Is That a Bar in Your Nature Reserve?

I don’t know if this is just a me thing, but I am generally drawn to situations something slightly out of the ordinary is happening… whatever it may be and in whatever direction it plays out.  And if it happens to make me laugh… all the better.  I spent four days in Almunecar Spain, a touristy small town on Spain’s Mediterranean coast.  One of the nice things about Almunecar is that between the town and Nerja to the west, the coastline is part of a nature preserve.  The coastal terrain in this part of Spain is very extreme… steep hills plunging, literally, straight down into the ocean (those of you that live in non-hilly parts of the world might even call these suckers mountains).  The lovely geologic forces of nature (bet you haven’t thought about geology since middle school science class right) has allowed the ocean to erode certain parts of the hills to form little pocket beaches up and down the coastline.   With a car and some hiking one can get oneself onto a lovely little slice of beach heaven…  and, if you’re lucky, a relatively secluded little slice of beach heaven (I say lucky as it’s not like this part of the coast is a secret from those who live and vacation there regularly… despite that fact that it may feel like you just uncovered some lost shangrila when you first stumble down the trail onto these places).

Anyhow, one day my lovely companion and I drove down the coast to try out luck and find a nice secluded beach all to ourselves (what’s the point of being on a secluded beach without a lovely companion to accompany you right?).  One interesting thing here is that the main coastal road between Almunecar and Nerja is actually pretty high up on the hills, and to reach these beaches you generally have to turn off the main road (between sections of the guardrail mind you) onto dirt roads… and I use the terms roads loosely… that head down toward the water (be sure to wave at the farmers working their vineyards and what not on the way down).  We found a road that looked good and went for it (actually we parked and tried to walk first, but thought better to drive once we realized how far down, and back, the hike would be).  After about a mile and a half or so we ended up here:

Yes… I just parked right on the beach.

A look back toward the road taken to get to this beach.

Hardcore beaching…

Perfect right… sunny day, relatively secluded cove…nice.  And it got better.  After some hardcore beaching I decided to go for a little dip in the sea to cool off…  and as I’m floating I swear I can hear music on the air.  And not music like Armik-style music, but straight radio cheesy pop action.  I look around for the group with the ghetto blaster…nothing.  I catch some movement out of the corner of my eye and, about 300 yards away, I see a guy emerge from behind some bushes and put out a sign.  Hmmm… question mark?  Curiosity sufficiently aroused, I swim back in, dry off and walk a bit closer to the place to find out what’s up.

The general direction from which I can hear music coming from.

Upon closer inspection.

Is that a bar?  Down a 1.5 mile dirt road?  In the middle of a nature preserve?  Apparently yes, yes and yes.  Well…alright… it’s hot, there’s not much else around…might as well go check it out.  Turns out that it is, in fact, a bar.  It also turns out that it is owned by a Cuban guy who, mysteriously, knows how to make (and sell) some ridiculously good mojitos:

Besides the fact that the place was good (I even came back two nights later as the dude above cooked us some ridiculously good cuban food), I find it amazing that it even existed in the first place.  For those of you who don’t know, I have a background in urban planning… and some fun personal experiences with residential permitting in the City and County of San Francisco… and let me tell you… things like a bar in a nature reserve would just never fly in California.  First there’s the US’s different/stricter take on alcohol consumption (the Spaniards take a much more relaxed attitude on this aspect of life).  And second, there’s no way a business like this would ever get a permit to operate in a nature preserve (I could only imagine the fun of the conditional use permit hearing… I actually also hope none of you ever have to sit through on of those as well).  I have no idea what Spanish permitting loophole this guy fell through to be able to have a bar, down a dirt road, on the beach, in the middle of a nature preserve, but I salute you sir for your efforts (and thank the permitting officials as well…if in fact the bar does indeed have an actual official permit).  These are the little discoveries that I feel make exploring fun… just something unexpected and out of the ordinary happening when you least expect it.  And something like this, where I can’t even fathom how it happened/got there in the first place, makes it that much more interesting for me.  I know you don’t have to travel to have those types of experiences… but they do seem to happen a bit more on the road for me, as I tend to be a bit more open to poking about to see what’s under the rock type of thing.


2 thoughts on “Is That a Bar in Your Nature Reserve?

    • Very cool… I worked for an urban planning consulting firm for two years right after college. I don’t think I was cut out for the job, but I definitely have a soft spot for zoning codes and bureaucratic procedure. I like to think that Europe is pretty bad in that regard (the politics of navigating a bureaucracy part), but my experiences in San Francisco have taught me how bad (or similar anyhow) it can be in the US.

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