Storm clouds, hippy villages and rainbows in Cabo de Gato | Spain

The Cabo de Gato natural park is an area of rugged coastline with cliffs, hidden coves and rock formations formed from volcanic activity. It’s the only place in mainland Europe with a true hot-desert climate although it was a little on the fresh side during our visit. We entered the park from the south and headed towards the village of San Jose, from there a bumpy dirt track took us to the car park for Playa de los Genoveses. The beach reminded us of Hawaii, the sand was dark, there were turquoise patches in the sea and dark, almost volcano shaped hills surrounding the bay.

We did a nice hike along a rugged headland, sometimes standing high above the sea and over times walking below cliff-faces to remote coves. Black clouds have been following us for days and now they were starting to creep even closer so we headed north to the village of La Isleta del Moro. It was a Sunday and surprisingly busy so our plan of staying there was quickly aborted. Instead we walked to a little headland on the edge of the village where we could see the ominous clouds heading our way.

Our next stop in the park was the abandoned mines at Rodalquilar. It looked like a film set with the red landscape, run-down buildings and black clouds. We weren’t sure about the free camping rules in this area so we made sure to wake early and drive to a different location for breakfast.

We arrived in Las Negras where we set off on a 5km walk to a beautiful cove with an abandoned 16th century castle built to protect the coast from Berber pirates. But the main reason for our visit was to see the hippy community that call this beach and the surrounding grassy hills home. It’s called San Pedro and it was once a fishing village that was destroyed by an earthquake, now it’s a place where around 50 hippies have settled and made makeshift dwellings. It’s one of the only places in Spain where you can legally camp in a tent, police just turn a blind eye to it here and occasional boat to the beach to check all is well.

The walk was nice and easy, mostly along a gravel track high above the sea. As we stood above the cove the water turned aqua blue, even on this cloudy day it looked pretty but it must look incredible in the sun. Trails seemed to lead off in all directions, lined with a variety of cacti plants and flowers. The paths led us through the community and past a variety of handmade houses. Some were made out of stone with a little window and door and a covered area outside to cook. Others were more basic, made of wood, palm throngs and tarpaulin and the even more simple ones were just tents. Most of them blended perfectly into the surrounding hills and while some had quite ramshackle gardens others were well tended with flowers, banana trees and fenced off areas for their chickens and ducks. We saw a chap tediously taking little stones out the soil, with what must’ve felt like a mountain of them piled up at the back of his lot. He’d done a superb job though and managed to terrace most of his garden and had a variety of lettuce, tomatoes and herbs growing. While they grow what they can and no doubt catch fish, they still need to walk the two hours to the village for supplies. There were a couple of concrete buildings, I assume from the days when it was a fishing village and they even had a communal natural spring for drinking water.

I’d love to know more about this place, is there a leader? Is it as ideal as it looks? I can’t help but wonder if it’s like the film ‘The Beach’ where a young Leonardo DiCaprio finds what appears to be paradise on a Thai island where a community of travellers have set up camp, but it soon turns out to be far from the paradise he first thought it was. It’s a great film and book and turns into a bit of an exciting thriller.

When we got back to Las Negras I looked at my map for other things to do in the area and discovered we could walk the opposite direction and see another section of the coast. We walked past some really cool white and yellow rock walls and cliffs and the sea below us had some fabulous turquoise patches which were accentuated by our friend, the black clouds which is still following us. It was a fabulous view so I’m glad we decided to do another hike in this area.

We continued our drive north along the coast where the rain finally caught up with us. The forecast keeps saying rain but we just get cloudy weather and a couple of drops of rain which must drive the locals mad who are suffering from the drought. But the heavens truly opened on our drive and it was hammering it down, even hailing at times. The road was absolutely covered in water and we were having to drive quite slowly to avoid aquaplaning. The rain was so heavy that it seemed to bruise all the herb plants along the roadside, a bit like when a barman slaps mint leaves to enhance the flavour. So all of a sudden the most incredible scent of rosemary and mint seeped through our camper van vents. We stopped in Carboneras to go to a laundromat and managed to have a cold shower whilst our washing was on, what a treat, getting into a clean bed after a shower, it’s the little things in life! The rain continued falling and as we left the town we took a wrong turn which I was very happy about as we got a fab view of the most turquoise sea against the charcoal coloured clouds. Just a few kilometres up the road and we were away from the town, back in nature and in a perfect spot to camp right by the sea with the most fabulous rainbow.

We woke to sunshine and hit the road which headed up a couple of zig-zag bends to the top of the hills before descending back down to the coast. We pulled up just south of Aguilas which is said to have beautiful beaches. I’d also read that motorhome camping was tolerated in the carpark so we knew there’d be a few vans but we didn’t expect it to be quite so busy. There must’ve been over 50 vans, all spread out and with enough space between each van but wow, so busy! We managed to park on the end though so it was one of the nicer, more private spots.

We were parked behind Cala Los Cocedores beach which was a perfect little cove. A short stroll up the orange rocks offered the best view of the bay which had twinkling turquoise water with the odd dark patch of seaweed. There were some strange caves carved into the orange rocks behind the beach and some had gates across them, I assume people lived in them at some point but now they just smelt of urine. Hidden around the back and not visited by many people were some bizarre rock formations shaped by the wind, rain and sea. They were a fabulous saffron yellow colour and looked like huge waves frozen in time.

The busy camping area turned out to be a peaceful spot in the end, until sunset when a campervan pulled up beside us with a family inside. One kid was 6 months old and the other about three, I was fuming. The three year old then spent the next thirty minutes on his bike making motorbike revving noises and I was getting so tempted to go outside, snatch his bike and throw it into the bushes. But alas, I’m a good human so I just spent the next two hours complaining to Craig about how much I hate kids.

We woke the next morning to clear blue skies and warm sunshine so we spent a full day at the beach, basking in the sun and swimming in the Mediterranean. The sea looked fabulous with twinkly, clear water and it was so much warmer than the Atlantic so I ended up spending 12 minutes swimming without feeling cold. It felt so good to sit in the sun all day, this is what winter in Spain is all about.

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