Zerky in Spain

Moorish Castle in La Liebana photo

Moorish Castle in La Liebana

Here on the Atlantic Ocean on the southwest coast of Spain, we have discovered an immense uninhabited stretch of pristine beach. South of the highway between Seville and Huelva there is a blank space on the map that has bothered your father ever since he first came to Spain back in 1959 to learn how to play flamenco guitar. We managed to locate a dirt road heading into this blank spot and followed it southwards into the delta of the Guadalquivir River. There we discovered a second primitive road heading northwest towards Huelva and towards the Portuguese border. Just to the south of this second road, stretching for dozens of miles in both directions, is a magnificent white sand beach in an undeveloped area, something that is very rare in Europe. We have been following this poorly marked road along the inside edge of the sand dunes for about sixty miles now, through a near wilderness of sand and scrub. Driving through the sand makes me somewhat nervous, but so far we have not gotten stuck. At that camping store we visited in Munich, I bought a small shovel for precisely such situations as we encountered today. For most of the way, we could sense that we were only a few hundred yards from the ocean, but at all times there was this immense sand dune barring our approach.

Frustrated at being so near and yet so far, we finally stopped the car and piled out. With you on my back and our lunch in my hands, we set off to conquer the dune and have lunch on the beach on the other side. After a difficult fifteen-minute climb upwards through sliding sand, we finally reached the top of the dune. There on the other side, as far as the eye could see, was the most magnificent expanse of wild sand beach we have ever seen. Three hundred feet directly below us! The top of the giant sand dune we were standing on top of was in the process of being severely undercut by the incessant pounding of the ocean surf below. Suddenly I started to be afraid when I realized that the top of the dune could collapse from the weight of all four of us. We beat a quick retreat from the edge. There was no way for us to reach the seashore below.

This immense sand barrier guards almost this entire coast, effectively cutting it off from access by land. That is why it is only a blank spot on the map. It is empty, beautiful, and unapproachable, such as are too many beautiful women. After several more miles of exploring by car, we managed to find a hole in the barrier where a stream had somehow managed to find its way through it and into the Atlantic. We followed some old tire tracks and at last made it into the blank spot, where we are now camped for the night alone in one of the most memorable stretches of wilderness I have seen. Now we are being haunted by the remnants of an ancient Moorish castle so unfortunately there will be no wading in the ocean for you, Zerky. These giant waves would sweep you away. They roll in, uninterrupted, thundering onto the beach all the way from South America. We are no longer on the peaceful Mediterranean. This remote section of the Atlantic Coast is wide open to the full force of the winter storms that have created this formidable sand barrier.

—Excerpted from “Letters to Zerky.”

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