Café Crem

Art, Music and Words around The Coffee Table

Agua Amarga -The sweet taste of bitter water – 2 –

Chilling out in our local cafe

The following day we decided to hike over the headland at the far end of the beach. but before that. it was time to chill in one of the outdoor cafes while Miki sketched and I read and listened to music.

The artist in action....

Situated in a lovely little square, it sort of became our ‘local’ for the few days we were in Agua Amarga.  We then headed back to the Boomobile where Miki worked on the sketches she’d just done outside, and as the afternoon wore on, we headed off to the headland. We could see some stone structures high on the ridge, particularly one of the many watchtowers that are dotted along this coast, plus other less identifiable ones. Little did we know, these were to be just the tip of the iceberg.

Only another few hundred feet to go......

Nearly there.......

Made it! -rewarded with a wonderful view!

We started our climb from the beach, and then cut across to a point where a clearly defined ‘wall’ seemed to stretch right up to the ridge.  We scaled this and looked down into the bay beyond. There, in front of us, was an incredible, huge series of structures occupying the entire valley. Solid stone walls, a hundred feet high, one after the other built from one slope to the other. great sunken wells disappearing into oblivion, obviously the source of the ‘bitter water’ the town was named for. It looked like some giant fortification that had been abandoned in haste.but we couldn’t work out what it actually was.

The beginnings of a mystery revealed to us...

Beside himself with excitement, Kev bounds off to investigate.....

We spent a great few hours climbing up, down, and around it, getting into some precarious positions!   Even managing to climb down to the sheer cliff in front of it. This deepened the mystery even further. Because it had this huge, un-scaleable wall, yet at the base, viewed from this side we saw a series of tunnels that were unhindered, running deep into the structure.  A long, precipitous staircase also ran high up the cliff to the watchtower on the headland.

Heading off to explore the tunnels.....

I'm King of the World!!!!

Smiling now - but with ominous staircase in background.....

"Tell me when I'm at the top...I'm not opening my eyes...."

As we looked out to sea, we saw a huge man-made stone structure in ruins, languishing in the shallows, the waves battering it mercilessly.  As we edged our way along the cliff, we found channels constructed out of stone blocks running for some meters then dropping sharply down the cliff-face to the ocean, and a stone building, dilapidated now, facing the ruins in the sea.  We climbed along as far as we could, but found further passage impossible, and prepared to make our way home via the stone steps up the side of the headland.   What was this mysterious collection of structures?  A little bit of research following our trip revealed all:

One of the more successful of the mining ventures in Almeria, mainly because it had better planning and better investment, resulted in the creation of railway line to the coast.  The line ran from mines in the mountains of the Sierra Alhamilla in the parish of Lucainena to the coast at Agua Amarga.The mines being some 30 km from the sea (the only practical long distance route in those days), either an aerial cable or a railway was needed to transport the iron ore. Given the terrain, a cable was easier but it was a long way and reliability could be a problem so a railway was chosen.

Giant hoppers for the ore  were built by taking advantage of the Calareno barranco which sloped down from the Nijar Palain to the sea. These were the huge walls we had seen.  Enormous deposits were built in its interior. They were conical and had a capacity of 45,000 tons. There were also auxiliary deposits built underground on the right-hand slopes.

In the upper part of the workings, some 80m above sea level, the main line finished. At the top, the line split. One branch continued on the level along the edge of the barranco. Its purpose was to fill the auxiliary underground hoppers via the small branches to the train’s left. It also connected with an inclined plane that went down to Agua Amarga. This plane brought coal for the ovens, wood for heating, machinery, foodstuff and other essential goods for the miners. It was all brought from ships moored near to the coast. At the bottom were fuel oil stores for the Lucainena generator.

The second branch continued down the barranco by means of a 231m inclined plane. It dropped 40m and operated in successive sets of six wagons, three loaded going down and three empty going up.

At the foot of the plane, lines branched out, some linked with the underground deposit, while others fed, via metal bridges, the main hoppers. Mineral was taken from the auxiliary hoppers to the main ones by wagons pushed by six or seven men, since there were no engines at the bottom of the inclined plane.

Under the main hoppers were access tunnels, in which were 600mm lines. I now realized the small trough in the tunnels that I saw when I explored them within was where the narrow gauge rail track sat. Wagons were filled with ore, then moved, again by hand, to the pier. The distance was 166m. Four arms went to the main hopper and one to the exterior.

The last part of the journey by land was across a great metal bridge. This was an inverted (rails on top) cantilever bridge that extended 70m over the sea and 14m above it. It was built by Miravalles who constructed cantilever bridges all over Spain. The bridge carried four lines, two out and two back. At the end were chutes, which discharged the ore directly into the hold of the ship. The ruins we had seen out in the water were the remains of the pier on which the bridge sat.

Along the top are the ruins of the harbour-master’s house, the telephone exchange and various offices – These ruins were the last we saw when we walked the cliffs.

So there you have it: we had stumbled upon a giant railway-fed iron ore depot on the coast. We were stunned at the amount of work involved in creating the mine, the line across the Nijar plain, and the giant hoppers and pier, etc, for a venture which began in 1896 , suffered the price crash of iron ore in the 20’s and finally ceased operations in 1942. amazing what you can find when you go climbing!

Back at the village limits exhausted and exhilirated - another great day out!

Kev Moore


June 15, 2010 - Posted by | Art, coffee, drawing, fun, life, nature, photography, travel, writing | , , , , , ,

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