61 – Underground, Overground

61-1-NewspaperThere was a massive blockage at the famous Nerja Caves when I went.  Not any sort of rock-fall, nothing dangerous – just the people with the photography franchise slowing everything down to a standstill, insisting on photographing every single entrant to the caves, in a narrow passage, before allowing us past. 

Caves(1)And unlike the far more efficient system at Barcelona FC’s Camp Nou, which is digital and you can see your pic on a bank of screens as you exit, at the caves every single polaroid is printed out, and young women grab you after your visit and try to sell it to you.

Caves-strip2Once past the blockage, the caves are astonishing.  Far bigger and more exciting than even their website had led me to believe.  Our guide, the charming and knowledgeable John Keo of www.hikingwalkingspain.com/ had given us the history of the five local lads who had lowered themselves into a deep hole and had found this incredible network of caves, as recently as 1959.  Their names are recorded on a plaque at the entrance, and we looked down the original drop they had climbed down and marveled at their bravery (or stupidity?).

The stalactites (“StalaC-tites Cling TITE to the Ceiling” was the mnemonic I learned as a kid) and the stalagmites (“stalaG-MITES MIGHT G-row up to the top”) are beyond impressive.  I’m sure John told us how many millions of years it all took – I was too gobsmacked to take it all in.  Many had met in the middle, creating huge columns.  Nearby younger ones hung from above or grew up from the ground, creating beautiful displays, sensitively lit and stunning to see in the vast caverns open to the public.  More intrepid cavers can don protective harnesses and go with a guide into the cordoned-off areas once a month ….. but the public area was enough for me!

We emerged blinking into the bright June sunshine.  Photo-sellers jumped on us.  We all managed to resist.  With the popularity of mobile phone cameras, so few people were buying that the photo company keeps putting the price up (it’s now €8 for a polaroid snap) which defeats all logic.

d-MaroMy reason for signing up with John Keo’s walking tour was less for inside the caves (though his commentary was both knowledgeable and witty), and more for the walk down to Nerja.  He first led us along to the pretty village of Maro, where coffee and beers in the pretty cliff-top village square, gazing down on the ruined sugar factory, and a look around the church, made a relaxing break.

f-aqueductA mixture of quiet roads, tracks and footpaths led us along beside the jacaranda trees overlooking Nerja, down to the famous aqueduct, and down a farm track to the sea.  After the peace of the countryside it was a shock to turn the final bend and see Burriana Beach lined with sunbeds, chiringuitos, and hordes of tourists.

g-trackAlthough guiding walks is a job for John, it’s his joy as well so he was in no rush to finish our “half-day” walk.  We stopped at Ayo’s chiringuito for paella, and chatting to the waiter we established that Ayo (short for Francisco – huh?) was a good friend of the five discoverers of the caves.  h-paellaWe surmised that Ayo was holding the coats, or didn’t like the dark, or something.  But even so, it felt like a connection to that exciting moment of the discovery.

After one of the best paellas I’ve ever had (with refills included), we wandered along the pretty beach, and climbed up to the town.  I had considered turning this into a mini-break, and popped into a i-beachboatrather charming hotel we passed to see if they had a room for me.  A rather brusque response that they were full surprised me, until I realised that I was apparently without luggage, asking for a single room, with four big chaps hovering just behind me!  I think she MAY have thought I wanted the room by the hour!

k-balconOur walk took us on to the main square and the picturesque Balcón de Europa where John finally left us.  Apart from walking holidays, John has a great programme of day walks, and I look forward to doing more of these.

My reputation in Nerja now in tatters, I gave up on the overnight idea and sloped off home – it was only an hour away after all.

© Tamara Essex 2013



“Already” and “yet” give me grief, and Jose my intercambio partner has been drilling me on them.  “Already” is not so hard – Ya se ha ido – he has already gone.  Ya hemos empezado – we have already started.  Ya he pedido – I have already asked, or I’ve already ordered (that’s particularly good in cafes, when a second waiter comes to ask what you want).

But “yet” …. that changes depending if it is positive or negative.  Ya lo has limpiado?  Have you cleaned it yet?  Si, ya lo he limpiado.  Yes, I have cleaned it already.  No, no lo he limpiado aún.  No, I haven’t cleaned it yet.  Aún no lo he leido.  I haven’t read it yet.

14 thoughts on “61 – Underground, Overground

  1. Lovely – they are magnificent, but cannot imagine what they are like with hordes of tourists these days. I actually went about 20 years ago and one of the “discoverers” of the caves was actually the guide who took us round!

    • It IS very touristy, of course Michael, but once inside (and once past the wretched photography franchise!) there is just SO much space inside that the large crowds spread out and really weren’t any kind of problem.

  2. Great Post, Tamara! I have my own mnemonic – but it’s not printable in polite company! – The walk looks like good value for money, I must make sure I include it if I ever make it down that way. I don’t think that I will ever get to grips with already & yet – it won’t stop me giving it my best shot, though 🙂

  3. I wonder if Sue’s remembering of “mites” and “tites” is the same as mine?? Hahahaha

    Tamara, I was surprised to read what you wrote about Ayo being a friend of one of the five boys who found the cave. I’m sure I’ve read in some of the English language publications that Ayo was one of the five boys – and he now received a pension from the Junta for his trouble.

    I’ve done your trek many times (especially with visitors) and how delightful it is 🙂

    • Yes, we were at first told that he was one of the five, Marianne. But checking Ayo’s other names against the pic of the plaque which names the five boys, he is not th Francisco listed. Our waiter, who seemed to know what he was talking about, confirmed that Ayo was NOT one of the five but was a good friend of theirs.

  4. Great pics Tamara and the caves are very special. Nerja is touristy but still pretty and not too costa del concreto,I have stayed there several times at the Parador which is great as are all the Paradors and El Capistrano which is quite a tasteful tourist village.Frigilliana is also very interesting last time I was there I chatted to the director of the little museum who told me the bloody history of the area both in the Spanish civil war and the clearing out of the Moors,but as he pointed out Scotland also had a bloody history but not quite so recently! David Baird is a local writer who has written well about the area.

  5. Yes Tamara, the photo locos are a real pain but worth the effort, its really magical ( tites down ! ) I would love to attend one of the concerts there, now that would be special. Great blog as usual.

  6. Pingback: 104 – All the Language Points in One Place | A Foot in Two Campos

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