Pages to continue our exploration of the many-facetted coastal landscapes of the
Parque Natural Cabo de Gata, beginning with the grand mountainous strip known as
Baronal. I read that this name means ‘barrier’ and indeed the steep volcanic crater
rim topography that rises out of the Genoveses plain and plunges precipitately into
the Mediterranean on its southern aspect can be construed as a barrier, both to the
natural elements of wind and sea and to human passage to the secluded beaches below.
One sees from above and from the shore that this scenery results from slow coastal
erosion of a resistant geology. It collapses in large pieces of very solid material,
the volcanic conglomerates that in terrestrial conditions would have been pyroclasts.
One might not wish to be standing belowsuch an event! It then takes the sea an eternity
to break them down further yet most of the sand on these beaches and in its dunes
is mineral in origin, very little of it shellsand. Granitic lumps embedded in tufa
results in craggy rocks where otherwise there might be nothing but cliff cornices
for drama - enough you might think. These are popular naturist beaches and deservedly
so, for the sea is clear with a 30 metre lagoon near the shore protected by a backwash
sandbank over which the waves break in small rollers. In windy winter conditions
waves are pushed up the beach to crash against the impenetrable barrier of the corniced
cliffs but as the image above shows it is possible to scramble up the valley undulations
if one can reach them! As well as the long beaches there are several coves also reached
via rough cliff paths where one can swim in safety and usually peacefully. All of
these are situated between Genoveses and Monsul beaches but be prepared for some
roughish gorgeous walking!
Very fine sand here is a pleasure to walk over barefoot when wet and readily forms
dunes in the valleys of the undulations. In summer it becomes very hot because the
beaches are exposed only to south winds. But these are favourite places for couples
to spend the day and night. When it is at its hottest there is always some shade
to be found in the crags under the cornices and one can alternate the indolence of
this with plunges to pass summer days in various kinds of discourse, walking the
sea’s edge or ...
Pyroclastic flows prove a malleable medium for nature to sculpt
Carboneras is the large fishing village or small town easternmost on the cape. It
has an industrial base and a small fishing fleet but is also an attractive and popular
resort. Much has been done in recent years to make it more so. It esplanade and holiday
beach are fine and sheltered and lined with palm trees, all very convenient to restaurants,
cafes and shops. It makes a pleasant day out and its outdoor market on Thursdays
is best for fresh produce. There are also the usual rag trade and knick-knack stalls
A short walk along the esplanade leads to the town harbour which hosts a boat repair
yard and combines leisure and fishing boat moorings. Here the Andalucía government
keeps one of its marine environment patrol boats, bristling with electronics, that
one often sees passing by from beaches. Fish is unloaded here to the fish market
on the quayside and the huge sea wall is lined with gear storage facilities. There
is an industrial harbour to the west for water and lime carrying vessels.
It is possible to walk to Mesa Roldan (Orlando’s Table) via La Playa de los Muertos
but it is a good hike. From its summit the panorama of the Cabo de Gata eastern sector
from Agua Amarga to El Fraile is unsurpassable on a clear day. It is also possible
to drive there out of season. In season Playa de los Muertos is an environmental
joke. In succession here La Negra, Polacra and Los Frailes headlands.
The XVII-XIX century cannon tower has one round side and one rectilinear one
The lighthouse is a major communication centre
The cap was once a lime quarry
Geologically Mesa Roldan is a very large fossil coral reef sitting on top of and
in the lee of a volcanic mound from whose southern face it streams inland (above).
Right: La Polacra, a prominent headland at Rodalquilar has a defensive tower from
the XVII century, a lighthouse and is also a coastal communications centre.
On the apex of La Polacra is a 17th century watch tower and at it feet the black
boulder cove of Los Garnejos, the garnets with lava extrusions and fossil dunes here
seen in mid winter
This cove at the foot of La Polacra is interesting for several reasons. Reputedly
it has the so-called ‘black diamonds’ - garnets, but not easy to find. It is the
only cove on the cape to consist entirely (almost) of black lava boulders and pebbles.
But as this photograph shows, it also has an undulating form familiar to many from
Atlantic storm beaches in such places as Orkney. Though it faces south, its corner
position under cliffs obviously raises wave energy. One frequently finds the remains
of inflatables half buried, signs of invasion. The watch tower would be a landmark
visible from several kilometres out.