Saturday, 26 April 2014


While we were in the area of Almeria, one of the things we most wanted to see
 was the Iberian Ibex, the Spanish wild goat. This hardy creature lives high in these Sierras,
 but so far it had eluded us, so we set off into the Sierra de los Filabres, hoping for a glimpse of these
elusive creatures, climbing higher and higher, through wild and stunning scenery.

And we were in luck,  as we drove a deserted small road, we spotted, ahead of us
 a small group of Ibex.

They had also spotted us, so Mike set off to stalk them, camera at the ready.

He managed to get closer.

The males are quite magnificent, with a huge pair of horns, sadly making them most attractive
 to trophy hunters, as they are still allowed, under license and hugely restricted, to hunt them.

What a magnificent chap, he has nothing to fear from us, except a photograph.

Then they were away, leaping above us to higher pasture and all was quiet again on the mountain,
 you would never know they had passed this way, but we had seen them
 and will never forget.

We stopped and looked back from the height of 2080 mtrs and what a sight it was, 
although the temperature was now only 1*

Descending we passed through Almond trees, full blown with blossom towards Bacares.

Our journey continued into the Park Natural St Barbara, passing some old ruined farmsteads 
shadows of a bygone age.

Now in the Sierra Baza, as we climb higher, the weather has changed, 
and the temperature drops to minus 1*
 it is a bit of a shock to see the trees covered in snow.

We cannot believe how quickly the weather changes here, one minute it is grey and stormy
 then blue sky and sunshine, but it is still so cold!

There is a storm roaring in, it gets very dark and great clouds build up before our eyes.

We watch in awe as a blizzard hits us with it's full force.

And then it is gone, again we can see the incredible view of a patchwork of landscape below us.

We descended and at this point went onto a dirt track for 40 kms.

Along this track we discovered an old deserted village called EL Tesorero ( we think)
 as there are many deserted villages here and nothing shows on our map!
 Everyone has left, all farming gone and the mines have shut down.
 This area was like Spains gold rush and is now a beautiful natural park.

After 40 kms of dirt track we found our way out.

On our way back and now in a temperature of 20* Mike photographed this beautiful Short Toed Eagle.
It is the snake eater, common in our area of France and has just made its crossing from Africa. Sometimes you can see it high in the air with a snake wriggling in it's talons.

Other migrators northward are these beautiful Bee-eaters, Mike caught with his camera,
 feasting on Bees among the Almond blossom.

What a wonderful day, Iberian Ibex, snow storms, Eagle and Bee-eaters.
 We have now left the region of Almeria after exploring beyond the plastic poly tunnels
 that proliferate this area of Spain and if you look beyond the intense farming practices here,
 you will find a wonderful diversity of nature and landscapes. Our journey continues.

Friday, 11 April 2014


The first human settlements in this area can be traced back to Prehistoric times and the town of Guadix has a rich cultural heritage and has been declared a site of historical interest.
As you approach the town you cannot but be impressed as in front of the vista is the Cathedral and as a backdrop the stunning Sierra Nevada, capped with snow. There is a large roundabout in front of the Cathedral with fountains and on the day that we visited with friends, the sun shone on us.

The 16th century red sandstone Cathedral dominates the town and it is very impressive, with beautiful intricate carvings all over the facade. It combines many elements of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles.

There is, in one of the streets bounding the Cathedral, a very interesting sculpture of a choir master
 and his choir, some of the choir boys look a bit fishy!!

The town sits on a plain off the road from Granada to Almeria and from this photograph you can see how the Cathedral and the old Alcazaba dominate the view. There is an old Jewish quarter and
 inside the old medina, the Barrio Latino, latin quarter and the Church of Santiago, 
which is beautiful.

Guadix is famous for its cave dwellings that are still lived in to this day. They are on the outskirts of the town, in an area called the Barrio de las Cuevas and are still  home to some 10,000 people. This is the largest concentration of cave dwellings in Europe. Below you can see some with their chimneys poking up from the ground.

It is quite a strange feeling that as you walk about on the grass, you are walking over peoples roofs!

The area extends to over a square mile, just beyond the ruins of the old Alcazaba. Some of them are almost proper cottages, with an upstairs and down, television aerials, electric and running water. Some are simpler, like the ones below, plain whitewashed, with perhaps a tiny window and some are derelict, while still others are now being renovated for families to move into.

Below is the rather splendid Plaza of the Constitution.

Here are some of the inhabitants we met along the way in one of the narrow Calles.

As we left Guadix, we passed through the beautiful orchards of Almonds, in full pink blossom, the Sierra Nevada behind and above the most amazing clouds had appeared.

 This one looks to me like an alien space craft, descending towards the Sierra.

The scenery here is just spectacular and the sheer beauty of it all takes ones breath away.

We then stumbled across the  Minas del Marquesado,  iron mines, which are now deserted and the ruined deserted village.

It was strange that there was writing and graffiti on the bullet riddled walls, that appeared to be in some Eastern European language. We thought that they must have been used for film sets,
 perhaps about the Bosnian war. We soon found out that they were actually making a film there and were escorted out by security, but not before Mike had taken some dramatic photographs.

The end of an interesting day, with a cast of thousands and scenery to make
 Cecil B. DeMille weep for joy.

Thursday, 10 April 2014


The area around Cabo de Gata houses some interesting Flora like the tall Sisal plants that were cultivated here, to make rope. There used to be huge forest like plantations, but now, even though they are not as prolific, they make for an interesting landscape as we drove towards the Tabernas.

Also cultivated here in huge numbers, were the plants of the Prickly Pear, that were introduced to
provide food for the Coccid bug, from which Cochineal was obtained.
You can see all over the area of Cabo de Gata, what remains of the Prickly Pear farms.

What a backdrop the Tabernas makes for a western and indeed many were filmed here, also Lawrence of Arabia. There is a tourist attraction here called Mini Hollywood and two western towns that were used as film sets and no, I did not find Clint there!

The Tabernas is indeed a labyrinth of desolate mountains, and plateaux, an almost luna landscape, stretching as far as the eye can see. This area gets less than 250mm of rain in a year and is the only true sub-desert area in Europe.

The landscape has been eroded by torrential rainstorms into spectacular gullies, down to cuttings and ravines, in the bottom of which are what are known as Ramblas, dry river beds.
 Although vegetation here is scarce, you will find that after rain these water courses have
Tamarisks, Oleanders and reeds flowering on the margins.

It is hard to describe the impact of this landscape, as you look out on its desolation and the way light and shadows from the clouds, play over its contours.

Below is a photograph of Cistanche phelypaea, lutea, a parasitic plant, that grows in the higher rocky ground, it is rather similar to the Common Broomrape.

Although it is extremely difficult to photograph birds in this area, a little like looking for a needle in a haystack, Mike caught this very obliging male Stonechat, perched high on some dry scrub.

Normally hiding as deep in a bush a possible, this beautiful male Sardinian Warbler, below,
peeps out at the camera.

A female Trumpeter Finch feeding on the seed heads of Sea Lavender among some of the small wild flowers present in the Rambla.

Some elusive Stone-curlew on the scrub land. Mike spent along time stalking them, as those enormous yellow eyes see every movement!

The photograph below gives some sense of the enormity of the Tabernas and the scale, with a
whole village looking rather lost in the desert.

The Tabernas is an amazing area, not what one would call pretty, but it is a magnificent and brooding
place. The colours and the play of light and shadow over it. We leave you with this rather iconic photograph of late afternoon shadows and Palm Trees.