It was Sean Popplewell, a regular visitor to the Cabo de Gata from Ireland, who came up with the idea. Earlier this year he suggested to me that I should put together a cycling tour of the Parque Natural using electric bikes. I was apprehensive at first because I thought that bike tours usually covered a much larger area, staying in a different town or village each night. Nevertheless, I put together an itinerary staying 3 nights in San Jose, 4 nights in Las Negras and routes to explore the beautiful, beaches and scenery of the Cabo de Gata.
Reliable electric bikes were difficult to source but I found a German – Felix – based in Granada who rented out top of the range Swiss built Flyer bikes which, though expensive, are well built and sturdy enough to cope with a week’s hard use.
Olivier Vander Elst, who has a business in Dublin, GreenAer, selling electric bikes, marketed the holiday to his client base and was able to put together a small group of 11 who arrived here on the 30th September, including himself.
The first two days were sometimes cloudy and quite breezy. This suited the cyclists as it gave them a chance to get used to the warmer climate in Southern Spain before the arrival of uninterrupted sunshine for the final five days. On the first day I took them up to the little village of Las Presillas Altas above Los Escullos. From here I sent the most intrepid up the sandy and rocky rambla to Las Presillas Altas and back while the rest enjoyed a leisurely nature walk.
We then cycled down to the little fishing village of La Isletta for a lunch of fried fish and calamares. On the way back some of the group, led by Olivier, took the coastal route back to San Jose. This challenging track is steep and rocky in places but they were rewarded with some wonderful coastal scenery.
The rest returned via the road to San Jose. As they arrived at the village before the others, I took them over the hill to the fabulous Genoveses beach for a swim. It was a good day’s introduction to the Cabo de Gata and Olivier and I were able to assess the capabilities and wishes of the group members.
On the second day we made a longer trip along the coastal path from San Jose to the Faro de Cabo de Gata and then along the coastal road to San Miguel. We cycled past Genoveses beach and stopped at Playa de Monsul. I told the group about the films shot here, including the scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade with Sean Connery and Harrison Ford. We then ascended along the track to its highest point at Cerro de Vela Blanca and dropped down to the lighthouse at Faro de Gata, the south eastern tip of Spain.
On one side are the jagged rocks of Las Sirenas and to the other we looked along the flat coastline towards Almeria.
Along the coast we stopped for lunch and a swim at Almadraba, looked around the church, Iglesia de Las Salinas and the salt workers’ cottages where the award winning Spanish film, Vivir es Facil, was shot.
We looked at the flamingoes on the salt flats through a hide and finally stopped at the beach of San Miguel de Cabo de Gata with its colourful fishing boats and shacks.
The group split for the return journey. Some took the track behind the salt flats and went back along the coastal cliff tracks while the rest took the easier option of returning by road.
On the third day the group transferred from San Jose to Las Negras. The hotels took care of the luggage transfer so the bikers could cycle to Las Negras.
They stopped at Rodalquilar for lunch and then went down to the beach at El Playazo for a swim. I met them here and escorted them to the Hotel Cala Grande in Las Negras.
The next day we followed the tracks between Las Hortichuelas and Rodalquilar exploring the ruins of Cortijo Montana and on to Cortijo and Ermita de los Frailes, the old mine workings used as a set for the soon to be released blockbuster Exodus, Planta Denver gold processing works before lunch again at Rodalquilar and a swim at El Playazo.
The following day, Sunday, we headed inland along the road to Nijar. After relaxing with a drink in the main square, the group split again.
Some of the group returned to Las Negras ro spend the afternoon on the beach while the rest went on up a steep, winding road to the mountain village of Huebro. Here the annual fiesta was in full swing.
A group was playing in the square below the church, stalls and makeshift bars had been set up all around and some of us who made the steep ride up danced amongst the locals.
On the final full day we rode from Las Negras to Agua Amarga but instead of following the road we turned off before Fernan Perez and followed the tracks across the estepa. I know these well as we lived here for 20 months before we moved down to Las Negras. When we stopped by our old home, Las Totobias, the group seemed amazed that we could live in such an isolated location but we loved it.
At Agua Amarga a swim off the beautiful beach was followed by lunch and returning to Las Negras we took the easier route and followed the road.
Their flight back to Dublin was on Tuesday afternoon so I suggested that a good morning’s activity would be to walk along the cliffs from Las Negras to San Pedro, relax and have a swim there and catch the water taxi back. There is no regular boat service particularly out of season but I found the skipper in a bar during the morning and asked him to pick them up from San Pedro. Readers of this blog will be familiar with San Pedro but to the people in the group who walked there it was a revelation.
The holiday was a great success. Everybody enjoyed the excursions, the evenings were fun, the group got on well with each other and the people of Las Negras.
Certainly the bar and restaurant owners liked the group. We must do this again. Perhaps Spring next year when the wild flowers are in bloom. The photos are a mixture of ones taken by me and members of the group plus a few from my archives.