The Cabo de Gata

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THE Cabo de Gata National Park covers around 67000 hectares of land and extends a mile out to sea so protecting a further 12,200 hectares. The area was declared a Marine and Nature reserve in 1987 and a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1997. The park covers an area bounded by Almeria City, Nijar, Carboneras and the Karst en Yesos Natural Park near Sorbas.

Driving on the A-7 motorway the park is easily found as none of us can miss all the ugly greenhouses forming a natural boundary for the park with the peaks of the Cabo de Gata rising in the distance. The greenhouses soon stop once Campohermoso, Los Albaricoques or San Isidoro de Nijar are passed on the way into the park.

 

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Volcanic in origin, the area was active between 15 and 8 million years ago and was originally submerged under the then Alboran Sea. The volcano range stretches right across what is now the Mediterranean to rise again in North Africa. As the volcanoes were underwater, when they erupted geothermal activity occurred as erupting gases and molten rock mixed with the sea water. This has resulted in many minerals and precious metals being deposited into what are now fabulously shaped hills and mountains.

Semi precious stones called agates are still found here and this is how the region gets its name via the old Moorish name Cabo de las Agatas from a thousand years ago. In Roman times the diet of far way Rome often dictated that meals was covered in a heady brew or gravy of processed fish guts. This was made here as the manufacturing process was too heady a stink for the delicate noses of Roman countrymen.  Gold was also mined from Roman times and continued up to as recently as 1966.

Most hill tops are covered in the limestone remains of the coral reefs which flourished in the mineral rich waters once the volcanoes had finished. The highest extinct volcano is near San Jose called Cierro del Fraile at 493m high. Amazing to think that this tall peak and all the others were once deep under the sea.

As sea levels rose and fell, the tectonic plate of Carboneras pushed and pulled the surrounding rock so lifting it from the sea. Sand, mud and gravel was deposited in the valleys that were once bays and shallow sea inlets. At the western end of the park are salt pans and marshes with a colony of flamingos living there. This is part of the Bay of Almeria and geologically speaking very young at 100,000 years old and was formed as silt and debris ran off via rivers and floods from the mountains behind Nijar and Almeria slowly filling the shallow bay. The area is now flat and seemingly lifeless until a closer look is taken.

The Cabo de Gata is the most arid place in Western Europe with average rainfall of only 200mm a year about 60% less than the rest of the country. An average of 3000 hours of sunshine means the seas around the park are the warmest in Spain.

The Cabo de Gata contains over a thousand species of plants many of which can be seen at the Jardin Botanico in Rodalquilar. It is open mornings and evenings Tuesdays to Sundays throughout the year. The gardens are well worth a visit as they are laid out to display all the various types of environments to be found not only the park but throughout Almeria. Anyone keen on gardening can be inspired as to what to grow in the drier climate we live in. It is free to get in and is a great place to explore after a day on one of the fine beaches nearby. Rodalquilar is a very interesting place and more will be written about in another issue. With visitor season in full swing there are plenty of ideas to keep guests occupied.

The facebook page below contains a photo gallery which is slowly but surely filling up and previous articles can also be read there.

By Stephen Amore

www.findmeahomeinspain.wordpress.com

www.facebook.com/pages/Findmeahome/108588762518569 

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