While temperatures are said to reach the 100ºs in the south of Spain, practically a desert land, in between Joseba's medical appointment and visa interview, we decided to venture down there for some much-needed relax time.
Joseba's brother graciously offered us his camping van for the week so that we could cruise down to the southeast of the country to a National Park called Cabo de Gata which boasts gorgeous beaches everywhere you look. We were completely on board and just went - not much research or anything - ready to enjoy the sun and turquoise water for days on end.
The 6-hour drive from Madrid to Cabo de Gata was lengthy and our first stop was to the touristy town called San José. While it once was a fishing village, it has since become a tourist haven with restaurants, shops and a beach that seemed to be packed even when we arrived at 8pm. With only 900-something year-round residents, the place was full of tourists who come to spend the entire summer in the Mediterranean waters. We had a quick dinner at one of the restaurants and then headed a bit out of town to a place called Cala de la Higuera, where we set up the van for sleeping and camping heaven.
In the morning we emerged from the van with high hopes of a small private little beach and were quite disappointed when we saw yes a small beach but a huge group of people who had set up their sleeping bags all over the beach, essentially taking over it. We closed the van's top and hoped in looking for greener pastures...or bluer sea, I guess you could say.
This little beach was basically our home base for the entire trip. We had done a big shop when we got into town and with the fridge, stove and sink in the van, happily lived the life of sun and sea. Being quite hot, we agreed that snorkeling was in order and on the second day whipped out the flippers and goggles and started to appreciate our little beach for not only the view from land but all the richness that was happening under the small waves. From bright orange starfish and hundreds of little fish scurrying around, we were most excited to spot a stingray floating around!
The Park, Cabo de Gata, is the largest land-sea park on the Western Mediterranean, covering some 460km. With various habitats, our snorkeling allowed us to explore the maritime seagrass beds that were full of sealife. From the beach, we could see the steppe habitat in the duney mountains. With the lowest rainfall in the Iberian Pennisula (about 4in to 7in annually according to Wikipedia), the hills were dry as bones and the low-lying bushes that covered in this extremely arid zone.
After a few days enjoying the scenery from sun up to sun down, we meandered up the coast looking for something different and settled at El Playazo, a massive sandy beach dotted with colorful beer-branded umbrellas. With turquoise water covering the white sand, the beach has to look like a Mediterranean heaven from above.
Once a mining paradise, the Cabo de Gata area has been scoured for
anything and everything - gold, jasper, silver, amythests, agates and
more. While now abandoned, the mines still remain, crumbling in the
desert heat. Cities that were built up around them for those who came
from far and wide to dig their luck also sit uninhabited and give a
shabby look to small hillside villages covered in stark white paint.
some houses were decaying before our eyes as we whizzed past, some have
been remodeled and made into desert oasises. Stucco and adobe style
homes with a touch of Arabic design dotted the area. Even with sparse
water supply, some had decorated their yards with plants accustomed to
the weather - namely the cabo de gata plant itself. A tall flowering
tree that seems to grow at an angle wherever we saw it, this namesake
plant was curious to say the least.
As we made our way
up the coast looking for an inlet to compare with the one we had found
at El Embarcadero, we passed beaches that were framed by black volcanic
rock, beaches with white sand and clear water and little whitewashed
villages. We had our hearts set on the majestic Playa de los Muertos,
which translates as the Beach of the Dead; although it doesn't sound
catchy had a pristine stretching beach as far as the eye could see.
However, when we arrived we had to pay to even enter the beach and we
knew that in this almost tourist unspoilt area, we had found a tourist
trap. We elected to head back to our little spot and enjoy the rest of
the blasting heat next to the beach. So named, the Playa de los Muertos
is said to be the spot where the current carries the dead Africans who
try immigrating to Europe via boat and don't make it. Supposedly it
didn't used to be so uncommon to find dead bodies, clothes and personal
Back to our regular spot we were surprised to
find some new unwanted beachgoers - jellyfish. Besides in an aquarium,
I had never seen one and was quite curious but terrified at the same
time. We convinced ourself to refrain from our snorkeling desires and
the next day headed to a new, less jelly-fish infested spot - another
gorgeous inlet that was deserted and only for us. We splashed in the
crystal-clear water, took water jumping photos and floated peacefully
for quite some time, while unbeknowest to us, our false friends were
lurking nearby. While out in the water, Joseba spotted one and I tensed
up so as to not moved an inch and in doing so, brushed my leg against
one that was much closer that we hadn't seen. What pain! From never
seeing one to getting stung by one is not progress I was happy to have
made but I managed to get out of the water and examine the two-lagged
slash that it had made of the back of my leg.
Having both seen the show
Friends, we immediatley thought of the episode where Monica gets stung
by a jellyfish and Joey pees on it to cure it. Having no clue if it
worked or not, we decided to try it, but as Joseba peed all over my leg,
I couldn't help laughing at the fact that it wasn't helping the pain
subside at all. If anything, it distracted me from the constant burning
feeling I felt where it had slapped me. After disproving that theory
the pain eventually went away and we were able to relax on the rocky
beach. After that incident we barely entered the water for the rest of
Said to be the most untouched part of the
Mediterranean Sea, our five days were amazing in the area and offered us
complex relaxation (minus our jellyfish stings - Joseba got stung the
day after me). Having the sun shine through the van windows each
morning, creating a long orange mirror on the water was a great way to
start each day and made for a lovely vacation.