el Cabo de Gata – Volcanoes and Views

Moving further north-east along the Spanish mediterranean coast we finally made it to visit Cabo de Gata, an ancient volcanic area which is the driest area in Europe.

We had been looking forward to visiting this area for some time, so were a little disappointed to find that the dreaded plastic  came right up to the edge of this protected natural park.  Not only that, but it was worse than anywhere else we had been so far – shanty huts and towns (complete with garages and satellite dishes) were in evidence everywhere.  The saddest sight was massive sheets of plastic discarded amongst the landscape..

This did all stop, of course, as soon as you entered the park proper, but only right at the edge.

We found a camper stop in Albaricoques; Camper Park Olivades, which was absolutely perfect for us (at 13Euros per night we had toilets, showers, laundry and electric).  There are many film locations (particularly spaghetti Westerns) in this area, and Albaricoques is no exception hosting the stars of For a Few Dollars More (film name of the town – Agua Caliente), amongst other films.  The streets pay homage to this history, bearing names such as Calle Clint Eastwood, Lee van Cleef and Ennio Morricone.

On the edge of the park (near the main N344 road) there are 3 big theme parks based on Westerns – I would love to have visited one of these, but they were prohibitively expensive (in that we weren’t prepared to part with that sort of money!)

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You need to either be a serious cyclist or have a car to explore the area properly.  In our few days there we drove around the whole area, but perhaps missed out on some of the internal villages.  We enjoyed Las Negras on the coast not too far from Los Albaricoques (there were many, many campers wild camping in this area), Isleta del Moro (a small village with many sailing and surf schools – and again, many wild campers) and San Jose, which is perhaps a little more commercialised.   It has a lovely beach, though fully overlooked by the restaurants in the harbour.

On the other side of San Jose you can access some wild, windswept beaches down a rough track.   The one we stopped at Monsul beach which is back by a huge dune; the walk down to the beach from the car park shows evidence of outdoor showers – I don’t know why that stuck with me; I guess you’d probably be more interested in the couple sunbathing nude on top of the dune….. (no pictures, sorry!)

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Of course, we also visited the Cabo de Gata itself (which is a little like visiting Lands End or The Lizard in Cornwall).  We continued on for a while and then went back to get the car and take the narrow, really rather scary road (pot-holed track), up to the lighthouse.  I’m glad Calv was driving….   (Don’t attempt it if you care about your car..!)

There were some spectacular views from up there (plus lots of tracks off the main track taking you down to hidden beaches and coves).  We could also see that it was possible to walk (or even drive if you had the keys to get through the gates) along the edge of the cliffs to get to the beaches at San Jose.  I wouldn’t have fancied driving that track at all, but Calv would have liked to have a go!!

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Probably our favourite day (well, mine anyway) was when we went for a walk into the caldera of an ancient extinct volcano, Caldera de Majada Redonda.  Not a particularly long walk (but long enough) but lots to see along the way, including the site of a house high up in the hills and an abandoned (?) car filled with rocks!  (Calv insists that this car shell must have been carried up the mountain..)

I would definitely recommend taking a couple of hours to do this walk 🙂

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Before heading back to the van we quickly visited the coast again at Las Escullos, where there was a trio of men taking photos of jeans laid out on the rocks!  Some more unusual landscapes to appreciate here.

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A definite recommendation for a visit when in Spain – certainly different to what you normally see in the Costas 🙂

 

We stayed:  Camper Park Olivades

Previous Post: Almeria

Next Post:  Banos de la Fortuna #2

 

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Antequera and El Torcal

A little further east through the mountains (on very good roads it has to be said) we arrived in Humilladero for visiting Antequera and El Torcal, both situated a little way south of our chosen site (La Sierracilla – which was lovely despite some reviews almost putting us off..)

Humilladero itself appears to be a fairly new town, laid out largely in grids, with lots of plots that have not yet been built upon – great for a run!  However, click on the link above to discover a little more about the town (something we failed to do during our visit 😦 )

What we did discover a little of was the recreation area located behind the campsite.  We walked a little way in but if we had carried on we would, apparently, have scaled the mountain behind and had a good view of the Laguna de Fuente de Piedra.  This was somewhere that we did manage to find 🙂

A couple pitched up next to us had cycled there the previous day but we chose to take the little car for the short (about 4 miles) trip to the lake which is famed for it’s flamingos.

There are miles of walks around the lakes, and we set off to our right, walking about a mile before we got frustrated at our inability to get close to any flamingos… We could certainly hear them.  And we could see them in the distance, but there was no way of getting closer to the water.  In frustration we turned around and headed back to the visitor centre, at which point Calv refused to walk anymore, so I headed off in the other direction by myself and phoning him 5 mins later to tell him I had found flamingos 🙂

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Definitely worth a visit 🙂  On leaving the visitor centre we drove some way further around the lake stopping off at various viewing points along the way (there are lots of these areas).  Unfortunately we didn’t come across anywhere where we could see the flamingos any better than we already had.  Overall we were a little disappointed if I’m honest.

This area is big on olives and olive harvesting (with lots of factories presumably producing olive oil).  We saw a lot of harvesting going on which was fascinating – we watched the process of laying a massive sheet around the trees (using a tractor, you wouldn’t have been able to do it by hand), and the ‘shaking’ machines that clamp the tree and, well, shake it!

On the way home we were in search of a supermarket and google maps was telling us that we would find one in the village of La Fuente de Piedra (The Stone Fountain).  This proved to be incorrect, but we did find a lovely little village centre where we sat for lunch in the sun.  Again bordered by another olive processing factory (there are so many in the area).

We also visited Antequera and it’s Dolmens.  Antequera itself is far bigger than I imagined but, apart from finding a Mercadona (there was more than 1, + Lidls etc.) we  only visited the old town.  We actually approached from the south having tried to visit El Torcal on our 2nd day.  Being a Sunday there was no parking in the visitor centre car park, and we were directed to park at the bottom of the hill and take a bus up (there was, of course, a fee for this).  We smelled a scam (it turns out we were wrong, but there are several parking scams operating in Spain) so decided to return another day.

On the way back to Antequera we stopped in a recreation area and headed off for a walk to take in the scenery.  Calv was a little reserved and eventually, after about 10 mins, said to me ‘have you left things in the car’?  Which I had.  He was a bit concerned for some reason so we headed back.  All was okay though.  We carried on to Antequera, making our way through the old town (I think you could probably say we were lost) and eventually finding somewhere to park on Calle Fresca.

We wandered around finding the minimal remains of the old castle and then eventually finding the main plaza, Mirador Plaza de Santa Maria, on which stands the Colegiata de Santa Maria la Mayor and Alcazaba.  After a bit of indecision we decided to visit the alcazaba (we have visited a fair number of alcazabas…) but it was worth it, with lots to see 🙂  The majority of the complex has been pretty much rebuilt, although there is a photo below that includes a small section of wall that appears to be original.

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Once again tired and ready for a relaxing evening in the van we headed back to the car.  Where we were both surprised to find that we hadn’t locked our doors….  Very strange.  When we arrived back at the van and went in the boot for something we found that the parcel shelf had been pulled out.  Now we knew that someone had broken into the car (we then realised that they’d used a screwdriver on the passenger door, as we had a little trouble using the key in this side).

However, all’s well that ends well, as we had taken absolutely everything with us when we parked up (after Calv’s ‘feeling’ earlier when we were out for our walk), so the rotten b*****s got nothing 🙂  Small victories and all that!

On our way to El Torcal the next day we went via the Dolmens of Antequera, which are ancient burial mounds which are free to visit (although you must get a ticket first..!)  There are 3 to visit – Menga, Viera and El Romeral.  These monuments are UNESCO world heritage sites, and will take up maybe 45 minutes of your day (including the drive between them).  Still, worth a look 🙂

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Finally though we made it the best visit (one of the best of our whole trip to Spain), El Torcal – a landscape of limestone rock formations through which there are several trails to walk.  We had done the right thing in wearing our walking boots; the walk, of course, takes you through the formations and there are many areas never touched by the sun and so the mud never dries out!  We did see a lady walking barefoot – she’d obviously worn completely inappropriate footwear and was with a much younger man; I thought maybe her son, Calv disagreed…!!  Either way seeing here walking through this terrain barefoot made me cringe – it wasn’t always an easy walk and the mud itself (I don’t like mud) would have given me nightmares (yes, I have nightmares about mud 😦 )

We also spotted an ibex on top of one of the formations – it waited patiently whilst we scrabbled for cameras, but moved the minute we had them!  Of course 🙂

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There were many other trails to walk and we will almost definitely return next time we’re in Spain 🙂

Next stop back to the coast at Cala de Mijas to meet up with Steve and Denise for a couple of days (they were still at Cabopino).  I promise to be better at getting this blog up-to-date – please bear with me!!

 

We stayed: Camping la Sierracilla

Previous Post: Algodonales

Next Post: Almeria

 

 

Algodonales – a paragliders dream

On leaving the coast behind in El Puerto de Santa Maria and heading back into the mountains, we were going to head to a site in Olvera, but at the last minute I spotted a free motorhome service area shortly before Olvera in a little town called Algodonales, about 20 miles north of Ronda.  Not only free but with electricity included – seemed too good to be true?  It wasn’t!  We ended up staying 4 nights 🙂

Once parked up we became aware of lots of music that seemed to emanate from the town itself, which was about a 10 minute walk away.  We also spotted a number of walkers heading that way; so we decided that we should head into town ourselves.  It’s quite a steep climb past chickens, building yards, lemon & orange groves and numerous streams.

The noise escalated as we neared the main square, where we found a finishing tunnel and an announcer with a microphone welcoming runners (and walkers) back on finishing the Viboras Trail (a run/hike up into the mountains and back – see below).

  • The route of the Algodonales Víboras Trail (which translates literally as “Cotton Snakes Trail) is a homage by us to one of the most testing routes in Andalusia. At 16 km in length and 916 meters of accumulated ascent, this route is a level three, and is a speciality trip that can only be accessed by club members.       https://xcmag.com/travel-guide/guide-to-algodonales-spain/

We sat at a bar (very busy but we still managed to sit after a few minutes) and enjoyed a drink while watching these amazing people returning from their latest challenge 🙂

On the way back to the van we could see a white town in the distance.  We thought we might cycle there in the morning, but then we looked on Google maps and saw how far it actually was!  Back at the motorhome area the paragliders, that we’d spotted jumping off the mountain when we first arrived, Continue reading “Algodonales – a paragliders dream”

Delights on our Doorstep – Days out from Cabopino

Staying at Cabopino Camping? Here are some ideas for days out and what to find in the surrounding area.

This is my last post from our time at Cabopino and I’m aiming to mop up all the places that didn’t merit individual posts.  So this post is just a bit of a mash up 🙂

I have dealt with the following days out already (click to go directly to the relevant post):-

Malaga

Banos de la Hedionda

Embalse de la Concepcion

Ronda

Camino del Rey  (also our 1st visit was covered back in 2017)

Gibraltar (from our visit in 2017)

Many people also visit Antequera and El Torcal from here, but we actually stayed near there instead so this will be recorded in a later post.

But this wasn’t all we did (of course not – we were at Cabopino for over 6 weeks this time!)  There follows a short summary of all other days out during our time there.

Benalmadena

I visited Benalmadena years ago with my boys (staying in the Flatotel which was perfect for us at the time).  Whilst we were there that time we visited the theme park, Tivoli World (I was never going to get away with not going was I with 2 young boys in tow!)

This time though we were determined to go up the mountain in the cable car.  We tried twice….  The 1st time we got to Benalmadena before realising that the weather wasn’t as warm there as back at Cabopino, and would, of course, be cooler still at the top of the mountain – plus neither of us had bought any sort of warm top with us.  So we had to abort.  The trip wasn’t a complete wash-out though – we sat and had a drink in a cafe and found a cheap perfume shop where Calv managed to buy me a birthday present 🙂

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A month later we finally found the time to return to head up the cable car.  This time it was much warmer but we went fully ready for all eventualities – except for the fact that the day before we arrived it had closed for a month (as, apparently, it does every year…)  We are completely useless and really must be better prepared. Continue reading “Delights on our Doorstep – Days out from Cabopino”

Caminito del Rey – a return visit

When Sam came to visit we knew we had to give him an experience to remember, so we scheduled our return visit to Camino del Rey to coincide with his visit and my birthday (18th December).  We didn’t have much notice – he sent me a text on Saturday to say ‘do you fancy a visitor’ and arrived on Monday!

The weather wasn’t as kind to us this time, just in that it was rather cloudy with the odd sunny spell.  But we did need our tops most of the time we were walking.

As we approached the gorge this time we could see lots of soldiers in evidence.  It seems there were some exercises going on in the area.  I have to say they didn’t look very professional at all; a bit sloppy!

As we got closer, and the road got narrower we started to see signs of the recent bad weather, with parts of the road washed away. Continue reading “Caminito del Rey – a return visit”

Campsite Reviews aimed at motorhomers.

Honest 1st hand campsite reviews from the perspective of motorhomers with a fairly large unit (and often towing a small car). Currently covers sites in the UK, Spain, France and Portugal – hopefully in the future we will be adding sites in Germany, Italy, Croatia, Austria, Switzerland and beyond!

Hi to all you motorhomers out there (and caravaners, but being motorhomers ourselves we know what they need :); well we know what we want/need and suspect many will have similar wants)…

Back in the UK having spent 10 weeks at the beginning of 2017 travelling through Spain and Portugal, and having visited France a couple of times, we thought some campsite reviews would be in order.  We visited 20 sites this year in Spain and Portugal so please bear with me as I get my thoughts down!

Knowing what’s important to us we are going to use a set format to complete, with key questions (access, pitch, facilities etc.) + the description set up under ‘The good, The bad and The ugly’.

Before I start I should say that I have already done a couple reviews which aren’t under this format but all that I write from now on will be.

Please feel free to comment with your own views of any campsites I review that you have also visited – it’s quite possible we’ll have differing views!

Just a bit of background information on our set-up then:-

We are Mandi and Calvin and we have a 2011 Bessacarr E769, 8.56m long and 2.3m wide.  We have been using the ACSI book for our travels on our last 2 European trips, and have found it invaluable (although we have had to resort to the internet a couple of times).

We have also invested in an Aguri SatNav for this trip (the one we had previously, from a different manufacturer, proved to be completely useless!!)

And, of course, if you find the campsite reviews helpful you might enjoy our blog cataloguing our travels!

I will be adding to these whenever we travel 🙂

Happy travelling 🙂

Jump straight to relevant reviews below – separate pages created for each country – simply click below for relevant list (most recent trip is shown first):-

SPAIN

FRANCE

 

Ronda – a little Gem high up in the Mountains

A visit to a renowned white town high in the mountains above Marbella. Steeped in history and with unbelievable views.

On arriving at Cabopino we knew that one of the first things we wanted to do was visit Ronda, as we had run out of time with the hire car during our trip in 2017.

This time, of course, we have the little car with us, so a few days after arriving we set off in the sunshine on our daytrip up into the mountains.

Our climb started behind Marbella so we passed some lovely looking complexes on the way, as well as a good number of villas hidden away behind high gates.

It’s quite a long way to Ronda, winding up and up and up, and round and round and round the various mountains!  There are several viewpoints but we left those for the way back.  It’s a very good road all the way, though that doesn’t mean I enjoyed the mountain road anymore than I usually do!

We parked up on the road just before the gates of the old town, completely by accident! So we chose to head in this way – leaving the area of town opposite the gates for another time.

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Our first discovery was the Iglesia del Espiritu Santo (Church of the Holy Spirit).  Fairly unassuming from the outside it’s a different story inside Continue reading “Ronda – a little Gem high up in the Mountains”