We left Camping Las Lomas, up in the Sierra Nevada at Guerja Sierra, on Sunday 28th February. This is a lovely site and we can thoroughly recommend it. You get a large pitch, plenty of facilities, a good shop and a nice restaurant and bar. A bus to nearby Granada stops right outside the gate and runs several times a day. If we had been staying longer we would have gone into the city but this was effectively a two nights and one day visit so we stayed in the area, enjoying the walks and the spectacular scenery. When Shirley checked out of the site they gave her a handful of fruit sweeties ‘for the journey’ – a final, unexpected, act of kindness that we appreciated for several miles to come.
Motoring back down the winding mountain roads was a lot easier than going up, mostly because it was Sunday and there was very little gear changing necessary as gravity did all the work for us. Inevitably we were followed by a few locals who may well have been frustrated by my insistence on driving carefully. Four tons and almost 8 metres is a lot more difficult on winding roads than a car, so I refused to let myself feel intimidated. This is a difficult lesson to learn. Motorhomers can be a right royal pain in the neck when they drive too cautiously but we’re driving a potentially lethal weapon so we have to be cautious. Strangely enough, it wasn’t until we were on the motorway that the driver behind us expressed his frustration. It was a huge car transporter who didn’t want to slow down when the carriageway became rough and potholed and we travelled at 50mph to avoid losing our fillings. As he shot past he blasted his air horn numerous times and we could have been forgiven for thinking we were being overtaken by a bull elephant. We pulled in for breakfast not long after, getting out to check that his blasts weren’t a warning that something was falling off – it wasn’t. The only thing that had fallen off was his patience.
Our next stop was the much-anticipated visit to friends Pam and Jeremy in Arboleas in the Almeria region. Pam had warned us that finding their house would be difficult. They had given us instructions to a place nearby where they would meet us and lead us in. It was raining when we got to Arboleas and the satnav went into a huff, bringing us up a steep, narrow slope and into the town centre where it directed us to a road that didn’t exist. Once again we were relieved that it was Sunday because the town was deserted and I could run around the narrow streets, checking that the van would fit through and that they weren’t one way. We weren’t going to repeat the embarrassing incident in Guerja Sierra if we could possibly avoid it. While I ran about, Shirley contacted Pam and told her we were lost. Eventually, we drove cautiously out of town and, after turning a couple of corners, found to our delight that Pam was just in front of us in her smart Mercedes convertible. At least we thought it was her and discussed the possibility that we could be following a complete stranger until her arm appeared out of the window and waved and we could breathe a sigh of relief. The final challenge was the need to reverse along their short road and into their driveway, which we did without any difficulty at all and we were met with a great welcome, warm hugs and drinks.
Pam and Jeremy’s house is lovely, spacious, bright and comfortable. We loved it and as we got into bed that night I realised that this was the first time in five months that I had slept in a house and a bed that I didn’t need to climb over Shirley to get up.
Pam and Jeremy were the perfect hosts, showing us around the district, feeding us beautiful food, keeping us comfortable and Pam going as far as to give Shirley a haircut. This was a relief as her thick locks had taken on the look of an old-fashioned floor mop. Pam and I decided between us that it was too risky to try to cut mine – it’s very fine and all too easily sticks out in random directions similar to a dandelion clock. If you’re thinking of doing a long trip, be aware that getting a good haircut can be a challenge, especially if you don’t stay in one place for more than a few days. Shirley is now neat and tidy whilst I have taken on the mop look. The nearest coastal resort to Arboleas is Mojacar. A lovely town with everything you could need for a great holiday. Pam and Jeremy own a holiday apartment in Mojacar that is available for rent, so if you’re on the lookout for a bit of sunshine we can thoroughly recommend it.
A Tale of Four Mutts
The canine residents at Jeremy and Pam’s house are two beautiful black labradors, Boo and Bonnie. As we made our plans to visit them we wondered how our two would get along with them. We also pondered on the possible complications of having two dogs with the same name in the same house. Poppy, despite being one-third of the weight and height of the labradors made it clear from the moment she got into the house that she was in charge. Big Boo, as we named her in a vain attempt to minimise the confusion, is one year old and therefore still adolescent in dog years.
Poppy is four and a fully fledged Alpha Bitch. She gave Big Boo a couple of proper tellings off, causing us to blush and apologise for her rude behaviour. Poppy didn’t give a stuff – she just looked Big Boo in the eye with an unmistakable, “Don’t mess with me!” expression. Big Boo, finally took the path of least resistance and backed off, leaving our cheeky wee cockapoo permission to steal her toys, take the best seats and otherwise dominate the entire scene.
Bonnie, being six and already exhausted from living with a teenager just took to her bed with a weary, “Get on with it. I can’t be bothered.” Boo Boy sniffed the air, realised there was a man in the house and placed himself firmly at Jeremy’s side. After twenty-four hours, something resembling peace descended on the household and the dogs were happy together, most of the time. We opted to leave our dogs in the van overnight to sleep and to eat their meals to avoid the two great contentious hotspots in the dog world. This was a fine idea except for the moment when we tried to call our dogs out of the house and into the van. “Come on Poppy, come on Boo!” we would call cheerily and out would trot three dogs, one Poppy and two Boos. “Not you Boo” only led to further confusion as our older and slightly more obedient Boo Boy would hop back out of the van and Big Boo would stand uncertainly in the doorway with an eye on the Alpha Bitch in case she had another go at her. Boo Boy would then try sidling back into the house to attach himself to Jeremy’s groin and so it went on. By the last day, it was very cute to watch Poppy strutting around the garden with Big Boo following her with a starstruck expression on her face singing, “That’s why I fell for the leader of the pack.”
The other really lovely part of all this was seeing Bonnie, who has been quiet and reserved since the arrival of her little sister, growing to accept us and finally, on the last evening, curling up on the sofa with us. I believe I heard her say, “Us old girls have to stick together.”
Marjal Costa Blanca
Our next stop was a two-week visit to a site we have visited twice before – Marjal Costa Blanca near the towns of Catral and Crevillente. It’s a 100 mile, relatively easy drive from Arboleas and we bowled along listening to an audiobook and enjoying being on the open road.
Arriving at Marjal we were astonished to see that the site was very full – from the road it looked as though there was barely a pitch available. We had booked in advance so we knew that we would have a pitch but immediately began to wonder where it would be and whether we would cope with the noise. Shirley checked us in and discovered that we were to be in the first couple of rows on the site, closest to all the activities and bars. She asked for a pitch right at the other end of the site but there were none available. We prefer to be right away from the action and use our bikes to get down the site. A small sinking feeling clouded our short hop from reception onto our pitch but we were soon settled in, the utility tent was up, ground sheet down and dogs walked but the slight sinking feeling didn’t leave us. This is a lovely site with lots of sporting and social activities included in your pitch fee but ever since we got here we haven’t been able to shift the feeling that it no longer ticks the boxes for us. When a loud Country Music festival roared into being less than 50 metres from us, we were even more uncertain. We’re going to give it a go, join in the things we like and do lots of cycling into the little town of Catral where we can sample a bit of the real Spain, a Saturday market and, just in case we’re homesick, a British owned café/bar. There’s a lot to be said for this place and we’ve had many happy times here. The place hasn’t changed – in fact it’s even more popular. It’s us that have changed. That’s what travel does for you.
Enjoy the Journey
We’re effectively heading north now with the intention of getting home at the end of April and we’re finding ourselves thinking of family and friends more and more as we head up the country. We’re also thinking about going back to buy somewhere to live and a car, having sold both these things before we left. A strange thing happens when we get deep in conversation or thought about the future – we forget where we are. I mean that literally. We forget what is outside our windows and even sometimes have to think twice about which country we are in. That’s what overthinking does. It takes us out of the real place where we are and places us in our heads in a space that isn’t real at all. It’s just our imagination. As someone wiser than me once said, “Your thoughts are not reality.” So we keep drawing ourselves back from this temptation to work out the future and live in today. You can dream for years about taking time out to travel and then miss some of it dreaming of what will happen when you go back.
This has been a very real and important lesson for us. Don’t miss today wondering about tomorrow because today is the only thing that is real. Enjoy the journey!
Until the next time …