Exploring the Sierra Alhamillas - Huebro (Nijar) to Mina (1216m)

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Monday 12 January 2015

Exploring the Sierra Alhamillas - Huebro (Nijar) to Mina (1216m)

With the freedom of a hire car, courtesy of Esther's parents who are currently visiting us at Camping Los Escullos, this morning we made our way north in search of some higher mountain trails. It had been more than a month since we last hit the trail in the Pyrenees, and although the hills of the Cabo de Gata Natural Park are stunning, with a maximum altitude of just under 500m we were eager to try something a little bit higher as well. Driving out of the Natural Park we had made our way across the flattened plain of Campo de Nijar and through the clutter of plastic grow tents and shanty towns (a saddening contrast to the innate natural beauty all around) to reach the popular white village of Nijar. Famous for pottery and textiles, Nijar nestles at around 350m altitude on the lower slopes of the Sierra Alhamillas mountain range and it was these hills and summits we planned to explore today.

Passing through Nijar on unbelievably tiny streets we climbed steeply in the car following the frighteningly narrow and twisting road that ascended to the tiny village of Huebro (population 28 apparently!) where we would begin our hike. Having now driven to around 600m above sea level we were already higher than the tallest peak in the Cabo de Gata Natural Park, with a commanding view south across the plastic tents in the Campo de Nijar to the sea beyond. It was actually hard to take in, seeing so far from our sweeping perspective, just how extensive the plastic tents supplying tomatoes and other fresh fruit and vegetables are here. Almost every spare bit of space on the flattened plain between the Sierra Almahillas and the Cabo de Gata Natural Park was taken up with their distinctive white rectangular shapes, which stirred mixed emotions in us both.

Turning away from the panorama of growing tents below and after a brief rest from the twisting drive, we laced our boots shortly after midday before picking up a narrow trail (that looked like it might be one of the red lines on our map). Sadly the clear blue skies we had been enjoying for more than a week had deserted us for our first big hiking day since we'd left the Pyrenees weeks before! Nonetheless, it felt wonderful to be up high again in the clear air with the smell of wild thyme wafting in the light breeze.

Passing over stony ground, through scrubby foliage dotted with the remnants of olive groves and other terraced farming we were soon high above the tiny collection of buildings that made up Huebro. The mountain terrain that surrounded us was spectacular. The nearby higher peaks, sharp and jagged against the grey sky, towered high above the gentle green and rolling hills below. Up close the scenery was equally fascinating with mostly sandy coloured rock, peppered with hard grey stones and boulders, and accented with channels of purple stone hinting at a sedimentary history.

As we moved north on the narrow track we had found we soon chanced upon the much wider GR140 long distance trail. This 169km long trail which connects the south east edge of Sierra Nevada range to the Cabo de Gata Natural Park passes through the Sierra Almahillas and we had (unwittingly) planned our route to follow the wide stony track heading generally westwards. We stayed with the GR140 for the next 2 and a half hours climbing steadily towards an altitude of 1216m at the top of Mina, the tallest summit in the vicinity and topped with a radar station which we could see for most of the day, along with a collection of energy windmills clustered on other peaks nearby

As we climbed the views continued to improve, with flattened desert plains to the north of the Sierra Alhamillas riven by folds of undulating earth that stretched for miles all the way towards the distant snow topped foothills of the Sierra Nevada in the west. Looking even further north beyond the desert plains more mountains rose up, whilst to the south we could now see the length of the Almeria coastline, with the Las Salinas salt plains next to the tip of Cabo de Gata and the alongside the volcanic coastal cliffs of the Natural Park.  It was a breathtaking sight with so much on display at once. The only shame was that the overcast sky created a dark light that made it hard to capture on camera.

After 3 hours of hiking, steadily climbing almost the whole time, we had gotten to within touching distance of the summit radar station at Mina, but with the final approach on a shallow and twisting tarmac road taking much longer than a direct trail route would have, we realised we would not have time to make the summit and return to the car before dark. It's always hard to get so close to a summit and not make the top, but we knew it was the most sensible decision and so, after taking some moments to sit and drink in the inspiring views across the desert plains to the north, we turned around and began retracing our steps, estimating we had reached 1150m from the contours of our map.

Descending swiftly on the easy going GR140, as the afternoon wore on the sun dipped lower in the sky casting a soft, grey light across the hills with the scent of fresh thyme carried on the now almost still air. Despite tired feet, the atmosphere was both calming yet energising and more than kept us going all the way back to our hire car before the sun reached the horizon.

Driving back to Camping Los Escullos with a bright orange sunset now casting beautiful light across the area we felt very contented after our day back in the mountains.

Walk Information:
Motorhome Base - Camping Los Escullos
Start/ End Point: Huebro (near Nijar)
Total Distance: approx 20km
Time Taken: 4/5 hours
Level: Moderate
Map: Editorial Alpina: Cabo de Gata Nijar 1:50.000

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

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