Not just a fish…and Salida 529

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to go on an excursion with NAO (marine biological association of the University) to Almeria. We were over fifty people and it was a jolly 8-hour ride with chatting, sleeping, sharing jokes or anecdotes, playing random journey games and – of course – singing (or trying to) as many songs as could be remembered! I was pleasantly surprised by the general preference for Disney and could only lament that I am not so familiar with the lyrics in Spanish…
I had signed up for the weekend at the invitation of a friend and out of interest in snorkeling and the ocean, a love for swimming, beaches and camp outs (ok, so bungalow outs…whatever). I have to admit that I knew absolutely nothing about fish. I could distinguish a goldfish from a salmon or a fighter fish from little Nemo…but that was about it. On seeing an animal with a bunch of fins and scales – in the water or on my plate – I would call it: a fish! Being fully aware of my ignorance and eager to increase my knowledge I headed to the library a few days prior to the excursion and borrowed a book on fish. This I then placed under my pillow during the night and in my pocket during the day and by the time we were all on the road towards Almeria – I knew all the little fishies off by heart!
Ok, that’s not quite true…being surrounded by marine biology enthusiasts with snorkeling and diving experience, I continued to feel rather clueless. The book did help though – along with asking my fellow biologists – and I was rather proud to recognize a handful of the fish I encountered after three times snorkeling =)

  1. Sargo (Diplodus sargus) – greyish with dark vertical stripes, though the colour may change
  2. Salpa (Sarpa Salpa)– saw large schools of this one feeding
  3. Pez verde (Thalassoma pavo)– so pretty multicoloured =)
  4. Salmoneta de la roca (Mullus surmuletus) – funny to watch with its two chin barbels
  5. Mojarra (Diplodus vulgaris) – has a black mark behind its head and at the base of the tail fin

There were more creatures in the water – fish, crabs, octopus and jelly fish…the latter of which I would rather have seen from a distance…

the first to identify it gets a cookie =)

Apart from the sea life, we also enjoyed the different flora of the region and I felt I was learning a lot for my course in Flora Iberica =) We visited a botanical garden, an old lead and gold mine, were obliged to walk to a cove when our bus didn’t make it around the curve of a narrow road…On our last night we went into the water when it was dark to see the dinoflagellates glow as we moved our hands under water…that was pretty amazing – and pretty cold! (Dinoflagellates are little bioluminescent creatures = give off light)

We had been staying in Los Escullos and it had been fun to share a bungalow with three other girls, get to know each other better and have a bit of camp out/holiday feeling…Sunday morning we packed up and after going for a walk along the Río Alías it was time to head back to Madrid. Perhaps a little sad that the fun time together was coming to an end, none of us expected anything different…yet we were to enjoy eachother’s company a little longer than planned, as the driver informed us of a defect and we ended up at the gas station of Salida 529. Our home for about five hours…Thankfully, the group was inclined to make the most of the break and there were few protests or complaints – after all, what could be done? We could not fix the bus ourselves, so instead we…

  1. took advantage of the break to have lunch =)
  2. spent time chatting, singing, playing card games, reading, listening to music
  3. explored the nature surrounding us!

Number 3 turned out to be an excellent idea – I went off on my own and after walking about 3min I found a little turtle! All excited to see it I called a friend and was soon surrounded by others from the group wanting to take a look – one of the guys was able to identify it as tortuga mora (Testudo graeca – listed in the IUCN red list as vulnerable) Depending on subspecies and sex, they can grow up to 15-18cm. Ours was a little one =)
Some time later the mechanic arrived (meanwhile I had seen a bunch of pretty butterflies, lizards, grasshoppers, tadpoles, a frog, ducks…) and he told us that nothing could be done. The driver organized a new bus for us and we continued to wait. By the time we were finally able to bid farewell to Salida 529 everyone seemed rather tired and anxious to get home – but the good news: our new bus had a functioning DVD player and so our long ride was made more enjoyable by “Despicable Me” and “UP”. We reached Madrid that night and after taking a cab home (it being too late for metro) I fell into bed at 2am – happy to be back but already missing the friends, the beach and the little fishies I had just gotten to know =)

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