It’s a year since I last visited this desert region of Almeria and as soon as I enter the park, I feel at home. There’s no need to stop at the visitors centre, as I already have a comprehensive guide book from my last visit. Instead, I drive directly to the main town of San Jose. It’s very quiet and the majority of whitewashed houses and apartments are shut up for the winter. Many of the restaurants are closed but, judging by the comprehensive chalk board menus outside, they will be open at the weekend.
The next morning, I set off early to walk along the path to Genovese Beach. Even at 9.30am it’s hot and there’s little shade to be had along the path. Large spears of sisal and prickly pear cacti line the route and, as I get closer to the long sandy beach, a few pine trees offer a chance to cool off. I follow the path across petrified sand dunes to the far end of the beach, where a dark volcanic hill rises and beckons me to climb to the top and admire the 360 degree views. It’s getting too hot to continue to Playa Monsul, where one of my favourite Indiana Jones scenes was filmed, so I slowly wander back along the soft, sandy beach and then past the old, restored windmill into town.
Next day, I move on to La Isleta and a car park overlooking a small, intimate beach. Much smaller and even quieter than San Jose, La Isleta is still a fishing village, though signs advertise diving as a supplemental tourist income. A blue and white restaurant overlooks the calm bay, dotted with small fishing vessels. I order the menu del dia, not quite sure what to expect, and end up with a fish soup starter and a colourful salad (which includes melon, orange and kiwi). For my main course, I’m given a choice of pork or chicken or a long list of different fish and seafood. I order chipirones (small squid) which come fried with chips.
Entertainment is provided by a skinny, dark-haired, young woman who walks past in a tight, black mini-skirt, fuchsia brassiere and black fedora. At first I think she must be a hooker, but then a man appears with a large camera and starts photographing her. It all seems very unprofessional for a photo shoot. The hat still sports a large white price tag, as do the soles of her high heels. However, after the hat gets caught by a gust of wind and ends up in the sea, I doubt they will be returning it.
A small Scottie dog and large, black cat wander amongst the tables looking for a titbit, but they are disappointed. The food is just too good to give away.