May 27, 2107
Beautiful sunrise this morning!
The province of Almeria is a strange corner of Spain. Inland, it has an almost lunar landscape of desert, sandstone cones and dried up riverbeds. On our trip today we saw the greenhouses, spreading almost 50,000 acres and as our guide said, visible from space and one of the world’s largest greenhouse complexes. Much of the new wealth of the area is due to the production from the many greenhouses. Scientists are studying the effects of these greenhouses on the climate. It is considered the “garden of Europe” in the middle of the desert. Many crops including cucumbers, watermelons, squash, grapes and tomatoes are grown here in an organic and pesticide free environment.
Then there is the seashore – the summers here start before Easter and end into November and it is incredibly hot – they get only about 20 days of rain per year.
The first part of our tour was to the town of Mojacar which is about 55 miles from Almeria. Our guide was Emelio – who is definitely passionate about his land and wants to instill that passion in us. He called us his “family” all day. And I couldn’t help but smile when he said he would “splain” something to us. Shades of Desi Arnez.
Mojacar is a beautiful town. The Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Greeks and Moors have all lived here. The buildings are clustered almost atop each other and are uniformly whitewashed. They have flat roofs with collection systems for the rainwater. Many are designed with an Arab flair, and Emelio told us that the narrow passageways were specifically designed to allow people to be in shade most of the time to stay cool. Emelio guided us through the narrow intertwined streets before giving us free time to explore. The shops were wonderful and the prices very good. But the scenery was really amazing.
We wished we had even more time there, but we were off to our next destination – a drive through the Cabo Gata-Njar, a 175 square mile nature reserve that extends to the sea. It was volcanically formed and has jagged sea cliffs, sand dunes and both wetlands and large stretches of arid terrain. Emelio stressed that it is not a “national park” but a “natural park” which means that if people buy land with ruins on it, they can build a house (but they cannot take away the ruins.) Here is an example:
It is a UNESCO Geopark, Biosphere Reserve and a Wetland of International Importance and is unique to Spain.
We stopped at the visitor’s center and saw a film about the geopark and the geodiversity here. We also learned of the many films and commercials that are filmed here, including parts of Lawrence of Arabia and Indiana Jones.
We traveled back to the city of Almeria and admired some of the beautiful buildings here, including the fortress on the ridge overlooking the city.
I guess the day wore me out because Norm snapped this picture of me when I was supposed to be reading!
Tonight we had dinner in the terrace cafe with Robert and April. Chef Farid grilled fresh sardines and calamari out on the deck. The garlic smells were delicious but I passed on both – I don’t like my food looking at me. Norm was in heaven!