Costa Crawl - slow progress

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June 4th 2012
Published: June 4th 2012
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Monday 28 May – Still at the campsite at Bolnueva. A morning of domesticity – loads of washing, cleaning, shopping etc. The facilities here are fantastic, the best we’ve ever come across....the shower/loo/washing up/laundry block is a work of art....all beautifully planted with ferns, bougainvillea, oleander, geraniums etc and the central area downstairs has a pool with fountains – shades of the Alhambra! And all this with lovely views of the mountains. With its position ON the beach one side and village the other and an amazing array of other facilities (including a dog shower, should you need one), it’s a bargain for us with our ACSI card at only 16 Euros a night inc electricity.

With our bikes just there, it’s a doddle to cycle to the facilities block, reception or pool – the beach is a 20 yard walk. So, with chores done we read, had lunch and spent the afternoon on the beach. On return we had a game of scrabble, a lovely meal in and watched a video. We might have invited our neighbours for drinkies.....either Freddy & Joanne (the Spanish resident Brit couple) or Klaus & Greta from Cologne, or both – but they retire early (Saddos).

Tuesday 29 May – well we didn’t get far, only 5 kms!! We set off for Cartagena (founded in 223 BC), an hours drive away but only made it to the next town Puerto de Mazarron. Two stops, one by great beaches and a marina the other with more beaches, the town and port. At the 2nd stop we had a good look around and had a wonderful lunch....Menu del Dia – Gespachio/Chicken Paella followed by Boquerons (fried Anchovy)/Calamares with chips and salad, a BOTTLE of wine, pudding and coffee....all for 8 Euros each – amazing.

We then backtracked to the beaches we’d seen earlier, parked up right by the beach and lazed in the sun with books – swimming/snorkelling. We’re freecamping in this quiet spot, wonderful.

Wednesday 30 May – We finally got to Cartagena – the place founded in 223BC......Well it had its OK bits but nothing much to suggest it was ever a charming Roman settlement – other than a reasonably impressive but fairly crumbling amphitheatre (seen better in Merida!). We parked by the port and cycled in and around. Up the main pedestrianised streets lined with shops bars and restaurants and overlooked by the wrought iron balconies of handsome buildings – then in search of a major reason to be visiting this town, we got lost but finally came across the amphitheatre. Before moving on, we stopped at a taverna with a view of a rather splendid town hall, topped with domes and spires, and enjoyed a calamares and mussels meal.

Heading onwards, ever north and up the coast, we struggled to find somewhere pleasant enough to stop – either for the afternoon or the night – the development is horrendous and puts a whole new meaning to Little Britain – even many of the shop names and advertisements are in we kept driving.

Finally, despite thinking Torrevieja might be a destination, we carried on and in desperation pulled up for a brew at La Mata (next to a park but with the sound of heavy duty diggers) and decided to head for a campsite at Guardamar. TomTom disgraced himself by taking us to a spot next to a wide river saying ‘You have reached your destination’......the campsite was the other side of the river with no bridge. Bugger it – down the road was a marina but with big NO MOTORHOMES signs. So we freecamped just down from the river and we took an evening stroll around the marina, stopping for drinkies before settling into Hymie for the night.

Thursday 31 May – Today...The Costa Brava – Alicante, Benidorm and all that you would expect from this stretch of coast. Our drive from Guardamar took us past vast salt-flats and mountains of salt – also big stretches of wild, hilly, scrubby terrain and also huge stretches of housing development with the big blocks of flats along most of the shoreline. We took the B road into Alicante along the coast and what we saw was actually quite pleasant.....lots of parks and greenery to the left the tram-line with the beach/sea beyond, to the right. We remarked what a great trip it would be on the tram all along the coast.

We carried on to El Campello (well just south – Venta Lanuza) to seek out a villa we may be renting for a special birthday next year – I know, it’s hard to believe that one of us has one with a ‘0’ coming up! Being a quiet residential area and a bit off the beaten track, it took us a while to find. From what we could see from the road (it was occupied) it looks good. We discovered the small, pretty and secluded beach, with a beach bar half way down, is only about 50m away – so could be a goody.

We stopped for a drink in the bar and gleamed a lot of info from the English owners and swapped some books and within another mile or so found a totally empty secluded beach where we had lunch. This was a direct contrast to what was to come - Benidorm..............ummmm – accurately described in our Spain book as a forest of skyscrapers. We did a bit of driving in and around and although the beaches and views of rocky headlands etc is great, the concrete jungle with Irish pubs, McDonalds and millions of Chinese restaurants was not for us.

Onwards through pretty much built-up areas but not quite so dense to Calp (or Calpe) whose claim to fame is a number of lovely beaches all in the shadow of Penyal d’Ifac, a 333metre high limestone rock – impressive. We checked out the base of the rock, saw flamingos in the salt-flats below, spent an hour or so on the beach then strolled around the point at about 8pm to find a bar.

We ended up sharing an enormous plate (one Racione) of Boquerons (fried Anchovy) and a couple of glasses of chilled white, at one of a string of restaurants on the harbour, adjacent to the fish market and right under The Rock....albeit with an immediate view of the souvenir stalls and being mildly hassled by ink black Africans selling watches and handbags.

Back to the van which we moved to a quiet spot we’d seen earlier by the base of the rock to freecamp. Refreshing showers au naturel and a light salad supper ended another lovely day.

Friday 1 June – Remember the rock? The one that just rises up from surrounding flat land and is 333m high?....well we bloody climbed to the top! We set out at 9.30 in stout shoes and one small bottle of water, up a steepish zig-zag path – at the top of which was a tunnel. At this point the signs say the path up the mountain is dangerous – well other people do it we thought. We found getting through the tunnel was a challenge but that was NOTHING to what was to come! There is a path of sorts that we followed although the way forward was often ambiguous. In several sections, as the ground underfoot was virtually non-existent and/or very slippery as the granite has been worn to a polished shine....there were ropes to cling to, and in one place a knotted rope to haul oneself up the virtually sheer mountain. Whilst the views on the way up were pretty good, one was mindful of the vertical drop below and of dive-bombing seagulls anxious to protect their nests of chicks and all this in 90+ degree temps. Hairy stuff.

However we bloody made it to the summit and of course the panoramic views were spectacular. After a suitable rest and eking out our meagre water supply, we headed back down – not so knackering but much more dangerous and the rock was so slippery in places and jagged in others – finding a safe place for each step was taxing – especially the knotted rope bit where this time you had to absail down. Finally back to base, about 3½ hours after we set off.

Hymie was parked discreetly enough to allow us another outdoor nuddy shower before driving on.

It was a lovely drive, sort of around a headland, up/down-zig/zag and densely populated with villas swathed in bourganvillia. We drove through Moraria to Xabia (Javea), where we parked up and went in search of 3pm. We chose one of a string of restaurants on the front – all of them a bit posh for the simple lunch we wanted – however the meal was suberb (shared seafood spaghetti, then pork Cordon Bleu/Risotto, shared ice cream).

We finally drove a bit further to a campsite in Les Rotes (just outside Denia) – they were full! So we went to another up the road – not very special and at 22 euros expensive but we’d had enough. Spent a very windy and fairly uncomfortable couple of hours on the shingle/rocky beach. One of us had a swim, the other read his book. So here we are having another quiet night in.

Saturday 2 June – Happy Birthday Paul!

So a hot, hot night in this fairly grotty campsite. Once we were up, done the chores (water/loo etc) we drove a few miles onwards to another campsite listed in our ACSI book just short of Oliva. A much better set up, very open, good facilities, right on the beach and with our ACSI card, only 14 euros a night all in. By the time we’d chosen a pitch...never good to have too much choice....what about this one? No I think this one is better – but that one over there’s good. Then how do you drive in? Head first/back end first/sideways?....then the outside scout has to guide the driver to reverse into the spot (avoiding posts, low trees, children or well-meaning onlookers) – apparently things look different in the reversing mirror, so despite the scout waving her bloody arms around to indicate right hand down/straight back/turn, turn, TURN, TURN....the driver finds this semaphore difficult to interpret! The bad tempers don’t last long.

Anyway by the time we’d settled in it was time for lunch, which we had then headed to the beach. Very hot and very windy – not possible to put the sun brolly up. We lasted a couple of hours with a couple of swims but Baz felt he was turning into Lawrence of Arabia with the blowing sand, so we finally returned to the campsite. We have the awning, chairs and lounger out – so made the best of the rest of the afternoon reading – albeit in temps of 94 degrees (in the shade) – the Hymer was cooler, only 93 degrees – it’s gonna be another warm night.

Since the Internet here is free, we’ve checked emails and tried some skyping – my sister was not a home and Norma battled to get on skype but we managed a skype to mobile chat. At about 9pm we wandered up to the bar/cafe, where sitting on the terrace, with the breeze blowing through the dune grasses, we enjoyed a shared meal of more Boquerons (fried Anchovy), fillet of Merluda and LamP chops – all washed down with a bottle of Rose – just for a change.

The night was hot, hot, hot (NO – far too hot for that kind of hot) .............and apparently one of us was forced (for the first time in 36+ years) to leave the marital bed, meaning the other one had a cool and roomy good nights’ sleep!

Sunday 3 June – A smattering of rain and much cooler......although by midday the sun was out and the thermometer crept up. We had a totally lazy morning in and around the van – a bit of hand-washing, reading, cross-wording and computer card gaming. Then back up to the bar/cafe for a pre-ordered paella at 2pm – good job we booked as the place was pretty full, mostly Spanish and indoors a large birthday meal going on – about 20 Spaniards enjoying a paella served in a dish about 5’ across and singing’ ifeliz cumpleanos’ to the usual tune.

Needless to say, the enormous and delicious paella, coupled with a bottle of rose rendered us totally incapable of anything other than a siesta. All intentions of an afternoon on the beach or a cycle ride into Oliva were abandoned

and the most we could muster at about 7pm was a stroll to the beach and an amble around the small neighbourhood, then a pleasant couple of hours reading/playing cards under our awning, a light salad at around 10pm and a cooler nights sleep.

Sorl for this week.............................Adios

Since Bolnueva: Puerto de Mazarron; Vahia; Isla Plana’ Cartegena; Los Urrutias; Los Alcazares; Torrevieja; La Mata; Guardamar del Segura; Sant Pola; Alicante; El Compello; Benidorm; Altea; Calp, Penyal d’Ifac; Moraira; Xabia (Javea); Les Rotes; Plajia d’Oliva;

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