One of the things I love about the Almeria region of Spain is the desert of Tabernas. Tabernas is billed as ‘Europe’s only desert’, although they’re exaggerating a bit because it’s actually classed as a semi-desert (something to do with average rainfall and temperature). It’s still a pretty remarkable place with an eerie lunar-like landscape.
There are organised trips, but you have to go to them with a ready-made group of 6-8 people. You can get a leaflet from the tourist office and do a walk yourself, which is what I did, although I didn’t wander too far off the trail. It’s not the biggest desert in the world (something like 280 square kilometres) but still feels quite vast when you’re out alone in the heat.
One reason to go into the desert is the presence of three movie studios, which you can go and visit. The biggest one is Mini-hollywood (aka Oyasis).
I was last here fifteen years ago when it was a lot smaller. Then it cost €3 to go in and walk around the empty film sets virtually unsupervised. Now it costs €22.50 and has grown to include a zoo and nature walk, plus a small swimming pool to cool off afterwards.
The place has been considerably ‘Disney-fied’ since my last visit; I wasn’t especially interested in the zoo (I’ve seen enough zoos in my time) but I appreciated the pool after a long walk around in the heat.
The wild west film sets are amazing. It was originally built for the film A few dollars more in the 1960s. It had its heyday in the 1960s/70s and maybe there isn’t so much call for wild west film sets these days, however it is still used from time to time. An episode of Doctor Who’s 7th series, A town called Mercy, was shot here in 2012.
They perform daily shows. My favourite was this recreation of a bank raid, complete with a shoot-out, a hanging and a few stunts.
Whilst I was watching this show a kid sitting above dropped his Slushy ice-lolly onto my head, covering my hair in sugary blue gunk. I looked up, expecting an apology, but the boy and his mother both laughed. Five minutes later a mobile phone came falling down, missing my head by centimetres and shattering on the ground. It belonged to the mother, who snarled at me when she came to retrieve the broken phone. I wanted to say ‘well you can see where your son gets his clumsiness from’, but by the time my brain had translated it into Spanish the moment had gone.
I did feel it was karma at work though. I had my hair covered in blue gunk and she had a smashed phone. Lesson leaned. Next time apologise.