Monday 30 March 2015

Off to America

Wow, Spain has turned really scorching and it was 35 degrees in the shade today.
We are preparing for a big journey tomorrow starting with a 7am flight.  Darren has found us some cheap flights to California, so we set out from Malaga, change at Oslo in Norway, then across the Atlantic to land at Oakland which is near to San Francisco.
We then need to catch a couple of trains and a bus and if all goes to plan, we end up tomorrow night at our friend Jacque's house.
It's going to be a super long day with a nine hour time difference, but very exciting.

Saturday 28 March 2015

Cablecar at Benalmadena

It has been a very windy couple of days so I had had to postpone our cablecar outing at Benalmadena for a while. It was all systems go today, although it was still very breezy as we got nearer to the top.  During the last few minutes of our journey, our car bobbed about like a cork in a very choppy stream, but we arrived safely and set off to explore the hillside behind the town.
There was an excellent walkway with fantastic views that stretched all the way to Gibraltar and the African coast in one direction, and with distant views of the snow covered mountains of the Sierra Nevada towards the west. Picture two is supposed to be an arty shadow shot, and a snowy mountain is on the horizon just to the left of my knee.
We opted not to catch the cablecar down, but instead to follow a trail on a map that was helpfully given to me at the ticket office.
It took a while to find the start point and then it seemed to be looking good and straightforward - pic 3.
Unfortunately, once we rounded the curve of the hill we lost the path and ended up walking in a large loop for ages, until we eventually managed to reach the coast.
I can't think what we did wrong, and we didn't see anyone else for almost all of the walk, so I think nearly everybody buys the return ticket.
It was a lovely, if very tiring journey on a beautiful day, but perhaps next time I would get the cablecar down too.

Thursday 26 March 2015


Quick update as I haven't written for a couple of days.
We stayed up in the Sierra Nevada mountains until yesterday morning when we awoke to a new sound on the roof of the van.
It was a fluttery tapping, and when we looked outside it was snowing gently. We decided that it was time to move downhill, so we came right down to sea level.
We spent today in Malaga and had picked out three art galleries to look around, but things didn't quite go to plan. Unfortunately we couldn't find the Museo Ruso, the Pompidou Centre was due to open yesterday and it has been delayed, but we did find the CAC.
It was worth the effort and we enjoyed it - to be honest, three museums in one day is possibly a bit too keen anyway.
We used the spare time to visit the beach instead. I didn't realise that Malaga had such a nice sandy beach and there was even a few brave sunbathers and swimmers.

Monday 23 March 2015

Religious Granada

We caught the bus to Granada, and after checking TripAdvisor I decided that we should have a religious theme to the day.
We started at 10am sharp, just as the Monastery of San Jeronimo was opening. It is still used by nuns, was very peaceful and we were the only visitors in the beautifully decorated church (pic 1) as a nun played the organ and sang a hymn.
Our next visit was just around the corner to the Basilica de San Juan de Dios. We stood for ages in a little anteroom listening to an endless audio guide, but then a guide told us that a special room was opening shortly and that we should have a look.
We followed a lady who was jangling a set of keys. We went up an ornate staircase then she opened a secret door. There was no windows and the whole room was glistening with gold on the walls and ceiling, and a giant silver casket in the middle that held the remains of St John of God (I think).
The lady then took another key and slowly opened up two enormous doors covered in golden paintings and we were looking down into the golden church (pic 2) - totally amazing.
After leaving  the Basilica we stopped to sit in the sun and drink coffee with churros and chocolate, before heading to the Cathedral.
The Cathedral (pic 3) was the only place that was busy, it was also massive and very cold inside. We were maybe getting a bit blazé about all of the gold in Granada,  but this one seemed a tiny bit bare.

Sunday 22 March 2015

Guéjar Sierra

We are camping in the Sierra Nevada mountains above Granada and I was keen on a hike today to the top of the mountain behind our campsite.
I don't think Darren was quite so fussed, and the weather forecast wasn't great, but we got out our coats, hats and gloves and off we went.
It was uphill for a very, very long way and we struggled to get to the top. Once there we were above the surrounding cloud level and hadn't seen a single person all day, until suddenly about a dozen brightly coloured trail bikers appeared in the distance,  whizzed past us, then disappeared as quickly as they came.
A couple of minutes later the clouds came down and we were walking in a swirling fog. It was completely silent and it seemed as if we were in a dream world. Gradually as we walked we heard bells ringing in the distance, and then as the bells got closer we also heard loud bellowing noises.
It was all quite scary and we hurried on, then the clouds flew away and we were standing right in the middle of a herd of lovely coloured cows.  They all stared inquiringly at us as we stared back, particularly at their sharp looking horns.
They didn't move as we passed by, and I was very relieved as we headed down to the pretty town of Guéjar Sierra where we enjoyed a late Sunday lunch.
Later we were sitting in the van enjoying a coffee when I noticed that the sun was shining and the view was looking amazing.  I walked about 10 metres from our van where I took picture number one, best of the day!
It could be argued that we walked 14kms, including 1,000 vertical metres, when instead we could have just sat on our bottoms and looked out of the window.

Saturday 21 March 2015

Day in the Wild West

It's a little known fact that dozens of Spaghetti Westerns were filmed around Tabernas, in the only desert in Europe. We drove north of Almería and spent a day in the Mini Hollywood theme park.
They don't have the original film sets that were used by actors such as Clint Eastwood, but they have a great wild west town with everything that you would expect - Sheriff's office, jail, Saloon bar, Pony Express, state bank, etc.
In the background loud speakers played music from films such as 'A fist full of dollars' and we enjoyed ourselves wandering up and down Main Street.
At noon the daily shoot out began, complete with galloping horses, fights, a deadly duel and loads of Spanish overacting.
Of course the Sheriff and his posse won and afterwards the cowboys posed for dozens of photos with the spectators.
Then we headed to the Saloon for a drink at the bar and to watch the ladies can can dancing.
I must have done something really naughty today as I ended up on a Wanted poster with a price on my head!

Friday 20 March 2015

Stormy seas

After we returned from yesterday's outing, the wind speed increased, the electricity cut out for a while, the Internet disappeared, and the campsite was hit by horizontal rain overnight.
It stopped raining by thus morning, and not to be deterred, we set off on yet another seaside hike. We parked the van in San José and set off in the opposite direction to yesterday.
The roar of the wind competed with the roar of the sea and we followed a little path that hugged the coast. We took a wrong turning at one stage and ended up on a sloping rock path where one slip would have been a disaster.
We had planned to walk as far as a beach where Sean Connery and Harrison Ford shot scenes from an Indiana Jones film, but we had had quite a lot of excitement for one day and it looked as if we could get caught in a massive downpour.
Luckily we got back to the van in the dry, but as I write this our campsite is under about three inches of water and thunder and lightning is rattling all around us.
It is all very surprising for a semi desert.

Round trip to San José

There must be dozens of San José's in the world, but this one is in the Cabo de Gata Natural Park.
The weather has not improved today and I actually got the chance to wear my gloves, hat and scarf - it reminded me of August in Scotland last year.
There's nothing wrong with a bit of dramatic weather as long as you are dressed for it, and in the end it didn't even rain anyway.
We started by following a rather boring unpaved road that took us inland away from the sea views, but then we veered off onto a rocky path that took us right up to the hilltops, then down along a pebbly beach, then back up along a narrow ledge round to San José.
It was blowing a gale by then so it felt dangerous enough to call it a proper walk.
We stopped for coffee then headed home via an inland route. The wind that had driven us there at super quick pace was now trying it's hardest to push us back to San José.
We got back eventually after about an 18kms round trip and the wind is now buffeting the van from all directions.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Rainy day in Spain

It rained heavily overnight and is due to be wet for the next few days.
We weren't too keen on hiking in the mountains in the rain, so decided to drive back to Cabo de Gata.
It is a semi desert and is supposed to be the driest place in Europe.
We were told by a knowledgeable chap in the campsite bar tonight that it rains here on about ten days per year, and today was one of them.
We arrived here in the late afternoon and the sun was just starting to put in an appearance, so we walked down to the see the coast.
I was expecting a cute little beach, but instead we reached the top of a cliff.  The rocks were very dramatic, in beautiful cream, orange and brown colours. The sea had eroded them into amazing shapes, with the base being carved out and long rock fingers pointing out towards the horizon.

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Viewpoint at Gebas

Another day, another walk from El Berro.
This time we followed the red, yellow and white markers in the opposite direction. We had a lovely, if unexpected time walking through olive groves, then along what looked like a railway cutting (pic 4), through a flooded tunnel then over rocks and down to the little village of Gebas.
The markers stopped at the church, but I had seen a small sign to a viewpoint, and this was when the landscape became really incredible.
Our deserted sandy road took us past strange multi coloured rocks that appeared to have been shaped by floodwater, but the best bit was the turquoise coloured reservoir in the distance.
It was too far to walk down to it, so we went for a long lunch in the village, then walked across the hills back home.
We walked about 17kms and didn't see another person all day.
Excellent bit of undiscovered Spain.

Monday 16 March 2015

Walk in the woods

We drove up into the mountains behind the coast today and have ended up at a place called El Berro. It is 650 metres above sea level and noticeably colder than at the coast.
It is within the Sierra Espuña national park and we found a 10km hike that started right outside the campsite, so off we went to explore this afternoon.
We were trying to follow the yellow and white route, and sometimes there was markers every few metres, but then at one stage we lost them for ages, so we started thinking that we must be lost. Eventually they reappeared and then changed to red and white on the journey back.
It was a nice walk, but as Darren said,  "too many trees and not enough danger".
Speaking of danger, I put my hiking boots on today due to an incident a couple of days ago. We were taking a shortcut through some waste ground in the last town and all of a sudden a snake shot out of nowhere. It whizzed past my toes and I just had time to swear really loudly and jump in the air.
Honestly, it was about a metre long, but thin and grey. I have just looked it up online and it was a Montpellier snake, and it is one of the five poisonous snakes in Spain, so I was lucky not to get bitten.
We did see some good wildlife in the woods today - about half a dozen Barbary sheep who glared at us suspiciously and then wandered away out of sight.

Sunday 15 March 2015

Happy mother's day

It's hard work writing with pebbles on the beach, and even worse if the tide is coming in while you are posing for the photo's!
As well as being mother's day, today was very exciting as we were taking part in our first ever triathlon.
We looked the distances up online and the shortest was called a Sprint Triathlon - we had to swim 750 metres, cycle for 20 kms and finally run 5kms.
We hadn't entered a race but we were doing it ourselves, as our campsite has a heated pool and the roads around here are very quiet, so it seemed like a fun thing to do.
Also, two of our sisters and brothers in law race in proper triathlons and we don't like to miss out.
We measured the route earlier in the week, and practiced the cycle and the run. It was really surprising as my legs felt like they were made of lead once I jumped off the bike and started running.
This morning we set our tent up as the transition and changing area, put everything that we needed in place and slightly nervously walked down to the pool.
We were going to start at 10am on the dot, but we were sitting on the edge of the pool at 9.55, so as we were also our own timing officials, we decided to start early.
I was confident that I would win the swimming section, but Daz had other ideas and leapt out two lengths ahead of me. He whizzed up to transition and was almost ready to leave by the time I got there.
It took me a while to get changed as my cycling kit seemed really tight and difficult to get on, but eventually I was off after him.
The cycling route involved a couple of loops, so we waved to each other, but I could tell that he was gaining more time.
Back at the run transition there was no sign of him, so I grabbed a drink and set off, and this time my legs only felt as if they were made of wood.
The running route was beautiful as it was along the promenade, which took my mind off it for a while, and I was pleased that Darren waited for me and cheered me across the finishing line.
My face was bright red by the end and it was hard going, but I really enjoyed it.
Darren finished in 1 hour 39 minutes and I took 1 hour 55. At first I was just pleased that I made it round, but once I got back I obviously had to see how fast other people did it. The fastest British woman in my age group at the 2014 world championships took 1 hour 18 minutes, so I have got a lot of room for improvement.

Friday 13 March 2015

Guns of Mazarron

Our neighbours on the campsite told us about these nearby guns, so today we went to see them.
We cycled from the campsite through a deserted village surrounded by olive trees and then up and up, through the mountains and on to the end of the headland.
The first thing we saw was a fairytale style fort and beautiful views along the coast to Cartagena.
Behind the fort were two gigantic modern black guns pointing out to sea.
Explanations about the area are very sketchy, but the guns were definitely built in England in 1928 and weigh 88 tons each.
The only time that they may have been fired was in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War, and the whole place was eventually abandoned in the 1970's. The whole place has recently been refurbished and turned into a tourist attraction and it was a fantastic find, with a great bike ride.

Thursday 12 March 2015

Soaking up the sun

The last couple of days have been really warm and sunny,  and we have settled in around the massive pool at our campsite. We have been working on our tans, although I have got some dodgy red patches that just need to turn golden brown.
Every night the pool is completely emptied and then first thing each morning it is filled with warm water from a natural hot spring. It gradually cools during the day, but there is also a large indoor pool in case the outdoor one gets too nippy.
We haven't just been sitting around all day though, and have been practicing swimming lengths in the indoor pool.
The weather is cooling down from tomorrow, so don't worry, the clothes will be back on again very soon.

Tuesday 10 March 2015

Cartagena Roman Theatre

We cycled over a mountain today to Cartagena, arriving exhausted and ready for a coffee and a sit down.
After a quick pit stop our first visit was to the Roman Theatre. It was built in the first century BC and at that time it probably had loads of space around it, but 2,200 years later the whole theatre is completely surrounded by houses, shops and bars.
There is no easy way in, so the entrance is very surprising. We bought our tickets in a modern building about 100 metres away then caught an escalator underground, walked through a long corridor, then up again and out into the sunshine - right in the middle of the theatre.
Back out in the town again we were pleased to find that dozens of local bars were doing special wine and tapas deals this month, so we spent some time checking a couple of them out.
We also had a good look around the town and it is very pretty with narrow streets lined with tall imposing buildings. The really strange thing was that many of the buildings had just the front wall remaining and all of the rest of building was completely missing.
Where had all the rooms and roofs gone?  - I have no idea.

Monday 9 March 2015

Crazy rocks at Bolnuevo

We had a little cycle along the coast to the back of a car park at a town called Bolnuevo today.
I had seen a few photos on the Internet of crazy shaped rocks and decided that we needed to go and see them.
I don't know anything about geology and the notice board made it all sound very complicated, but basically, I think that after millions of years of erosion, the rocks have become almost flower shaped, with stalks sticking out of the ground.
There was no one else around so we looked at them from all angles, then climbed everywhere, just enjoying the view and taking it all in.
As we were getting ready to leave a car pulled up and an English couple got out. They kept the car engine running and the lady ran to pose in front of the nearest rock, the man took a photo then jumped back into the car and drove over to pick the lady up and off they shot.
Sightseeing and photo took less then two minutes - speed tourism in action.

Sunday 8 March 2015

La Panadera hiking trail

I consulted Viewranger today and found a hiking route that started from the fishing village about 5kms from our campsite.
It all looked nice and easy on the map. We just needed to start off close to the coast and walk in an almost straight line along it, apart from one very zig zaggy section that even I realised would be hilly. At the furthest point we would reach a small road that we had to follow for a short distance, then head off left and then another almost straight journey back.
I have got the hang of contours on a map, but I didn't check them today as I got a bit misled by the straight looking paths. I was surprised then that our outward journey was very similar to a roller coaster, except much slower as we had to walk the crazy route.
The only other people we saw all day were three fell runners making good progress in the opposite direction. The land was very dry with spikey plants that cut Darren's bare legs, but at one point we walked through a valley with loads of unusual greenery. I said to Daz that it looked like Jurassic Park, and that I wouldn't be surprised to see a dinosaur heading towards us. Daz said that if one really did appear then he thought that I would actually be very surprised, and after thinking about it, he was probably right.
As you can guess from the lack of photos, the T Rex's stayed hidden from sight as we passed through.
Once we turned around at the half way point, and much to my relief, the path stayed quite flat for most of our journey home, with just a very long downhill bit towards the end.
My step counter registered 27,703 steps today and we climbed about 700 metres, making it a much more energetic day than I was expecting.