Finally we agreed with our pilot book about somewhere. The Cabrera Islands are a little bit of heaven and our stay on them idyllic. The aquatic life was not much in evidence and the seagull that insisted on perching on the dinghy did not look a rare specimen, though John said it would be if it crapped on the boat. We took the dinghy out for its first proper use and the outboard performed with demure competence. There are only a couple of allowed landing places on the main Island and there are possibly unexploded land mines on the smaller ones, but we toured round the whole bay and did the Cantina run. It turns out there is a small regiment of soldiers garrisoned here and the Cantina was originally set up to cater for them. It serves good homemade tapas well as drinks and has a shaded veranda overlooking the lagoon. It is an easy place to lose track of time. During our time there we saw nothing of any soldiers, but the park wardens and the Guardia of Seville were constantly in and out. There are also reportedly some research scientists working on the Islands, counting the wild life. We counted a fair few lizards ourselves, all black and quite large. Three lived around the veranda in the bar, a couple, including one with a splendid yellow rest, lived on the footpath up to the castle and three, including one with no tail, lived in the castle walls. We made our survey on a climb up to the castle and subsequent revival in the bar.
The walk up to the castle was our first venture ashore. After breakfast that morning John inflated the dinghy, sat in it and assembled the electric outboard and then I locked up and teetered down from the stern to join him. I let go the rope and we were off. Quietly. I snapped away at Lyra, at anchor in the bay with the ruins above her. When we landed a man took our line and waited till I clambered off onto the quay, with as much grace as I could muster, and tied us to a rusty ring. John joined me with the starter magnet round his wrist and we surveyed the dinghy. It looked safe enough, bobbing about by the steps, so we set off up the footpath to the castle. Later, when we returned, it had made rather a lot of friends and we had to crawl back into it from the quay, rather than being able to pull it round to the steps and deftly hop in. Perhaps deft is a touch ambitious, but as we had no chance to find out any differently I am sticking to it.
The walk to the castle was not long, but was steep and, even though early in the day, hot. We paused at intervals to catch a breath and cool off. At one point we watched a big yacht come into the bay and steer towards the small beach beyond the jetty. John said it looked as if he was planning to anchor there, which is utterly forbidden. As I turned to question John about why he thought this, there was a roar of engine and a grumble of car parts and the Guardia of Seville Land Rover crested the rise and came lurching by, Dukes of Hazard style. The Rover had clearly done the trip a few too many times and was the worse for it, but down it went, kicking up dust, breaks squealing ahead of known pot holes, making hell for leather for the quay. Clearly they too thought “he” was planning to anchor. Or maybe not, once they arrived all went quiet. Maybe it was just coffee break. But then, Oh yes, the warden’s dun coloured wagon, even more battered than the Landrover, puthered off along the dirt track leading round the bay, heading towards the yacht. The van hooted wildly as it crested the nearest bend to the boat, which backed off, away into the bay. We carried on climbing. At our next pause we were surprised to notice the big yacht had returned to the position off the beach. Back came the van, from the opposite direction this time and with another van in support. The first driver stopped, climbed out and shouted at the yacht, which moved away again. As this was happening a tripper boat arrived at the jetty and a shed load of folk disembarked and headed towards our footpath. We had a good start, but would have to be quick if we wanted to explore the castle alone. Off we set, lizards scattering in our wake.
It was worth the climb, even though the castle was mostly a ruin overgrown with fragrant herbs. We walked round the thick outside walls until we reached a small dark room, then up a narrow spiral staircase inside it into the gloom. At one point it was unpleasantly claustrophobic, but then we were out onto the battlements in the sunshine and the views on all sides were superb. It is the sort of spot they drape clutches of supermodels around to great effect. Not having a supermodel to hand, I took a few snaps of Lyra down below us and we waited for the oncoming trippers to pop out of the rabbit hole before winding back down it and out of the castle. The lizards reluctantly shuffled out of our way again and we set off back down to the Cantina ahead of the rush. As we looked down we saw the rebel yacht once more hanging around the beach. This time a rib headed out to it from the jetty, setting the impressive wake of a warden who had told them twice and will brook no further nonsense. By the time we reached the bar yacht and rib were gone and all was peaceful. We sat in a corner with ice cold beers watching the world go by, with the lizards running over our feet.