grey and windy, the waves crash and thunder while the gulls wheeled above and skimmed the waves in equal measure. Walking along the pebbled shore being battered by the wind we watched gannets fishing, white plumage with black wingtips showing well against a dark sky. We saw many spectacular dives from on high, wings folding back like a jet fighter, just as they dived into the sea.
Many plastic greenhouses in vast, and endless lines are unfortunately a blot on this otherwise lovely landscape. They fill every valley floor and terrace big enough to grow something, it’s not a pretty sight but people want to be fed cheaply and this is where lots of our salad crops come from, mostly growing cucumbers and tomatoes at the moment. More spectacular are the ruins of Castle of Carchuna, built at the end of the 18th century to protect the area against pirate attacks. Also a tower, the Farillo de Calahonda, constructed around the 16th century to protect the port of Calahonda. It was used as a lighthouse at one time, but has now fallen into disrepair and leaning at a crazy angle. The current lighthouse stands high on a rocky outcrop which looks down on a small bay with fishing boats bobbing in the sea.
We walked a couple of miles along the beach of shingle and sand with small flowering plants gathered in groups in the shelter of a larger rock or piece of driftwood. We found it very relaxing and were soon bird spotting again, mainly gannets, gulls and terns. At the end of the bay we admired the scene whilst being served lovely fresh tapas with our beers. Is this sounding familiar?
After two days, we moved further east along the coast to Almerimar and tried out our first Aire. These are places without the frills of a campsite, just somewhere to park up for a night or two, facilities can include electricity, drinking water, drains to empty ‘grey water’ and chemical toilets. They sometimes have washrooms and washing machines too. Best of all they are cheap, this one cost us £13 per night including the electricity! Some of them are even free but would not have facilitites.
There were around 40 motorhomes in this Aire all parked around a pretty marina or looking out to sea. We chose a spot looking out across the bay to the west so no one could park in front of us and we could admire the birds, fishing boats and sunset if there was one. The benefits of this location were a collection of small shops, a supermarket, laundrette and the usual bars and restaurants all within a 10 minute walk of where Della was parked.
We made a plan to check out the local Puntas Entinas – Sabinar Nature Reserve, an area of reeds, dunes and plant life with two quite large lakes. We packed a picnic, and thankfully as it was still quite grey and windy, we wore closed shoes, trousers and our fleeces. It took 30 minutes or so to get to the beginning and then another 20 minutes getting into the dunes aiming to get to the lake. We soon realised we had made a mistake and were being bitten by mozzies, their horrible wining and stinging bites sent us racing back out to the shore again. Not to be deterred by a mere insect, we carried on and walked for around 2 hours before stopping for lunch on an exposed high dune hopefully away from the mozzies, and from which we could see the lake. There were lovely flowers in the dunes and we did see some birds too, success, we had not been beaten.
Then we made mistake number two. Not wanting to return using the same route, we decided to walk around the other side using a track and bridge across the beginning of the second lake. By the time we had crossed over, I was feeling quite exhausted and hoped we could find the road and get a bus back. No such luck, no roads anywhere, we walked on tracks for miles and miles over rocky, semi barren land, we passed a goat herder, past endless rows of greenhouses, spotted flamingos and trudged on and on. We had been bitten constantly all over our hands, necks and Chris had bites on his face, I had them on my neck and in my hair. By the time the town came into view I was fantasizing about how to replete my energy level, my hips and knees felt shot and I was running on empty. We eventually got there, me hobbling and cursing, and made our way to a bar where I ordered coffee with sugar for the caffeine, (I don’t even like coffee or sugar in drinks), a brandy for fortification and a half pint of lager, and Chris had a well earned pint.
I checked my pedometer and we had walked 28.6km, which equates to 17.87 miles, no wonder I felt knackered. Chris was tired but not shattered like me!
Our next destination not far along the coast was Cabo de Gata and some more dunes with lots of beautiful low growing flowers.
We left Della parked on the roadside and walked over to the saline lagoons at Las Salinas which promised lots of water loving birds and we were not disappointed. There were five bird hides along the edge of the lagoons, obviously this was a renowned birding area, we were so glad we had our binoculars. There was a large flock of greater flamingos looking stunning in the sunshine, beautiful shades of pink with black on the wings and Chris also spotted ten white spoonbills, long legged birds with bills shaped like a long handled spoons.
I saw my favourite wader; 4 lovely black winged stilt with long pink legs, black wings on otherwise white plumage and a small dainty looking head with straight black bill. In all we added another 10 species to our Spanish list, now numbering 79 since we landed at Bilbao.
Just for the record, we are keen bird watchers – NOT TWITCHERS! The difference being, twitchers will be notified via friends, media and electronic devices that a certain species of bird has been spotted, and they will race off to the location to try and see it and put ‘a tick in a box’. It could be 10 miles or 100’s of miles and they go crazy to achieve it. We on the other hand simply enjoy walking, and all fauna and flora.
The drive to our next destination was through very different countryside with empty roads and stunning scenery. The new campsite, Los Escullos, was set in the foothills of extinct volcanos, an area called Pico de Los Frailes, and had the best of both worlds being less than a mile from the coast too. The scenery was wonderful, very different with rocky terrain and peaks in all directions.
We walked down to the shore over scrub land alongside huge towering cactus type plants, some with tall spent flower spikes, others taller than Chris, and eventually we came out on a sculptured, rocky headland overlooking the sea.
The limestone pavement effect on the surface looked like it had been sand blasted, there were huge chunks of rock that had separated from cliff edges and wonderful formations jutting out.
We could not believe the amount of wild flowers in many colours, you could smell their perfume and hear bees buzzing everywhere, a real sound of summer. We were told that this year the flowers were very good due to the excessive rain this area has had during the end of last year and the beginning of this one.
We had another long, but pleasurable walk over flowery open spaces, passed wooden bee hives and along stoned tracks between the hills and the shore on our way to San José. We saw great rock formations showing the fault lines where the volcanoes had spewed out lava and rocks at some time in the distant past. There were what looked like caves higher up, great land slides of rubble, huge bolders and incredibly, tiny plants growing straight out of the rock.
The sea sparkled in the sunshine not a cloud in the sky, a few gulls with wings outstretched gliding on the clifftop air currents. The views from the top of the hills were wonderful and far reaching. The temperature was rising now, over 20C as we neared San José in time for lunch overlooking the beach, we also needed a good rest.
The walk had taken 3 hours over rugged terrain, so we decided to walk the road back which had lovely views too. We found a well at Pozo de Los Frailes with a wooden mechanical device for a horse or donkey to raise the water. We couldn’t find the required animal so Chris is demonstrating it.
It took another 1.5 hours to get back to Della – 22.5km or approximately 14 miles – we must be getting fitter! We stayed 4 days in this peaceful place, met some lovely people to share a couple of evenings with, and had some relaxing sunbathing time too whilst trying to learn some Spanish. Adios amigos!
The map has been updated, have a look where we are now.