We arrived at Rik and Matilde’s and, as luck would have it, a large group of camper vans and caravans had arrived earlier that day on a Caravan Club tour of Andalucia. They were from from all over the UK and were due to stay on the site for five nights, going out each day on sightseeing coach tours. The site was beautifully quiet during the day, but the evenings were pretty noisy.
We managed to gatecrash their tour to Castillo De Almodóvar when we were invited to go with Matilde’s father who drove the 30k from the campsite to the picturesque 8th century castle so he could transport some of the more infirm Caravan Club members from the coach park up the steep road to the castle doors. We walked up to the castle and had a quick tour before we returned to the camp site with Papa. The view from the castle was magnificent.
Camping La Campiña, Santaella
Castle of Almodóvar
View From The Castle
One day we cycled into Santaella four miles away along a road that swept down into the valley and then rose up the other side into the town, the downhill runs were exhilarating; the uphill stretches were – slow.
Downhill All The Way
We drove west along the coast from Almería to Málaga and then turned North heading towards Santaella, Rik and Matilde’s site set in olive groves just south of Córdoba.
The coast road, although spoiled by acres and acres of polythene, was sandwiched between the sierras and the coast and followed a route of tunnels and viaducts offering spectacular views of the ocean. But when we turned inland the scenery was softer, the land more fertile and we were heading into familiar country that we had visited on our tour of Andalucia. We drove past the sleeping giant rock formation that had prompted prehistoric man to build the Dolman Cave at Antequera, on the opposite side of the valley.
We stopped for lunch at a traditional roadside hotel restaurant.
Behind the restaurant we found a lovely courtyard, complete with fountain and orange trees.
We turned right off the A7 E15 at the sign to Bédar. The road climbed gently for about 6k, as we got higher there were lovely views either side. We parked the camper in the car park at the top of the village and walked up the road, past a couple of restaurants and cafés right next door to a gymnasium. Warren, we kindly booked you a few early morning sessions to counteract the effects of your recent retirement.
The hillsides were dotted with pretty houses, tastefully constructed to blend in with the landscape. It was a nice little place, very hilly and warm – 29° but with a pleasant breeze.
As we walked by we said hello to an elderly couple sitting outside the café having a cigarette. They were from the north of England. Further on a bar advertised that night’s football match, Arsenal v Chelsea. Although we only saw and heard English voices, it was Sunday morning and I assume in a couple of hours the Spanish locals would be out and about.
My task from Warren was to check all bars and restaurants for prices of food, beer and wine and whether there would be sufficient supplies for their ten day stay. The Butlin way to do it would be to stop at a supermarket en route and purchase sufficient supplies, otherwise there could be tears. And anyone with a tendency to a baldy patch would be advised to wear a straw hat.
We had been very comfortable staying at Los Madriles, Isla Plana but it was time to move on – this time just a few hours’ driving down the coast, past Águilas, Vera, Níjar, Almería and on to the small town of La Mamola and the Campsite of Castillo de Baños. The site was perched above the beach and, although the weather was warm, 23.5°, it was very, very windy and we could hear the sea above the noise of the wind crashing onto the beach. We found a pitch some metres away from the seashore but where we could still watch the white horses blowing across the bay.
On our drive south we passed through arid and dusty hills, with little growing but scrubland. In the valleys there were orange and olive groves but as the road passed closer to the coast more and more land was covered in poly tunnels. It was difficult to tell what was growing, certainly we spotted tomato plants with their fruit bright red, ready for harvesting. Acres and acres of plastic stretched as far as the eye could see, looking just like vast areas of water shimmering in the distance. Sometimes it was hard to tell where plastic finished and the sea began. Close up it was not a pretty sight but it would have brought much needed employment and income to the area.
The best part of our journey was when we made a detour to Bédar, a small village up in the hills about 15k from the coastal town of Mojácar. My brother, Warren and his family were due to have a holiday there the following month so we left the motorway at Los Gallardos and drove 6k up a winding road into the hills. The next post is really just for Warren’s information.
We stayed almost a week at Los Madriles, exploring the area on our bikes and enjoying the lovely heated pool at the camp site. What we first thought to be a heated sea water pool was, in fact, saline water taken from a geothermal source. The naturally occurring 30° water was pumped to the pool each morning and emptied after the pool closed every evening.
We spent several days exploring Port Mazzarón, 3k along the coast. We also enjoyed the nearby town of Isla Plana which had several restaurants and an excellent supermarket. When we were feeling hungry we lunched at one of the many restaurants offering the menu del dia.
This normally commenced with bread and alioli, then a starter, a main and, if you were still sitting upright, a desert. All this washed down with a bottle of wine followed by coffee all for an inclusive price of €9 a head. On a hungry day we could manage all the courses but often it had to be a beer, salad, main course and coffee – we were always aware that we had to cycle the 3k back to the camp site.
One weekend in Port Mazzarón we came across a fresh fish shop with restaurant attached (only open weekends and holidays). We had a beer and spent some time watching the fishmongers preparing the catch using huge meat cleavers even on the tiniest of fish. Tony chose a starter of anchovies and I had a plate of thinly sliced octopus seasoned with paprika and drizzled in olive oil – accompanied by fresh bread. Then we had grilled sardines that we had personally selected from the fish counter, bright silver with fresh eyes, cooked on the grill with oil, herbs and seasoning. The cost of this feast for the two of us was €15 plus our drinks.
One disadvantage of driving in the warmer weather was the constant barrage of insects hitting the windscreen, leaving wet marks the size of ping pong balls and making it almost impossible to see out unless the windscreen was cleared regularly. These insects must have been quite a size as they made a splat noise as they hit the and our washer wipers had to work overtime so we could see where we were going. One of the first jobs when we arrived was to clean the windscreen before the stains set hard in the Spanish sun.
Another day we cycled to Azohia, a small, Spanish holiday village. The day was cloudy and windy, but hot enough to enjoy the bike ride. I don’t know what the place would be like in the height of the season but it was virtually empty and reminded us of an American frontier town, especially as the warm wind blew the dust up into our eyes and pieces of rubbish were swirled high into the air by the wind. A stray dog added to the Wild West atmosphere. You could not describe it has run down because it looked as if the place had never been Up. We liked it, especially as there was an area reserved for camper vans to stay overnight.