We left our beloved camp at Oropesa Del Mar and began the drive south to meet up with Los Amigos Part 1.
The first stop was an overnighter at an Aire in the little town of Segorbe, which didn’t have much going on, but was free, free, free! Next, we intended to wild camp somewhere in the city of Valencia, which entailed compromising with some mental road layouts (5-lane roundabouts!?) and, as it turned out, no spaces fit for a 6.5m camper, despite best efforts.
Still, we saw a lot of the city this way, its beautiful lilac trees, the idyllic mini-parks, and the less-so rush hour. After about two hours of demented navigation suggestions from the route computer, we headed out for the free Aire at Turis.
Neelix checking out the poo bags
Turis proved to be a non-starter due to the fact the Aire is located in an industrial estate, with low hedges and no shade on a very hot afternoon.
Another couple of hours’ driving brought us to the small resort town of Cullera, where we stopped for the night on the side of a quiet road, with a little tilt (fun for showering in!). In the morning we hiked up to the castle that overlooks the town, steep but worthwhile. It was €3 entrance but ye olde ‘no perros’ sign prevented us from going in, so Neelix protested by peeing on the wall.
The next morning we drove out to a free Aire, which sits in the shadow of a creepy old monastery, to utilise the facilities and drove on to Oliva, for a couple of nights at Rio Mar campsite, which had a clunky, disorganised charm, underscored by the bizarre aviary at the entrance, home to budgies, fat cuckoo things, and three ducks (plus an unhatched egg!). The day’s best achievement was that we managed to finally put up the hammock we bought in 2007.
Finally, the day came to journey on to the place where we would meet our good friends from home, Shona and Karla: Benidorm. As a pre-‘Dorm excursion, we stopped by Moraira and Calpe on route, wowing ourselves at their azure water, which Neelix even swam in without coercion.
Benidorm with the girls
The Spanish Manhattan
Neither of us had ever been to Benidorm (nor seen the show) and had mixed expectations at best. Andy said it was supposed to be Spain’s answer to Blackpool, elsewhere it was referred to as the Manhattan of the Algarve. I’ve been to both of those and they weren’t so bad… right?
The upside of the jaunt, other than seeing our friends, was that our choice of camp, Armanello, is really well done out, with two pools, more aviaries (less weird menagerie) and lots of space.
We’d intended to wait for our friends before experiencing the town but, as there was a birthday to celebrate, we took a walk in to buy a cake. The sight of Union Jack bunting everywhere and numerous mobility scooter rental notwithstanding, the first thing we saw was a rather portly chap wearing nothing but a mankini and attempting to grope a shopgirl. Eyebrow raising.
After Shona and Karla arrived the next afternoon (with the heavenly elixir of Dr Pepper), we took another walk in to find some good Tapas and, thankfully, much of the previous day’s horror was likely still hungover in the various highrises that blot the skyline. We found a decent Spanish-run outlet for food, and sauntered up and down the front, dodging the scooters and drunken revellers.
Neelix wants to see everything
After four days, the girls flew home and we spent one extra night at Armanello and the daily temperature seemed to soar. Neelix spent all day panting, but we were heading futher south for our next meet near Almeria for Los Amigos Part 2.
With a 355km drive ahead of us over a three day period, we planned to split the journey into three, wild camp or go for free Aires on two nights, and a campsite on the third for the demanding power-suck of the fridge.
The first Aire was in the small town of Lorqui, shoved alongside a disused park, and a roasting 33°C (the van thermometer peaked at 43°!) It wasn’t yet 2pm, so we decided to go further, and headed to Mazarron, a journey so hot that the route computer simply gave in and had to have its own little igloo built around it with one of the thermo-shades and air-con pumped in. Note: Air-con = essential.
The next day we drove further down to the town of Vera, replete with the first Bullring we’d seen and tooled around a little by the adjacent coast before heading to a commercial Aire a few miles from town. A curious endeavour – the Aire surrounds a Tennis Academy and stretches up the side of a steep hill overlooking The Hills Have Eyes-like desert plains. But it was nicely done out, cooler from the breeze higher up, and provided a great starry night sky. In the morning we made the final leg down past Almeria to Aguadulce.
Benidorm: A tiny bit of culture
Sunday gave us an early start to meet Andy’s sister Lizzie, and bro-in-law Chris, in Aguadulce town. Unfortunately their off-cruise excursion only gave us a couple of hours to catch up over a sandwich and a drink before they had to head back to their ship in Almeria. We headed back north, away from the arid landscape and searing heat, eventually stopping back at Camp Rio Mar in Oliva for food, Maxibons, and a long sleep followed by a resting day.
After the second night at Rio Mar, we drove again for three hours north past Valencia back to Oropesa, rounding the trip off nicely where this blog post started. We setup and took Neelix to the beach for some swimming practice. He still tends to assume anyone in the water is drowning and claws madly to lead you back to shore, but it cooled us all off hugely and we got an uninterrupted 10-11 hour sleep to refuel.
Marina D’Or – with Blackpool lights!
On the 13th, we took a drive in nearby Castellon so Chrys could indulge his Jurassic World demands: Negotiating a ticket to the right movie, calling on a kind local to work out which seat I’d been assigned, and then trying to follow the plot in dubbed Spanish was all worth it as the film was awesome.
After a few more days at Oropesa, which saw the heat gradually crank upwards to panting levels (Neelix, not us) we started to think about the next sector, and so drove north back to Torredembarra for one night, and again the next day into Sitges to meet Andy’s friend Rus (Los Amigos Part 3), who is working in Barcelona for a few months.
A day ambling around the town was marred by the discovery that somebody had, somehow, broken into Scooby, ransacked their way through our stuff and made off with Andy’s camera, Chrys’s UK wallet, a little tin box full of random bits n’ bobs (probably mistaken for a cash box), and, crucially, the Nav computer. A tad distressed, we abandoned the plans to wild camp on the street and went instead to El Garrofer just outside Sitges where we cancelled cards and licked our wounds.
As El Garrofer was a high-end camp(€€€), we rapidly resolved to continue making our way north to cooler climes, soon discovering we were pretty much just accompanying a Europe-wide heatwave, and stopped for a night at Platja D’Aro, then, on June 29th, crossed the border back into France and headed for a low-cost camp at Cap D’Adge to wangle a fax from the DVLA to temporarily replace Chrys’s stolen driver’s license. Stress.
Roman ruin on the sea front
It’s the last day of June now and, sadly, things have been affected by the robbery, though we were thankful the fiend completely missed some more crucial kit, we were both mourning the loss of ‘stuff’. Rationalising that stuff can be replaced, but worrying about things we may have missed, and the loss of photos from the camera, has made it hard.
Over the next week or so, the current plan is to gradually move north towards the Alps, where we hope it’ll be just a little cooler, then weave up through Germany to northern Europe throughout the month to let the worst of the heat pass, so Neelix can run down hillsides once again without fear of collapse.
There’d be better photos this month if the reprobate hadn’t made off with the camera also : (