Last full week to go…!
NERJA TO EMPURIABRAVA 719 MILES
Miles traveled so far: 2602 miles
Toll costs: 6.70 euros this week
Fuel Costs: 178 euros this week
18th January – Nerja to Roquetas de Mar 83 miles
Today we are on the second day of our journey back to the UK and home. We are not too keen but needs must. After a nice one-night stay in Nerja, we are planning to do one night at Almerimar Marina east of here. They have three parking areas for motorhomes one of which has a great view looking over the marina. The drive east along the coast is wonderful. No wind, at last, clear blue skies and a temperature of 15 degrees. The motorway here is quite high in the hills so the views out to sea are amazing.
An hour or so later we are in Almerimar, however, after speaking with the reception they are full and the only space that they can offer is next to a high concrete wall covered in graffiti. We move on. Hayley finds us a free stop right on the beach in the town of Roquetas de Mar. After a 30 minute drive, we arrive at our destination.
It is so full of motorhomes, there must be over 100 vans here all parked up along the beach.
The number of vans is less dense as you drive further away from the town which we do and eventually, find a spot between two French vans with a perfect side-on view of the sea. Beautiful and FREE!!
We polish off a pile of fruit and soon the bikes are off the back and we are away for a good cycle ride along the promenade. What a lovely day, perfect in fact.
After a good hour or so we return to Jess, put the bikes back on to the back of Jess, grab our beach chairs, some beers and make our way to the water’s edge to take advantage of the late afternoon sun.
19th January – Roquetas de Mar to Palamares 76 miles
Last night was a quiet peaceful night. Just before bed, we saw coming up over the sea, the biggest, fattest moon rise ever. It was stunning.
This morning we are up early and we see an amazing sunrise over the sea. Just in time for breakfast!
Most of our stops have been in campsites where, for a fee of between 15 and 35 euros, you get a pitch to yourself that has an electricity point, facilities to fill up your fresh water tank with water, empty your grey water tank and of course, clean out the chemical toilet.
Our freshwater tank can hold 100 litres plus 20 for the hot water tank.
The grey water tank, which for those of you who don’t know is the water from your kitchen, bathroom sink, and shower, holds 100 litres.
The chemical toilet is a 20-litre portable cassette tank.
If we use all of the above carefully we can manage without a campsite for 2 possibly three days before something needs to be dealt with and in our case, it’s usually the chemical toilet. The chemical toilet is an interesting device. Inside the van’s bathroom, it looks like a normal toilet but under the seat is a box that collects everything. There is a meter on the toilet that tells you when it’s full! Nice. Then it’s Del’s job to take the box out, from the outside, at the back of the van through a lockable flap and take it to the facility in the campsite and empty it, wash it out, and stick a little blue bag inside that disinfects and deodorises the box.
As for the shower, kitchen and bathroom, well it’s just like home, except there is a large 100-litre used water tank under the van which has a lever that is pulled to open a valve on the tank and the grey water just floods out. Most campsites have a grid or drain that you drive over to empty this tank.
Like yesterday we are going ‘off grid’ which means we find a spot, stop and stay overnight. As long as the right tanks are full and empty and the toilet fresh we can do this for possibly up to three days. The van has a solar panel, on the roof to keep the batteries charged so the lights stay on. We have two LPG gas bottles for cooking, heating, keeping warm, and running the fridge freezer.
We find a nice spot right on the beach at Palomares. We stopped here on the way down but at the campsite. It was magic today. The spot was ideal. The weather is just fine, sunny but cool at around 5 pm. We have Jess facing the sea which is calm and just so beautiful to look at. We get our chairs out and just sit in the afternoon sun with a beer, chatting the time away until the chill forces us inside. We get the heating on, close all the blinds, music on, lights down and it’s just perfect. A truly calming and peaceful place to be by the sea.
20th January – Palomares to Mar Menor 81 miles
Our two days ‘off grid’ have been great, our freshwater tank is still just under half full and that’s after washing up dinner and breakfast and two showers last night. Batteries are still full and we always have plenty of gas. Breakfast this morning is bacon and avocado sandwiches. The avocados were from the campsite in Nerja and are without a doubt the best we have ever had. They are large and very hard, but if you leave them for about two or three days they ripen to be the best avos ever!!
A lot of the rural areas around here have traffic calming ’speed humps’ which are usually well signposted and well marked on the road, however not all of them. With what looked like chewed up concrete Del drives slowly but not slow enough and with a yell from Hayley to slow down or stop it was too late as Jess is bumped violently over the speed hump, so violently that the contents of the van shifted and some items in the kitchen area were thrown up so much that they crashed down onto the glass that covers the hob. The whole van felt like it had been dropped from a great height, a terrifying experience. It was so bad the fridge had panicked and an alarm started beeping that we had never heard. Del continued to drive slowly and carefully until we could get to a service area or anywhere to park up to check that the van was ok.
A good long inspection was made under the van and inside to look for any damage. It truly was a very violent and terrifying sensation to feel our home being battered by what looked like just battered concrete but was in fact the highest speed ramp EVER! Also, motorhomes amplify any kind of lump and bump on the road, so if you are not used to hearing or feeling it then it can feel frightening.
Today we are doing a 1 and half hour drive to the Mar Menor to a campsite right next to a Spanish airforce base. Not as bad as it sounds. This is where the Spanish equivalent of the Red Arrows (Eagle Patrol) train.
Our pitch is excellent at the Camping Mar Menor campsite In fact this is probably the best site we have been on this trip.
Everything we need is here as well as an excellent restaurant, so after some laundry and a van clean up we get changed and make for the restaurant where we have an exceptional two-hour late lunch, pricey but well worth it, so much so we have decided to do dinner here tomorrow turning a one day, overnight stop into two night!
Tomorrow is bike day. The Mar Menor is quite an impressive area so we will spend tomorrow getting out and about and exploring while watching the jets training as we go.
21st January – Day 2 Mar Menor
Exercise day today. We get the bikes down from the back of the van and set off along first along a wooden constructed pathway that weaves through the nature reserve.
The pathway is built on stilts with useful viewpoints and stops to check out the local wildlife. Soon we are on the main promenade that provides us with a smooth, flat cycle ride for quite a few miles. Turning back we stop for a quick drink before continuing back then past the campsite for another few miles in the opposite direction. The weather is splendid although rain is expected later. In all we cycled about 14 miles in tota, it was great to get out and burn some calories.
Tomorrow we are expecting to be in the province of Valencia in a newish campsite in Alcalà de Xivert in Valencia called Los Olivos.
22nd January – Mar Menor to Alcalà de Xivert 234 miles
It rained last night, as forecast, and we have woken up to quite an angry sky. Thick black clouds are moving in around us. Time to get a move on and move north where the weather is supposed to be a little better. Today’s stop will be in the Valencia area, a good 2 and a half hours north. We leave the campsite after a full service and snake our way around the airport permitter to get to the motorway north.
We like to keep the van well topped up with fuel. You never know when your plans will change so we have rule that once the van is half full, which, is about 45 liters of fuel, we stop and fill up. This normally costs between 45 and 50 odd euros depending on how much the pump price is.
We are half full so time to pull in and get some diesel, and while we are at it we should top up with LPG as the nights are getting colder and we should keep our gas supply full. We pull into a garage outside Valencia, all seems fine. The forecourt attendant does his thing, but what’s this? 70 liters has been dispensed, 100 euros worth. Our tank only holds 90 liters and we are only half full. What’s going on here? We fear that there must be a calibration issue with the pump it’s just impossible that we have the space for so much fuel. There is no fuel on the forecourt so if 70 liters was dispensed, where has it all gone? We filled up yesterday and have driven half a tank’s worth of miles since. It’s a mystery.
We feel that we have been ripped off to the tune of 30 euros, so an hour later after complaining and filling in forms at the filling station we leave feeling well and truly stung and in a foul mood.
Now, what…? After about 5 minutes into our journey, we notice the fuel gauge is saying no fuel, and the reserve light is flashing. We only just filled up, filled up with more than we needed!!! What’s going on? We cautiously drive on and find a spot to park. Del takes a look under the van to find the fuel tank covered in diesel and some drips coming from the tank. A quick clean up and we set off again. After another few miles we pull in, reset the ignition and now the gauge is saying full. That’s more like it. Del gets under the van to check the tank. It’s dry. something very odd has happened here. Did the garage cause some damage? Did the hard knock on the speed hump yesterday do something? We just don’t know.
We always take turns driving and it was Hayley’s turn to do the last hour to Los Olivos. Her driving experience is much much more than Del’s. She’s an excellent driver, however, it’s quite disturbing the amount of middle-aged to elderly men that stare at her when she is behind the wheel. It’s quite intimidating. She is a competent driver…, oh right it’s because she is female…, oh and she’s driving a 3 and a bit tonne motorhome. “she shouldn’t be doing that.” It’s strange to see. We have gone through many old French & Spanish towns with Hayley at the wheel only to be follow-stared at as we pass. It’s an age/generation thing maybe? Odd all the same.
We finally arrive at Los Olivos tired and in a foul mood to be greeted by a nice girl who gives us a comfortable pitch at this lovely campsite that has the best bar and dining room ever seen on a campsite.
Today has been long. Very long. Stressful and not one of the best. Oh well. We cheer ourselves up with a hot shower and a few games of pool and beer or two. Del gets thrashed by Hayley 4 – 1. It’s Saturday night and we are the only people in here.
Del has placed a bunch of paper towels under the tank on the pitch. Let’s see if there is a leak overnight. Smells of diesel inside the van though.
23rd January – Alcalà de Xivert to Torroella de Montgrí 225 miles
We have both had a really bad night’s sleep. Probably the worst yet, and today we have another long trip ahead of us. No fuel drips on the paper towel this morning. The fuel gauge is still showing full, so off we go.
More issues… After driving for two hours the fuel gauge is still showing full. It’s not right, we have used probably a quarter of a tank since yesterday’s disastrous fill-up. Hayley does some maths and we can guess within 10 liters or so how much fuel we have, when we need to stop and how much we should put in.
Today we are heading for the Costa Brava. We like it here. It’s a lovely part of Spain and we are staying at a farm. Apart from the dodgy fuel gauge, there is no evidence of a fuel leak and we have discovered that the range computer is showing what we consider to be the right amount of miles before running to empty. We have also noticed that the fuel gauge has moved from full and has started to go down. It’s showing 25% more than what the range is, so clearly, there is an issue, one that will have to wait to deal with when we get home. We will still manually calculate the usage.
The farm in Torroella de Montgrí is perfect. We are greeted by donkeys and chickens, the pitch is lovely and we settle in quite quick.
We take a walk around the town. For years we have been coming to this area for the summer holidays. We have cheered up a lot since yesterday, why wouldn’t you? None of it really matters. We got here safe and the van is in good shape apart from maybe a poorly fuel gauge. We shall see when we are home.
After a short walk around this lovely town, we end the day with dinner in Jess with low lights and music.
It’s cold here. We are expecting zero degrees overnight!
24th January – Torroella de Montgrí to Empuriabrava 25 miles
It was so cold last night, but we didn’t feel it in the van. It was warm and toasty.
Breakfast was a short and simple affair followed by a full van service as tonight we may go “off-grid” again so we need to make sure that everything is topped up and emptied! It’s a cold morning but we have blue skies and sun which is warm and bright. Usual story here though, by 5 pm it will be freezing cold…
The drive north through the Costa Brava is very pleasant. Lovely countryside.
This area, known as Empuries, has preserved a lot of Roman history, we are not visiting any today but we have in the past and if you are ever in the area, it’s a big thumbs up. The museum at Empuries is a must-see.
We know this area very well from past holidays and we have been here before in Jess. The last time we were here was with Jess on her second outing. We are going to the same place which allows vans to stop overnight and sure enough, when we arrive it is already populated with a good 8 vans.
We pick a spot and get settled in. Time for lunch so we get the bikes off the back and cycle down to the seafront of Empuriabrava in the Bay of Roses which is spectacular. Sadly today we couldn’t find anything suitable, however, we did remember that a supermarket near our camp spot has a fantastic restaurant outside, which sounds odd.
Imagine Asda or Tescos having a fantastic restaurant? Unlikely but here it’s true.
The Montserrat Supermarket has a sunny terrace and does serve excellent cheap food.
An hour later we are sitting in the afternoon sun enjoying some tapas followed by half a chicken and chips with a cold beer and wine.
Tomorrow we are crossing the border back into France. It’s getting very cold at night now, the days are still sunny, but how long will it stay that way?