Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Camping in Spain (3) - Tarifa revisited

Tarifa. One of our favourite places in spite of the wind.

The first time we arrived there was when we had done a Spain, Gibraltar, Morocco and Portugal trip. Three weeks backpacking for Adrian's 40th birthday.

We arrived on his birthday, we were promptly offered some hash as we walked up the main street, and we missed the last bus to the campsite.

But we met a fine South African called Nick. He was busy driving up and down the length of Africa doing tours, complete with two huge ex-South African Army trucks in which he transported a car, an enduro, as well as all the people and provisions, so we had a few days chilling out for our birthdays and a good laugh with him. So we had good memories of Tarifa and decided to go back (not something we normally do...).

We found a nice exposed corner spot (to dry out the tent). Of course that only works when it isn't pissing it down and it is blowing a gale. It was not blowing a gale. It always blows a gale in Tarifa. We must have spent a week there with not a breath of wind. In the end we moved pitches to one that was less exposed but at least we could hang out the towels in the rare dry moments.

But it was good for Landies. We met a French guy with a Series II who had been to Morocco, but was starting to think that they were both getting a bit old for it. He said everyone seemed to have new vehicles these days and looked appreciatively at the SIII.

We met some Germans who were in the Deutscher Land Rover Club. They had been to Morocco too but one of them had a steering problem. He had managed to get from the bottom end of Morocco to Tarifa with a clunking noise, although when Adrian looked he could see nothing wrong with it. Hope he got home ok. Not sure whether it was a ball joint or what.

German Defenders on the left. Our Series III on the right.

And we met the couple from Hampshire. Sue and her partner in their 101 Forward Control.

We always remember them because he went to great pains to tell us that their mates at RPI had sorted the vehicle for them. We didn't see much of her, she was making a cup of tea and looked at us as though we had crawled from goodness knows where. They were off to Ghana or somewhere.

Hex, or whatever they called their 101

They weren't very chatty. Even though Adrian was dead keen to look it over. I think they must have been tired. We read one of their articles in a Land Rover magazine later.

But we did meet a nice guy who gave us a jump start when the battery was flat. He had a posh Land Rover, well, it was a Discovery, and he was dead helpful.

The flat battery was my fault. We had an excursion to Baelo Claudio. Very nice. Lots of Roman ruins. Well worth a visit if you are down Tarifa way. I said I wasn't going to wander round but couldn't resist so I got lost amidst the stones. (I think it was free, that may have been what lured me in). Meanwhile Adrian had the engine turning over and eventually the battery died.

The problem was that Baelo Claudio is in the middle of nowhere up and down a few steep hills. After much swearing and messing around we eventually got going and went back to the camp site. To chill out with a few beers. But the next day the battery died again.

So after the guy gave us a jump start we decided to bite the bullet and went to Tarifa for a new battery. The second in less than two months. And the third in about six months. Batteries huh.

It was a good site with some cool people. If you were stuck, people would help. Usually if people needed help they asked those of us with Land Rovers. We pulled a German guy with a huge rig out of a little bit of mud. He was well impressed. It would have cost him a fortune to get the recovery people out so he gave us ten euros for a beer. Good guy.

And when we weren't doing Land Rover stuff we sat in the nice bar/lounge/common room with a great fire talking to French windsurfers and young (well younger than us) travellers. In fact those of us who retreated there regularly used up most of the camp site stock of logs. There is not much else to do when it rains in Tarifa.

A couple of dry moments. Paddy resting his head on the generator....

....and Prince. Helping me cook and telling everyone to get out of his face.

So then we moved up the coast.

Mileage for trip

In and out of Tarifa - not much
Tarifa to Baelo Claudio - not much either

Landy problems
Flat battery at Baelo Claudio
Failed again at camp site
Bought new one in Tarifa

Landy help
A jump start for us (thanks guys)
We towed a campervan out
Looked at the German Defender and our advice was it should get him home

Monday, 15 October 2007

Camping in Spain (2) - Murcia to Tarifa

When we first came to Spain we intended to chill out in a rented villa for a couple of months.

As it was a total disaster we packed up and cleared off and went camping up the Andalucian coast, east of Malaga. We planned to follow the old N340 coast road all the way up as far as Murcia, as it was the only part of the Spanish Mediterranean coast that we had never properly explored.

The first stop was Valle Niza, a slightly scruffy site about five miles before the resort of Torre del Mar.

Apart from the weekends - when the Spanish descended with all their extended family to stay in their caravans or chalets, and made an absolute disaster of the toilets - the place was peaceful and tranquil.

There were a few northern Europeans with campervans. Some would stay a few days, the odd one or two stayed a few weeks.

Across the road from the campsite was the beach. We would wander up the bay with the dogs at sunrise, and wander up and down again in the evening at sunset.

We got sucked into the place and stayed for four or five weeks, but the weather looked as though it was about to change - it was late February and the rains were due - so we packed up and travelled on up the coast to the province of Almeria.

We found a clean and well-organised site at Almerimar. The site was right at the far end of the town on the beach. It was quite a hike into town though so we ended up just staying around the site. It was full of Germans. We would walk round in the mornings saying "Morgen" to everyone and hope they didn't launch into a conversation. But lots of them did come to our pitch and spoke to us in English. We were a quaint novelty act with our 30-year-old Land Rover, and our small well-used back-packing tent. I don't think they could believe the reality as they went back to their BMWs/Mercedes plus matching expensive caravans. Our tents match the Land Rover of course. Same colour.

Almeria has Europe's only desert. It is very dry. But not in winter. When it rains it rains just as heavily as it does anywhere else in Spain. Not only did it rain on this camp site we had a full-on Mediterranean storm. In the middle of the night, the camp site maintenance staff were driving round clearing the roadways which were absolutely flooded.

Drying out after the rain

There is not a lot you can do on a campsite away from the town when it keeps raining all the time so we left. As did loads of others in their amazing campervan rigs who were all complaining at the management because their part of the site was flooded. Can't say we had much sympathy for the whingers. It was hardly management's fault that it rained.

We continued our trip up the coast and then decided to move inland to dry out at an excellent cheap hotel in a pretty seedy-looking area in Lorca. Great food in Lorca - highly recommended.

Two days of comparative luxury and we were off camping again. We did an about turn, and decided to head for Portugal via Gibraltar.

Through the Almeria desert on the return trip -
stopping outside mini-Hollywood

While we were checking out a camp site at Torrox Costa - the alternator bracket went. Again. The first time it had gone on the trip had been back in November when we just outside Cartama, a few miles short of our destination. Fortunately we had a few spares with us that we'd made earlier out of angle iron. Didn't seem a good omen for the camp site though so we pressed on to Valle Niza.

After a couple of nights there, we headed down the coast. We stopped at Camping Tropical, which is just north of Estepona. It has atrociously small pitches - so much so that we had to commandeer some help from other campers to try and manoeuvre the heavily-loaded trailer uphill into the poxy space. Strictly a one-night job. So we moved a few kms further on the next day and found a great site - Camping Chullera (just south of Duquesa). It has now closed which is a shame or I would highly recommend it.

Next stop Gib, or at least La Linea for the Landy. We walked into Gib.

Here's the old girl looking at the Rock while she waits for us to return

We decided we would head onto Tarifa to one of the sites that we had stayed at before when we were backpacking. I think it is the Rio Jara one, the first one on the left as you leave Tarifa. Given Tarifa's windy reputation we figured that at least the tent would dry out and we would have a few nights away from the rain. Wrong.

Setting up camp in Tarifa

Mileage for trip - no toll motorways taken.

First day from Alhaurin via Torremolinos to Valle Niza - 80kms
Valle Niza to Almerimar - 150kms
Almerimar to Lorca via Mojacar - 214kms
Lorca to Valle Niza via the desert and mini-Hollywood - 350kms
Valle Niza to Camping Tropical (one night only) - 110kms
Camping Tropical to Camping Chullera (Duquesa) - 25 kms
Camping Chullera to Tarifa via La Linea/Gib - 75kms

Landy problems
1 Broken alternator bracket. Time taken to replace 1-2 hours.