Sunday, 27 December 2015

Mazarron – town and port

Having been here nearly four weeks I feel empowered to comment on where we are. Well, self-empowered anyway.
First thing is that Mazarron the town and Puerto de Mazarron are not only two different places but I am pretty sure their current relationship is the exact opposite of the historic one.
Mazarron the town is about five kilometres inland and correctly described as a mining town. It grew up on the back of the excavation of silver, tin, iron, copper and alum (MORE HERE). Puerto is a fishing village essentially. And on the coast, natch. It has an apparent sub status to Mazarron now.
There must have been Iberian natives here more than 2,700 years ago but whatever remains they left in this location have been lost. Not so 45 kilometres inland where recent work has uncovered a very large city size settlement dating back far beyond 3,000 years ago. Did it use a port in the adjacent bay?
We also need to remember that only 20 kilometres away is Cartagena – first know by the Phoenicians and/or the Sea People, then influenced by Greece, and finally overwhelmed by Rome in the Punic wars. It got its name from the Carthage of Hannibal fame.But the record we have here starts with the Phoenicians in about 2,700 BCE. They developed the obvious harbours afforded by both Cartagena and Mazarron – both big bays with significant headlands and small islands for shelter. The Greeks traded with the Phoenicians. Then came Rome.
But they took time out to nick their ship-building skills and, I bet exploited the silver, copper and other metals abundant in the inland hills. By the middle ages mining was big business and Mazarron grew fast, being closer than the port to the action. The port however has been trading metals since the Phoenicians (MORE HERE).
So to today and us. Well first off all this fascinates us and redeems any other shortcomings. And there are a few. For this is the Costa Calida, mere kliks from the Costa Blanca and prone to the same over-development. The place is littered with ticky-tacky houses on hillsides miles from any justification for existence. That's the ones actually built. Others are skeletons against the skyline or netted enclosures of half-broken ground. They vie with the startling and more interesting remains of mining for attention.
We are living in a completed version, although ours is within the town of Puerto – indeed a mere 200 metres from the prom and town centre. The really nasty ones in the wilds of Spain are called urbanisations. Less unjustified versions like ours are Residencias (Luz Bahia is us).
Most of these are, like ours, a rectangle of terraced houses surrounding a communal pool and parkland. The houses vary in style, following a pattern-book in the way of London's Edwardian villas.
Ours is a standard terrace, east-west oriented with the morning side having kitchen and utility facing a large terrace. At the evening, poolside, end the large living/dining room opens onto a smaller but rather nice terrace viewing the pool.
Upstairs the main bedroom faces the morning side and the two smaller but servicable rooms face the pool. In between is the stairway out of the living room and the shower room There is also a cloakroom downstairs.
This is the fourth such house we have rented in Spain and all but one share more features than they differ by (oops; hung that one). They heat quickly and cool fast in the Spanish way. Air con is an expensive extra, lazy ceiling fans essential, and we do have an open fire but it seems never to have been lit.
Of course here is the point – our hosts are English and are unlikely ever to have stayed here in winter. That is true of all but one of the other houses we have rented here. The exception was a casita (a small two bedroom cabin style structure) within the grounds of the Spanish-resident English couple. There we had logs, an open fire and it was charming – right up to the day it rained a lot and the bedrooms flooded to a depth of two inches.
Anyway, as stated, we can walk into town and down to the prom. The town is what one would expect of a place that, until the 50s, was just a Spanish fishing village that had benefitted from the by then defunct mining business. I would guess it was charming. Frankly, it is not now. It is workmanlike and easy to navigate, however. And very well supplied with services – including Mercadona, Consum, El Arbo, Eurospar and Lidl! And both a seven day town market and a Sunday market of 300 stalls! Oh and a load of Chinese suopermarkets. And someone with a pale blue Skoda Roomster. Really!
The town is in two parts rather like Tenby but unlike Tenby neither half is very pretty. The beaches on the other hand compare very favourably with Tenby. Those to the west are rugged and smaller, with a small marina for local regatta style boats in one corner. To the east they are bigger and very, very sandy. Close to the town is the large fishing port, with a smaller number of craft, and a larger marina for the 'nearly-gin places'. There is no castle on the headland but a lighthouse and a very big Christ statue.
But both benefit from superb promenades, extending along all of the eastern end and most of the west. They provide palms, seating, play space and just plain easy walking. The beaches are mostly blue flag holders due to cleanliness (this is Spain), loos, facilities and, in season lifeguards. Dogs are banned for most beaches and for much of the year of course.

RW 17/12/15

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