Monday, 3 October 2016

Beach surprise discovery

I had a meeting this morning with churchwarden Pam and Fr Alan, the retired priest who been living in Mojacar permanently for 12 years. He's acting as Interim Priest in Charge during the interregnum, to provide much needed continuity, as he is well known in all four worship centres, and throughout the widespread pastoral area the chaplaincy covers. If was good to hear them speaking about the many challenges and opportunities which present themselves, and in the privileged position of having my duties organised for me during my stay.

When we'd finished, I had some washing, and then, having located the nearest Mercadona some shopping to get done before lunch. It's necessary to drive to a supermarket, as it's almost half an hour's walk, too far to carry a full week's basic purchases in one go. Mojacar Playa is well spread out over six kilometres of sea shore. There are a handful of small convenience stores, the nearest is ten minutes from the apartment. The resort and all the satellite urbanizacions are planned around the presumption of car usage for the long term residents. I understand that in summer vehicle congestion is a terrible problem. A journey which now takes me five minutes can take four times as long.

There are, however, frequent busses along the coast road catering for visitors, or residents that are no longer able to drive. It will be necessary to use the car more than I'd prefer to, in order to perform all my duties, and look after myself. I don't mind at all, except that it will be vital to make sure that I get out and walk every day for an hour, as well as go places by car.

After lunch and a siesta, I decided to go and find the chapel where I'll be celebrating the Eucharist on Sunday next. The Ermita de San Pascual is not in Mojacar itself but 11km from the apartment, just off the coast road as it weaves though the mountains, in the hamlet of Agua de Enmedio overlooking one of the several golf courses in the area.

The west front of the building, which accommodates over sixty people, is tiled in large roughly hewn slate slabs with a silvery grey colour. This isn't typically local, but apparently an idea originating with the benefactor who had the chapel built, who'd lived and worked in South America, and imported this architectural feature, imitating capillas rurales in the Andes.

On the drive back, I stopped to look at Castillo Macenas a mid-eighteenth century coastal defence fortress which stands on a beach, fifty metres from the shore. There's a promontory a kilometre further south with a round watch tower, the Torre del Pirulico. The beach is several kilometres away from the conurbation, with unpaved parking areas between road and beach. On the sand beneath the fortress walls, goodness knows how many people had made small piles of stones, found laying about in the vicinity. I made one too. A spiral design, a peace sign and a yin-yang symbol were also laid out in a mosaic of white marble pebbles and black slate pieces on the sand.

The beach has an element of natural unkempt wildness about it, until you look back towards rising ground where there's a bend in the road. Here the concrete skeleton of long low rise building complex sits, looking neglected and ugly, a sad blight on the landscape. It's one of several large unfinished projects hereabouts, a legacy of the past decade of economic crisis. Good cheer arrived, however in a pair of lapwings, one of which sat quite still for long enough to allow me to take three good pictures, quite close up, before flying away.

Immediately after returning, I went out for that essential walk, this time, heading north on the beach towards Garrucha. A few hundred metres along there's a large area of reeds, bushes and trees that makes a huge green patch on the otherwise quite bare shoreline. It's where there's usually a dry river bed, an arroyo, with underground water seeping into the sea. Here, however, the sand has created a barrier over ages, so that instead of water spreading out and dispersing in the sandy subsoil, it has formed a shallow lake of brackish water, on which certain kinds of vegetation and wildlife thrive. 

The lake is about half a kilometre long, spanned by a road bridge. This is the outflow of the Rio Aguas, as the bridge signage informs the world. I walked back along the road to the bridge, and from there had a fine vantage point to take photos of an egret, some coots and a remarkable if shy wading bird with red legs and red cheeks and beak - a Purple Gallinule - my first sighting. There were other smaller birds as well, but they moved too quickly for me to identify.

Another man was on the bridge with camera and binoculars, another bird watcher. He approached me and we started chatting in Spanish, and comparing photos. He showed me an app on his smartphone which not only gave a photo of a bird, but its name in four languages. He was a visitor from Madrid, I think, and had only discovered this remarkable jewel of a conservation area, right in the middle of a major holiday resort in the previous week. A conversation about birds exclusively in Spanish plus the discovery of this place really made my day.

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