Southern Spain - it's very Moorish

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May 28th 2012
Published: May 28th 2012
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Sunday 20 May – continued from last time when we’d freecamped at Villaneuva de Algaidas with the two other GB vans............what a boring lot they were. In the morning we watched one of them empty their loo cassette then drive away (thrilling) and there were no signs of life in the other van, apart from a blind been opened then closed.........perhaps he’d dun ‘er in?!

Anyway it was an off day – more showers than sunshine and some downright downpours. After several miles of pretty winding and totally empty roads, we did a long motorway stint (about 130 miles) east towards Granada , then southeast to the Sierra Nevada mountain range, to Lanjaron on ‘the threshold of Las Alpujarras, a scenic upland area of dramatic landscapes, where steep terraced hillsides and deep-cut valleys conceal remote, whitewashed villages.’

We had a half way stop just out of Granada as we spotted a large yellow M on the horizon – blog time at last. Things started well with a terrific long, newsy email from Tom – the place was relatively empty and the piped music not too loud. Blogging takes ages (uploading photos, plotting map etc) and we decided to do a double-blog as Internet is hard to find. After an hour the place began to fill the end it seemed like every family (with hoards of ninos) within a 10 mile radius had chosen to have a McDonalds for Sunday lunch – have you words?

Anyway we’re here now after an ok journey where once again we spotted a multi-billion euro road project including an extensive 6km bridge, which will presumably replace the perfectly adequate and barely used motorway we were on........and where does the money come from? The European Union (just like in Greece). Also if cars are anything to go by, they’re not doing too badly in beat-up old bangers, lots of families with posh 4x4’s and any number of 20-30 year olds driving state of the art Audis and BMW’s.

Right, enough ranting – we’re freecamped in a large lay-by just the other side of Lanjaron, looking back at the village and the mountains behind. We’re hoping for clear weather tomorrow to begin quite a tour of this wonderful area.

Monday 21 May – A fairly scary evening and most of the night as a virtual hurricane blew up, buffeting and rocking the van and we were parked by the edge of a deep gorge – but one kept assuring the other that the wind was blowing the other way. So, we thought, no chance of fine weather tomorrow – how wrong we were.

A beautiful day, clear blue skies with mid 70’s temps and with clearer skies, the sight of snow capped mountains behind the ones we’d seen yesterday. It was a perfect day for our amazing scenic drive through Las Alpujarras, so named from the houses with strange grey flat roofs rather than the usual terracotta tiles. Our first stop was at Orgiva and our first task was a spot of shopping at ‘Dia 10%!’(MISSING) – good cheap food and booze. We bought two more 3 litre wine boxes of the same variety we’d had before for 2.59 Euros each!!

Orgiva is a charming, bustling white village with shades of commercialism in the shops but a good number of tourists AND what appeared to be a large contingent of resident aging hippies (English) – all grime, dreadlocks, bare feet and loom pants, complete with alternatively dressed long haired children. It made for interesting people watching as we enjoyed a glass of wine......and a coffee at a bar.

From there we continued on to Pampaneira, another goody – no hippies and less tourists though the shops in the main area were a bit more commercialised .....woven blankets are the thing to buy. We explored the back streets – cobbled, with central drainage channels for the melting snow water and virtually perpendicular. Those of us with sweaty feet in slippery sandals climbed up backwards! Back to the square for further refreshment then onwards through Pitres and Portugas to Trevelez – the highest village in Spain at 1,476 metres above sea level and famed for its cured ham.

The roads of course are testing with endless hairpins and steep climbs but with little other traffic and a good driver, we enjoyed the marvellous scenery, although our photos are disappointing as they don’t do justice. Trevelez was interesting but a bit uninspiring. After a walk around (AND UP), we moved the van to just out of town by a river for a brew and delicious Spanish Danish pastries.

Finally we gradually came down to a lower level, through Juviles to Ugijar – which seems a neat little town - arriving at about 7pm, where we’ve found a pleasant quiet spot with good views to freecamp.

Tuesday 22 May – The plan today was to head for the coast to the east of Almeria, via the dessert landscape around Tabernas. We started off ok on a good B road but took a wrong turn at Cherin and found ourselves climbing up and up an ever narrowing C road, with no roadside barriers between us and precipitous eternity and the odd truck hurtling downwards in the middle of the road. Consulting the map we realised that this road went for miles up and over a mountain we did a 20 point hairy turn and headed back to Cherin. There we took the correct road across a bridge that didn’t look as if it’d take the weight of a donkey and drove through vast scenery and into a vally where we stopped for bread at a little place called Instincion. It was no wonder that despite asking locals where the Panaderia was, we missed it; a totally unmarked doorway with a bead curtain across! However our stolling through this pretty village was pleasant and we stopped for refreshments at a very non-descript bar with amazing views.

Onwards through a, intensively farmed big valley to Benahadux, where we turned north heading for Tabernas with the terrain becoming increasingly dessert-like. This is the area where some of the big western movies were filmed....A Fistful of Dollars, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly to name two. We saw the entrance to Western Leone – billed as a Mini-Hollywood and as the top gate an authentic looking cowboy fleeced us for 11 euros better be worth it we wasn’t!! Sure it was a good mock of a wild west town but we were the only people there. We had expected stunt shows, mock shoots outs, the opportunity to dress up or ride a horse.....NO. The best thing was listening to the piped music playing The Good/Bad/Ugly whilst wandering around the set, surrounded by genuine Western terrain.

On to Tabernas – in, round and out....not impressive, then further to Nijar – still deep in dessert/rock country and from on high, caught our first glimpse of the Med. A short motorway stretch with vast acres of plastic veggie growing greenhouses, then cross country to Agua Amarga and the beach! Many thanks to Andrea and Dave for their excellent detailed notes on this whole area....has been and will be very useful.

We’re freecamped a few feet from the beach and have spent a couple of hours sunbathing/chilling before returning to the van for sups.

Wednesday 23 May – Today nothing – absolutely nothing other than lie on the beach......a wide bay with totally natural headlands either side and a white village houses behind. We tried a foray at 2ish looking for a nice lunch out but the 3 places here are charging a fortune – 16-18 Euros just for a main dish and expensive wine. We may have to get used to these inflated prices now we’re on the east coast and heading towards the costas.

So homemade lunch & supper today and self served drinkies/tappas on the beach.......we’re parked so close we can nip back to the van. We didn’t swim – the water was very cold and a pleasant 80 degrees with a slight breeze didn’t make us desperate enough to brave the water......instead we refreshed under the cold showers on the beach.

Thursday 24 May – A late-ish start – we do sleep well, always 8 hours, often 9 or even 10!! We finally got going and drove the coast road to Carboneras, where we did a supermarket shop (inc a large quantity of king prawns) we then walked into the commercialised (for us....we ain’t seen nothing yet) town, having a drink in a beach bar then wandering through a market.......usual bras, pants, shoes but some good fruit & veg stalls – bought cherries and saw the castle.

We lunched on prawns & cherries in the van before moving on to Mojacar via a very scenic coastal & mountainous road. We stopped short of the town at a quiet little beach to spend the afternoon. At 6.30ish we drove into town proper........a real resort, teeming with restaurants and cars but still relatively free of crowds and the long sandy beaches were virtually empty.

Having dissed the local campsite we drove inland to Turre and took a back road up to Cabrera looking for a suitable freecamp. We found it – high in the mountains with views of the valley. A quiet night in!

Friday 25 May – We headed back down our narrow zig-zag road and were going to drive through Turre but spotted a book stall at a market, so stopped to see if they had any English books.....they did – all English – run by a Geordie. In fact wandering around the market the sights and sounds were just like Eastenders with sunshine! Bloody English everywhere.

From there we drove up into Mojacar Pueblo – the white town built atop a big hill. We meandered around, admired the view and passed up the dozens of souvenier shops. We chose the most Spanish looking bar for our refreshments but again – surrounded by English. We’ve been spoilt by having enjoyed the charm of Spain with the Spanish.

Seeking somewhere less touristy, we drove through Mojacar Playa and Garrucha to Villaricos, where we pulled up by a beach bar. Not exactly Spanish idyll but their Sardinas con Frites with a bottle of white was delicious. We spend the afternoon chilling on the beach, then early evening walked a few metres more into the town. The coast and beaches are great but the town, a fishing port had only planned man-made charm and was like a ghost town.......masses of empty apartments which we guess will be heaving in August.

So we returned to our beach spot and have settled in – a lovely view and the sound of the sea. One could leave it there but we can now add that we had noted the beach bar next to which we were parked closed at 7pm. It transpired it closed to the public at 7pm.....however the barman/owner together with 5-6 local 30-40 yr old hombres were up for a Friday night booze up. They had the music turned up full volume playing passionate Spanish songs, as well as bubble-gum type music – Viva Espana etc and were having a high time! We peered through the fence and watched them flamenco, fandango and tango with each other – very amusing and whilst we enjoyed the caberet music whilst we ate, by 9.30 they were gone.

Saturday 26 May – We set out (late ish) and took the coastal route north, passing evidence of Roman silver & tin mining but by-passing ghastly Urbanizitions and ended up driving through Aguilas – where we spotted a needed fruiteria and panaderia – so we double parked with the hazards on....well everyone else does. We were then ready to drive through and on but Aguilas seemed such a charming town we chose to park up by the harbour front and walk back to the very pleasant and very Spanish Plaza Espana for refreshments (coffee & a white wine as usual). Having gleamed a town map from the Oficina Touristica we noted we could walk via a green area back to the van. Finding our way through we encountered a local Senora who took us under her wing and led us up though people’s back yards and through to an extremely scrubby area where there was an amazing view and with a few metres more (with my feet? hadn’t she heard of psoriasis?) we could climb a wall and go up to the castle. It seemed so rude to say...’you’re kidding’ – so we took her instruction and finally arrived at the castle. There was of course an entrance fee, which was waived when Baz said yes, we were pensioners..........and she didn’t query it - what a nerve. The largely reconstructed castle was indeed interesting and after viewing we toiled back down the hill, then stopped for further refreshment before lunching on a delicious tortilla and salad in Hymie.

Moving on we took a very rugged and mountainous back road for the first half and very agricultural/green houses area with water melons & tomatoes galore on the second half. A very pleasant journey by-passing the motorway completely and having the road almost to ourselves, we eventually found our way to a campsite at Bolnueva (this was after passing up two other campsites that purported to be ‘on the beach’ but weren’t).

So here we are - in the 2nd row back from a lovely sandy beach with awning/chairs/table out. We have Spanish neighbours on either side making for lively sights/sounds. We surveyed the site – admired the elaborate shower/loo block with an Alhambra-like pool/fountain and came across an excellent swimming pool with adjacent bar. We spent the rest of the afternoon there and have now returned (stopping for a long chat with rare-for-these-parts GBers) for a home cooked supper.

This seems such a good place, with a village a few metres away that we may well spend a few days here. Tomorrow we’ll cycle into town (very low rise and aesthetically pleasing) to see what’s what. So ‘til then................

Sunday 27 May – Being a weekend, lots of Spanish are enjoying the seaside and the campsite. We cycled along the promenade from our campsite gates, along the beach road and up & around to the next small bay. On the way we stopped to gawp at the strange sandstone formations behind the beach front. There was an eplation for them with an English translation, but still only understandable by a geology master.

We had a drink in one beach bar noting the following on his menu: Calamares a la Romana – translated as ‘Squid to the Roman One’ and Pulpo a la Plancha – translated as ‘Octopus to the Iron’ ! However , for our lunch, we cycled back to another small restaurant on the promenade, which was really the front yard of a small terrace house converted for a business. The adjoining houses’ yards both had families in, washing out and canaries tweeting. Being the only diners there when we sat down, with the beach before us, we were treated well by the owner whose menu included dishes such as Crocodile meat chimi-churri ‘saus’ - Bison, Kangaroo and l served ‘wit’ chips. However we chose and enjoyed a lovely paella and chilled white wine...delish.

After that, all energy we may have had disappeared after our cycle back to the campsite, so we went Spanish and had a siesta (Baz also watching the Monaco Grand Prix on our Spanish neigbours’ telle....the Spanish have the telle on all the time, through mealtimes etc – with no one watching)

Late afternoon we Skyped Claire for an update on their Greek holiday – lovely to see the boys, then a late beach session. On return we were invited by a Spanish-resident Brit couple who are staying across from us, for a drink. At 10.30 we called it a night, had a salad meal, then to bed. All quiet as the Spanish campers have mostly departed.

Since Villaneuva de Algaidas: Estacion de Archidona; Granada; Lanjaron; Orgiva; Pampaneira; Pitres; Portugas; Trevelez; Juviles; Ugijar; Cherin; Instincion; Benahadux; ‘Western Leone mini Hollywood’; Tabernas; Nijar; Agua Amarga; Carboneras; Mojacar; Cabrera; Turre; Mojacar Pueblo; Garrucha; Villaricos; Aguilas; Bolnueva;

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