To our minds, one of the most fascinating of Murcia’s landscapes is known as the “Badlands”, or sometimes the “lunar landscape” of Gebas, not far from Alhama de Murcia.
If you take the road to Pliego and Mula from Alhama, very quickly after passing the sign which tells you that you have left the village of Gebas, you come to some ‘casas rurales’ and a restaurant on the right of the road. The side-road you take off the Pliego road, itself goes past this restaurant. After turning right on to it, the side-road almost immediately bends round and runs past the other side of the restaurant, before ultimately going down into Gebas itself.
What are these “Badlands” with their surreal landscape?
They are, in fact, an area of over 2,000 hectares to the north of Alhama de Murcia, the vast majority of which was declared a protected zone in 1995 and consist of gullies and ravines cut into a landscape that is largely devoid of vegetation, hence the references to the “lunar landscape” or “Badlands”. The landscape is formed of marls and clays, in which erosion caused by torrential rain has carved the gullies and ravines in the deeply incised landscape which you now see. Add to all this the general scarcity of rain in the area today and, therefore, the general lack of vegetation, the ravines stand out in great grey starkness with little greenery to soften them.
To us, the best way to see this singular landscape is to walk through it. When we have done this walk, we parked at the side of the road by the restaurant, but you can also park further on to reduce the distance walked. If you park by the restaurant, continue walking down the pleasant minor road which, curiously, is flanked by traditional style lamp posts on one side.
After a few hundred yards, you come to a group of buildings. By the buildings is a sign “El Mojon” which indicates that you are coming to the protected landscape of the Barrancos de Gebas. A further sign just beyond gives directions to various locations. We followed the direction indicated for the Mirador de Gebas – the same way to the cemetery! You then follow a good, but non-asphalted track to the left. A few yards further on, the path forks and you head along the right hand, main branch which goes between two pylons. A little further on, the track again divides, with the cemetery to the right and the Barrancos de Gebas signed to the left and with the viewpoint (the “Mirador”) some 1.8 kilometres distant. At least you now know just how much further you are going to have to walk! There is also a second sign almost immediately after the first which tells you that the area is of geomorphological (ie landscape) interest and has a protected flora and fauna.
It is clearly possible to drive up the fork in the track to the cemetery and it was obviously envisaged that vehicles would go down also to the Mirador, as there is yet another sign which tells you not to exceed 30kms per hour and to drive with care. When we first walked to the Mirador, after the track divided near the cemetery, we found the route to the viewpoint extremely rough and rutted and, to our minds, unsuited for an ordinary car. On our last visit (April 2015) the track seemed to have been improved somewhat. However, there were still ruts in places and, unless the track is maintained, any serious rain will obviously cause further deterioration.
Continuing to walk on this track, you soon begin to descend and see the spectacular view of the weird, heavily gullied landscape in front of you. Barren ravines appear immediately to the left of the track, while land to the right is terraced in places with almond trees. There is, indeed, remarkably little vegetation, other than some areas of scrub in the “Badlands” because of the aridity, the nature of the soil and the erosion which has taken place. A little more scrub may often be seen on the slightly less arid but cooler northern slopes of the ravines. The area is not entirely desolate and, especially if you walk this track in the spring, do not be surprised at seeing wild flowers and plants around you. Even so, the overwhelming feature is the spectacularly eroded gullies.
Later, the track you are on crosses a depression over an almost complete concrete infill no doubt in an attempt to overcome the ravages of erosion. Look over to the left as you ascend to see the expanse of the “Badlands” fully revealed. The viewpoint is now straight ahead. However, unless you have other plans, avoid the track which diverts to the right by a signpost saying “Prohibido Coger Tapena y Caracoles”. Go down the left hand track and just a little further on you see slightly to the right and in front of you beyond the viewpoint, a large reservoir. The track towards its end at the Mirador is slightly elevated on a small ridge with a narrow strip of trees planted on the land just below to the left.
Even to the more cultivated right of the track, there are deep gullies, the tops of which have often been levelled and planted with almond trees. A pleasant few hundred yards then brings you to the parking area at the end of the track. Beyond the parking area, there is access to the Mirador. It is an excellently constructed viewpoint and has trees planted in it and even a water point. There are various explanatory notice boards scattered around its periphery, though not surprisingly, they are only in Spanish. One concerns the relationship between man and his surroundings which has created this singular landscape. A second board simply gives a pictorial view of the scene across from the Sierra de Ricote, to the Sierra de la Pila and the Sierra de Carrascoy. A third board contains much information about the typical bird and plant life to be found in the “Badlands” – esparto and teasel grass, natweed, rosemary, the little owl, the jackdaw, the bee eater and the insect eating Dartford Warbler are all described.
Spend some time looking around you at the strange and varied landscape. Directly in front of you to the east, you have a good view of the Embalse (Reservoir) de la Rambla de Algeciras, which was constructed in 1995. You can descend from the Mirador to the obvious track at its foot where there is a signpost to guide you if you wish to continue on. Otherwise, you simply turn round and retrace your steps all the way back. We took the walk very easily indeed with many stops and completed it in well under three hours.
Part taken from “Exploring Murcia – A Guide to Totana, Alhama de Murcia, Aledo, Pliego and the Sierra Espuña”, by Clive and Rosie Palmer which is available from www.lulu.com, or contact email@example.com. “Exploring Murcia, Days Out” and “Exploring Murcia – Cartagena” are available to buy from the Costa Cálida Chronicle office on Camposol B, Best Wishes (who also stock other of their books), or phone Patti on 968 433 978.