We rented a car again and drove from Nerja to the La Manga Club in southeast Spain, just east of Cartagena. The drive from Nerja was both uneventful and boring – the area was covered with plastic tarps covering massive agricultural plots, many of which looked like large factory farming sites growing tomatoes and artichokes. (West of Nerja the scenery is much prettier.)
One of our friends we met in Singapore, Jane (Jane’s Singapore Tours), recommended we stay a few nights at one of her family’s apartments at the La Manga Club, in the Murcia Region.
The first full day we were there, we took Jane’s advice (she sent us a nice list of sights we should see and restaurants that we might try) and hiked down to the Playa Cala del Barco, and when I say “down” it really was. Jane had warned us that once we got down to the beach, it was all uphill back to the apartment. Because of the season, the restaurant at the beach was not open at the time we were there. Fortunately, we brought our own water.
The next day we went to Cabo de Palos. We drove through the port area on the way to finding the lighthouse we saw as we wove our way through the narrow, crowded, and often one-way streets. After parking the car below the lighthouse, we hiked up the hill to get a closer look.
When we came down, Pat wanted to go to the beach in the small, nearby cove to gather sea glass. There was a large group of scuba divers preparing for a shore dive. We found out later that this area is part of a marine sanctuary, home to many shipwrecks to dive on. Guess the lighthouse didn’t always do a good job.
Our next stop was Playa de Calblanque, a remote beach with no facilities and an interesting drive through a regional park. It was almost deserted (perhaps, 5 other people) and very peaceful.
We stopped for lunch in Los Belones, and stopped a grocery to get some wine. In the grocery was a sculpture made from wine corks.
The road passing La Manga Club continues to the small town of Portman. Since we had lots of time, we drove down to see what was there. The town had been a mining company town at one time and when the mining abandoned and the area was left an environmental mess. Mining waste was dumped directly into the sea and there is a major effort now underway to recover and isolate this waste. Unfortunately, the companies responsible for this have gone bankrupt and left the cost to the Spanish people.
When we returned to La Manga Club, it was time to head out for dinner. We walked around the corner to La Solana Bar & Restaurant. We almost turned around and left after we went in, because there was no one dining. On Wednesdays they have a special tasting menu. Very glad we didn’t leave because we got great service from the chef himself. He was so proud of his menu that he gave us extra servings and extra wine. In addition, it was all delicious!
The next day, Thursday, we hiked up a long hill, between La Manga Club and Portman, to see the Bateria de Costa de Cenizas, a coastal military fortification, built between 1930 and 1934, to defend part of the coast near Cartagena, long abandoned. The long, steep road (a little over 2 miles) up to the top was busy with mountain bikers getting their workouts (one person went up and down 4 times during our walk – he may have done more before we arrived). At the top are 2 large guns that were recently repainted to cover the graffiti that had built up. The site was fascinating and well worth the hike. If you’re in the area, don’t miss it.
The complex included what appears to be housing for the soldiers along the way to the second battery on this mountain, Battery Cabo Negrete.
This short stop was fun and relaxing and we have thanked our friend Jane many times for her hospitality. The following morning, we were up early to drive to Valencia to catch a train to Barcelona for our next adventure.