Outdoor Sports for the more Adventurous

Cuevas_de_Nerja_SpainAndalucía has many gentle charms: the beach, the sun, the wine, but short of travelling to New Zealand, it also offers one of the best range of options for slightly less gentle pastimes. The strength of the Atlantic waves, the force and frequency of the winds, the mountains, caves and rivers are all crying out to be exploited for fun, fun, fun!

Starting with beach activities Tarifa and the gorgeous beaches along to Cadiz receive so much wind that it is now Europe’s surfing and wind boarding capital. Tarifa is about 2 hours from Marbella and hotels, hostels and campsites abound in the area so you don’t have to drive home exhausted after a surfing day.

There are loads of surf schools and hire places all along the coast road so you don’t need to be a pro to have a go. Be warned however that it is a very popular area so booking is almost obligatory in high summer as most of Madrid and the hip young surfing lads of Europe seem to be there. The traffic along the coast road to Tarifa from Algeciras can be a nightmare too.

Caving or Speleology to give it its proper name is on the up and up. The limestone geology of the area has left many cave systems to be explored Some of the larger systems are opened out to the public with guided visits, Nerja, and St Michaels caves in Gibraltar being the classic examples. The Sierra de Las Nieves behind Marbella has some of the deepest caves in Spain and the Malaga Excursionists Society are actively exploring them.

As caving is a dangerous sport joining a local society is a very good idea but some of the smaller systems can be managed without specialist equipment. Other main caves in the area include the Cueva del Gato in Grazalema, the Cueva de la Pileta in Benaojan near Ronda, the Cueva de Tesoro in Rincon de La Victoria and el Torcal de Antequera. One of my best days out here was a visit to a very small cave system where the river Hozgarganta starts, near Ubrique.

With a very small amount of equipment (good torches and back up batteries!), lots of energy and a local, who had been visiting them since he was a child, we had an awe filled day. Unfortunately Alfonso, our local guide has just smashed his leg up badly falling of his horse, pissed, so there won’t be any return trips for a while (good job we only took water with us last time!).

Now for more leg smashing activity! Hang gliding and paragliding are both sports that require a sizeable outlay of money and definite tuition! But the rewards, apparently, are worth it-spectacular bird’s eye views of the scenery and a feeling of godlike power. Well nearly. El Bosque and Algonadales in Cadiz province and on the escarpment of Ronda La Vieja near Ronda are the two main places where these sports are practised but there are many more areas suitable.

In Jimena de la Frontera the castle is used as a launch pad as there are no real wires around. The sheer fun of the sport is apparent as they swoop and glide around the castle finally coming to land on the sandy beaches of the river below. These are not solitary sports-someone is always required to help with take off, to watch constantly upto landing and to drive the vehicle to the landing site for collection. I have found this helper-watching role rather a panic-filled experience at times with my phone ready with the emergency number primed!

Other adventurous activities include mountain climbing, try the Sierra de Las Nieves, and rock climbing. This later sport is very popular and can be practised by groups of friends in practically all the Natural and National parks. Some rock faces even have crampons left permanently in them by groups who practise regularly, such as the Fire brigade. Not a lot of equipment is necessary and yet again the sense of achievement is well worth the effort.

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