Saturday 28 February 2015

Sunset over the Cabo de Gata

This is our fourth night in the Cabo de Gata and every night at just after seven I have watched a beautiful sunset from our campervan. Once it has faded away the stars come twinkling out and put on a fantastic display.
It helps a lot that we are in the middle of nowhere so there is no light pollution.
I also found out that the Cabo de Gata claims to be the driest place in the whole of Europe, and from what we have seen, it seems to be true.
We went on a cycle ride today, bouncing along on sand and rocky tracks, but mostly we have just lazed around having a quiet Saturday.

Friday 27 February 2015

Abandoned gold mine

We cycled back to the Cabo de Gato Park today as we had heard about an abandoned gold mine at a little town called Rodalquilar and wanted to check it out.
We arrived at Rodalquilar after a very undulating ride and were shocked to find ourselves cycling past dozens of ruined houses on the way into town. It took us a while to find the route to the gold mine and, of course, it turned out to be up another steep hill, just behind the town.
It was nothing like I was expecting as there was a couple of ruined multi story buildings at the top of the hill, then enormous tanks stretching down the hillside to a big building with thick bars on all of the windows.
This building is now the museum and we found out that the gold bearing rocks were dug out of the high mountains behind the mine, and then sent in chutes from the top building down into the round tanks where the rocks were sifted, washed and smashed into little pieces. The rocks were then sent on a route into smaller and smaller tanks as the waste was gradually removed, eventually ending up in the bottom building where it was panned and sorted until it finally revealed the gold.
For 10 years, from 1956 until 1966 it worked very well, but then the gold ran out and the mine closed.
It had a disastrous effect on Rodalquilar and in 1966 the population reduced from 1,400 to 75, which explains all of the ruined houses.
It was a shocking story and very sad that the place is now a deserted ruin. Apparently the town has recovered to a degree and mainly relies on the tourists who visit this incredibly beautiful area.

Thursday 26 February 2015

Sierra de Cabo de Gata

Bright sunshine today and the whole area looks completely different. I drew up a circular route and off we set on our bikes, past yesterday's ghost town and then up into the Cabo de Gata National Park.
We rounded a bend and saw that the road was closed as workmen were repairing it. Fortunately it opened for five minutes every hour, and we had a 45 minute wait, so we sat for a while enjoying the view - pic 1.
After that we set off in again, following a smooth paved road as it switch backed up the mountain side. The views were amazing and from the top we could see tiny deserted beaches in both directions.
The road then turned into a rough track and we juddered down the other side, eventually ending up at one of the gorgeous beaches.
Inland was just as amazing and it was really dry, with huge cactuses growing amongst the rocks. It reminded me of Red Rock canyon near Las Vegas, where back in the day we got married.
It was a truly exceptional day and very unexpected.
Sierra de Cabo de Gata National Park - five stars!

Wednesday 25 February 2015

Ghost town

A bit of a weird one today - we have driven about 50 kms along the coast and we are at a campsite just a few kilometres from a nature reserve called Cabo de Gata.
Darren wasn't fussed about coming, but I was really keen, so here we are!
Our campsite is nice and busy, but the area around it is just dull, dull, dull.
We are surrounded by the big greenhouses again with narrow dirt tracks between them. We walked to the nearest town and it was completely deserted. We didn't see another person for ages, and began to wonder if they had all been abducted by aliens.
The view over the sea looks back to where we were yesterday, (sigh), and Daz is trying to make the town look occupied in the other shots.

Tuesday 24 February 2015

The Alcazaba of Almería

Is it a fortress, a palace or a castle?  Or maybe even all three. I don't know either.
Today we cycled 15 kms along the coast road to the Alcazaba of Almería.
On the way there we were right on the hard shoulder, with rather dramatic drops down to the sea, and only a small metal railing to stop us falling.
Returning we were pushed up close to the vertical cliffs that were covered in steel netting, presumably to capture any stray boulders that were heading for the traffic. Both journeys were a bit nerve wracking but good fun.
As usual, it was a steep climb up to the base of the building, where we left our bikes and carried on on foot.
The Alcazaba towered over us as we walked up the zig zag path to the entrance. It was free entry for European residents and we were given a nice looking, concertina-ed leaflet.
This was where our troubles began as it was beautifully written in English, but neither of us could gain any proper understanding of what it was trying to explain. 
The only facts I know is that parts of it are over 1,000 years old (I think), lots of damage was caused by an earthquake in the year 1,487, and the Christians gained control of it from the Moors in 1,489.
However, not knowing what we are seeing has never been a problem, and we had a lovely time just wandering around taking photos.
The final picture is the view over Almería and our route home is straight through the middle of it, and then round the rock jutting out into the sea in the far distance.

Sunday 22 February 2015


We decided to go for a Sunday morning stroll in the opposite direction from yesterday, to a little place called Aguadulce.
We set off along the seaside track, and within about 10 minutes we turned a corner and found ourselves on a red white striped promenade in a lovely town.
Even more surprisingly it was packed with Spanish locals all walking up and down enjoying the sunshine.
We walked as far as an upmarket harbour at the base of high, orange coloured cliffs.
We then decided to treat ourselves and stop for cocktails at a posh beachfront bar, where we settled ourselves into prime seats in the sunshine. It was very busy so we soaked up the atmosphere and views for a few minutes, but nobody came to take our order. After a couple more minutes we decided that we had enjoyed the break, and as the cocktails were going to cost almost as much as a night's accommodation, we decided to leave.
We headed down the front steps onto the beach and as we were so close to the sea, we decided to paddle home.
Ps, Darren makes a fantastic sangria and we are looking forward to one or two later.

Saturday 21 February 2015

Roquetas del Mar

Sporty day today as Darren jogged 5kms along the beachside path from our campsite to the ancient castle in the centre of Roquetas del Mar.
I was not quite so lively, so I cycled there with a change of clothes and water for the athlete.
We had a look around and there was lots of little bars and cafes along the seafront, but we were looking for a shoe shop, of which there was no sign.
Darren then changed back into his running gear for the return journey.
As it was such a lovely day, and Daz had done far more exercise than me, I decided to go for a walk along our beach. A lot of it was very shingly, but I soon found a nice sandy stretch and couldn't resist a little paddle - first of the year.
I took a felfie to mark the occasion, and the water wasn't even too cold.
Ps, felfie - that's a foot selfie if you don't recognise it.

Friday 20 February 2015

Costa del Plástico

Today we drove from Motril to Roquetas del Mar along the main Autovía.
I had read that the coast was spectacular, with the mountains jutting dramatically into the sea. All of this was true, and I was looking forward to seeing it.
The road climbed and fell, twisted and turned, then suddenly descended into darkness as we headed through numerous tunnels. Then suddenly we were dozens of metres above the ground on long bridges and viaducts. All as expected, and it gained a good tick from me for effort.
What was amazing though was the sea of plastic sheeting that truly went on for miles and miles. (I may sometimes be prone to a bit of exaggeration, but I promise not today.)
Occasionally small villages and towns raised their heads a little above the plastic roofs, but mostly it was just giant growing tunnels.
Our campsite is nesting amongst them, but we are very near to the sea, and the beach has escaped the plastic for now, so we are not completely surrounded.
Darren helped me climb on a wall to peer through a tiny gap in a tunnel next to our campsite and it was full to the brim with red peppers.
It is a sight to be astounded by, although not necessarily in a good way.

Thursday 19 February 2015


We drove about 45 kms along the rocky and dramatic coast today and are now in the area called Costa Tropical. Our campsite is just next to the beach and only 8 kms away from yet another lovely white hillside village.
I thought that it would be nice to cycle along the narrow roads through fields and then up the steep streets to the castle at the top of Salobreña.
All was going well until Darren passed a driveway and a dog ran out behind him. I panicked, stopped and then turned back, but Darren hadn't seen it so carried on.
The dog stood in the middle of the road just looking at me. I put my rain jacket on as added protection in case it bit me, waited for ages in case someone drove past that I could get past it with, but then Darren came back to look for me. I think I was then going to try to cycle past it, but instead Darren came back to me and we had to cycle along the busy and fast main road instead.
We got to the castle and found that it was closed - normally that would be quite funny, but today it was just annoying.
We cycled to a lower viewpoint and got some nice pictures and then had a quick look at the beach, but I had then to worry about getting back.
In the end we found another bigger, but quiet road and we got back without seeing any more dogs - but not a good day.
One day I will sort out my dog problems, but I really can't imagine how.

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Nerja and Frigiliana

Fantastic day out cycling today following a circular route through Frigiliana and Nerja.
Once again I consulted Google maps and found another hilly route, but this one was shorter than the epic trip last week.  Fearing a mutiny from Darren I also took some chocs with us to keep us going up the hills.
The route was extremely quiet and the views of snow capped mountains and the sea were incredible.
Some of the hills were brutal and I got off and walked a few times, but Daz was made of tougher stuff and made it round the whole route without his feet touching the road.
Our first stop was the lovely hill town of Frigiliana which we approached from high above. We freewheeled down to a cafe with a view down to Nerja and the coast.
Feeling refreshed after a caffeine shot we carried on our way, but now it was mainly just rolling down hill. It was about 450 vertical metres down to the amazing Balcon de Europa.
This is a rocky outcrop in the centre of Nerja  where huge waves were crashing onto the rocks below. By now the sun was shining and I had my photo taken with a statue of the King of Spain (I think), before we headed off for a well deserved al fresco late lunch.

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Parakeet heaven

I have cheated today as I took these photos a couple of days ago.
All along the seafront on the Costa del Sol are beautiful and very tall palm trees that are home to thousands of green parakeets.
They always seem very happy and we often watch them flying in large flocks, screeching loudly to each other as they fly from tree to tree.
Over the past few days they have started building nests, collecting large twigs from the ground then disappearing out of sight into the centre of the palm trees.
I was really pleased to catch this pair whose nest looks immaculate already, surely it won't be long before chicks start appearing.
By the way, the blue and white striped lighthouse is on the seafront at Torre del Mar and on our last morning there today we both ran 5kms past it along the beach.
We set off just as it started to rain and it got heavier and windier all of the way round. We got soaked through, but it definitely helped to speed me up and run my fastest time for ages.
Better weather forecast for tomorrow.

Monday 16 February 2015

Tapas day two

After the success of yesterday's Tapas route, we caught the bus up to Vélez-Málaga to carry on drinking and eating our way through the town.
We managed four bars today, each lovely in different ways, but definitely the most eye catching tapa was this vertical effort from Taberna El Convento. Also, when I chewed my prawn, I heard loud popping noises, like mini explosions coming from inside my head! How weird, exploding orange sauce - only €2 each including wine.
We also explored the town which had ramparts and a fort with brilliant views across the town - down to the sea one side, and across the mountains inland, one even topped with snow.
The town was old with narrow streets and a mish mash of different shaped houses all nestled up close together. Although we are still on the Costa del Sol, both this area is very different to the other places that we have visited.  Vélez-Málaga and Torre de Mar are both busy Spanish towns full of Spanish people getting on with their lives, rather than having lots of empty tourist apartments and British fish and chip shops.
Having said that, our campsite is full of different nationalities, and we hear conversations being held in many languages. 
Our neighbours are all very friendly and lots of them have put little notices with their names on in front of their vans. We are just along the row from Mervi and Kennet, Ursula and Wolfgang, and Henri and Sabine amongst others. I think we must be missing out on some European socialising, so maybe we should make our own for the next site.

Sunday 15 February 2015


We decided to have a gentle bike ride, the first of the year, to the nearby town of Vélez-Málaga.
I decided that the direct route was too short, so chose a round about journey inland instead. Google maps is excellent for this, but as has happened to me before, it doesn't show the gradients. I did realise that it would be an uphill route, but I wasn't concerned. However, I should have been and this mistake was compounded by a very, very strong headwind.
It was very beautiful though and the roads were almost traffic free. We passed fields full of avocado, olive, pomegranate and cherry trees, with the pink cherry blossom already brightening up the hillsides. There was also huge mounds of prickly pear plants that the farmers use as impenetrable hedges.
Almost four hours after we started, worn out and cold, we rolled down the last slope into the town.
We could now begin the pleasant part of the day - the Tapas Tour. We had picked up a little booklet from the local Tourist Information that told us all about it. Until 1st March, 15 local bars are selling a drink and special tapas for 2 euros each.
Darren said he was so hungry that he could eat a horse, but it wasn't on the menu, so instead we enjoyed prawn, fish and ham in a little mysterious basket and vegetable couscous with spare rib.
We only managed two, as the wine was going a bit to our heads, so we will have to go back to try the remaining 13.

Saturday 14 February 2015

Torre del Mar carnival

We walked into the town this evening to watch the local carnival procession. It was great fun and most of the costumes were homemade. There was cash prizes for the best costumes, and lots of people in the crowd were dressed up as well.
It was all very friendly and loud as each group had their own music and dance routine. Competitors kept spotting friends in the crowd, so there was lots of shouting and kissing going on.
Happy Valentines day - yes, they do celebrate it in Spain too.

Friday 13 February 2015

Spanish sardines

We have encountered a potential problem today that we were not prepared for - full campsites.
On our journey through Spain last year, from early October until just before Christmas, almost all of the campsites we stayed at were at least half empty. In fact, on at least two occasions we were the only guests there, which I found a bit scary overnight. From the washroom point of view it was fantastic though, as we both had about eight toilets and shower cubicles each to choose from.
We left our campsite in Torremelinos this morning and it was fairly full, although it's facilities weren't great. Cold showers aren't my thing, and a lot of people point it out on TripAdvisor, so that perhaps explains why there was plenty of room.
We arrived at Torre del Mar at about 12.30pm today and of the 120 spaces, 119 were already occupied. The only space left was a tiny triangle that backs on to a 12 feet high concrete wall. We also share the plot with three large tree trunks that tried their best to scrape the van on our way in. Our bottom sticks slightly out on to the road, but nobody seems keen on moving, so we should be fine.
The campsite is full of all nationalities - French, German, Dutch, Swedish, British and a few Spanish mainly.
With the notable exception of ourselves, everyone seems to fill almost every square inch of their plot.
On a quick stroll around I saw bicycles, electric bikes motor bikes, mobility scooters, quad bikes, dogs in all shapes and sizes, one pet cat, pot plants (plastic and real), awnings, separate tents with full kitchens in them, windbreaks, astroturf, trailers of all shapes and sizes, tables and chairs, sun loungers, flags, satellite dishes, etc, etc.
It makes us look really frugal, but just imagine having to pack it all away every couple of days. Fingers crossed that we can still keep moving.
Ps, it only costs about £13 per night so we can't grumble.