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  • Day639

    Cabo de Gata - Europe's desert

    March 6 in Spain ⋅ 🌬 18 °C

    With less than 200mm of rain in an average year, Cabo de Gata, which sticks out into the Mediterranean, is described as Europe's only true desert, and with good reason. The 340 sq. km area of coast and hinterland is a protected marine and land nature reserve, declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1997.

    Of volcanic origin with an extremely arid climate, rich in mineral deposits and yet sun-baked and wind swept, you feel as though you are in a completely different world from the Iberian peninsula that lies behind.

    We stayed at Los Esculos campsite and enjoyed visiting the area by motorbike. The roads were made for two wheels. Small, white villages with cubist buildings stood out against the deep red and green background with a dusting of colour from the spring flowers, though we were told that the dry winter meant that the flower displays were much smaller this year.

    As well as the dramatic cliffs of the coastline, the town of Nijar, 24 miles inland, is also included in the nature reserve and is well worth a visit. Located on the lower slopes of the Sierra Alhamila, the many springs ensure a constant water supply, which was of great importance in the towns development over the ages. We climbed the steps up to the old lookout tower for a panoramic view of the area. On the way up, we came across some wonderful cave houses, that are available to rent, and met the friendly British owner, Chris, who showed us around. Nijar is a very traditional town with locals producing quality ceramics, and woven goods.

    The only downside to this area is the belt of plastic green houses running close to the main road, providing year-round fruit and vegetables for much of Europe. We have no issues with the greenhouses, but we were astounded by the amount of disguarded rubbish and shabbiness of this area. A few people were living in make-shift homes, part fallen-down wall, part plastic sheeting, who obviously had no respect for the environment but then we didn't see any signs of rubbish bins or collection by the local council. It was a very strange sight on the edge of a nature reserve.

    Despite this, we would come back here to enjoy the remote and wild nature that it has to offer.
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