Finally into Spain we both felt in dire need of seeing that little yellow fried egg in the sky for a few days so we agreed on a fairly straight line down through Spain to the coast and hopefully some warmth. We found an aire near Pamplona but it looked a bit sad and empty, I had an alternative ready just up the road so we set off for that. As we turned off the main road and started heading East we also noted that ‘just up the road’ was more like 40 km up the road and in the wrong direction.
Never letting something that minor get in the way we continued to the tiny hamlet of Aoiz – and the small Hotel Ekai. Nothing there to say it was a stop so Iain popped into reception where they said we were welcome to park up next to the fields, no charges and also use their wifi. A peaceful night was broken only by the revving engines of a couple of tractors pulling in for breakfast at the hotel, peeking out the windows we were so pleased to see a thick frost yet again, but at least the sun was out and clear skies.
It was only three hours to Zaragoza and the campsite (N 41.63803 W 0.94318) used by the world and his wife on route to the coast. As food and milk stocks were low we got directions to Lidl, easy to find, in fact easy to find at least three times as we drove past looking for a parking space. Each trip around took in most of the city on the one-way system, after an our we gave up, just as we got back to camp we saw a Mercadona! Without a doubt we love Mercadona not least because they sell Tremeco – of which we purchased a few large jars – and spent the afternoon over-dosing on preserved lupin seeds.
Next morning we were away early for the long run down the A23 to the coast. Not sure where everyone else was, hardly any traffic, breathtaking views, plenty of good stopping places – it’s right up there with some of our favourite roads anywhere. The plains of Spain are, in our opinion, vastly under-rated.
Our first option was Monmar Camping at Moncofa Plage (N 39.80855 W 0.12751) – one look and we both nodded it was for us. Big pitches, very quiet, exceptionally clean, a few minutes walk to the pebble beach. What’s not to like, well accept I was a little unsure how much I loved the idea of glass frosted doors on the loos. Working on the basis I could clearly see people wandering in and out of the facilities from inside the cubicle, then my belief is they didn’t have such a good view either!
The town is about 30 minutes walk, on January 5th we headed in for the Three Kings Festival. Due to start at 6pm it finally started at 7pm, a drum band followed by ‘Minions’ throwing sweets, followed by Three Kings on pony and traps – also throwing sweets for young children to scramble over the road collecting and then hoard into bags. The atmosphere was one of family and having a good time, it felt very friendly and safe to be wandering dark side streets in a strange place, not something we would often do back in the UK.
The area is very flat – pancake flat. Good for bikes and even more so as there are bike paths everywhere. Painted a pale pink they mainly take you through citrus groves but many run alongside the main roads too. We cycled out to Marcella – 20km off road to a well worthy of the effort walled village. The Spanish cycling fraternity were out in force, we passed group after group, lycra clad and pedalling hard and fast. We felt a little in the way at time as we ambled along with our batteries on.
Moist bizarre spot of the day, a young Spanish lad “guarding a dead goat”. Assume it was road-kill, he had carried it off the main road to a side road and rung for ‘Goat kill Assistance’ as we passed a truck stopped, two older blokes got out and threw dead goat into the back and were away in nano seconds – seems the art of getting first dibs of road kill is well practiced here. We stopped for our picnic, settled on a wall and opened the rucksack to discover the picnic was still in the van! My distress was far greater than Iain’s, we shared a banana and then headed back to camp.
Iain developed a liking for Thermal Baths when we were in Hungary, so he was muchly impressed to discover there were some at Fortuna. To add to his pleasure I duly researched and found a campsite that was not only open but had said thermal waters pumping directly onto their site. With Iain doing giddy kipper impressions we set off inland to find said baths. Has to be said the 3 hour drive was worth it, into the mountains, hardly any traffic and mile after mile of olive groves, red earth and spectacular views.
We arrived in the hamlet of the thermal baths and campsite, all quiet as is the case in Spanish hamlets, just a wizened old man puffing on a ciggie sat on his door step, turn the corner to the campsite entrance – BOOM – more German motorhomes than you probably see at a Hymer convention. The campsite was heaving, motorhomes everywhere, then we walked up to see the thermal swimming pool – rammed with Germans (most of whom had natty swimming caps on). We enquired at reception who told us the campsite was full – but we could park on a bit of carpark for €15 but the thermal swimming pool would be included.
Forget that, our plan never included sharing a pool with a few hundred others. I had an alternative plan, there was another campsite a few km up the road, we would go there and then walk back to the municipal Spa in the middle of the village, pay a few Euro and spend a day taking the thermal waters without our German bretheren.
We drove to the campsite, were allocated our plot and settled in. We soon realised that actually it was just us in a motorhome, everyone else lived in statics. The English owner told us people turned up for a few days, then decided to stay, bought a static and rent the pitch for many years. We just nodded knowing that was going to be the case and he would get 2 nights maximum out of us. We took a walk into the municipal spa – to find a sign explaining it had been closed for 2 weeks as from that morning for maintenance!!!!
We returned to camp to sit in the sun and moan about our bad timing, a short while later a mamouth British motorhome turns up and stops next to us. The couple keep making gestures at us, so I walk over and say hi. The guy tells me if we move our chairs he can fit his motorhome onto our pitch. I tell him nope, its our pitch we paid for it. He and wife grumble a bit then squeeze their motorhome into a space with about 3 inches around the edge of their van outside their static.
To cap a pleasurable waste of a 3 hour drive Iain heads for the shower, and heads straight back as their isn’t any hot water. The English site owner is around so we tell him and he sets off to have a look. After a good hour of clanging around with the gas tanks, spanners and taps he admits he has not idea why there isn’t hot water and says no one has used the showers for ages. He did offer to not charge us for our stay but it was so cheap there we paid up anyway.
Being slightly inland was suiting us and I had another Camperstop penciled in at Totana, about 45 minutes down the road. Iain had been studying the maps and wasliking the look at the coast at La Manga, are you sure? yes he is sure, I am somewhat amazed as I couldn’t imagine why he wants to go but he doesn’t often get a choice so La Manga it was – 2 hours later we hit the metropolis. Camspite a ginormous 950 pitches, we ask if any spaces – just a few!! Iain fancied the area as the map shows an awesome spit of land forming an inland lake – not so good to look at when its covered with high-rise hotels and no way we wanted to cycle it.
Instead back to the hills McGregor, 4 hours on we are at Totana which would have taken 45 minutes first thing. Bikes off and we followed the canal path for around 12 miles, incredible views down to the coast – and a gale force wind which a times attempted to side swipe us off our bikes. Another Brit on the site had told us we wouldn’t make it to the end of the canal in the wind, an obvious challenge to us so we had no choice but to do just that and then to make a point cycle a few miles in the opposite direction too.
Back to coast and down through the Cabo de Gata to Maz Azul at Balerma.- 2 year old site, very busy but looks fine in the middle of plastic jungles mile after mile after dpressing mile. However we eat salads and they need to make a living so we squint our eyes enough to stop looking at it. On stopping we find water cap is missing. Iain firstly blames me for not securing, then moves on tot hinking another camper pinched it last stop – unlikely as most of the vans cost upwards of £65k am not sure they sneak out in the night and pich €14 plastic caps.
More importantly, there is a whacking great trampoline at the entrance to the site and not a soul on it – would be rude not to surely :).
We spent a good for days, cycling to the marina, looking at buying a boat – we still think of getting a boat and sailing off into the sunset, we appreciate we don’t have the skills or talent so probably safer to keep this as a pipe dream to enjoy whenever we are at marina- rather than involve the lifeboats of several small countries on a daily basis.
We had made our own water cap, a very inventive use of a folding water bottle tap, tapped up to enable it to be jammed in gap. It looked stupid but was doing the trick stopping any creepy crawlies make there way in for a bath night.
Time to move on, we followed the coast but found too many people, too many cars and nothing to see but mile after mile of hotels. Motril was less busy, possibly as the beach is a few miles out of town and maybe because the sun had done a disappearing act for 24 hours. We didn’t find much there other than a ferry terminal which we assumed to be heading for Africa due to the people waiting for the next departure. Yet again we discussed the merits of travelling to Africa, Iain vetoed me yet again so we packed up and were back on the road – Malaga was plugged into the Sat Nav to find a water cap and then inland.
Motril promenade and the only 2 tourists around