On the 3rd May we left Cartagena (and Sally!) to make our way to the inland waterway, the Mar Menor. Judith’s son and daughter in law were expected on the 10th, flying to Alicante. We had a week to explore!
We arrived at the entrance to the Mar Menor at 15.10. Mar Menor means ‘minor sea’ or ‘smaller sea’. It is a salty lagoon of warm water no more than 6 metres in depth. Separated from the Mediterranean by La Manga (sleeve in Spanish), a sandbar 22 km in length with a width ranging from 100 – 1,200 metres. Surprisingly, on this sandbar are built many blocks of apartments and hotels of varying heights!
To enter the waterway you must navigate a small channel in which there is a lifting bridge. We arrived at 15.10 and the bridge did not open until 1600 so we anchored at the entrance and put the kettle on!
There are five ilets within the lagoon – Perdiguera, Mayor, Ciervo, Redonda and del Sujeto. After entering we headed for Perdiguera and anchored in a small bay. The water was like a piece of glass.
The following morning we decided to go ashore and explore. The birds were nesting and were not at all happy with our presence so we carefully made our way towards the middle of the island where we came across a tunnel hidden in the rock that led through to the other side. At that point Alistair decided to google the islands history. “During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) the island was used as a bombing practice ground. Many bombs that did not go off made walking on this island very dangerous.” OOOHHH!!! We were wondering why we were the only ones ashore! He read on.." “In the 1990’s a campaign for bomb detection and deactivation was launched prior to the construction of beach stalls and in the late 90’s it became a tourist destination. Due to the environmental deterioration caused by the tourists, in 2007 Coastal Regulations established the need to close down the stalls and develop a more sustainable form of tourism.” It was obvious to us that since the stalls had been removed not many visitors had landed on the island and unfortunately the remains of said stalls littered part of the beach area which was a ‘blot’ on the landscape of a beautiful island.
One of the other ilets is a private Island, Isla Mayor, also known as Isla del Baron, this has the only forest of small palm trees in Europe and is considered a special bird protected area because of its many different types of birds.
During our week in the Mar Menor we travelled from one end to the other exploring the villages along the shore. At the Northern end there are mud pools where flamingos roam! These flamingos are white…A fact that Judith was unaware of was that flamingos are pink because of their diet of brine shrimp and blue-green algae which contains a natural pink dye called canthaxanthin’. The flamingos in the Mar Menor obviously do not eat either of these!
Bathers take to the mud pools to cover themselves in the alleged health giving mud. We were not so brave and just watched from the sidelines! Those that did partake, looked like a blue version of Shrek!
As we left the Mar Menor we motored passed what could only be described as the pinnacle of cruising vessels. What he didn’t have on board was obviously not worth having! Alistair was flabbergasted that every inch of deck space was taken up with something or other. With all of the equipment he had on board we estimated his cruising speed at about half a knot!