Road Tripping Southern Spain

Daron Mulligan Arcadia in Granada, Spain


March 1, 2016

I take two classes in Arcadia in Granada's Environmental Studies program. This weekend one of my classes, Ecosystem of Andalucia, had a 3-day field trip around Southern Spain. Our first stop was at Laguna Fuente de Piedra, where we saw many flamingos and migratory birds. Next we drove through Parque Natural Sierra de las Nieves and learned about the species of trees that live in different soils and altitudes of the park. It started pouring on our drive to Cueva de la Pileta, a hidden cave in a mountainside. We were given a tour of the cave by a descendant of the man who discovered it! It was used by the Neanderthals and there were cave paintings from 20-40,000 year ago. It was very cool and interesting, but no pictures were allowed after passing through the entrance of the cave. 

On our second day we stayed at the hotel for the morning to learn about the native and introduced species of trees in the area. We then did a short hike at Parque Natural de los Alcornocales. In the middle of the hike it started to hail very hard! It was such a beautiful and green area- everyone was all smiles! At this park, we saw how the cork trees are over exploited for human use. The bark that usually protects the trees from fire, is stripped away for humans to use to preserve their wine and make bulletin boards! We then drove through La Janda, which used to be a large lake that was a migratory bird paradise until it was drained for private agricultural land. We ended the day by going to the beach next to our hotel and seeing the Atlantic Ocean. 

On our last day, we did a 5 mile hike through the marshlands of Barbate, a small coastal town. We spotted many species of birds, plants, snails, and turtles. We headed to El Estrecho Natural Park and hiked above the beach, into the largest sand dune in Europe, and down to Bolonia Beach. The Park is the southernmost point of Europe. It was so cool to have the Mediterranean Sea to the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. We could see the coast of Morocco during the hike! The Strait of Gibraltar is a stop for migratory birds between Africa and Europe. We learned that the climate is unique because of it's mild temperatures and lack of precipitation. We passed by a 1st century Roman town called Baelo Claudia, which was right off the shore by the Strait of Gibraltar. 

It was such a fun weekend and an experience I could only get to do through the class. Today we do not have any classes because Sunday was Andalucia Day and the Spanish take off the next day! Next weekend I am heading to Lanzarote, which is a Canary Island off the coast of West Africa. I'm very excited for it!