We ended our stay at Marjal Costa Blanca with a night out to Café Uno with our friends Val and Steph. Café Uno is a British owned and run café/ bar in Catral. They host a number of live music evenings and our eye was caught by the promise of an evening of rock and blues by a local band with a great reputation. I offered to stay on soft drinks that night and drive us all home in Val’s car. I can’t claim that this was a great act of kindness on my part. If someone told me I could never drink alcohol again I could accept it easily. On the other hand if the same was said of chocolate I would be devastated. Each to their own vice I suppose and it saved us a chunk of money on taxis. Being a Yorkshire lass this was far more appealing than a couple of glasses of wine. We were all excited by promise of a good live band so we set off together in good time to have a meal and enjoy the music. We misjudged the time necessary to eat a meal before the band started – it was well after 9.30 p.m. by the time they were ready to start – but being four ladies on a night out we had no problem filling the time at all.
The band (Mr Croquet) were excellent, giving a convincing rendering of rock and blues classics from the 60s to the 90s. One of the highlights for me was the singer (Davie Croquet) doing a fantastic imitation of Mick Jagger, strutting about on the stage a la chicken and singing Satisfaction. Our ears were ringing by the time we left after midnight and the band was still going strong. It was a truly all inclusive night out with the audience ranging from around 16 to well over 60. Everyone was singing, clapping, shouting for more and generally having a grand time with absolutely no trouble from anyone. Amongst the audience was a crowd of bikers (The Outlaws) all in their leathers and boots singing and clapping with the rest of us. At the half time break the band stopped to thank the Outlaws for their long standing support, along with Café Uno, a bunch of teenagers who apparently follow them everywhere and everyone else just for turning up. The entertainment was completely free – we only paid for our meal and it was very reasonable.
Creeping back into the site, we discovered that the security gates for were vehicles locked so we parked up in the outside carpark feeling like teenagers staying out late and bid our new found pals a fond farewell before hopping into the van for a long ear ringing sleep.
La Manga Strip and a Happy Reunion
We spent our last few hours hiding from the torrential rain and planning our next few stops. We’d heard from Ken and Mo, the lovely couple we had met in France at Labastide d’Armagnac, and found that they were staying in La Manga in their daughter’s apartment until Christmas. We arranged to head their way and meet up before setting off in the direction of the Algarve via the Sierra Nevada and beyond. There is no doubt that one of the best bits of this kind of tour is meeting new people and discovering what lovely folk there are in this world. We get on with Ken and Mo as though we’ve known them for years and it was a real pleasure to meet up again. On the way south we stopped in at Cyclogical, a bike shop in Quesada to have new butterfly handlebars put on Shirley’s bike then stopped again at La Zenia shopping centre to buy a couple of items of clothing and have a wander round some of the stores. It only takes about an hour for us to get footsore and a bit bored by a shopping trip, even though the thought of it in advance is quite appealing. We were soon back on the road again, feeling thankful that we had more interesting things to look forward to. We stopped for LPG in Cartagena and took about six attempts at finding the way into the petrol station. We were rewarded for our persistence, when we got there, by the attendant filling up the tanks for us. We have Gaslow – a refillable LPG system – and every country has a different connector and type of pump. Filling up can be quite scary, especially when the gas backfires a bit when you disconnect, so we were more than delighted to let the guy fill it for us. A small tip made him happy too so we left feeling chuffed all round.
We have never been to La Manga before and all we knew about it was that other motorhomers have been known to refer to the caravan site there as Manky La Manga. We weren’t going to the site so we decided to keep an open mind. Ken and Mo were staying about three quarters of the way along the strip beside a pleasant marina on the Mar Menor. We parked up outside their apartment building and were welcomed in for drinks, a meal and a thoroughly pleasant evening. We then stepped outside, into the van and slept like logs with the sound of the boats clinking from the nearby marina.
The next morning we were treated to a tour of the local area in Mo and Ken’s van before going for a Chinese lunch together prior to leaving for our next stop. We were pleasantly surprised by the area and some of the interesting places to see. There were dozens of motorhomes wild camping around the place, some of them had been there for months apparently. We’ve been astonished to discover how many people live full time in their motorhomes and wild camp the majority of the time. It would certainly be a cheap way to live but parking behind a building for months on end doesn’t do it for us. It’s the open road for us!
Totana Camper Stop
Totana is up in the hills beyond Cartagena en route to Granada. This was our next stop on our way towards the Algarve and our Christmas meet up with Chris & Mary and Katherine & James. Totana was recommended to us by a number of people, including the Motorhome Fun Forum so we were very happy to find some of our fellow Funsters on the site when we rolled in. It’s lovely there, high up in the hills with beautiful views and the freshest air you can imagine. The site has everything a motorhome could need, including drive over waste drop, water fill up hose, washing machine, shower, washing lines and a picnic area. The sun was shining, the company was pleasant and all too soon we were tucked up and fast asleep. There was an embarrassing incident here that Shirley is threatening to write about at the end of this post. I’m blushing already.
We had chosen another camper stop on our route for the next night but soon discovered that the excellent Spanish roads got us there far too soon to stop for the night. We dug out our maps, books, phone etc.and set about looking for another stop, choosing a place north west of Granada that promised a motorhome parking area with water and waste drop provided. The drive with views of the Sierra Nevada was fantastic and we bowled along to the sound of the Gypsy Kings and the Concerto de Aranguez, just in case we’d forgotten where we were. When we got to our destination we discovered that the reviews hadn’t mentioned the boy racers, gaggles of loud teenage girls and the fact that it was in the middle of nowhere meaning that we were the only motorhome on the parking. The drive there was long and arduous but after cooking dinner and trying to relax to the sound of loud giggling and revving engines we finally gave up and decided to move on. This was the first time since we arrived in Europe that we’ve stopped somewhere where we didn’t feel comfortable. Our agreed procedure is that if one of us doesn’t feel safe in a place we will move on, so we did. We were soon packed up ready for exit and we set about finding another corner in the town to park up. Turning a corner at the bottom of the main shopping area, we found ourselves out in the countryside and heading away from civilisation. To our amazement the Motorway to Malaga was right outside the town so we hopped on and set off for a secure parking area on the outskirts of Malaga to get a good night’s sleep. Arriving there at 10.00 p.m. we found the gates locked and a phone number for night security. We called the number and had a nonsensical conversation in English with a man who only spoke Spanish. We gave up fairly quickly and sat down to consider our options when, to our amazement a little man with a big dog came jogging over to the gates, opened them and led us to a secure parking area amongst loads of stored motorhomes. He plugged us into the electric, used sign language to bid us a good night’s sleep and left us. We slept the sleep of the completely secure and woke up the next morning with our only concern being how to walk the dogs when the security guard had a massive German Shepherd. Once again we needn’t have worried as the big dog trotted over and placed his head exactly where we could stroke it and then wandered off. Poppy and Boo emptied their tanks, we paid our parking fee and set off again for more adventures.
Humilladero, Finding Flamingos and Climbing Mountains
The campsite at Humilladero had been recommended to us as a good place to visit local nature reserves. The site is fairly new and has excellent facilities but for some reason we didn’t like it. It could have been because the man in front of us in the queue to check in and check out was loudly complaining to anyone and everyone about something – we don’t know what as our couple of dozen words of Spanish didn’t cover any of his objections. It could also be because the young man on reception, despite speaking excellent English, discouraged us from attempting to get to anywhere except by driving and could offer no sensible directions other than to the motorway. The town itself appears to be half built and one third occupied and is frankly a bit depressing so, after spending a night charging up everything that needs charging, having a long hot shower and yet another long sleep we opted to move on again for pastures new. Our first stop was to Fuente del Piedra – a laguna and nature reserve that is famous for its flamingos. You may remember that Shirley’s mission to photograph flamingos has so far been a failure so we decided to head there in the hopes of seeing them. We had already checked Mr Google who informed us that the spring is the best time to see flamingos in this part of Spain but we set off hopefully anyway. The receptionist was on the phone clearly telling a caller that if they want to see flamingos they should come back in the spring but by then we were committed and we set off towards the lake viewpoints with more hope than certainty. Shirley’s new camera has a 1200 metre digital zoom and as you can see we did discover some flamingos – literally too far for the naked eye to see – but nevertheless caught on camera.
Sitting with our coffee we got out the books and maps again to choose our place for the night. On Camper Contact, a great online resource for finding stops, we found a place high up in the mountains with wonderful reviews so we set the sat nav, buckled ourselves tightly in and drove almost 90 miles up into the mountains north of Gibraltar. What a find! Each parking place has its own water and waste facility, the views over the mountains are exquisite and the little town quite beautiful. So here we are, hanging on to the edge of a mountain side, replete with good food, mountain air and a large G&T. Goodnight folks!
Shirley’s post. Don’t tell anyone!
We have plenty jobs to do before we move off. We share them. It was my turn to empty the chemical toilet – not a difficult job. I trotted over to the toilet drop, emptied the cassette, did all that shaking and swirling and rinsing then headed back to the van with my pristine clean lavvie. I was just pouring the chemical blue in when I heard a voice shouting, “Oh, no! Quick, shove it back in – Quick!” Mags had been sat on the bog oblivious to the fact that there was nothing underneath her to catch her “bodily fluid”. (Is that TMI? – sorry!) Our neighbour had heard M’s cries for help and she looked over at me as I struggled to shove the cassette back in. “She hasn’t, has she?” I confirmed that, yes, she had. From inside the van M shouted, “Don’t tell anyone – I’m so embarrassed! Who are you talking to?” “It’s too late”, I told her. “I didn’t tell – she guessed!” So I won’t tell anyone else……