Tuesday, 18 October 2016

A visit to Carboneras, and a saint discovered.

I rose early, washed some clothes, wrote a St Luke's Day sermon for Thursday's sermon at  the Roquetas de Mar service, then wrote another one after lunch for next Sunday, around Cranmer's Bible Sunday Collect. It was one of the first Prayer Book Collects I ever learned off by heart, when I was a student. 

I became familiar with it in making bible study part of my Christian rule of life. Then in my last undergraduate year, a group at St Paul's University Chaplaincy church put on the play by Charles Williams entitled 'Thomas Cranmer of Canterbury', all about the man whose creative mind devised the English Book of Common Prayer, first issued in 1549. I had a small part in it. This particular Collect was quoted in the play, and I've remembered it ever since. Many Anglican Collects are his translation from the Latin, though some were original compositions for occasions not provided for by the old Roman rite. Anyway, it's nice to have an opportunity to make use of it in preaching as well as prayer.

At the end of the afternoon, I drove down to the Ermita de San Pascual which we use for Sunday services in Mojacar, to collect wafers and wine for the travelling Communion kit I must take with me to Roquetas de Mar. Looking at the church notice board on the way out, I noticed that the chapel is dedicated to San Pascual Baylon, something I'd not learned from Google Maps, someone I'd never heard of. 

I googled him when I eventually got back, and discovered he was a Spanish Friar, born in 1540 as the protestant reformation was sweeping through northern Europe. His family were poor peasants, and he struggled to learn to read to pursue a lie of devotion, while he was growing up as a shepherd boy. Eventually, at 24 he joined a Franciscan contemplative community, where he lived a life of prayer in ascetic poverty, dying aged 44. He's associated with the practice of sacramental adoration, and is patron saint of Catholic Eucharistic congress gatherings. There, that's something I didn't know when I woke up this morning.

I then drove on down the coast road in search of the next coastal town, Carbonera, signposted from Mojacar but with no indication of the distance. In fact, it's as far from the Ermita, as the Ermita is from the chaplaincy apartment, altogether 22km.

Sight unseen, this turned out not to be an easy drive. The road is safe, modern, well built and well maintained, but every kilometre offers its own surprises. It undulates, rises and falls 2-300metres, and is full of sinuous and sometimes banked curves, crossing ramblas and steep ravines, passing through high hills in deep cuttings. Most of the way, you drive through the Cabo de Gata - Nijar Parque Natural, reputed for its bird life and stunning mountain beauty. It's the latter that makes this so difficult to drive. When you're driving up from the shore, the line of the highway ascending so steeply make you wonder if you can succeed in the journey. There are few places to stop safely, and so much to see it's a constant struggle to stay focused on the road. Thankfully, out of season there's little traffic.

This is another region with a geological history of great turbulence, where different historical rock strata are fractured and mixed up like the inside of a marble cake. In some road cuttings, there were vertical layers of rock in pink, yellow and grey, with a softer adjacent bed of black slate so crumbly it looked like a South Wales Valleys coal tip. Hillside vegetation cover is rich in colour, and in the same area you see several different coloured soils exposed, similar colours in rocky outcrops also. These colours aren't vivid, but muted, in contrast with the more intense green, yellow and orange of vegetation. It's a road I'd loved to have been able to linger on and take lots of photographs, but there was no safe opportunity. There's no walking route on this stretch of road, to even consider a photo shoot expedition. I need to go again with someone else driving. 

Carboneras is a old fishing village transformed into a holiday resort, its long sandy beaches fringed with palm trees, with an unpretentious mixture of businesses and eateries across the narrow shoreline road. It has a world wide reputation as one of the places where the production team for the movie 'Lawrence of Arabia' was based. Several of its scenes were shot nearby. On the edge of the main plaza there's a bronze statue which resembles Peter Finch wearing Arab garb, plus a commemorative plaque. This experience is still well remembered by many of the older generation of the town's 8,000 strong population.

Beyond to the south of town is a small port with a fishing fleet and leisure marina. Beyond that, at the far end of the bay, a cement factory scars the skyline, and there's a ceramic works too. Also the town boasts one of the largest water de-salination plant in Europe. It's a place to visit for a quiet beach holiday, but while seasonal tourism is beneficial to the economy, mineral industries are still a mainstay, as in several other places I've noticed along the costas.

The Castillo de San Andres in the plaza opposite the ajuntamiento, dating back to the 16th century, at a time when the Moors rose up against the Catholic kingdom. In the 17th and 18th century, the coast of Almeria province was plagued by pirates, so this remained in use as a garrison fortress, protecting a thinly populated mountainous coastal region.

On the road north out of Carboneras are a several large urbanizaciones, and an impressive cliffside hotel complex under construction, though whether it will ever be completed is questionable, given the continued impact of recession on the Spanish holiday industry. Along the costas stand the ugly shells of many half finished construction projects, some contentious and illegally started. Nobody has the funds, either to complete or to demolish and restore the landscape. Beauty spots can be as blighted by failed products of the building industry as they can be by traditional industries which are still contributing to the region's economy.

The journey back was a lot easier as I knew what to expect, and spotted places to stop. Suffice it to say that I'm looking forward to another more extensive drive along the coast road, knowing there's so much more to discover.

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