Cycling Around The Tip of Cabo de Gata - Sun, Sea, Sand and Salt Plains

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Tuesday 30 December 2014

Cycling Around The Tip of Cabo de Gata - Sun, Sea, Sand and Salt Plains

Since our fleeting visit to the village of Cabo de Gata for the market on the 27th December, travelling with some friendly neighbours in their car, we had been keen to return. Our initial whistle stop tour of the beach and salt water lagoons had been beautiful but brief and so we set out today in our bikes to revisit the area. Our plan was to head west from Camping Los Escullos following the inland roads to Cabo de Gata from where we would loop around the salt lagoons and follow the beach eastwards onto the clifftop path all the way back to San Jose and then home. In total we estimated it to be a 50km ride, our longest in some weeks and we were excited at the prospect of some more stunning scenery along this magnificent volcanic coastline.

Setting off from Camping Los Escullos on the AL-4200 towards El Pozo de los Frailes into bright sunshine at midday the gusting wind of the previous day had disappeared and we rode along gently through the low rolling red hills that characterise this desert landscape. The road was relatively quiet, giving us time to take to appreciate the quiet scenery. Just before El Pozo de los Frailes, instead of turning left to San Jose as we had done a few days earlier on our way to explore Playa de los Genoveses, we turned right on the AL-3201 towards Ruescas.  As we left the boundary of the Natural Park, the road undulated through many plastic growing tents which stretched for some miles on the run into El Cabo de Gata itself. With the driest, sunniest weather in Spain these growing tents seem to be everywhere as soon as you venture beyond the boundary of the Natural Park.  As the road descended gently into Ruescas we were treated to distant views of the snow-capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada.

Continuing on the road towards El Cabo de Gata, in just over an hour we arrived at the first birdwatching hide overlooking the salt flats at the edge of the town.  Salinas del Cabo de Gata is a protected strip of lagoons running parallel with the sea.  In a relatively rare example of industry working with nature, the salt mining facility a little to the east has creates this ideal environment for migrating birds, particularly the Greater Flamingo for which the area is famous. With a walking trail around the lagoons dotted with seven viewing hides, we paused at one to appreciate the view. Neither of us are bird watchers, but with the sun shining on the quiet lagoon, flocks of flamingoes slowly wading through the sparkling water and the coastal cliffs beyond it was an amazing sight. It really was a fantastic spot to just appreciate nature.

Riding on we continued along the beach road running along the Playa de Cabo de Gata, heading east towards the tiny mountain pass that would lead onto the cliffs and beaches beyond. Passing by the isolated San Miguel church and several clusters of houses before beginning our ascent of the steep road to Arrecife de las Sirenas right in the tip of the Natural Park. This viewpoint at the lighthouse of Cabo de Gata is one of the most iconic in the area, where the Sirens reef, former volcanic vents, protrude above the sea. Apparently ancient navigators uses to mistake the monk seals that lived here for mermaids, although sadly no seals are found here any more.

Heading due east from the point we then faced our first big climbing test in some time, ascending to 212m on an uneven track at over 20% gradient in places to reach the Cerro de la Vela Blanca lighthouse. As we climbed the view of the volcanic coast behind us, with rock formations formed by lava flows crashing into the sea and a half submerged caldera were stunning.

Cresting the top and suddenly the view east opened as well, with a string of little bays and beaches which attract summer tourist in droves as far as we could see.
It was also here that the uneven tarmac changed to a completely stony trail (GR 92) so we gingerly bumped slowly downhill towards those distant beaches. Passing picture postcard views at every turn we stopped once to venture down onto Playa de Monsul, a small but idyllic beach that has actually been uses as a set in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade! There was no Harrison Ford and Sean Connery today though.  After riding on once more it was just the small matter of several bumpy kilometres to go, passing the Los Genoveses Beach that we had visited 2 days before and then rolling into San Jose for the final stretch home.

Arriving back at the campsite in the late afternoon sun that had gotten increasingly warm throughout the day we felt tired but proud of our ride. It has been some time since we'd tried such a long ride, but with incredible scenery to keep us going it had just flown by.  It really had been an amazing loop taking in so many aspects of this beautiful Natural Park.

Related Posts:
10 Reasons to Visit the Cabo de Gata -Nijar Natural Park - Andalucia, Spain
12 Places to Visit and Things To Do in Cabo de Gata Natural Park
10 Hiking and Walking Routes in the Cabo de Gata - Nijar Natural Park

View from Callado de la Vela Blanca

Looking back to Punta Baja and the submerged caldera

Cycling up to the lighthouse at Cerro de la Vela Blanca - 212m

Cycling along the GR92 towards Playa del Monsul

Playa del Monsul

Playa del Monsul

Lighthouse on the tip of Cabo de Gata

Salt flats at El Cabo de Gata

Flamingoes on the salt flats by El Cabo de Gata

San Miguel Church at Las Salinas
Beaches of Cabo de Gata. Distant views of Almeria and the Sierra Nevada mountains

Cycling back to San Jose passed the old Genoveses windmill

Cycling back to San Jose.  Views of the Sierra del Cabo
View from Cerra de la Vela Blanca

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