Sunday, 9 March 2014

Finding a Ghost Village

Las Negras Beach
One of the best decisions we have made in years was the one where we made up our minds to go to Andalucia in Spain for a winter holiday.  After all the incredibly wet weather we have had this winter it was such a relief to see some dry and sunny weather!  It was our first family holiday to Spain although us parents had been for short trips before as an add on to other holidays to Portugal and France.  Although we weren't focused on doing any walking on our trip, it is in our blood so when we heard about a coastal walk to a 'ghost village' we were definitely up for it!

Beach Mural
The day we picked was rather overcast although the forecast suggested that we might get some sun down by the coast.  Our walk started at the small pueblo of Las Negras in the Cabo de Gata Park, a protected part of the Andalucian coast that is largely free from development.  Looking at the rugged coastline when we got there it was easy to see why it had not been prime development land, but having it protected is surely a good thing for years to come.

Las Negras
In truth the weather was no better when we got to the coast and when we looked at the rugged coastline we had our doubts as to whether the walk was viable or not.  However, having made the hour long journey to get there we decided to persevere and after some time on the beach and eating our lunch we headed off to where we thought the village would be.
Unfinished Road

At the end of the village of Las Negras was a rather rough looking road that headed up into the hills.  We had no map but I did know that the lost village was about an hour's walk along the coast and that was the only likely route so we set off on our exploration.  Our destination, the lost village of San Pedro was left deserted a few years ago after the few remaining elderly residents decided to move to Las Negras after the latter had a road built to it.  The rough road we were following looked like it might be an extension of that road but had not been completed.  It snaked up around the hillside and soon the children were getting left behind.  We paired up with a child each and that definitely got them going as each daughter got the full and undivided attention they needed with each parent.
Red Squill

Eventually the road ran out of puff.  The amount of engineering that had gone into this redundant piece of infrastructure was surprising but given the onward terrain I'm not quite sure how it could have been finished off.  All along the verge side were clumps of pretty flowers - many fragrant and most quite colourful.  Some were familiar such as prickly pear cacti and wild thyme while others were new to me.  Despite the splashes of colour provided by each flowering plant the overall colour of the landscape though was beige and this wasn't helped by the stubbornly overcast conditions.

Approaching San Pedro
The path narrowed considerably after the end of the road and headed back towards the coast.  I tried to picture which way the road would have gone had it been completed.  I can only think significant additional engineering and probably blasting away more of the cliff to accommodate it would have been necessary.  Surely this would have been a step too far and I imagine that the environmental damage that it would have caused coupled with the cost probably killed it off once and for all.  
San Pedro Castle

As we moved on from the road the path got steadily narrower and more unsteady.  Eventually as we rounded the corner we could see our final destination , the small village and ruined castle of San Pedro down in the cove ahead.  The path down to the bottom was a little scary in places and on one occasion I lost my footing entirely (thankfully without any consequences other than hurting my pride a little).

Spanish Country Garden
Eventually we found our way down to the village and its ruined castle.  The castle was a shell - a ruin of a fortification that had been built to protect the coastline from attack by Barbary Pirates in the 17th Century, it was also bombarded by French and British forces during its time.  The village wasn't quite as billed - some of the abandoned houses have been reclaimed by a hippie community although it was largely deserted.  One or two hardy souls were camping but I understand that in the summer the place is heaving with campers.  With very rudimentary facilities I reckon it must be far more pleasant to camp in February than the heat of the summer.

San Pedro Beach
We headed down to the lonely beach and enjoyed the view while we had some refreshments at the end of our walk.  I understand that it is possible to continue on to Agua Amarca, another 7km or so further along the coast.  Sadly that would have to wait for another trip, for although very tempting there was no transport to get us back to the beginning.  We contented ourselves therefore with lingering on the beach for some time watching the birds and playing in the sand before heading back up the rocky track back to the car, feeling very satisfied with our afternoon of fresh air!


  1. Hi Paul

    Interesting post on your San Pedro walk, it reminding me of paths I have walked in Sardinia and Greece. I have done a fair bit of walking abroad and find that most countries just do not have the network of footpaths to cater for walkers. Having said that, the situation does now seem to be improving, with certain countries now realising that there is a demand for it.

    There is nowhere like the UK for trails and footpaths but I do like Madeira and North West Majorca for mountain hiking.


    1. Thanks very much Bill. I have found the same in the USA. Trails are built rather than created. I am tempted by a trip to Madeira - might try and make that happen in the next 2-3 years. Good to hear that there is good walking to be had there