Thursday, 27 March 2008

Camping in Spain (4) - Costa de la Luz

Isla Sancti Petri

We were getting sucked into staying at Tarifa. It's one of those places where time just passes. And suddenly you realise that a week or more has passed by and you have a slightly surreal existence.

Make friends, they move on, new people come, make new friends. Fortunately some noisy young people arrived and determined to party on into the middle of the night so that was a suitable incentive to clear off and find a more tranquil camp site.

We packed up - it was dry, the weather had improved, and we hit the road. We basically took the main road (N340) up through Cadiz province.

For no particular reason - it was probably lunchtime (ie Spanish lunchtime so halfway through the afternoon) - we decided to stop at Conil de la Frontera. There were little triangles on my maps so there were obviously camp sites and we cruised into town. Being practical we found a supermarket and bought a few supplies and then stopped off at a fine cheap bar for a tapas or two.

Back in the Landy we followed the signs to the campsite. It took us out of the town and along the coast and into some pine trees. Virtually all the campsites along the coast line are set in some sort of pine forest, to a greater or lesser degree.

We booked into Camping Roche and went to find a pitch. The site was pretty empty. Apparently it had only just re-opened for the season. We decided to take up two pitches - hey, why not? One for the vehicle, and one for the tent and the trailer.

We hadn't been pitched long before Mike and Mary wandered over to speak to us. They came from Yorkshire. Usually they wintered in India but this year they had borrowed somebody's brother's campervan flash motorhome or whatever they are called, and were touring Portugal and Spain.

We gave them a few beers. Later they gave us a few beers back and some wine. They gave us some cast-off books which I devoured in no time.

Behind us we had Gunther and Ute. They were Swiss and possessed a rather new 4x4 of some indeterminate brand (all the same to me) and a matching new caravan.

We started with Schnapps over the fence but soon ended up with wine, beer, Schnapps and olives in their caravan. We felt duty bound to finish off the dregs of our malt whisky from the Hebrides with them. (Can't remember which, but it was probably Jura or one of the Islay ones).

We developed a nice little social circuit. When we weren't socialising with the Tykes or the Swiss we were chatting with the Brasilian worker who did most of the maintenance and everything else on the site. Or the other couples in tents (there were only three tents including us).

I have no idea what this site is like now, but a few years ago - it OOZED hot water. For washing up, for washing machines, in showers - all at no extra charge. This was truly Paradise on the Costa de la Luz.

A fine social circuit and hot water too? Unbeatable. We walked the dogs along the cliff tops in the morning and the evening, and sometimes we wandered down to the wonderful beaches. And the sun came out and the weather warmed up. Very nice. We watched the Spaniards improvise with bits of plastic and twigs to make amazing sunshades, so we did the same with a groundsheet and a nearby tree.

A groundsheet for a sunshade

Conil was a nice resort. Not hugely touristy, more of a holiday destination for Spaniards than foreigners. We found our way round the shops and got sucked into staying there for over a week. The Tarifa Syndrome had struck again.

We even had time to sort the leaking hub oil seal and fit new brake shoes to the rear wheels.

Then we explored down the coast as far as the Cape of Trafalgar, admiring the absolutely stunning beaches on the way. Barbate was pretty naff looking, and on the way back, Vejer was ok but nothing special, but the unspoilt scenery was lovely.

We went inland. Gunther and Ute were visiting friends in Medina Sedonia which has loads of history and heritage so we went for a look. Seemed like another boring place but the roads around were quiet and the driving was so peaceful.

And we went up the coast as far as Sancti Petri in the Bay of Cadiz. More beautiful beaches and a guy's coche stuck in the sand.

Could we pull him out? No. Didn't think so without pulling off his plastic bumper. There was absolutely nowhere to attach a tow rope to. NB. At this point I should remind everyone that towing in Spain is illegal but we were not going to tow on the road, merely get him out of the sand. Anyway we weren't even going to do that.

So the two guys and the solid strong Spanish woman pushed the coche out. What did I do? Took photos I suppose. They didn't really need me.

Parked up to help the Spanish car out of the sand

But like Tarifa, Conil's sell-by date suddenly arrived. Easter. Or more precisely Semana Santa. Holy week. Mega holiday in Spain and half of Andalucía's noisy youth suddenly descended on Conil. We moved to a quieter spot. We even had to confine ourselves to one pitch.

Our social circuit changed. We were near some charming Germans with yet another flash motorhome. It rained and they asked if we wanted to dry out inside their flashmachine. We politely, stoically, and Britishly declined. So then they came out and assertively insisted we joined them for drinks and snacks which they had already got ready for us. They were teachers. They had a flat in Hamburg, a boat in Turkey, and the flashmachine that they travelled with through Europe. Their English was impeccable. The drinks and the snacks were good too.

But a couple of nights of rain, noise, and a cramped pitch was too much so we left. We said our goodbyes and hoped to see people again. As you do, although never expecting to.

And so we set off on Easter Saturday towards Seville, on our way to Portugal, via Cota Doñana.

Mileage for trip

Tarifa to Conil (approx) - 37 miles
Conil to Cape of Trafalgar (approx) - 28 miles
Conil to Medina Sedonia (approx) - 47 miles
Conil to Sancti Petri (approx) - 37 miles

Landy problems
Replaced hub oil seal and new brake shoes on rear wheels

Landy help
Would have towed guy stuck in sand - but pushed him out anyway

Monday, 24 March 2008

So how much does it cost you to fill up?

Went shopping today and decided to fill up as the warning light was flashing.

Cost for a tankful? £25. At 54.9p a litre.

That's at least a couple of trips up and down to the finca and running around locally too.

Big Gib smile. :)

(Apologies for the smug post)

And just in case anyone has forgotten - no road tax and MoT every two years.

Friday, 21 March 2008


The alternator seemed to be a bit iffy.

It didn't seem to be holding its charge.

Bloody alternators cost a fortune in Spain. We know because when we arrived the one on the Series III started playing up.

At the time we got it checked out at a local robo, I mean autoelectrical garage, but they gave us the sad news that we needed a new one and charged us hundreds of euros for it.

As we needed it there and then, we were in a bit of a catch 22 situation, so we couldn't really order one from the UK and then fit it ourselves. So the garage got the pleasure of doing an easy little job too.

We thought we would have a quick checky out to see if it was the same one on the Series III as is on the Santana.

Just to prove I can actually lift the bonnet....

Trying to see the number

Reading off the number

The Santana alternator

Yes, looks the same to us

Looking very similar here. Both the same French company. If we could see the numbers on the Santana - they have worn off - we could have confirmed it. Anyway we reckoned it was.

So out with the relatively new one (from the Series), and it was added to the ever-growing chest of spares to travel permanently in the back of the Santana.

Tightened up the fan belt in the Santana and it immediately seemed to charge better. Maybe it's just a short somewhere. I really must buy that Haynes guide to electrics for idiots though.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Bajar el coche

*Trigger alert - a little Spanglish is needed for this one*

When we imported the Santana into Gib the nice customs man reminded us to bajar the coche.

I am struggling to translate this but basically it means to take it off the Spanish system.

Anyway I looked some stuff up on the internet and it seems you have to fill out a form at a Spanish traffic office. Downloadable on the internet. No. I don't think so. I have tried.

But there was a brief sheet of instructions that I did manage to print off.

When I psyched myself up to dealing with half a day's Spanish bureaucracy, mostly queueing, I suddenly read the sheet and realised that before I bajared the coche I needed to notify my local council where we pay the car tax. Unlike the UK, where road tax is national.

Just to recap. My Land Rover Santana, 3.5 diesel, known as a camion - a truck - here, attracts a hefty 60 euros a year in road tax to the local ayuntamiento (council). But in Gib, there is no road tax. Even better.

Off to the road tax office. Well, did we time it lucky or what?

We walked in - and there was no queue.

"Si?" says woman on desk, or "Dimi?" or something similar.

"Well, I have a question about my coche."

"Off you go to the end to my colleague who is free."

(No it wasn't in English but I thought I would translate that bit).

It was the same guy we had dealt with a couple of years ago when the bill hadn't come through because we had only bought the Santana a few months previously and the change of name wasn't on the system.

He beamed at us. I explained that we had to change the number plate on the Santana because Adrian was working in Gib now and we had to import it.

I'd got the information sheet and it said I needed to get the approval of my local council tax office. I gave it to him. So much easier than me trying to explain in my mediocre Spanish. So what did I need to do? And what did the approval mean?

It didn't mean approval at all. (Or maybe it did in Spanish terms). It meant I had to be paid up for the rest of the year before I could bajar the coche. It meant I had to pay Spanish road tax for the whole of this year, get a receipt for it, then take the vehicle off the system, and apply for a refund.

Then he grinned.

"That's Spain for you. You always have to pay."

He explained it beautifully, and more than once. All in Spanish though. Don't know what would have happened if we didn't speak Spanish - but we do - or enough. And we all laughed.

He told us where to go to get the refund. He was patient, helpful, and informative. A good guy.

Nothing achieved? For us yes. We know what we need to do now.

1) Get the bill for this year - which doesn't come out in our area until the end of this month. We can go directly to the office for it next week though.

2) Go to the bank and pay it - which gives us the receipt.

3) Go to the Traffic Office and bajar the coche - with the all-important receipt that you have paid tax for the rest of the year.

4) Go back to the council (different office) to claim your refund.

Progress report later.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Some 4x4 trucks

So this isn't totally Land Rover related, but we do stop and look at old trucks.

And they are 4x4s.

So here are a few pix.

Seen today, a German truck with a winch and a half.

And a nice little escape hatch in the roof. So cool.

We saw a similar truck two or three years ago down the beach. The guy only stayed one night because he got hassle from the police.

His truck was from East Germany and this one looked pretty similar.

From last summer, the Bedford truck that we helped get back on the road.

And a Unimog spotted down the beach last year too.

Oh and finally, a Land Rover - of course. Seen in Gib. Right hand drive - looks like an ex-mil ambulance. Kiwi or Aus? by the look of the brush bar.

ETA: Thanks to Stu for pointing out that "it looks like a Marshall-bodied ambulance which was the standard military ambulance of the time, and those brush bars were common on Landy fire tenders (TACR1) of the same era, so I'd say it's from this side of the globe."

I think you are right Stu. Apart from anything else it is a long time since Adrian was in Aus (and me too), so anything he saw could well have come from the UK in the first place. However I have had a little lookie at the brush bars on the TACR1s, and you are spot on with that - they are exactly the same. Maybe it came from a TACR1 on the Gib airfield?

And thanks for doing the research for me that I didn't bother to do! Cheers mate.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Air filter

Adrian wasn't looking forward to cleaning out the air filter.

He'd been promising to do it since before Christmas but it seems it was one of those dirty jobs he doesn't like doing.

Lesson One Adrian. Have Land Rover - get dirty.

Anyway, he finally promised that he really really would do it yesterday. And he did. He didn't even get very dirty.

Step 1
Unbolt from housing. The bolts were tight but not too difficult to undo. Take out, and give the hinges a quick spray.

Step 2
The bolt on the top of the element cover had been overtightened and needed a shifting spanner to undo it. Take element out, wipe Spanish campo dust off the element and the housing with cloth.

Step 3
Put back together.

Pretty simple really.

Part details
Mann filter no C14179/1 - the same as for a Land Rover Series III 109 3.5 V8.

Taking it out

That didn't take long

A quick spray of the hinges

Clean element and clean housing

Element, housing and hose

Putting the element back

Screwing the butterfly bolt back

Fitting the top

Screwing the butterfly bolt on the top

All back together in the housing

Putting it back in the bay

Hose connected back up

Last step - tightening up the butterfly bolts