Posted in Spain

12th – 18th Feb – Torrox Costa & Nerja

After settling down and deciding to stay a while to relax and enjoy the area, we made the most of a beautiful, blue sky day with plenty of sunshine and enjoyed walking through the local village, passing beautiful flowers adorning the walls.  Eventually the tarmac gave way to the local tracks that were marked as roads on the map, and itemised as such by Google Maps!  In reality, they were rough stoned paths with just enough room for vehicles to travel down, but not pass each other. In places it was mostly compacted soil with bits of stone, plenty of weeds and many plastic greenhouses bordering the track.  These greenhouses held a variety of crops, mainly tomatoes, chillies, peppers and young mango trees (we think). The nearby fields were full of potatoes, onions and some sort green vegetable, not quite cabbage or spinach but somewhere in between.

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Track looking towards mountains

There were wild flowers everywhere, predominantly yellow, with many insects buzzing around making the most of the early nectar supply.

We walked down to Torrox Costa following the river beside its stony bed with a noticeable absence of water, what we would call a shallow stream. Birds were everywhere with the best so far being a Sardinian Warbler, a pretty little bird with a jet black head and a conspicuously red eye and eye-ring, and white under the chin and neck.  We were also pleased to see our first swallows and crag martins skimming low over the water, swooping over the vegetation that lined the banks to collect insects.  So hard to believe it is February.

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Another first was one of the finest butterflies I have always wanted to see, a lovely Swallowtail. It is a delightful insect having cream wings with black markings, the hind wings also having blue sections with small bits of red, and its characteristic projections possibly giving rise to the name swallowtail. (This photo is from Google)

The following day the sun was shining and the promised temperature of 18C was most acceptable so we opted for shorts and T-shirts and started a 5 mile walk into Nerja.  The old coast road was relatively free of traffic and the views of the sea sparkling in the sunshine made quite a picture. There were wild flowers along the edges and up on the rock faces bordering the road. It took around 2 hours to complete the walk and finally we arrived at the Balcon de Europa, a large rounded balcony jutting out into the Mediterranean Sea, originally a fortification to protect against pirates and smugglers sailing around the coastline.

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Panaramic photograph showing archways, Balon and church
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Chris, Lucy, Malcolm & Jacqui

We met up with friends Jacqui and Malcolm and enjoyed coffee and beers with ‘tosta y tomate’ for brunch while we caught up with each other’s news.

Later that evening Chris and I visited a small Italian restaurant for a wonderful meal and bottle of Rioja as it was Valentine’s Day.

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Another much longer walk saw us taking a bus initially into Nerja, then walking as we followed the River Chillar up into the hills behind the town.  Again, the river was no more than a stony stream when we walked it, following through a tremendous rocky gorge as it flows through the wooded lower slopes of the Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama Natural Park.  The River was so shallow in places you can walk in trainers without getting your feet wet on the wide expanse of stone riverbed.

We found a concrete ‘lavada’ carrying water down the valley for irrigation lower down and although I scrambled up a steep stope to it, I couldn’t make myself walk along it’s narrow walls with the precipitous drops on one side.  Back down on safe ground we walked on for a while before stopping for a picnic under the eucalyptus trees to enjoyed the peace and tranquillity beside the stream, sorry river!  Our walk ended an hour or so later when we could go no further without getting our feet wet which we did not wish to do in February with no towel to dry off.  Anyway, when we finally got back to our campsite, we had walked 10.5 miles, a record for me.  I felt achy and tired and in need of yet another G&T, great excuse I thought.

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We only had two greyish days during our week long stay at El Pino in Torrox Costa, and even then it was warm.  Our final walk around Nerja on our last day meant we had walked just over 50 miles in total since we got here.  This time we walked from the Balcon, across Burriana Beach where we spotted this huge paella bring cooked on a wood fire.

Then up a hill at the far end taking us along by an old aqueduct which is part of an old hydraulic structure linked to a channel that remains in use today for irrigating the local farmland.

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We carried on back around into town, along the old streets and followed tradition by stopping off for a beer and tapas.  Pepes bar was full of history and many old household and farming implements adorned the walls, a pigs head looking down on the visitors from its lofty perch high up on the wall.  The Jsmon Iberico hanging from the ceiling, from which the bar owner made us two free tapas each with fresh bread, and with two beers altogether it was only 3 euros, around £2.50.

Later we met up again with Jacqui and Malcolm for a late lunch before they kindly took us back to the campsite. It is a lovely area and one to return to, which I know we will as we are planning ahead already …….

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Don’t forget, the map has been updated for you to check where we are now.                         Use the  PLUS button to make it bigger.

 

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Posted in Spain

8th February – Journey begins ….

Della began her journey to Portsmouth on a dull, grey morning looking clean and shiny, everything we could possibly need for the next seven weeks safely stored inside her cavernous body.  As we set off to the docks to catch the 11.45am ferry we were very pleased to have no rattles inside due to our novice packing, and the hour long journey seemed to pass very quickly.  Soon we were lined up with dozens of other motorhomes, lorries and cars ready to drive into a huge, three floor, multi storey carpark inside the Cap Finistere.

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Entering the port at Bilbao

Twenty four hours later we landed at Bilbao in sunshine and relative warmth. Within half an hour we were off and started our drive of approximately 80 miles to Haro in the Rioja region.  Our new Garmin satnav was sitting proudly on the dashboard spouting directions and showing me the pink line to follow.  Even so, going under a covered section of road, somehow, and terrifyingly we were guided straight into Bilbao itself!  To say the air was not quite blue, but maybe a mid-range of turquoise, was an understatement.  My stress levels soared as I followed her new direction to get me out of the pickle she had created, I wondered if I should trust her to get us to Haro at all.

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Snow topped mountains enroute

Having chosen the scenic route we eventually enjoyed seeing vineyards, pruned hard back ready for the new season, winter corn showing green in the fields but no livestock in sight anywhere.  On entering the Park Natural de Gorbia with its wild open spaces, we soon saw snow topped mountains and stopped by Reservoir Ollerias for lunch.

Finally we found the site easily, parked up and promptly walked into the small town under a bridge to nowhere!  Passing the Bodegas (sadly not open!) with stainless steel wine vats glinting in the sunshine, we walked uphill to admire the old Spanish architecture, golden stone buildings with wrought iron grills at the windows, fancy gables and a stunning church with huge carved wooden doors.

The view from the top of the town over the valley below was breath taking.

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The following morning for our next destination at Riaza, we plotted the scenic route, 160 miles of it, and marvelled at the snowy mountains, it was chilly at -3C.  We made our way along fantastic roads through massive rocky outcrops at 5,600 feet and during a stop for lunch in the mountains, we were pleased to identify 3 griffin vultures circling high on the thermals.  Eventually we lost height as we drove on, the scenery giving way to vast flat land with numerous cattle, sheep and horses, and acres of vinyards.

The site was situated at 3,930 feet surrounded by mountains, all with snow on top, luckily none on the ground where we were but it was still -5C in the morning!  We will be very glad to get further south and find the sun.

The next stretch of 244 miles to Despeñaperros, near Santa Elena, was slightly more hazardous for the first hour or so. Sleet soon set in and against the white snow lying around us the scenery looked monochrome.snowy-road-scene-small  It was like driving in a white-out, although not a blizzard of snow thankfully.  The roads were first class and all dual carriage way, the Spanish must have known more bad weather was on the way because we saw no less than 7 snow ploughs heading the opposite way!

I was very thankful when eventually we left this all behind and the temperature rose from 0.5C to 13.5C after around 3 hours.  Including a stop for lunch we arrived after 5.5 hours at a beautiful pine tree covered site with views over an olive grove with vines behind.

Around 40 + azure winged magpies were feeding under the pines, beautiful birds with a fine black cap, white throat and blue wings and tail, they made such a chattering before heading off to the olive trees. Another walk into the village to stretch our legs and an hour later we found ourselves a nice little ‘watering hole’ to park ourselves in for half an hour to enjoy a couple of drinks.

The last leg of our journey through Spain to the south coast was only 174 miles across varied and beautiful countryside, with acres of olive groves all planted in straight rows so they can be harvested mechanically. Gaining altitude through the mountains, we again admired their craggy outlines with an icing of snow on their peaks

Standing like statues, many wind turbines topped the hills and a few windmills were dotted around the landscape.  It soon became apparent they were in a good location as now Della was buffeted around, especially on vast exposed sections of the Autovia.  There were many places crossing valleys and around rocky outcrops where a massive ‘viaducto’ carried the road, these could be a mile in length and I hate to think how high.  All were very un-nerving as the cross winds shook and blew us around, at over 3 meters tall, Della seemed to catch the wind like a sail.  I tried to take comfort that all the articulated lorries were coping, so I could too, nevertheless, I only relaxed after I got off these feats of engineering.

Passing Granada and heading ever downhill, soon the temperatures improved and we even recorded 18C as we neared the coast, this dropped to 15 by the time we reached the campsite in Torrox.  With many trees to supply shade in summer, we were glad they were bare to let in any sunshine, but as rain was forcast for the evening and over night we just got parked up and opened our bottle of Prosecco!

And so for our first day in Torrox, initial light drizzle soon disappeared, the sun came out and blue sky was dotted with fluffy white clouds. Bliss. We requested to move Della to a better position and after a tense half hour of manoeuvring on this very full site, we successfully relocated and now are two happy campers.

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Black Knight Beer Bread

Chris made us a beautiful loaf of bread using up the last of the dark beer from Ludlow Brewery which we had at our New Year’s Eve Party, (it had been frozen to bring with us).

We left it to proove and cooked it later, can’t wait to try it.

Soon we set off on a 30 minute stoll down to the sea and Torrox Costa promenade. With rolled up sleeves and sandals in temperatures of around 18C, it was so nice to have the sun and good temperatures after all that snow and freezing weather in the mountains. After more walking we soon located a small bar; yes it has to be done! Sitting there soaking up the rays and sipping our beers we were feeling very smug.

Remember to check out the map section to see our journey and where we are now.