Iznajar

The weather was getting extremely hot. When we were high up in the mountains we had the benefit of a cooling breeze but the following day we drove to Iznajar, a pueblo blanco (white village) built around the ruins of an 8th century Moorish castle at the top of a rocky outcrop. There was a lake 32k long and 6k wide that surrounded the village on both sides, so it resembled an island in the middle of the lake.

We got a lift to the top of the village. The temperature was already over 30° so we dived into the nearest café for a cooling drink and to take in the magnificent panorama of the lake with a backdrop of hills covered in silvery olive trees.

Iznajar

Iznajar

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We walked down the hill following the labyrinth of narrow lanes lined with typical Andalusian whitewashed houses. By that time we reached the bottom the temperature was over 40°, so we returned to the campsite, collected our bathers and a couple of chairs and spent the remainder of the day at the lakeside, sitting under the pine trees and swimming in the lake.

The temperature stayed high until well after sunset. We had a meal in the local hotel and walked back afterwards in the relative cool of the evening, only having to stop once to have a nightcap in a lakeside café.

 

The Sierra De Torcal Nature Reserve

After stopping for a sumptuous breakfast at La Magdalena, a convent converted into a hotel and golf resort, we on drove into Antequera – a ancient town at the crossroads between Málaga, Granada, Córdoba and Seville. We visited the Dolmen de Menga, ancient burial chambers made of huge stones and then covered in earth. The mounds were rediscovered and excavated in the 19th century. As you stand at the door of the Dolmen you could see a huge rock formation that resembled a sleeping giant. We also visited the bull ring and museum and had a tour of the city in an electric buggy.

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We drove a short distance on to El Torcal Nature Reserve where we camped overnight and met Billy, a little fox, who lived near the car park and would take morsels of food from your hand. She looked in good condition and well fed. We had a guide who took us on a two hour walk that evening, more of a climb really – we reached 4000 feet and the view was stunning. On a clear day you could see Africa. At one point we saw we were being watched by a couple of ibex, silhouetted on rocks high above us.

Watched By Ibex

Watched By Ibex

A Pushover!

A Pushover!

A Fine View From 4000 Feet

A Fine View From 4000 Feet

A Karstik Landscape

A Karstik Landscape

There was an observatory at the Centre and when it began to get dark, Carlos, their astronomer set up his telescopes and we were able to see Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. The moon was almost full that evening and very bright which made star spotting more difficult but Carlos showed us the various constellations as they appeared. We now knew how to navigate in the northern hemisphere!

Howls With Wolves

When we left the Lakes we drove north west towards Antequera. The drive was dramatic, following the narrow road as it wound its way through the mountains. We stopped at Garganta El Chorro, a gorge 180 metres deep and 3k long, spanned by an ancient iron bridge. We admired The King’s Way, a narrow catwalk that followed the length of the chasm high up on the sheer rock face. Thankfully, it was closed for renovation.

Clouds Hiding The Peaks

Clouds Hiding The Peaks


The King's Way

The King’s Way


Many Walkers Had Fallen From The Walkway - closed for renovation.

Many Walkers Had Fallen From The Walkway – closed for renovation.

We passed through the town of Álora and stopped to do some shopping and have lunch. When we got back to our camper there was a Toyota RAV4 and two armed Guardia Civil were banging on the van door. They appeared very angry, saying we had parked in the wrong place. We had parked carefully, there were no ‘No Parking’ signs and we were not blocking the traffic. Fortunately they spoke no English so they got more and more frustrated trying to make us understand what we had done. We responded in English, shaking our heads and making it clear we understood nothing. Eventually they gave up and left us alone with a warning us that the next time they caught us we would be fined. We left that town promptly.

We arrived at the Lobo Park later that afternoon, an area of forty hectares where Daniel, the owner, kept several wolf packs, some of them had recently had cubs. Although the wolves were fed by humans and were not afraid of them, they were not tame and lived a natural life in their own family groups. Daniel had spent years studying wolf behaviour and that evening gave us a fascinating tour, explaining about wolves and why their reputation as being dangerous or evil was totally inaccurate. The highlight of the tour was when Daniel did a magnificent wolf howl and the wolves gave answering calls from all parts of the park.

Daniel and a Tundra Wolf

Daniel and a Tundra Wolf

Dances With Wolves

Dances With Wolves

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Alhaurin El Grande

We stayed in Manilva for a few days, enjoying the hotel-standard showers at La Bella Vista and made full use of the washing machine. A line of washing would be bone dry in a couple of hours and the warm wind did the job of ironing – sort of. We cycled to Marina Ducquesa where we enjoyed a Chinese meal one evening and the next evening we ate seafood at the beach café. We cycled into Manilva and purchased two new garden chairs to replace ours stolen in Agadir.  The chairs were delivered to our pitch later that day.

Fully refreshed we set off to join our Andalucían Tour that would show us a different Spain, a country of of high mountain ranges, sierras and rolling plains – just a few miles inland from the coast with its well known tourist resorts of Marbella and Torremolinos.

We met up at a campsite at Alhaurin El Grande in the hills above Malaga where they had a beautiful swimming pool. The water was perfect and was an ideal way of cooling down in the 30° heat.

Swimming Pool at Alhaurin El Grande

Swimming Pool at Alhaurin El Grande

It was a short drive the following morning to Parque Ardales, a series of lakes, fed by river Guadalorce. A dam had been completed in the 1950s. Our campsite was by one of these lakes, amongst the pine trees. The lakes were surrounded by hills and the waters glowed a wonderful rich aquamarine blue.
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Lakes At Parque Ardales

Lakes At Parque Ardales


As soon as we were settled we walked down to the lake for a swim. It was hot, over 30° so the water felt cold at first but once in, it was delicious. We stayed in the water for half an hour or more and felt very refreshed; it felt so good swimming in fresh water and we swam as often as we could – plus it was the only exercise we could do that didn’t bring us out in a sweat!
Swimming In The Lake

Swimming In The Lake


View From The Lake during Swim

View From The Lake during Swim

Spain Again

The urge to leave Morocco and return to familiar territory in Europe was getting stronger. The sight of many families with young children enjoying that rubbish filled beach highlighted the difference in perception between many Moroccans and the visiting European tourist. We just could not understand why they didn’t clean things up, put a bit of bleach down the toilets or replace a broken shower pipe or tap. It was as if they just didn’t notice these things.

And yet the Moroccan people were warm and kind and very proud of their otherwise beautiful country. Time and time again we were helped in a way you rarely see in Europe, a shopkeeper would leave his store and walk with us to another shop to find what we wanted; a passerby would go into a busy street and hail a taxi for us; wherever we went we were treated with great courtesy, folk would wave as we drove by and men (but not women) would approach us in the street, shake hands and would engage us in conversation in English. The women never spoke to us, except for a very shy “Bonjour”.

We tried to be as generous as we could, especially in the poorer south. Sometimes in a town we encountered beggars, often an older woman with a physical disability. On one occasion, when I handed over a few coins to a beggar, she took the money and grabbed my hand at the same time and tried to kiss it. I am ashamed to say I recoiled. Another time I gave money to some poor creature lying begging on the pavement. The hand shot out, grabbed the proffered note which disappeared rapidly under her robes. She didn’t look at me or say anything, she barely moved. Reminded me of those battery operated money boxes where the hand comes out and grabs the coin!

The following morning we drove to Tangier Med, the ferry port for Spain. We arrived at the port at 1.30pm and caught the 4pm ferry. Whilst we waited we had plenty of time to observe the bizarre way the port operated; we were ushered along corridors of concrete bollards from one end of the port to the other and back again for no apparent reason. When we finally arrived at the “check in” there was a crowd of men (touts) who were jostling to take our tickets and passports to check us in; later they demanded payment for their “help”. It was impossible to tell who was an official and who were touts, a uniform or badge would have made things clearer.

We watched a single armed policeman standing at the top of the ramp of an incoming ferry, slowly checking the paperwork of each vehicle disembarking, thus causing a huge delay getting the ferry unloaded. Before we embarked, the inside of our van was searched by a young policeman who seemed more interested in admiring our camper van than looking for drugs or illegals. Then we had the van checked by an X-ray procedure where a Mercedes truck with X-ray equipment scanned an assembled row of vehicles. The truck had a driver but there was no one inside the truck to check the information gathered. All these procedures took over an hour. Our ferry was an hour late departing.

The X-ray Machine At Tangier Med

The X-ray Machine At Tangier Med

A Line Vehicles Being  X-rayed

A Line Of Vehicles Being
X-rayed


Once back in Europe we drove to our “home” campsite, La Bella Vista at Manilva. A late supper at a beach café just below the campsite restored our equilibrium.

Mohammedia

We left Ounara and headed north towards Casablanca and Rabat, mostly on the motorways which meant a speedy journey but cost us £15 in tolls – a lot less than the speeding fines Tony paid the other day.

We stopped at a seaside resort called Mohammedia. We found the site easily enough but the surrounding area was a huge building site and every road we tried to access the site was blocked by building works. Finally, when we passed the same group of builders a second time, one of them took pity on us, jumped into his car and we followed him to the gates of the site just above the beach on the Atlantic coast.

Later we walked along the beach, which was packed with families enjoying the seaside (it was a Sunday). We walked along to a concrete pier from which folk were fishing and boys were jumping into the swell as it rolled in from the Atlantic.

Diving Into Atlantic

Diving Into Atlantic

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? What destroyed an idyllic setting was the rubbish – on the beach and on the promenade. A group of young lads (aged 12 ish) spoke to us, welcoming us to Morocco and asking how we liked their country. After the usual pleasantries, I mentioned that the one thing that we felt detracted from the place was the rubbish, indicating a plastic bottle and a carton lying on the pavement between us. One lad jumped up, picked up the offending items and threw them over the wall onto the beach! Little children were running around barefoot on the beach where broken glass could easily be seen.

Beach at Mohammedia

Beach at Mohammedia

The Promenade

The Promenade

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Behind the beach was a huge building site, fancy holiday apartments were being marketed to folk who lived in Rabat and Casablanca. I wondered ether they would clean up the beach as part of their marketing plan.

Domestic Matters

As a rule we use the campsite toilets for calls of nature but the loo in our camper is an essential, especially at night and whilst driving. The toilet has a cassette that takes a dose of chemical solution, rendering everything virtually free of smell – usually. On one occasion the cassette flap had stuck open (my fault as it was due it loo paper). It was not long before there was a serious odour emanating the the toilet cubicle. Tony soon found and solved the problem but there was a bit of mopping up to do – which Tony manfully undertook. Job done, he reported that everything was now fine and he had used the white cloth in the cubicle to do the final wiping up. I am so glad he told me as that was my face cloth!

We stayed three nights at Camping des Oliviers, each evening our meal arrived at our camper, the last evening we had Tagine Royal with beef, prunes and almonds. The cost of our stay was £37 for food and £21 for the site, including use of the swimming pool, electricity, hot showers and so on. A pity the town outside the campsite was not so attractive.

Piscine At Oliviers

Piscine At Oliviers

Dish and Clothes Washing Area

Dish and Clothes Washing Area

Outdoor Restaurant

Outdoor Restaurant