Cabo de Gata is a fairly large Natural Park on the southeastern coast of Spain. Beautiful landscapes, impressive coastal views and dozens of hikes describe this area in a nutshell. Hiking was our intention for this day. We ended up on a few little walks instead. Oh well.
We managed to roll out by nine, and hoping that local signs to the Park would trump iPhone maps, we ended up in Carboneras for coffee. At that point we had driven though the park for a grand total of maybe 5 kilometers before heading for an industrial zone. What was this? A fountain downtown, a couple playgrounds and our usual chemical coffee (powdered cappuccino) made everything right though. The atmosphere in Carboneros was pleasantly quiet and relaxed.
Checking out the map a little more closely, we decided to follow the coast to get back into the park. We turned into a narrow road that was heading steeply up the hill. Local police were driving down as we started the ascent, and they waved friendly at our hippy bus. I figured they wouldn’t have been so relaxed if this road was not appropriate for our van. Indeed, most of the drive was okay. We drove all the way up to a cliff overlooking Playa de los Muertos, which is considered to be the most beautiful beach in Spain. Impressive views over both the Mediterranean and inland glowing hills of the rest of the park, prompted us to walk around and soak in the impressions. Of course daredevil Metta really wanted to see what was down below the cliff, making it pretty much impossible to stay up there for longer than 15 minutes. The suggestion to have lunch up there was quickly swept off the table.
On we went, since the continuation of the road did not look any different on the map than what we had already crossed. However, not much further than the highest point, it looked like the road was getting narrower and narrower. Antoine got out of the van to explore, and concluded that we could probably just make it. At first we continued, but then I decided to check it out for myself. Measuring the road to be 7 feet wide, and our van 6.5, I pulled the plug. Especially since a hiker pointed out that this really was a hiking path. Oops. Lunch ended up happening in the van, since we just could not find a place with a reasonable amount of wind.
There are several ways of entering Cabo de Gata, so we made a second attempt. This time we headed towards Las Negras, where we knew that our German friends had been camping. Besides on campgrounds, there were several spots where an rv or van could park for the night, with more stunning views. Our kids immediately ran to the beach to find more stones, shells and other treasures. We were surrounded by massive rock formations and small caves. The waves prevented us from jumping to the neighboring little beach. How fun would that be had we been willing to get wet. Although the weather was nice with sun and blue skies, coloring the sea deeply blue, it was not quite warm enough to take a swim.
When we headed further down the coast, sure enough we ran into the German Mercedes van where Ari and Diana were doing dishes and cooking a meal. We decided to check out the beach here and then move on together to finish our day at Cabo de Gata with a picnic. Slowly, at toddler pace, we enjoyed the wildflowers surrounding us on our little walk to the sandy beach. Zoe was mostly interested in finding little boats (sticks, other pieces of wood) to see how they would behave on the waves. Finn found bamboo that was perfect for everything he could imagine and Metta discovered sensory utopia in the sand. I don’t know how much of it she ingested, but my mother in law always says that a child has to eat a pound of sand. (I could not find any scientific proof of such a thing during my research for writing this blog post though.) Cabo de Gata is large enough to discover over the course of several days. We are definitely trying to visit again and actually get that hike in.