Saturday, 20 August 2016

Cabo de Gata, day one and two: Once Upon a Time in El Oest

Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park, Spain (Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata-Níjar, España)
November 2015
Cabo de Gata is the only region in Europe that has a "hot desert climate", with rainfall so low that the only plants to grow there are cacti and some sad little shrubs. Taking advantage of the low precipitation and soaring temperatures, two industries have made it big here: studios producing Westerns, and greenhouse tomatoes. From Seville, the drive was long and not particularly interesting unless you have a cactus-spotting hobby (in which case you'd still be disappointed as there only seem to be one variety: the prickly pear). To help you grasp the essence of the drive, we hadn't even left Seville's city centre yet and our SatNav's next instruction was to 'veer left in 154km'. That's one straight, boring road past hundreds of ugly white greenhouses. The scenery around us wasn't all that bad, though, and all it needed was a lone cowboy on horseback at the top of a ridge to complete the Western-y picture. Blink and you could be in Texas!
We eventually reached the sea and stretched our legs in San Jose. Though there was a vast body of water very nearby, it felt like an inland ghost town where a dramatic gunfight to avenge hurt pride could break out in the quiet streets at any moment. San Jose is popular in the summer, but the only remnants of those happy times that we could see were some football goalposts with the nets removed. Unimpeded by seasonal beachgoers, we took a beach walk. For the whole duration, there was literally no one else there except a boat named T-CT1-42-00 and potentially some deceased crustaceans.

Though Cabo de Gata is deemed a hot desert climate, I found myself fairly chilled after the walk on the beach, and we drove inland again to our hotel in Albaricoques. Fun fact: the word albaricoques means "apricots" in Spanish.
I felt the need to snap at least one photo of a prickly pear, so I jumped out of our moving car to capture this one. I'm not serious; the car was stationary. I think I'm getting carried away by all this talk of Westerns. Cowboys jump from galloping horses all the time, right? And carry fistfuls of dollars around? But back to reality - I later learnt after posting this photo on Instagram that this cactus was sick with some sort of parasite and that's why parts of it were going full necrotic. They're not supposed to have white bumps like that, apparently. I thought it might just be too cold, and imagined the cactus declaring "This is supposed to be a hot desert, dammit!"

Another photo opportunity I had to seize was that of a desert igloo. I have no idea if this was once someone's house or if it always served as a tomato storage shed, but whatever function these igloos serve, they are very cute.
Reaching our home base for the next couple of days, we settled into our hotel in Albaricoques (more on that in the next post).

The next day was very relaxed, and our two main excursions were to Playa de Los Genoveses and the supermarket. In order to access the beach, our poor car Denis had to traverse some grisly gravel roads, but he got us there. It wasn't warm enough to whip out the bikini, but it was still a pleasant temperature, and we spent the afternoon reading and watching a few horseback riders who were probably pretending to be cowboys and girls. I mean, why wouldn't you? I pretended, and I didn't have a horse anywhere near me. Or a gun. Or a fistful of dollars. Or a few dollars more. (I did have some euros but I wasn't about to go around crumpling them in my fist, thank you.)

Today's post was almost called: Texas Johnston on the Trail - Tracking the Rare Desert Inuit