I was the only non golfer in a group of family and friends based at the La Manga Golf Resort 15km or so east of Cartagena on the Spanish Mediterranean coast.It was my first visit to this specific area and since I had limited access to the car I decided just to walk the local area. There are higher mountains around Murcia town, further east from Alicante and west of Cartagena. All pictures were taken with a Canon EOS 200D fitted with a Sigma DC 18-250mm OS HSM zoom lens. I used the 1:50,000 Spanish national topographic map series and also made extensive use of my Garmin Oregon 600t loaded with Topo Espana v6 Pro which proved invaluable with routable directions. Without this I wouldn't have discovered in the time available the many 4x4, dirt trails and narrow paths that I followed.
Route 1 - 27 Sept - Bateria de Cenizas Circuit.
From the centre of the resort near the Si bar I headed west along quiet roads and through one of the 3 golf courses until directed along a rough trail past a ruined Finca which led in about 2km to the road to the Bateria de Cenizas (Ash Battery) above Portman.
Portman from the Ash Battery trail (Cartagena is in a natural harbour just behind the hills in the middle distance).
I followed this for about 3km past the easily missed Sendero del Monte de las Cenizas to the impressive site of the gun battery. I retraced my steps for about 1km to the narrow trailhead and took off through the trees along the clifftop trail back east towards La Manga. This is a very pleasant well marked route for the most part following the coastal ridge line with extensive views in all directions. There are occasional sections of scrambling which you need a head for heights above the sea.
The trail rises and falls along the ridgeline through sparse vegetation sometimes switching direction sharply left or right and then the whole of the La Manga complex comes into view.
At one point it passes right in front of several clifftop villas with swimming pools. After a brief scramble and several hundred metres it intersects the rough road leading from the resort down to the Restaurante la Cala.
Route 2 - 30 Sept- Monte de las Cenizas.
To the east of the resort a prominent hill with a high broken rock face caught the eye, this is Monte de las Cenizas 378m (Hill of the Ashes) or alternatively Cabezo de la Fuente. Immediately behind the coastal ridges lay a large area of open flat ground which had to be traversed to reach the hill about 2km away. This ground was crossed by a series of trails shown on my GPS but which route to take? The GPS took me down a long wide paved road on the eastern edge of the resort and indicated to turn right at a roundabout. However, this road clearly led to a cul-de-sac bordered by large villas. It was then that I saw a gap in the resort perimeter wall which opened onto a dirt track skirting open ground. This was the way. Heading more or less straight towards the hill with occasional twists I followed 4x4 and dirt tracks through the parking lot of the Fuente de Los Belones until picking up a rough path into a forest clearly leading to the col between the hill's two broad tops. From there this led easily onto an open rocky platform with extensive views to the west, south and north. I could now see the summit of the hill to the east only a few tens of metres above me. The character of the route changed here going over exposed limestone ribs requiring care in places. I left the obvious path which carried on lower through some trees and climbed up the exposed broken limestone edge onto the summit. Great views all round to nearby beaches & coves and the built up strip of La Manga town over the Mar Menor. I basically reversed the route back to the complex.
Route 3 - 2 Oct - Eastern circuit.
I wondered why the continuation of the clifftop path didn't continue along the ridgeline east of the La Cala restaurant road but instead headed off down towards the sea.
The hillside wasn't as steep here as further west and it would have been possible to clamber up onto the rocky crest. However, I lost height quickly and wandered in and out of gullies and over short cliffs on precarious stretches only a few metres above the water. There were some small secluded beaches and several geos with rock arches. At one point about a third of the way along the coast I looked up at the nearby hill crest and saw something that appeared artificial between two tops. Also at the next dip along something breached the natural vegetation, perhaps spoil. A road end? I carried on along the twisting path which towards the end heading north away from the coast around the end of the hills became a deep trench and then suddenly emerged onto a small flat sandy plain with several parked cars.
From this viewpoint behind the hills I could now see that they were crossed by a network of trails which I followed back west towards the La Manga resort. Rather than take the direct route used previously to and from Monte Cenizas I cut back and forth across these low lying hills on a rising line and found the track which breached the dip and looked down on the coastal path that I'd just walked along about 100m below. To my surprise I could now see along the crest two dips to the west several villas on impressive sites overlooking the sea. From below little is visible of these luxury residences apart from the palm trees. I then followed various trails back to the slot in the wall and so to my golfing companions.
A interesting area with some pleasant relatively undemanding circular walks that can be extended to suit.
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