Arriving in Calpe to a very British grey and blustery day by the sea, this was not quite what we wanted. The icon of the town, Peñón de Ifach, is a great limestone rock jutting skywards to 332 meters high and a magnificent sight with the sun on it, as we would see later next day. On a clear day it is said you can see Ibiza from the top, however, today it looked like you could only see the far side of the bay today and no further. I wanted to climb it as Richard and Trish had done, however having read various accounts of how scary and dangerous it was, needing stout footwear and nerves of steel when attempting the part after the tunnel, I decided I wasn’t going to attempt it. Shame, but the weather wasn’t playing ball and I couldn’t cope with my fear of falling so I decided there are other things in life to enjoy. Like a beer on the promenade, much safer I think.
There was the usual harbour area with a mass of masts pointing up to the ‘Rock’, their reflections jiggling in the water as the tide brought the sea in, men mending fishing nets on the quayside and gulls squawking loudly. Two paddle-boarders made their way around the bay accompanied by their dog, a small pug who walked around the board and balance so well he seemed to be a natural, but when arriving on the sand he wanted lifting off so he didn’t get his feet wet! The high rise buildings are not what we really like, but on the front was a set of fountains and a long curve of beautiful soft sand. I managed to capture us doing our own things by a palm tree, him with binoculars and me taking the photo, as a silhouette on the sand.
The lagoon and wild area behind the beach had flamingos wading around, looking ghostly pale until they flapped their long, elegant wings, glowing deep rosy pink even on a dull day. There were also a good number of shell ducks and gulls bobbing around on the water, herons standing on sentry duty on the margins with a single common redstart amount the numerous black redstarts as we walked back through the scrub and bushes.
The ‘old town’ area of Calpe was a lovely surprise after the high rise on the sea front area. More traditional styled houses and restaurants jostled for space on the crowded streets, small streets jutted off at every angle as more as more buildings had been crammed in. This lovely informal jumble made a pleasant change from the grids of modern towns and together with some amazing murals on many buildings, it really is worth exploring.
Up a red and yellow flight of stairs I found my favourite artwork which was painted on a hotel; a seascape with seagulls and a very well painted wooden ship, the photos do not do it justice, the buildings being so close together I could not get a decent angle on it.
Some paintings were 3D with a balcony looking like it supported two buildings above it, others depicted scenes with many people even going up stairs along a balcony even though it was totally flat, so clever.
A depiction of the Moors & Christians where ships were coming into the harbour at Calpe, it covered an entire wall and gable end of the façade of the Tourist Office. There was a tiled map showing the produce from different towns in the Alicante Provincia which was interesting as we could see where we had been with various towns shown on the map. Later we found a modern amphitheatre used for regular theatrical productions, a few statues and some nice gardens and pots on terraces.
One really weird building was a triumph of amalgamating an old building with a newer one. There was a modern entrance with an artwork and fabulous stained glass work either side of the massive door. To the left was the original classic church with vaulted roof, religious paintings, lots of gold, candles and wooden seating. Then to the right hand side of the central nave was the newer section, directly connected through a squared arch, having abstract roof lights, wall paintings and a stage in front of rows of seating.
With a longer drive ahead of me, we had set off earlyish on our way to Bullas, West of Murcia, to meet Jess and Martin who I last met in Bridgnorth, Shropshire in 1978/1979! We chose a campsite in the hills 30 minutes from them, and settled in to relax after 125 miles of driving via a fruitless search in Murcia for some waste pipe we need. The temperature at 3 degrees Celsius was seriously down from the coastal regions and windy too, the sky a bright blue contrasting with yellow leaves and pine trees on the site. We spent the following day in the small town firstly in the very good Museo de Vino, great information boards, photographs and diagrams. Predictably 95% was in Spanish, along with a small explanation in English, and we were able to understand it fully even with our limited Spanish. There were life size model displays of working cellar rooms and a video in English, however this was so loud it sounded distorted and I was better off reading the Spanish!
The town itself had a nice plaza with brightly painted buildings, a statue to celebrate the local industry of winemaking with a man treading grapes, a church and a few shops. It was still cold and as it was lunchtime we had tapas and beers at a corner bar and warmed up before walking back to Bessie at the campsite. The campsite bar was warm and inviting so to round off a good day I had café con leche y cognac, and for Himself, a glass of wine or two!
We were collected next day by Martin and Jess and we enjoyed an impromptu wine tasting at their preferred Bodega, red wine at 11.30 is wonderful and between the four of us a whole bottle of delicious red wine just disappeared! A few purchases later and we made our way for coffee next, chatting non stop and admiring the cakes in the displays, but resisting temptation so it wouldn’t spoil lunch later on.
Piling into the car we driven through open countryside and the narrow, open lanes around the lower slopes of the Sierra Cambrón, up to the tiny village of Coy where we were having lunch. Although it was a Friday, there were lots of people enjoying the food with friends and family, a noisy chatter filled the place making a lovely atmosphere. With great food and more wine inside us, we set off on our return journey. During the day so far, among other things we had discovered mutual hobbies of bird watching and walking, so on our return journey Martin stopped off at a couple of likely spots and some reservoirs, we picked up 3 new bird species for our tally which now stood at 97. Back at the campsite we were treated to a stunning red and orange sunset before sitting by an equally colourful, blazing woodburner later that evening. We had a fantastic time with Jess and Martin and will certainly be in touch in January when we return to the area.
Heading for the northern corner of the Mar Menor back on the coast next day we walked along the salinas, (salty lagoons) in warmer temperatures of 13 degrees with the sun gently warming our backs while we looked for new bird species. Walking through the dunes at San Pedro de Pinatar we saw several stonechats and loads of gulls with beautiful silver sea holly growing in the sand. Further around and away from the sea with our eyes were scanning the inland pools we triumphantly we identified several black necked grebes, sanderling and ruddy turnstone; we were so pleased to reach 100 species, 5 more than our February/March trip to Spain.
After only one night here we moved to our last destination at Santa Pola. Chris cooked up a feast of seafood paella and we opened a bottle of sparkling Cava to end the evening with.
Settling in for the next 5 days with washing to do, and sorting clothes to return home with, we spent a couple of days doing nothing much really, except prepare for returning to the UK. At the back of the site is an area of wasteland covered with small trees, weeds and cacti in an assortment of sizes and prickles, some with flowers or fruits.
Another walk around to the salinas added a couple of ospreys and 2 spoonbills, the local Nature reserve had flamingoes, black winged stilts, shovellers, egrets and numerous little grebes, but before long we headed into town for a few tapas for lunch. We had a varied assortment brought by our table, all smelling delicious and needing to be tasted, accompanied of course by beers and then more tapas plus some vino blanco. It’s a hard life but we do need to practice.
Wandering back to the campsite we met up with fellow Bessacarr owners, Jilly and Alan from The Gower in South Wales. The next 3 hours were spent chatting, drinking more wine and beers and swapping experiences and tales until it had gone dark, oops where did the light go?
Walking in the opposite direction next day, the sea was so calm, sun shining brightly and temperatures must have been around 17-18 C as we headed into the dunes area. Although it looks quite barren with sparse vegetation, there were several wild flowers, loads of crickets, snails that looked like humbugs, with dozens of sparrows and goldfinches feeding on a banquet of seeds.
When you look around you it is surprising what you can notice. The boring looking bush below looked so insignificant, however it had tiny, pale yellow flowers all over it providing nectar for many insects.
We were really chuffed to find a Great Grey Shrike sitting on the wires high up. Another name for this distinct bird is ‘butcher bird’ so called for its habit of impaling it’s food items on thorns in the bushes so it can eat them later! (Photo from Google).
There is a wreck of a salt barge lying in the sand, it used to carry a ton of salt as it was transported up the coast for sale. Now the process is mechanised the salt sits in huge piles and is transported by lorry over land.
Returning towards the town we passed the nature reserve again where the plants seemed to be glowing in the sun. I’ve no idea what they were, sort of like heather but not, it was the leaves that provide the colour.
All over this area we see the iconic black bull near the side of the road, made of metal sections it is visible for miles but at last I could stand next to one and it was massive.
We are now at the end of an 8 week trip, our bird list final count is 105 species and we are flying home tomorrow for Christmas with family and friends. We have had such a lovely time, seen so much and met so many lovely people; this is what travelling and motorhoming is all about.
Lucky for us, it all begins again in January ……..