A Nature tour with Champion-trees seekers Enrico & Erna Liebenberg.
I was so happy to share time (lots of time) along the last month of October ,with the most well-renowned people in the world about CHAMPION TREES: Enrico & Erna. Coming from South Africa in holidays, they chose Almeria (Spain) to meet good friends as the Shaw family (David & Elaine). Uouh… Almeria as an international meeting point for renowned naturalists and conservationists. I feel so happy and so proud.
The Liebenberg are authors of the internationally renowned book WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS. A master piece of art and a collection of excellent information about the biggest and oldest trees in South Africa, that huge country that no one knows as well as Enrico and Erna.
In our 4 days discovering Almeria mountains and countryside, we visited many natural monuments, also “champions”… as the holm oak named “La encina del Marchal del Abogado” or the monumental cypresses aka “los cipreses de D Gonzalo” and much more. The group was amazed by the high quality of our landscape at South Spain and the excellent level of environmental conservation happening in Almeria mountains and flatlands, while looking for our Almeria champion trees.
Main movies filmed totally or partially in Almeria since the beggining of the industry till 2014
Cinema industry, film locations, movie-sets, deserts, mexican villages, Indiana Jones, Lawrence of Arabia, Temple of doom…. or perhaps Walt Disney was an almerian. These are so many of the topics floating around anyone of our movie-trips; I do not like to visit museums nor film-offices to show visitors what is the real Almeria cinema landscape they came looking for; to discover these places we need to leave asfalt and start the off-road adventure.
Almeria is so important in the Cinema industry because of its sunlight ratio and good weather, just linked to an amazing set of very different geographical landscapes.
In this post I attach a list of main movies filmed in Almeria lands since the real start of the business in the fifties, although we can say it begun before, just in the forties.
This collection of titles have been created by Jesus Contreras. Please if you detect any mistake or perhaps any broken link, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ragua mountain-pass, where Almeria changes its name by Granada.
Few people visiting Spain know that Sierra Nevada mountains are in a big extension part of Almeria province, and not only in Granada, although this second one has traditionally used commercially the name, thanks to their high peaks Mulhacen and Veleta , worldwide famous because of their ski areas, and because also of the famous Alhambra palaces and gardens at its foothill.
Granada lose its name becoming Almeria just at the place of Puerto de la Ragua (Ragua mountain-pass) at a high of 2000 meters above sea level. The panoramic view so as the pure air are really astonishing, and also it is a small paradise for those in love with geography and geology; coming from Almeria side it is a short-way of visiting Nevada Complex geo-locations without going no more far away.
Just at the top of Ragua peak we will find metamorphic rocks as micaschist and quartzites, the same ones than in Veleta-Granada peak; the symmetry of both slopes at north and south is nearly perfect at this point. Coming down a little bit we will find the next geo-level with more metamorphic rocks as schist and marble, and downhill in the valleys it begin to appear phyllites and dolomites. At the bottom of the mountains, where the highs evolve in hills, we find recent sediment formations coming from the dismantling of Sierra Nevada along millions of years while it was slowly lifted-up (geologically talking). Only can be missed in this area the glaciar landscape, and although it is really there, it is not so prominent as in Granada highs because of the lower altitude of this area, so glaciars where never not so active as in Mulhacen and other Nevada western peaks. As something curious we can say also that some hills built in carbonates, limestone and dolomites (Triasic period around 240 million years ago) can be found in some places at the northern planes.
Water coming from ice-melting generate in Ragua valleys a precious resource of life for the lands underneath, including the so-called Plastic Sea, faraway in the coast; these mountain streams anyway cannot be considered as real rivers, although sometimes after winter snowfalls they can become very active, and the flow can be very intense as dangerous.
Water from Sierra Nevada mountains is the main wealth of Almeria western coast; without it, the miracle of plastic greenhouses would be absolutely impossible. Both legal figures of National and Natural Parks protect this special almerian area, just with its continuation towards West in Granada.
On the other hand we must say that this region is amazing from a natural history and landscape point of view; a real cultural and human landscape absolutely anchored in time, linked to the amazigh (the free men) tribes living here along centuries, cultures that were very difficult to be conquered by the big empires of Rome, Arabs and Christians; although finally the moriscs (descendant people of these tribes) were expelled from Spain, they came back slowly and adapted themselves to a more modern way of life; they (we) feel proud of our history, linked to Sierra Nevada mountains.
Geology in Gata Cape (Cabo de Gata) as a different way to understand landscape
Cabo de Gata mountains are built-up with very peculiar materials; mainly there can be found magmatic rocks coming from very ancient volcanic activity. It is something very different to that happened in the mountains bordering this are, that are named Baetic Ranges (sierras Béticas) and are mainly metamorphic; also these magmatic materials are very different to those others in the nearby coastal depressions, that are mainly compounds of seaside shores and shallow-water sedimentary rocks, where can be found fossil shells of Strombus bubonius… a big sea-snail that lived here 200.000 years ago (actually can be found in tropical areas as Senegal coast).
The volcanic condition of Gata Geopark rocks is due to its intense and active geological past, starting aproximately 15 millions of years ago, just when the magamatic flows started to arise up to the surface of the sea in the not faraway area of Alboran Sea (Alboran island is actually part of Almeria province, offshore). Indeed these Gata rocks are part of this huge magmatic area, just emerged from the sea at this point and in the named Alboran island. The last Gata Geopark active volcanoes were extinguished around 7,5 million years ago.
Just at Gata Cape there can be recognized unique massive emergent volcanic rocks, that have been identified by geologists as volcanic domes. A volcanic dome is an elevation in the land (can be up to 500 metres altitude) shaped as a coliflower or dome, that is the solidification result of very dense lava; this density avoid that lava mass move away by gravity as a fluid, and become solid very nearby to the place where it came up to the surface. Sometimes pressure generate lava explosions, generating a new class of rocks called Piroclastics or Ignimbrites (literally fire-rocks).
Between two different geological moments, lava density can be changed and become less dense… and flow then as a lava river. These three different density moments can be perfectly spotted in some areas at Gata GeoPark.
The hexagonal structures that can be seen in some of the places are generated by lava retraction after have being cooled, generating one of the most amazing Geo landscapes in the world.
Some years ago I worked in a big company and one of our brand´s marketing slogan was Keep Walking; later I remember proudly all the effort that our team kindly invested in this succesful campaign and I took the decission of launching my own Walk, my own Desert Walk… so I begun to be a lonely Desert Walker running here and there the Tabernas desert and badlands. I had everything I needed: time, enthusiasm, a big desert with highs of 2200 metres above sea level and inmense dry badlands areas for starting my activity.
Walking in a desert is an experience that need to be planned calmly; winter is cold there and summer is sometimes too warm. Wind, snow and intense rainfalls can ruin your trip and what is worst, risk of flash-floods is always on your rucksack.
But to live the experience of discovering ancient galleries, film locations, spot rare birds or understanding geology cycles it is much than more for going down the ramblas and start walking and discovering the secrets of the desert. People have been living here along times, and still they do it in some places although actually in a different way, more modern and comfortable; life here for a family was so cruel and hard that nearly all the population emigrated in the last decades down to the coast, looking for a better way of life for their children (ourselves) in the new business of plastic green-houses.
Deserts walker that have been travelling with me down in the badlands know perfectly of what am I talking about, and what is the real experience there, at Kingdom of Silence.
But the experience of the desert do not end down in the dry seasonal riverbeds (ramblas). Up the mountains there it is a unique experience walking in the snow of these arid lands, reinventing yourself and looking down to the world underneath your feet in a different way than usual.
That is the desert, that is the desert walker experience…. and much more.
Always I describe Almeria say that it is the most mountainous region in Spain; indeed it is. The elevation of the mainland due to the tectonic plates crash has lifted up the territory in different areas, so that Almeria is run from East to West by different ranges of mountains (sierra = saw) in all its area: the main ranges are Gador, Alhamilla, Cabrera, Filabres, Nevada and Estancias, but there are also smaller ones with their own identity and beauty, their hidden villages and their own culture.
This is one of the main aspects to be considered while travelling to Almeria. It is a land where you will find always mountains beyond mountains, where it can be enjoyed the unique experience of travelling from sea level up to 2000 metres in less than 40 minutes; take breakfast at the sunny coast of Cabo de Gata and enjoying a bottle of spanish red wine one hour later in the highs, hidden in the middle of nowhere, at undiscovered high peaks that kiss the sky with their genuine pure air.
In these heights I feel myself free, totally human… with the World at my feet, only missing a couple of wings; and this is what I share with visitors travelling with me. Although Almeria is also the driest area of the Iberian peninsula, with its unique desert of Tabernas (Desierto de Tabernas) it is not something rare to be in the middle of the snow at any moment, either in a snow-storm or under a snowed brilliant blue sky. Because of this we locals like to say that… everything is possible in Almeria; also travelling by excellent secondary roads of mountains and more mountains beyond mountains.
Till recent times, travelling in a cruise was something only reserved for privileged people, or at least so was understood by local ones here, awaiting for tourists in the european ports; but time has been passing by and cruise business has evolved in a way in which it can be understood so simply as a different way for travelling, discovering the lands from the sea, stopping consciously at any destination and mixing yourself in the mistery of local civilizations, lost cultures… always seen from a different point of view.
But there is a moment in this evolutionary business in which travellers do not know where to go, where aremajor cruise ports in Europe, Africa or any other place in the world. The traditional big destinations are collapsed by tourists, and new travellers want to make their trip in a very different way:enjoying in tailored tours, being attended professionaly and paying no more than really required.
In this way we need to make a difference with the concept ot what are indeed major cruise ports in Europe or wherever, and where are indeed major cruise ports in Europe. Saying major does not mean to say the biggest one, or the port with more passesgers crossing in it. To say MAJOR is to say the best, the main destination, the authentic place you are really looking for in your holidays, small towns or hidden national parks as here they are in the spanish Mediterranean, undiscovered for cruise passengers till recently.
Almeria port at south Spain it is an example of these emerging major ports in Europe; with its amazing permanent blue sky so in winter as in summer, the quality of the air, the unique landscape so arid and dry, the hospitality of its people and the simple thing of being in Spain in a different way… make a difference with other crowded destinations, that of course will be also visited along trips.
Although Almeria is a small town with unique culture and ways of life, there are both an international port and airport that connect this emerging town just to the future, under a different point of understanding what is really travelling in a cruise.
So many places to be visited in the shore excursions, such as Spaghetti-western desert, the moor valleys, high peaks or white-washed villages.
Look for Almeria when you check-in your travel and do not forget to remind your to show you the port from the top of the town (attached photo); really an amazing landscape view before returning to the ship. Waiting for you at the peer… don ´t forget to book your tailored trip in advance. Keep in touch… in one of major cruise ports in Europe: Almeria port.
Nowadays anyone talk here and there about green-tourism, eco-tourism, responsible tourism and more and more and more ridiculous concepts and ways of continuing doing the same unsustainable activities than in the past, but washed up with a green name. Under the name of responsible tourism destinations I have seen in recent times how so many natural habitats have been destroyed and how many local populations have been economically ruined. So when we are talking about Responsible tourism and Responsible tourism destinations, what are we really supposed to be talking about?.
In past times people travelled not as tourists but as travellers; this healthy concept changed in the last decades and indeed persons became objects to be profitably and easily commerced with. In this way, big resorts were built everywhere by big companies with the only purpose of doing quick money, selling sun and beach in the best case, but really always looking for profit, more profit and again more profit, and never looking for achieving good and unforgetable experiences for clients, that now they have been changed their status for bieng considered simply tourists. The local populations changed also their roles and they were promised lots of work and jobs with this new way of economical activity that changed forever their lives, their culture and their lands. Work was finally low quality employment and no more, and once the european economical recession begun, everything became worst and worst.
Big companies business grew up and up till finally it was collapsed by its own weight, and tourists begun to think by themselves again, and said NO to this situation; they were and are always the owners of their money and their time, and it was unlikable to be treated as a consum object. This was the real start of Responsible tourism, trying to change everything and understanding the concept under four points of view:
– I am not a tourist, I am a person travelling and looking for new experiencies and alive knowledge.
– I choose where I go and what I do at any moment. I am the owner of my money and my time.
– I want to collaborate with the local populations I am visiting, so they can see tourism not as an industry but as a way of life, as something positive also for them, as a real way of life that helps them to preserve their culture.
– I love local culture and wild Nature in the places I want to visit, and I will not allow none of them to be destroyed in my name.
So a responsible tourism destination must be really implicated in respect to Nature, sustainable growth of population, economical return to locals and full respect for people travelling in the territory, always considered as travellers and never as tourists. Nature and local culture in one hand, experience and knowledge in the other one; that is indeed responsible tourism, also known as ecotourism or green tourism.
The problem is that this new concept has also been discovered by the big monster of the macro-economical system and they are trying to put their claws on it, doing things finally again in the same way as in the past were done, but with different names and under different concepts; in spanish we have a proverb for that situation, and is that we have the same dogs but with different collars.
I will never understand responsible tourism destinations if they are not leadered and leaded by local persons living in visited lands; I know it is a very long way to achieve it, but really it is the only way for sustainable tourism in a responsible way.
Since our activity as Wildlife Guide Almeria started in 2010 we have been always looking for meeting points among travellers and locals, so both of them feel a part of the tours activity; since we started we have been spreading the word of conservation and sustainability although sometimes it could have had a bad effect in our profit; since we started enjoying really with what we liked so much, we have been allied with local schools and education for building a better world and helping to fix the young population to the lands where they were grown up.
Is all this stuff to create a Responsible tourism destination?. I don´t know really… it is perhaps your time to say if it is good or if it is not. Anyway we/I will continue walking by the same way and in the same direction.
If you want to organize a free talk about Almeria and/or responsible tourism destinations, please do not hesitate to mail us. Only transport and extra expenses would be required to be covered, mainly for other countries different of Spain. Thinking in a different way. Almeria: come and see.
Almeria landscape generally, and mainly Cabo de Gata National Park… are highly linked to botany; dwarf fan palm tree, fig tree, pome granate, almonds and olive trees, sparto grass, prickly pear or agave plant are common shrubs and trees found everywhere in this nice south-iberian region.
The agave plant, also known as Century plant in North America or pita and pitaco in Spain, is really not originary from Europe, although it is so present in our arid landscape that it would be very different without them. Century plant´s nameis given to the Blue agave (Agave americana) because it spends a lot of time before finally blossoming (after blooming, the plant dies). It is just the time that the plant needs to store all the required energy nutrients for when favorable weather allows it to develop the long sticks that will bring up with blooming.
For this Agave plant a dry and hot hot hot summer as this one we are suffering in 2015 is the greatest moment for blooming. It is just time for doing that: agave blossom time.
In Almeria lands there can be mainly found three species of Agave plants: Agave furcroydes and agave sisalana, planted in past times for taking the so-called sisal fiber, and Agave americana that is a bigger shrub than others and has been used for different purposes, as building corrals or ladders with its sticks, fences with the plants by themselves or agave sirope with blossoms´ honey.
The problem with sisal was that at the same time that first entrepeneurs begun to manage big plantations for obteining the fiber, just then plastic fiber was discovered and comercialized under a cheaper price; so the pita growths (pitares) were abandoned just at the beggining, before they could show if were profitable or not.
From these abandoned plantations come the actual agave landscape that can be found in the area of Nijar and Cabo de Gata National Park. It is something that must be mentioned that this plant, after blooming, develop small plants on the top of the sticks, that afterwards are blown by the wind, generating new plants. So Almeria province is actually a wild agave forest, deared by many people and not so much by others, that see in the agave-plant an invasive species in competition with local vegetation.
In any case the agave plant or century plant is highly linked to Almeria´s landscape; so much that we can say that agave bloom is a part of Almeria´s cultural and human landscape so as part of its natural history, although it is happening in the area only since few centuries ago.
When it is hot hot hot in Almeria it is time to look for the agave bloom; ideal moments for photographers so as naturalists and for every person in love with natural mediterranean landscape. Almeria, come and see.
Almeria is one of the most important destinations for wildlife and nature photographers from all Europe and some parts of North America, South Africa and Australia. Advanced travellers and professional photographers that do not want to lose their holiday-work time. So it is very important to know what are you looking for (birds, architecture, land formations, landscape, sunrises/sunsets, perhaps others??), so important as knowing well the language of the place your visiting and what places are allowed to visit or not; all these clues will improve your time for being used in the real thing that you are looking for when travelling: taking your pictures.
Weather in Almeria is unpredictable for anyone that is not a local, and sometimes it can really ruin your day. You need to learn how to move yourself in a windy day or with flash-floods risk, so that you finally reach your goals succesfully, and although almost times visitors coming to Almeria they enjoy a nice weather with clear and intense blue skies, you will never be exempt of storms and gales… also so usual here, and as said before… unpredictable.
Wind: When wind is blowing, you must know that Almeria lands are abundantly mountainous, so you can shelter yourself always at one or other side of the hills (poniente versus levante), and do your work at the other slope of the valley in which wind is blowing from.
Sea storms: Sea is always nice for painting and art, so as for photogaphy and photographers; but always take care of the shore level when you are in the middle of a gale; shore level can change in a moment and ruin all your work; on the other hand tides are not relevant in this side of Mediterranean Sea.
Flash floods: keep always far away of ramblas (temporary seasonal riverbeds); they never will warn you that they come-down with tons of water and bolders in only some seconds/minutes; keep always a security distance from these floodable places.
Snow:Almeria mountains usually enjoy snow-storms in winter and spring times; be always careful with dirt-tracks and take at any moment notice of how you can leave the place in an alert situation.
Summer:never never never forget to take some litres of drinkable cool water in your car, mainly while travelling in the desert and up the lost mountains.
Winter: Don´t forget to place your warm cloths always inside the car-boot; you don´t know in which moment they will be much more useful than your camera or your own car.
Luggage: Although Almeria is a highly safe destination, never forget to leave nothing inside the car when you park it in lonely places; it is the only way to avoid anywhere uncomfortable situations.
Of course, the best option will be always trust your local guide, because he/she will know what to do at any moment and will ensure that your photography trips or art tours become totally successful and enjoyable along your stay in our lands.
At any case Almeria will make a difference in your photography and art trip. These were only some desert photography ideas for those travelling by themselves, with no external assistance or nature guiding.
Do you want any more desert photography ideas or perhaps do you want to book a trip with me?.