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Tabernas desert, some personal musings.


Well-Known Member
Mar 26, 2010
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I was travelling in the car with ‘Cookie’ my little dog, so had the driving to get on with and no spare hand for a camera. Fortunately there are copious amounts of pictures and video footage taken by others, all of which would put my offerings to shame. Many will have already seen those posted up by Steve and Dawn, along with Mark and Mel, great stuff, no doubt there are more to come. And of course there were people in the team that are way more experienced and articulate about writing trip reports than myself. Hence my report here is more about personal experience than the actual trails, I hope some will see the trip from a different perspective.

The Tabernas trip nearly did not happen for me, when Steve invited me I thought getting prepared would be easy, but workload got in the way, this and with various other obstacles thrown in my path, everything from the solar panel not fitting with my replacement roof rack, to the dog having some kind of fit/seizure and attacking the terrace floor, grinding her nails and pads down to bleeding, her face swollen disfigured perhaps by a bite of some kind, jury is still out on this? The pictures are quite horrific so I will spare you them, the vet patched her up and did a great job. This along with other interruptions it seemed I was destined not to make it to Tabernas.

Despite not having a dashboard in the car and other wiring to do at 23.00 the night before, some extra candles were burnt and I eventually started out on the Sunday morning, the drive to the camp site just a couple of hours away. I was about halfway there and I realised that in the chaos I had not packed two of my camp boxes, so with no solar, no cooking gear and God knows what else missing I carried on. Fortunately the camp site which I think was chosen by Steve and Dawn was great, along with the decent shower block there was power. Of course I never had a camping adaptor for the ‘luz’ it mattered not. Between Steve and Mark they got power to my car, the fridge being an important piece of kit. And between the rest of the happy campers I got hot water and my food cooked, so thanks to all concerned I did manage to get out a day or so later and find a Chinese shop which allowed me to purchase most of the essentials cups/plates, fighting irons and other stuff which included a saucepan….more of that later.

Monday morning came and we were off, the abundance of trails in Spain meant we had many to choose from. Thanks to Rodger and Mark they sorted out some good trails, some were easy, some tough, and some damn right impassable, even with a tank you were just not getting through! GPS maps not showing that the trail has been washed away by torrential rain, or rock falls, on occasion’s we found we were literally ‘on the edge’. Of course you do not know this until you get there, then find out it is going to be a turnaround, I think we were fortunate to find the space to turn on some trails, the altitudes, the terrain would have made it dangerous to try and reverse.

During planning later in the week, there was concern that my new AT tyres were not going to be up to the job, and that concern it seems was justified. Coming out of a dry river bed a twig punctured an inner side wall! I was not too concerned about the puncture, I had a repair kit plus two spares, my concern was more for holding up our group for something that should simply not have happened. Again they came to the rescue, yes I had the gear but more hands make light work and all was sorted and we were on our way, an email to the tyre manufacturer has thus far gone unanswered, that will get a follow up. Tuesday was no different, get out go as far as we could and then get back to base camp. Our final day curtailed by a potential ‘Gota Fria’ (Spain's own version of a 'proper' thunderstorm), these can be quite serious in the lower trail areas…….where we were, IMO the decision to abandon the trails early on Wednesday was the right one. I had some good times out there before the weather called a halt to proceedings.

The fun did not stop on the trails, sitting around the table discussing vehicle mods and ideas was great, like minded people talking like minded car stuff, although there was one particular exception to car talk. One evening I was parading my high quality (Chinese) cooking gear, and Pete pointed out that his saucepan was of a much higher quality than mine. To be fair he was absolutely right, the brand name on mine is ‘Quid’ so you get the idea, there was some banter as he rapped on his and being rewarded with a quality clunk, mine returning a clunk more akin to a cheap door bell, we continued with our meal with no more said. Pete left early on the last day for the long journey North................and in his haste had forgotten his treasured saucepan! :icon-biggrin: I took immediate possession, I got his breakfast bowl as well, and perhaps the most important article, his washing up sponge. His sponge? I hear you say, well yes as when I turned it over I found this:


Now come on Pete how pretentious is this? :lol:

I normally travel alone exploring and camping out on the Spanish trails whenever work allows, and this means I can pick and choose my routes, taking my own time but it is not always easy. Extricating yourself from difficult situations takes longer and the element of risk is a lot higher. So, for me the trip was about change, doing some trails with others, meeting like minded people, and the team building that came with it. It mattered not if you needed a kettle of hot water, or some very good spotting through tight areas it was there. If not taking pictures the girls were lugging boulders to pack under wheels…….I mean come on, how good were they! The camaraderie was there, the team effort was there, it seemed as if you went from forum acquaintance to friends in seconds such was the welcome. If you have ever thought about signing up for one of these trips, then go for it! I thoroughly enjoyed myself with these guys and girls, and if they will have me, will definitely be up for invites to other trips in the future.

Thanks to all.


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Cheers Dave - funny as ever! :) Great team work and always a smile :)
Dave - it was great to meet you and yes we all made a great team. Not being a car nut I enjoyed the chat and banter and also learned a lot - would love to do another as as far as I am concerned you are always welcome - Dawn
Good, Bad & Ugly Tour 2016 – Rodger & Corinne

Tabernas town square

Tabernas is only about an hour and a half’s drive from Ugijar, where we live, so in reality ours was the shortest trip which maybe a good thing after our 5,000+ mile trip last summer. So in the weeks before, prepping our 40 and trying to define various trails from maps and the internet would occupy much of our time prior to when we would all meet, for the first time, at the campsite.

We had not had the time to undertake any serious reccies, so a degree of trepidation regarding the proposed trails, accompanied our arrival at the campsite. But the ‘group paella’ was a great ice-breaker together with a few cold ones!

Two many cooks

Monday dawned with a cloudless sky and our convoy headed for the first trail which entailed a run down the valley that has hosted numerous sequences from different films, - Lawrence of Arabia, King of Kings, Chato’s Land, - land that the likes of Yul Brynner, Charles Bronson, Peter O’Toole and of course Clint Eastwood have trodden – and all this within 200 yards of a motorway that cannot be seen or heard. This trail is easy with only a few rough sections but nothing challenging. Passing under the motorway we headed south on the Rambla de Tabernas for about 4 miles, then out of the rambla (dry river bed) for fuel and coffee at Abriojal before we attacked the climb into the mountains, or so we thought….

The rules are simple in this area, if a route is ‘chained’ or ‘unauthorised’ – turn round and find another way.

From Abriojal we passed through the pretty village of Rioja (not the wine area) and turned onto the Rambla de los Arcos, the idea being to pass the solar farm and the gravel pits and on into the mountains, but as we approached the farm the way was fenced and unauthorised. Time to turn round! But immediately we opted for the dry, rocky, sandy river bed as a possible way up. Quickly the path narrowed with overhanging rocks, Mark and Dave (80s) with their roof tents only just clearing them, and valley walls reaching 150 metres skywards. The sand was soft and the rocks unforgiving and then the previously laid tracks from other explorers stopped but on we went until washed out rocks and insufficient width barred the way. Time to turn round again!


Ed guides

At the first bend on the return the challenge really started, Ian (SWB 90) and us (40) managed to get through with guidance and next up was Pete in the Invincible Hilux – the longest vehicle – and to get him through teamwork came to the fore. Hi-lift jack, spreader block and a club hammer all played their part as we lifted the rear and pushed the Hilux sideways a couple of times while the hammer took off a rather nasty piece of rock that would have destroyed a tyre and rim. Eventually Pete breathed a sigh of relief and his Hilux cleared the obstacle. But what of the 80s? Mark and Dave inspected a mound on the inside of this bend which was around 10 foot high with a gradual up and a steep down. Dave, with his cute little dog, Cookie, quietly sitting in the passenger seat, was first to try. The climb was bouncy and, once guided into line, Dave went for the drop and as the bumper kissed the sand Dave said, “Cookie’s fallen into the footwell!” Mark followed and Steve brought the 95 through the tight bend. Time for lunch.
Cookie hits the footwell

We, well Mark and I, decided we’d try another route, one which neither of us had explored online, to see if we could get up the mountains. This track starts at Los Rincones which is just north of Abriojal and meanders through the cortijos (small-holdings) before starting in earnest. The area is named Rambla de los Yesos (Yeso is the term used for the rough plaster used on the walls of houses) and the hillsides were white and purple, looking as if they had been poured. As we climbed the track the gulleys, either side or in the middle, became deeper, wider and more challenging. After negotiating several tricky sections we arrived at a point where the rock had been water eroded on both sides leaving only a narrow bridge, one too narrow for even the smallest of our trucks. Although we were only around 1,000 feet up, to our left was a sheer drop of around 600 feet and impenetrable hillside to our right we had to find a way of turning back. Teamwork, great teamwork. We drove our 40 and Dave’s 80 as far onto the eroded spit as possible and that gave room for Mark’s 80 to go over a narrow, angled path where it met a down gulley that had just enough room, after several manoeuvres to get turned. Ian, then Dave and then our 40 all negotiated the turn while Steve and Pete had found a turning place a 100 yards further down, although I am not sure either enjoyed edging towards the drop to get turned, even though the view was magnificent. On leaving this confined turning area I glanced at the point where the 40 had been stood and realised that where the front wheels had rested there was only about a foot of rock beneath them and below that a rather deep void. (That was a bit ten bob/ threepenny bit!).
At the back, for a change

Doesn't look that deep in the photo!

By the time we made the tarmac we’d all had enough and returned to camp but on the way back Corinne and I were discussing how disappointed everyone must be as we hadn’t completed a trail. And how wrong were we? Everyone, to a greater or lesser extent, had enjoyed the challenge and the cold ones were really welcome.

Tuesday morning, sunny again, was again full of aborted attempts to get on the west trail: a substantial (20 foot deep) rockfall stopped our progress in the Rambla del Lanujar, a working film set stopped another access and finally the chains blocked the final point of entry. So then we tried to visit an old decaying film set only to find that they wanted to charge us far too much to go there so we returned to the south side of the A340a and started up the track beside Mini Hollywood. Somewhere along the way we tried, unsuccessfully, to locate the place that was the opening shot in The Good, Bad and the Ugly and I will find it before next year’s trip! After lunch we started a serious climb of around 3,000 feet on a trail, classed by the Spanish as ‘dangerous’, and eventually levelled out on the ridge. To our right we looked down on Cabo de Gato and the Mediterranean Sea and to our left the view was over the desert to the mountains in the north. We descended via Turrillas and about 7 kilometres from the campsite decided to try a small rambla, one not surrounded by cliffs, while Pete returned to camp as he had to leave early the following morning. Rambla de los Alamos… Maybe we should have read the name before we tried it! This was a different terrain; a shallow, narrow rambla with various tough desert bushes and rocks. Eventually it was time to turn round and soon, after turning, Dave radioed that he had a puncture. One of these tough desert plants had gone through the sidewall! Soon the spare was on and the offending piece was gaffer taped to the bonnet front.


Wednesday: for Pete an early start to catch his ferry at Santander that evening (950 kilometres) while we set off down the Rambla de Tabernas with a short road section through the villages of Paulenca, Mondujar and La Calderona before joining the Rio Andarax (west) and turning north on the Rambla de Gergal. We had to do the road section as there is a weir in the Rio Andarax, not that there is any water. We found the access we needed to take us through the hills to join the Rambla Seca which has an old Roman wall running down one side to protect the fertile areas, if any areas around here can be called ‘fertile’, (R de Gergal has some of these Roman walls too). The narrow, deep sandy bed has numerous switch backs with the rock faces reaching skyward and then we came to the first of two railway tunnels. If you have seen Once Upon A Time in the West, this is the same railway although not at this point. The tunnel had a 3 foot stone face at its entrance with a narrow curved, stone and wood path to the left which was successfully negotiated and is immediately followed by another tunnel (railway access to an old mine) which had another 3 foot sand climb to get up. Once through the tunnels the trail became less defined but apparently there is a trail that leads out of the rambla and on. When we arrived at this point it was fairly obvious that some seriously lifted and tyred vehicles had used/misused this before and we quickly decided that this 300+ foot steep climb was not for us, as we would all have beached on the mound and the rock edges prevented any straddling. While we are looking at our options three motorcycles arrived and they took the climb one at a time – engines screaming by the time they reached the top and the second guy’s feet were nowhere near the pedals as he neared the crest. But for us there was possibly another way and we literally had to create our own trail until we reached a narrow rock filled section. Turn round time particularly as we had viewed a weather front coming in and ramblas are no places to get caught when it rains. We successfully re-traced our steps and as we rejoined the main rambla I could hear a clicking from the engine bay. A quick inspection revealed a stick had gone between the track rods under the rad and was trying to do battle with the fan. Stick removed, Dave proceeded to gaffer tape it to the front of our bonnet – you can imagine the comments about stick size! We returned to camp on tarmac as the rains started but in the ramblas it is not what is happening around you then but what has happened upstream, maybe miles away, as they are not the places to get caught when it rains.

During the evening and night it poured and breaking camp the following morning was a damp affair but we had all adjourned to the local hostelry the previous evening for a very pleasant meal.

Our relatively short time with the Tour was, for us, great fun with super people and great teamwork.

Before next year’s Good, Bad and the Ugly Tour Dave and I have agreed we will reccie various other trail options, particularly to the north of Tabernas, as the area is not conducive to undertaking reccies alone.
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Great Rodger, thanks very much. Thanks for all your hard work :)
Clearly you all got on very well with each other, I think episodes like this bring out the best in people.

It's also obvious that a return trip is in the offing next year. Have fun sorting out some routes!!

As a spectator, thanks to all for the posts, photos and videos, I've enjoyed your trip almost as much as you guys have :clap::clap::clap:
I wondered where my saucepan and bowl went......

Will get them off you next time :)

My trip was also quite different to everyone else's - mainly in the long trek to start the journey. I was concerned that being completely alone in the truck would be lonely, but in all honesty it worked ok, there was enough radio chit-chat to stop me talking to myself too much....

Can I also add- when I left home I weighed 15st4lbs. I now weigh 14st5lbs.......the 'Tabernas Diet' :)

Can I also add- when I left home I weighed 15st4lbs. I now weigh 14st5lbs.......the 'Tabernas Diet' :)

Blimey Pete. I was sure that curry you ate wasn't a diet one ..... What's the recipe ?
I wondered where my saucepan and bowl went......

Will get them off you next time :) Pete

Of course Pete but remember, high security storage costs for such quality goods is quite expensive, we can discuss fees when we meet. :lol:


you & me both!
I wondered where my saucepan and bowl went......

Will get them off you next time :)

My trip was also quite different to everyone else's - mainly in the long trek to start the journey. I was concerned that being completely alone in the truck would be lonely, but in all honesty it worked ok, there was enough radio chit-chat to stop me talking to myself too much....

Can I also add- when I left home I weighed 15st4lbs. I now weigh 14st5lbs.......the 'Tabernas Diet' :)

You & me both Pete I lost 5kg over the hols! busy putting it back on now though :(
Dave - have you heard of the term 'kidnapping'........not accusing or anything, just putting it out there ;)

Life is so mundane now I'm back, really missing the camaraderie, but not the dog pack howling and cockerel.

Next suggestion please! (Algeria, is it safe?)

Steve - bearing in mind your walking 20,000 steps a day I'm sure the weight will stay off, especially with all the liquids you drink
Whist appreciating that many westerns were made down here, I hadn't realised that so much 'pan handling' went on!
@wobbly Not so much kidnapping, just being a little entrepreneurial :lol:

Blimey, count the syllables! :icon-ugeek:

@Rodger very clever :icon-rolleyes:


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Next time I would probably do the Santander - Malaga bit at the beginning, then come back up, would make the return far less pressured.
I'm late reading this but very glad i did sounds like you guys had a ball . Thanks for posting :thumbup: