Posted in Spain

16th – 24th January, Almansa Area and Águilas

From our campsite in Bolnuevo near Puerto de Mazarron we had hired the car for a whole week and travelled far and wide. On one trip this amounted to around 130 miles round trip! We went nearly as far north as Santa Pola, but miles inland at a place called Blanca where we met up with Jess and Martin again, having last seen them in December. The countryside on the journey was varied, the fields of silver leaved artichokes and dark green broccoli plants, some early flowering fruit trees brightened the stony, pale soils and rocks. Mountains appeared misty with the distance and the Autovia stretched away in front like a long grey snake. Meeting up together and after a welcome coffee and tortilla, with their local knowledge, we set off their car to explore the Castile-La Mancha area in the Murcia region. It was a further hour north; a triangle around Yecla, Almansa, having lunch at Corral-Rubio and then on to Petrola before heading back to Blanca to go our separate ways again. (For location purposes this area is inland on the same latitudes as Denia and Benidorm).

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We all like bird watching and were on the lookout for some special birds they wanted to show us. We travelled miles around this location, some on small roads and also off road on tracks where we saw a group of 33 Great Bustards feeding on farmland and blending into the landscape. The males are big birds at around 35-40 inches long from beak to tail, with a wing span of over 7 feet and weighing between 17-35 lbs, they are they are recognised as the heaviest flying bird. We were lucky to see 7 of these huge birds flying to join the others, and in so doing we noticed they were with 33 common cranes, all feeding together in damp, rough scrubland, what a great start.

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Image from Google:  Great Bustard

The most beautiful and scarce bird was a Pin-tailed Sandgrouse which Martin spotted as we were driving along, although I don’t know how! They really are there in the photo, those dark dots on the field!

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We were lucky as all 13 birds were males having bright markings that look ‘painted’ in their intricacy. With terracotta coloured breast patch edged in black, a white belly, the wings are golden green with narrow black markings and the eyes have a line behind looking just like eye-liner! It was a fabulous day enabling us to see some of the real Spanish countryside, small farms, acres of vines and almond trees with small bits of blossom already visible. We had lunch in an authentic Spanish restaurant and managed to add 10 new birds to our Spanish list, including 7 new species for us, thanks to our wonderful guides!

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Image from Google:  Pin-tailed Sandgrouse

Another trip out was to Mar Menor about an hour away, stopping off at Calbranque for a walk on the dunes, it was sunny and warm and we saw some hardy, short stemmed plants already flowering. The beach was almost deserted with the hillside and rocks coming right down to fine clean sand and the sea sparkled in the sun with a light breeze to ruffle the wave tops.

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Calbranque

The Mar Menor itself was disappointing being nothing but a built up strip of high rise hotels and restaurants with many motorhomes on free parking sites among the buildings, and it was not what we wanted. There were a few salinas on the approach which had a few spoonbills, egrets and gulls but we soon bid a hasty retreat. Closer to camp we had some fun with a bit of off-roading in the Renault Modus and spent a happy few hours bimbling around on tracks between the fields of vegetables, darting around any damp looking patches on the single width tracks to avoid getting stuck. We were lucky to spot a wonderful Iberian Grey Strike and several Red Legged Partridges as well as Jackdaws and Tree Sparrows.
Our final day with the car enabled us to go to Águilas with Gilly and Alan who made excellent personal guides having been there many years before. The harbour glittered in the sun with many boats bobbing on the water and gulls wheeling overhead. A typical Spanish windmill complete with 8 small net sails graced the skyline above the old town houses. When we reached its lofty position we had tremendous views over the harbour, through the crystal clear water you could see the areas of seaweed or rocks under the surface in the bay beyond.

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We walked the length of the largely deserted beach with its palm trees and fine sand, cleaned and harrowed by tractors to keep looking its best, and a promenade alongside stretched into the distance. Looking at the old houses, many bought and tastefully renovated, some were empty shells and then there were more modern blocks all with views over the beach.  Visiting a small church the inside was cool and calm with many statues and fine paintings, but for us it was the entrance door that really stood out, with a huge panel of stained glass, from inside looking towards it with the sunshine behind it was a real work of art.

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Around the town radiating out from tree shaded plazas were beautifully painted steps, all different designs and painted to be viewed from the bottom up. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to get the perspective right without having to run up and down to check if the progress and alignment looks correct, the effects were amazing and so colourful.

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This is a set of stairs, see the lady in pink half way up?

At the far end of the Águilas town is a high metal pier sticking out to sea, topped by a railway that once served the mineral mines. It carried the iron ore from the mines to the coast where it could be shipped to various destinations, other goods such as marble and esparto grass used in rope making and many passengers also used this busy port. Close to the harbour is an old locomotive built in Glasgow in 1889 which was assembled by the British Rail Company and was in service from 1890 to 1967, it now stands as a monument to the past.

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Also at this end of the town there is the lifetime’s work of Juan Martinez Causco, starting in 1985 he made beautiful mosaics from pieces of coloured china and pottery. There is a beautifully curved stairway leading up past a bar restaurant all decorated in a multitude of colours, passing on up more steps with obelisks and benches. At the top of a wearying climb uphill we found the gardens which held some of his last works, sadly looking a bit neglected at present. There was some fine work here including a memorial to the artist who died around 2001. What a wonderful legacy to leave behind in his town.

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Memorial to Juan Martinez Causco

After returning the car and we relaxed for a few days on the beach, some hardy people actually swimming but I preferred my lounger. Also walking along the rocky paths and up into the hills, listening to the birds and found several abandoned bees nests in low, long dead vegetation. There was a section of sandstone solitary or mining bees were excavating nest holes in, much activity and the noise drew my attention so we watched for a while. Further along the coast there was much more of the honey coloured sandstone, sculpted by the elements and rough to the touch, however easy to crumble the top layer with your fingers.20180126_180156.jpg

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After a fortnight in one campsite it was time to move on, but first Chris made a wonderful paella for us which we ate outside alfresco in January! Such a good time here with plenty to see and do, so many interesting things to occupy us.

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Author:

We retired at last and 2017 is the start of our next chapter. We now have a home on wheels in which to travel around Europe, follow the sun and whatever else takes our fancy.

2 thoughts on “16th – 24th January, Almansa Area and Águilas

  1. Hi
    The mosaic work and painted steps brighten up otherwise dull areas and look really artistic. Lovely to see a town that tries to improve its dull areas.
    Good that the bird life is so accessible especially if you have friends who know where to look.
    Catch up when you are back.
    Love O & Jx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for another nice blog. The painted steps and the mosaics are lovely as were the painted town houses. Yours and Trish’s blog brighten up my day.
    Love Sarah & Chris

    Liked by 1 person

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