I was both dreading and looking forward to this past Saturday’s day trip to Cabo de Gata, a breathtakingly beautiful national park with beaches (even nude ones) and mountains (that you wouldn’t think to climb to the top of). We were informed ahead of time as we boarded the bus early Saturday morning that it would be a 6-kilometer hike and we would reach San José after about 6 hours of hiking and stopping at the beaches. The numbers were overwhelming for me. My entire summer I had spent working which, involved making copies and lecturing, not climbing mountains or hiking in 98-degree weather for hours at a time.
After we spent two and a half hours on the bus we stopped in a tiny town fifteen minutes from where we would start the hike. Our director Javier, recommended we buy another bottle of water. I was in disbelief when he told us we would probably need around 4 Liters of water and my two 21 oz water bottles would not be sufficient. Considering he was the expert I purchased one humongous bottle of water, which, I would gulp down in about two hours during the hike.
The ninety of us divided up into four groups, the muy rápido, rápido normal, lento normal, y muy lento. I was determined not to be pathetic and last even though my current stamina was probably better suited in the last group. I felt good in the third group until we reached a long most likely forty-five minute stretch of hill. It just kept going up and myself and a few other students had straggled to the back meaning that every time we caught up to the group they did not give us an opportunity to rest because they had been waiting on us. Usually when I am doing something strenuous I give myself little goals to accomplish like reach the mass of thirty people standing at the top of the hill but I also need a moment to revel in my accomplishment before setting a new one; the rest of the group was not courteous to this system.
The hike did serve as an effective bonding experience. I met a girl named Jenny in the thick of this hellish climb and we huffed up the hill together barely speaking due to lack of energy. Every once in a while I would look over at Jenny red-faced and sweaty, just like me, and then joke “Estoy moriendo” because my body was rebelling against me. My feet had blisters, my calves were protesting loudly, my back spasmed, my head hurt from dehydration, my mouth begged for water, and my face itched with layers of sweat and sunscreen. I don’t understand why people love hiking so much.
Once we reached a plateau the trip became much less miserable. The view from the top of the mountain was indescribably beautiful. The blue of the Mediterranean was vibrant and bright and contrasted with the soft tones of the cloudless sky. I took a moment to acknowledge the incredible accomplishment behind me.
(Me after the ridiculous uphill hike)
It only took us another hour or so to reach the first beach. I ran into the water and felt the cool bliss melt away the hot sun stuck to my skin. Spanish beaches are nothing like Oregon beaches. You actually swim in the water. It isn’t a dare to go in for a few minutes. It isn’t just about seeing the sand and the horizon of the ocean. I immediately loved the Mediterranean.
We ate lunch and then climbed a rather steep cliff for another thirty minutes and ended up at a secluded nude beach. It was a little awkward being one of ninety IES students marching into a nearly empty beach and watching the three or four naked people quickly pack up their umbrellas and leave. I got to lay out on the sand for a while and become aware of my surroundings. I closed my eyes and became lost in a revelation. It was a Saturday afternoon and I was sprawled out on a beach in Spain, if I had been at school I probably would still be asleep or binge watching Netflix but I wasn’t. I felt incredibly lucky.
The next morning I woke up at 3:30 in the afternoon and when I tried to get out of my bed every single muscle in my body told me NO. I spent the remainder of the day hobbling around and avoiding the stairs at all costs. But I kind of liked that I was sore. It was a reminder that I did something new and intimidating and that I was lucky to have had the opportunity to experience a magical place such as Cabo de Gata.
FYI the first beach we went to is where they filmed the third Indiana Jones movie. My tour guide showed we a picture of Harrison Ford in front of the exact beach.