Just a 45 minute drive from Almeria and we were in Cabo de Gata-Nijar Natural Park. The fabulous, rugged coastline and natural park with beautiful beaches, stand-out scenery and unspoilt natural wonders is on Spain’s most South Easterly corner and covers an area of 460 km². There are over 20 marked footpaths in the natural park traversing the cliffs and coastline, ranging in length so it’s easy to explore on foot. This area is Andalucia’s largest protected coastal area and it’s also bordering the edge of Europe’s only true desert area with a hot, arid climate and the lowest levels of rainfall in the Iberian Peninsula. Driving around here is slow with many minor roads winding through the landscape, leading to beaches, viewpoints and nowhere else.
Our first stopping point was the Faro de Cabo de Gata lighthouse with a picturesque observation point, the Mirador Las Sirenas with views over to the Arrecife de las Sirenas (the siren’s reef) – craggy, sharp toothy volcanic rock formations just offshore and a well-known geological landmark. There were quite a few vehicles around but plenty of space for motorhomes so parking was not a problem. We got out and had a wander around, following some rough tracks over the cliffs and clambering down to a small cove with a rusty old fisherman’s hut and a bright blue boat. It’s holy communion time and when we got down there, there was a whole family along with a photographer surrounding a young boy all dressed up as a sailor with a fixed grin on his face having his picture taken over and over again.
Moving on along the coast we made our way towards Playa de Monsul, a beautiful fine sand beach with, clear, dazzling blue sea. The beach featured in the Indiana Jones film, The Last Crusade in the scene where Indiana Jones’ father brought down a German plane with his umbrella shooing away a flock of seagulls. Apparently it is one of the most photographed beaches in the whole of Cabo de Gata. You wouldn’t have thought so as there was hardly anyone there and getting there wasn’t exactly easy. A bone-crunching, clattering 20 minute slow crawl down a rough and rubbly dirt track was the only way to get there and we could barely go more than 5mph without the whole van shuddering, plates and cups crashing around in the cupboards and the blinds slapping against the windows. It was worth it though for the fabulous setting, and the wild and windy natural beauty of the beach.
On one side of the beach the cliff side was a strange lumpy texture and on the other puckered and holey like honeycomb. Then just in the water there’s a massive lump of rock, like a giant frog in a pool. We love this kind of coastline, with the waves slapping in against the rocks, the white water foaming and all the sounds of the shore that come with it. There are several walks that pass through here and we saw big groups of walkers enjoying the trek down the track.
We carried on our drive stopping next at the Amatista viewpoint. There’s just a small car park which we just about managed to get in and out of and a short walkway leading to a small landscaped ‘mirador’ or panorama. The sea was deep, deep blue, a beautiful sight with the hillside green and tufty rising up around it. You get a long view up and down both sides of the coast from here and it’s a lovely place to sit for a while.
The day was getting on by now and we needed to find somewhere to park for the night. You’re not allowed to park within the natural park overnight though so we drove on until we got outside and just past Carboneras where we found a wide off road area just past Playa de la Galera where we could pull in, just a few metres from the sea. Parking up, we grabbed the picnic rug, a couple of beers and a packet of crisps and went out to sit on the rocks in front of the sea until the sun went down, before going back in for dinner. The sea was flat and calm, but when we woke up in the morning the wind was up and the waves were crashing, the sky grey and cloudy with the sun straining to get through.
Next day we climbed the nearby Torre del Rayo that we could see from our parking spot in the van then set off to continue our journey coming across an eye-catching stretch of road, snaking around bends with a suspended roadway visible in the distance. As we drove forward we saw a 4×4 vehicle reversing down the road towards us and a yellow ferrari parked on the opposite side. The 4×4 stopped to let us pass and as we got to the top of the hill we saw a film crew assembled getting ready to stop cars going through obviously about to film a car chase scene. It would have been great to pull over and try to watch but there was nowhere to stop which was a shame. Buzz might have got in on the action and found himself a starring role in the next Bond film or something!