Breaking the Sound Barrier in the Motorhome

There are precious few Lidl car parks with parking restrictions, even fewer since Sheila drove in to the Lidl car park in Aguilas.  The manager pointed out that the barrier was “Quite Sound until we drove in.”  Unfortunately it came down as we were passing underneath and caught our awning.  “There was a mighty Crump!” said one innocent bystander, “and then the barrier was bent and never worked again.” We completed our shopping and left – through the car park entrance – now uncontrolled. Thankfully all the damaged to our motorhome was polished off with a damp cloth the next time we stopped.

We had spent a fortnight on a campsite with our awning up and cycles used every day, barbecues, sunbeds and swimming pools. We were just a short cycle ride from the town of Porto de Mazarron where we even had our favourite bar.  Above the town is a statue of Jesus with a tremendous view.  This panorama was stitched together from five individual shots and you can see Sheila on the far right.

peurto de Mazarron Panorama1-2-1 Here is a closer look at some of the more important details.

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All along the coast here is evidence of occupation going back to the Phoenicians.  One of the most important activity was obviously fishing but also the extraction of salt for the preservation of the fish.  These are the remains of salt extraction works just along the coast from Porto de Mazarron.

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But the most impressive works are those of the wind and rain on these soft rocks.

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We are always looking at seaside properties and fantasising about living by the sea in warmer climes.  This remote, seaside yellow house here fulfils all our fantasies but it appears not to have been used for some years. There are loads of derelict houses around, some ancient and some abandoned even as they were being built with weed infested wheelbarrows and cement mixers still in the garden.

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We travelled further south along the coast to the town of Villaricos where we parked on the beach.  Not a soft sandy beach nor yet a dry rocky beach for this was a motorhome beach and that means comfort.  There were about fifteen vans parked along the strand facing East out to sea to welcome the sunrise.

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We are not alone here, but few campers are about early enough for the best sunrise pictures.  Unfortunately though, a Frenchman was up early enough to drive off and leave a gap (just to the right of the sun) and spoil the symmetry of my photograph.)

Besides the sunrise there are other pressing reasons to rise early.  We are between the sea and the river Almanzora and the area is a haven for waterbirds.  Now I don’t want to flood the blog with bird photos but there are a few essentials like the very rare White Headed Duck. 

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A remarkably ugly sort of duck with an unaccountably blue beak.  Only the male is so endowed, as with most ducks the female is a little drab.

Other early risers from further along the beach may have missed some of the wildlife but are otherwise compensated I think.  This Swiss lady had travelled with her donkeys through France to Spain.  I asked her if she had read the book “Travels With A Donkey In The Cevennes” and she told me that she had travelled the exact same route that Robert Louis Stevenson had with his stubborn Modestine.  The Swiss lady had arrived on our beach in the early evening, found a suitable spot out of sight to feed her donkeys and camp the night and left at sunrise the next day.  She seemed a little annoyed when I chatted to her because she had been moved on a couple of times by the local police because she had no permission to stay, yet we beachbound motorhomers were left alone by the police.

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We did not turn up on this wonderful beach entirely by accident but took the advice of friends who had suggested we meet there.  Terry and Jan have been enjoying the roaming life for a lot longer than we have and have sussed out many of the favourable spots to spend a few nights.  Terry is a keen photographer and has led me astray by introducing me to the Sigma 150-600 lens.  He let me borrow his last year whilst we photographed the vultures seen here earlier.  I was so impressed I badgered Sheila for permission to buy one.  Well after I had my heart attacks (good strategy Boy!) she relented and I now have one for myself.  Here is Terry getting the most from the sunrise.

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We left the security and familiarity of the Villaricos to see some of the sights recommended by Terry and Jan further south in the Cabo De Gata national park.  When we arrived in San Miguel de Cabo de Gata it was so windy we could not walk upwind! We drove a few km along the coast to La Fabriquilla where we found a tiny bit of shelter behind a concrete electricity distribution bunker. We still had a bumpy night but next morning we were almost exactly in the spot where we had parked the night before.

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Following our trusty digital map, we drove on in the dying wind on a road that became narrower, steeper and definitely bumpier until we came to the lighthouse: Faro de Cabo de Gata.

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Coaches sometimes make it this far with coachloads of tourists disembarking on the roadside to take this photo.  It seems to be an unmanned facility and you can go no further than the front gate or the rocks above to ply your camera.  We persevered a little further along the rocky coast still following our digital map that showed a clear road all the way along to San Jose; our next stop.  We definitely did NOT “know the way to San Jose”

We ventured steeper, bumpier, narrower and rockier along the road to overlook a prominent rock called uncharacteristically in Spain “El Dedo” (Disappointingly translates as “The Finger”)

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Not much further along, contrary to our map, the road was chained off and simply turned in to a footpath.  Luckily there was a turning point and we were able to retrace our route. The square white dot two thirds along the road below is our motorhome.

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By the time we came back to Playa Las Mirinas de Cabo de Gata the wind had died down sufficiently for us to open the doors of the van.  I took the opportunity to visit a bird hide just off the road.  There was a wide verge for parking so I guided Sheila off the road and in to what was for a Peugeot Boxer; Quicksand!  We sank up to our front axles in the soft sand.  I spent half an hour getting Sheila to go forward an inch backward half an inch until I could get our blocks and gripmats beneath the front wheels. Eventually we got to safer ground and I could go birdwatching.

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There were avocet and a few flamingos far off on the salt flats but some Slender Billed Gulls were feeding close by the edge of the salt lake and making such a fuss I had the opportunity to get a little closer.

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Going back to the van I kept my eyes on the ground to avoid windblown sand and came across this beetle nibbling quite unconcernedly. (I think its a beetle!) Someone must have been “inordinately fond of beetles” for this strange 5cm long creature to exist at all.

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The wind, sea dry conditions and rocky landscape meant that wildlife was pretty scarce but I did get a glimpse of a Woodchat-Shrike zooming by.

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and a Black Wheatear dropping in.

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There is, in the town of Rodalquilar, an absolute goldmine. A real one. It was worked for over a hundred years and was for some time the biggest one in western Europe.  In the nineties the plant closed down for good and much of the machinery was removed and sold for scrap but the bare bones of the plant still remain.

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Ore was brought to the top of these extraction tanks, crushed and treated to extract up to 260kg of gold a year at the height of production.  Visitors can walk precariously among the abandoned towers and tanks to the very top and then along the dirt track that lorries used to haul the ore to the workings.  Beyond that miles of small tracks lead in to the desert landscape to what look like smaller mines dotted all around.

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Most recently the area has been used as a set for several futuristic science fiction films and signs still exist of the goldmine’s alternative function.  Some attempt had, in the more recent past, been made to turn the village in to a tourist attraction, with new roads, car parks,  street lighting, tourist information office and signposts. 

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Much of the machinery has gone for scrap but bits and pieces have been preserved as a tourist attraction.

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Somehow, though, the attempt at bringing vast hordes to the area failed and now the revamping has a rundown, seedy, abandoned look and whilst we were there we only saw a couple of other visitors.

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The whole area has an interesting geology and along the coast there are lead, sulphur, tin and silver mines.  This part of a lead mine just along the coast from Villaricos.  Lead ore was smelted in the furnaces below and the fumes rose along a long sloping flue (visible to the left of the vertical chimney) to the stack right at the top.  workers had to crawl along the flue periodically to scrape off the lead which had precipitated out of the smoke.  Not a healthy lifestyle!

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Just one more bird, I promise no more this blog but it is a good one.  This is the reason I bought the expensive lens.  The Sardinian Warbler.  I had seen this bird feeding in some bushes so I took my chair and tripod to a clearing nearby and sat down to wait for him to return  After about 30 minutes I noticed a great fuss going on behind me and turned round to see him hopping about in a most agitated fashion just a metre away.  I looked down just by my right elbow and saw a nest with 6 chicks in it.  I hastily withdrew a metre or two and let him in to feed the chicks.  He rewarded me then by posing with his next beakfull just a minute later.

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