Into the mines of Moria

Part 1, Part 5, or part 10. Start where you like but don’t complain about a lack of content.

It’s hard to believe this would be possible but Benalmadena made us long for the simple, non-touristy town of Albufeira. This place was the Miami Beach of southern Spain with big hotels and boatloads of tourists. All we wanted was some nice Spanish food and all we found were curry shops, Irish pubs, English pubs, shawarma shops, etc. etc. It actually turned out that if you take the boardwalk down by the beach towards the marina there are a lot more interesting places to eat but we didn’t discover that for a day or two.

For now, all we wanted to do was to go find a nice place to see some sights and relax so we head up the coast, past Malaga towards a place called Nerja that was reputed to be one of the nicest beaches in the area. It seemed to be pretty nice as we got closer but we were only getting closer because we had already walked for about 15 minutes from the only place we could find a parking spot. Nerja was crowded and tacky and the beach looked like it had way too many people so we decided to bail out. Looking up the coast, I thought I saw some beaches in the distance so we figured we would just go explore and see if we could discover something for ourselves.

Here’s a shot of us posing along the road to Nerja.


Here’s a snapshot of Nerja. It really is gorgeous but we just weren’t in the mood to fight crowds and traffic and such. Nerja actually got into our list of ‘Hardest Places to Leave’ along with Portimao. We got lost and went in circles several times before finding our way out.


As we drove through some of the small towns along the highway, we went through a town called ‘Maro’ and we saw a sign that said ‘Playa’ with an arrow down the road. Since we knew that a Playa was a beach, we followed it down a steep, narrow road with a couple switchbacks down the cliff to the water and found that there was, in fact, a beach. We later learned that this was one of the premier snorkeling beaches in the area and was generally only frequented by locals. Here’s what it looks like about halfway down the road along the cliffs.


From the beach it looks like so. The umbrellas on the left are from a little restaurant where a couple of guys will cook you dinner and make you Sangria.


The beach was nice sand but in the water was more rocky than sandy. This was fine, however, since the water was beautiful and clear and had a very steep drop-off so you were swimming almost immediately after entering. We saw a number of people with snorkels and spears going in from the beach and swimming out to the reefs and cliffs surrounding the area.

After a nice relaxing time of swimming and lounging, we wanted to get a bite so we went to the little cafe to see what they had. Well, what they had was some of the best sangria we’ve ever tasted with some sort of spicy liquor like ginger or nutmeg giving just a hint of exotic flavour. The waiter brought out a big tray with a bunch of fresh caught fish on it to show us what had been caught that day and we picked out a nice one to share. Let me tell you, this fish was grilled to perfection. Just one of many wonderful meals but all the more sweet because you don’t expect to find such good food at a tiny beach front cafe in the middle of nowhere.

After that it was time to do some more sightseeing. If you know Sharon and I, in spite of having no kids, we have an unnatural attraction to childish amusements. The highlight of our Niagara trip was African Lion Safari and we were very disappointed to have not made it to Sea World. The kids section of our guide book mentioned that Nerja also had some interesting caves that one could take a look at so we decided to do that on our way back.

I have to say that interesting does not even cover it. The caves at Nerja were unbelievable. It’s very hard to capture a sense of scale in a photo but these caverns were hundreds of feet high with huge limestone stalactites and stalagmites. There were walking paths through them that let you do a walk around the several caverns that were open to the public.

There I was, waiting for a long exposure to finish with my camera mounted on my trusty tripod when Sharon turned to me, “A tripod!! You fool! You’ll waken the beast of Helm’s Deep that has slept under the Mines of Moria all these centuries past.” Sure enough, even before my 30 second exposure was finished, a Balrog was charging, red eyes glaring, wearing his tour guide uniform. “No tripod,” he roared, belching fire and smoke from his gaping maw. Promising to put it away, Sharon and I ran, ran like the wind, not looking back, deeper into the heart of the cavern, always with the sound of drums…drums in the deep….

I know it’s hard to believe but every word is true. I swear. In the end, I still used the tripod but I kept it all the way down so it was very discreet and Sharon kept a lookout for any more Balrogs. I managed to sneak off a couple more shots before we escaped back into the light but we’ll always remember the horror of that day.

To get the picture of the size of this place, first consider this picture. It’s taken from a walkway above a set of bleachers that are about half way down the side of this one cavern.


Now consider this picture. It’s taken from the next cavern looking back through a tunnel at this one. I’ve given a zoom that shows the bleachers in the middle.

On our way back we stopped in Malaga. Coincidentally enough, Sharon’s parents had been in Malaga that day too on account of their cruise ship stopping there but we had no way to meet up with them so we likely passed within a couple kilometers and never knew it.

Malaga became one of our favorite towns in southern Spain. The downtown had a great area where it was all closed streets with little shops, cafes, bodegas, etc. along with some lovely churches and an old Alacazaba left over from Moorish times. We spend more time there another day but this day we just settle for stopping in at a nice little tapas bar for some snacks and sherry. A lovely cap to a great day and back to our hotel. Our room would be the one on the bottom right.


Not a lot of photos today but believe me, the next posting will make up for it. We’re off to Granada to see the Alhambra.


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