A short trip into the Wild West

15 September 2020

The high mountains of Almerimar’s hinterland have intrigued us since we first sailed in here in February 2017. Then they seemed distant and snow capped but arriving back in June 2019 they looked much closer, looming and barren.

Those mountains hold the secret to many a sweeping cinematic scene, a dry, hot, inhospitable landscape that has fooled many into believing it to be America’s wild west – the Tabernas Desert.

This is the desert that provided the location for Sergio Leone’s famous spaghetti westerns including A Fistful of Dollars, A Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Clint Eastwood ably persuading viewers that he was three thousand miles away.

Whilst Stefan stayed behind to continue working with the rigger, I took a day trip with Annemieke and Steve to visit this intriguing place. The drive inland from Almeria was spectacular enough. It seemed to me like someone had combined the landscape of the moon with the bizarre sandy peaks of Cappadocia in Turkey as we climbed up to the town of Tabernas at 400m above sea level.

The information centre, although in keeping with the town’s wild west image, was firmly closed but the ruins of a Moorish castle above the town needed no instructions so we climbed up for a better look at them and the views they offered.

The castle was built in the 11th century during Arab rule although the repairs looked distinctly more modern! Looking down through the Islamic arch at the town’s whitewashed cubes and flat roofs we could well have been in north Africa. History tells that the evil Ferdinand and Isabel (remember them from the Spanish Inquisition?!) hid themselves in the castle during the siege of Almeria in 1309.

But we weren’t really interested in the history. It was the views we were after and the castle’s crumbling walls certainly delivered. Here we could look out at the dry peaks, ridges and canyons.

Apart from my companions and some olive trees there were not many signs of life. Even the grass looked very parched. They say that the deserts gets only 20cm of rain a year and regular temperatures of 40°. Luckily we had choosen a cooler day!

On descending to the car again we found the trucks and crews of a film set ready to turn the desert into a film star again. With no sign of any action, we moved on from Tabernas to another small town in another unique setting.

The town of Sorbas sits on a high plateau in a ravine created by the (now dry) Rio Aguas.

It’s Moorish origins were obvious from its narrow honeycomb of streets. We wandered into dead ends in search the miradors that gave views of the canyon. Steve found a promising fixer upper on the way!

From the miradors we could look down, through the beautifully scented fig trees, to the old mills that once made flour next to the river.

Here we could also look back at the town’s famous hanging houses. Annemieke had heard about these houses built out over the edge and to be honest we had all imagined them being somewhat more precipitous. Nonetheless it was difficult to image how they built them right up against the edge and you wouldn’t want to drop anything out of the window!

Our trip up to this vast film set was over and we had to return to sea level and the boats again. Thank you Annemieke and Steve for sharing it with me.

It was good to finally see beyond those mountains.

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