2016, 4th European Tour, Europe 2016, Murcia, Spain, Van Travels

4 SPAIN – Murcia

Playa de La Palmeras

 

WED 20 APRIL 2016

Cloudy, not beach weather, so we left to find somewhere to top up the water etc. and have a look at Aguilas. Found a (Anibel) service station close to the wild camping area, where we spoke to a couple from Scotland in their large Cathargo Motorhome (she was the driver), they told us that you pay €1.50 for a key, which unlocks the water tap and toilet waste disposal, there is also a drive-over grey waste grate. After we recounted our experience in Almeria, where we failed to find parking, they told us parking is available on the harbour (near the ferry port parking area), where you can pay for 24 hr parking and can stay overnight, or free parking next to the auditorium, where you can also stay overnight.

After dealing with all services (van wash services are also available), we parked on a beach parking area near the marina SW of Aguilas, and walked into the town. After a coffee stop on the waterfront, we walked up to the castle (Jane took the glass lift!), it had just closed for lunch, but was a very good viewpoint. IMG_2982wWe then walked down to the harbour, and noticed the large parking area next to the fishing warf was used for parking motorhomes (free). Alan bought a small sea fishing rod, ideal for carrying in a backpack, we then had a very pleasant lunch at a cafe in the tree-lined Plaza de Espana. Jane had calamare, Alan had 3 tapas: Ensaladilla de Mariscos (potato, seafood & mayonnaise), Boquerones (anchovies in olive oil & garlic), Albondegas (meatballs). After calling into Mercadona, we returned to the wild camping area, and parked on the upper area this time, with good views over the sea on two sides.

Evening sun on Aguilas

Evening sun on Aguilas

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coastal vegetation

coastal vegetation

We made prawn omelette for our evening meal (very good!). At the end of the day we were treated to a dramatic sky as the sun set behind the mountains. IMG_3019wIMG_3020w

THUR 21 APRIL 2016

Blue sky and sun, after breakfast outside, we walked East (towards Aguilas) along the coast path

Playa de Carolina

Playa de Carolina

Wild camping area with a view of the sea on both sides

Wild camping area with a view of the sea on both sides

to the next wild camping area at Playa de la Higuerica, where we met the Scottish couple who we had met the day before at the service station. They were from Kirkbride, and we had a very interesting chat. They sold their house and bought a motorhome in 2000, and have been travelling ever since, 16 years! (what an inspiration!) Returning once a year to renew the MOT for the motorhome. They never use campsites, as they have everything they need to live independently, (solar panels, underslung refillable gas tank, twin-tub washing machine in the gas locker etc.) This is another pleasant wild camping area next to a sand beach, sheltered from westerly winds, IMG_3038wIMG_3039wthere were at least 6 British vans there. The Scottish couple told us there was a 91 year old German lady staying there, travelling on her own, on her way to Portugal! Another inspiration! The experienced Scottish travellers told us there are lots of wild camping areas along the coast, “just look out for groups of parked motorhomes”

Back at the van, we had lunch outside, then went to the beach in the afternoon, Alan had the first swim of the trip, Jane paddled, we finished the afternoon in the beach bar for a ‘cana’ and a glass of sangria each in the warm sunshine, overlooking the cove.

Sangria with a view

Sangria with a view

“Alan could live like this”. Sausage tagliatelli (tasty) with very drinkable wine for about €2, although Alan is on a mission to find better value! The day finished with another spectacular sky, this time with an interesting cloud pattern. IMG_3045w

FRI 22 APRIL 2016

Breakfast outside with fleeces on (cloudy & cool), fresh pastries with chocolate filling

chocolate filled pastry

chocolate filled pastry

and a tomato filled pastry IMG_3048wfrom the ‘bread van lady’ who calls into the wild camping area every morning from a bakery in Pulpi, a small inland town to the West.

Alan enjoying a different breakfast!

Alan enjoying a different breakfast!

In view of the weather, we decided to move on, stopping at the Anibel service station for water and waste, we also topped up the LPG for the first time ever (€9.61 for 16 litres), before driving into Aguilas and parking by the harbour. We had coffee in Plaza de Espana. After driving out of town to the East along the waterfront,

view of the castle from the opposite side of the harbour

view of the castle from the opposite side of the harbour

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Cocon de Cope in the background

we stopped at a Decathlon store where Alan bought some board shorts with welded seams, followed by a lunch stop on the beach at Playa del Arroz, then out through Calabardina to the coast at Cope.

Interesting plant life near the coast. IMG_3059wIMG_3066w

For future reference: Climb Cocon de Cope on a clear day, (looks about an hour to 1-1/2 hours up and down) for great views along the coast in both directions.

Our intended route onward deteriorated to a gravel track, so we backtracked the way we had come via Decathlon store, where Alan bought a full-face snorkel (Tribord Easybreath) and Jane bought some summer clothes, then back to Playa de Carolina wild camping area again, which we thought we had left this morning.

For future reference: potential for wild camping along the undeveloped coast between Cope and Calnegre, research required, no towns near this stretch of coast.

Evening meal outside, large prawns and calamare (from Mercadona) and bacon tagliatelli, shorts and T-shirt until 8:15 pm, when the sun dropped below the mountains.

SAT 23 APRIL 2016

Breakfast outside (shorts and T-shirt), more pastry with chocolate filling from the ‘bread van lady’, then cafe con leche at the beach bar, “Alan could live like this”. Spent the day on the beach (Playa de Carolina), we both had a swim in the morning, lunch outside the van, in the afternoon Alan tried out the new full-face snorkel, out to the west point of the bay, excellent! Not that many fish, except out at the point. Ended the afternoon with a couple of glasses of sangria at the beach bar on Cala Los Cocedores,

cliffs on Cala Los Cosedores

cliffs on Cala Los Cosedores

cave dwellings and unusual landscape formed by erosion

cave dwellings and unusual landscape formed by erosion

 then went to Aguilas for tapas, had a shower and changed in the van, parked next to the harbour, in the evening sun. IMG_3077wIMG_3078wHad a wander round, starting at a small cafe/bar on the beach front to the West of the castle, Jane had calemare, which was very good, Alan had Tortitas de Camaron (shrimp cake) which Alan thought was OK, but Jane liked. We had our main selection of tapas at Bar de Philipe on the harbour front, as recommended in one of our guide books. Not as many locals as we had expected at 8:30 pm. The Pulpo Seco (dried octopus on the BBQ, a local speciality) was very good, the rest of our tapas was OK, but we have been spoilt by El Galeo tapas bar in Palamos (no comparison!). We drove back to Playa de Carolina and parked at it went dark.

SUN 24 APRIL 2016

Breakfast outside from ‘the bread lady’, beach bar not open for coffee, so we had to put up with our own inferior filter coffee. Mainly blue sky with some white clouds and an onshore breeze, decided to stay until tomorrow. Another beach day, we both swam in the morning, then went to the beach bar, no tapas, but we had an excellent lunch, Jane had clams in olive oil and garlic (which she raved about), Alan had a big plate of chiperones (baby squid). IMG_3084w

not a bad view either!

not a bad view either!

Lots of locals in with families having lunch, including paella.

For future reference: Sunday lunch at the beach bar, great atmosphere, great food.

Beach in the afternoon, but didn’t swim, too full, would probably sink to the bottom! Chorizo salad for a light evening meal outside with fleeces on until 8:30 pm, IMG_3089weanother nice sunset over the mountains. IMG_3099w

MON 25 APRIL 2016

Breakfast outside with fleeces on (cool breeze) from ‘the bread lady’. Time to move on! Beach bar not open for cafe con leche, so drove to Aguilas, via the local service station for water and waste, and washed the van. Parked next to the harbour, had a coffee at Bar de Philipe. Jane went to the bank whilst Alan walked down the fishing quay to take photos, IMG_3104wIMG_3108won the way back after taking a photograph of the castle above the harbour, IMG_3114w tripped over a concrete step whilst looking at the camera, and fell head-first onto pointed pebbles set in concrete, some damage to the camera, right arm, left eye etc.

Following a short first aid session,IMG_3116w IMG_3117wdrove out of Aguilas on the coast road (RM-D14 then RM-D20) over the mountains,

Cocon de Cope in the distance

Cocon de Cope in the distance

then a local road (RM-D21) across to Calnegre. Before reaching the coast we took a gravel road on the right to Playa de Calnegre, IMG_3130wwhere we had lunch in the van next to the beach. IMG_3127wIMG_3129wAfter driving through Calnegre, we discovered Taray Camper Park (€6/day including waste, €1/100L water), beach opposite, but grey shingle, not sand.

Beach opposite Taray Camper Park, N of Calnegre

Beach opposite Taray Camper Park, N of Calnegre

We returned inland to the coast road (RM332 then RM-D6) to Camping Playa de Mazarron at Bolnuevo. After setting up on our pitch, we walked along the beach front IMG_3141wto a beach bar for a couple of drinks, IMG_3156wand had a look at the unusual rock sculptures formed by erosion, IMG_3146wbefore making bacon, chorizo and clam risotto in the pizza pan. After our meal we had a coffee in the village, and admired the view in the evening light, IMG_3154wback at the van Alan finally got the MiFi working after three weeks, so we can now get an internet connection wherever we have a reasonable mobile phone signal. In the evening Alan listened to Jazz FM via Tune-in-radio on the iphone, connected to the Motorhome WiFi iBoost network, linked via Bluetooth to the van Kenwood in-dash audio system. (technology is great when it actually works!).

TUE 26 APRIL 2016

After breakfast we cycled West from Bolnuevo along a gravel road following the coast IMG_3168wIMG_3170wIMG_3178wuntil Playa de Cuea Lobos, IMG_3180wthe first of several designated ‘naturiste’ beaches. The non-nudist ‘textile’ beaches are all much further West. Jane not happy, so we returned to Bolnuevo and had a drink IMG_3190wand lunch in a beach front cafe/bar. On our way back we met a couple from Sheffield who have a holiday home/apartment East of Bolnuevo, they told us about a couple of places worth visiting, the ‘Guns of Castillito’, and the ‘Monastery of St Elulia’.

After lunch we cycled to Puerto de Mazarron and had a coffee next to the marina. IMG_3198wThe town and marina are OK, but nothing special, generally mundane modern residential and commercial development. IMG_3195w

fish in the marina

fish in the marina

After returning to the van we went out for a meal at a small local corner restaurant in the village, we had prawns in olive oil and garlic as a starter to share, Jane had lamb with prunes and almonds, IMG_3202wAlan had a platter of seafood and fish. IMG_3203w

Whilst we were at this campsite we met a British couple who live in Torrevieja, they have a British van conversion that they travel around in. Jane was not very keen on the campsite as the pitches had metal framework to support sun shades in the summer, and had no privacy between pitches, IMG_3150wthe beach at Bolnuevo is long and featureless and the non-nudist coves are too far away, so we decided to move on after only two nights.

WED 27 APRIL 2016

After breakfast we left aiming for Los Madriles, an ACSI campsite with pools filled with warm sea water, emptied, cleaned and refilled every night, only a short drive away on the hillside above Isla Plana.

view from our pitch at Los Madriles, Isla Plana

view from our pitch at Los Madriles, Isla Plana

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flowers in the campsite

flowers in the campsite

After arriving we had lunch, then tried the outdoor saltwater pool, very pleasant. We made pork with vegetables for our evening meal. The bar shuts at 6:00 pm until May. Jane met a lady from the midlands who has been on the site since Christmas.

THUR 28 APRIL 2016

Breakfast outside then walked into Isla Plana for bank and groceries,

flower in the campsite

flower in the campsite

wildlife in the campsite

wildlife in the campsite

we walked back along the coast, an excellent walking/cycle path runs from Isla Plana round the bay to La Azohia. After lunch Alan cycled to La Azohia,

beach vegetation

beach vegetation and bay beyond

IMG_3245wlocked up the bike, then climbed up the rocks to a viewpoint at Torre de Santa Elena, IMG_3257wIMG_3264wthen walked down the road to the village, calling into the Antipodes Tavern for a ‘cana’ stop overlooking the quayside and bay, before cycling back.

view back to La Azohia

view back to La Azohia

Every year following an age-old tradition, an ‘almadraba’ or tunny-net is set at La Azohia, this consists of several nets which form a trap, which is laid out to catch the fish arriving from the Atlantic as they follow the coast. The nets are left in place for two months before the ‘levanta’ or raising of the trap to extract the catch, which is mainly small tuna, tunny and plain bonitos.

interpretive information on almadrava

interpretive information on almadrava

Two wild camping locations noted and photographed, at La Azohia (on dry riverbed next to the beach), and Las Brisos (on opposite side of the road to the beach, next to restaurant Leon). Jane spent the afternoon relaxing by the pool and outside the bar, taking advantage of the free WiFi. We made omelette for our evening meal, cooked and eaten inside, wind increasing, cloudy and cooler. Weather forecast for the next 2/3 days not very good.

FRI 29 APRIL 2016

In view of the poor forecast, we decided to leave the campsite, as we were unlikely to use the saltwater pools. We had a look at the two wild camping areas, then drove up the narrow twisting mountain road to have a look at the ‘Guns of Castillitos’ on Cape Tinoso. Built between 1926 and 1933, and disarmed in 1952, the battery was meant to mount four guns (Vickers 105/45). We waited until the rain stopped and the cloud lifted, then walked round the site (open access, no charge, no staff on site). IMG_3296wIMG_3298wIMG_3304w

The weather cleared a little, but we did not have the benefit of the spectacular views that will be available in clear conditions. Several ships were lying at anchor, presumably waiting to load/unload at Cartagena. IMG_3326wAfter an interesting visit we had lunch back at the van, then descended the mountain road, and returned to La Azohia, and parked at the wild camping area. IMG_3327wWe had a coffee and desert in the Antipodes Tavern overlooking the fishing quay, IMG_3333wLos Madriles campsite was visible on the hillside on the opposite side of the bay. As we were having a ‘free’ night, we decided to eat out, after looking at a couple of places, we chose the Antipodes Tavern.

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view of the bay from the Antipodes Tavern

 We shared an octopus salad, with smoked salmon, dried tuna, avocado and balsamic vinegar, then sea bass for two persons, IMG_3337wwith a bottle of white wine, coffee and limoncello (€49).

evening light over the bay

evening light over the bay

SAT 30 APRIL 20016

In the morning we had our first technical failure of the trip. The gas water heater failed to start, and gas suppy failed to the fridge after turning the water heater on. After several tests, Alan believed the regulator has failed. Autogas 2000, who fitted the refillable gas system at Thirsk in Yorkshire, had warned us about how unreliable the Truma Secure Motion regulators are, and had suggested we take a ‘standard’ regulator as a spare, Alan was glad we had taken their advice and bought one from them. As our adjustable wrench was not large enough we tried a caravan accessory place in Isla Plana, but without success (no technician available).

Jane suggested trying the hardware shop down the road that we had been in a few days ago. Equipped with a new adjustable wrench Alan found a parking place and replaced the regulator. Success! Gas systems operational again, we then drove over the mountains (on RM-E22) to Cartagena, were we parked and paid a local lad to look after the van, which reminded Alan of Liverpool in the early 1970’s.

We had a wander round, starting with the city walls opposite the harbour,

Charles III ramparts

Charles III ramparts

paused to watch a dance festival, had a look at some of the streets, IMG_3361wthen had sopa marisco (seafood soup) in a restaurant, very good! After lunch we had a look at the harbour, IMG_3366wIMG_3367wthen visited the adjacent museum of marine archaeology (free after 2:00 pm on Saturdays), it is a very impressive modern building with excellent content. The floor level of the museum is underground, accessed by a long ramp which descends between two linear structures which provide light to the museum below, IMG_3373wwith large exhibits suspended in these spaces. IMG_3382w

We finished our visit by walking up to the Castillo dela Concepcion, which contains an interpretation centre of the history of Cartagena, since it’s founding as ‘Carthage’ in 229 BC and subsequent Roman occupation. The castle was built in the 13th century on the remains of a Moorish fortress and was the main defence for the city for centuries. The entrance fee was worth it just for for the view, which is superb, IMG_3400wIMG_3401wthe interpretative displays in the interior are extremely well presented. IMG_3416wIMG_3417w

For future reference: Drive up to the old fortifications on both sides of the harbour for the views.

We left the city aiming towards Santa Pola, passing the Mar Menor (the largest coastal lagoon in Europe) to the East of us. La Manga, on the narrow spit of land that separates the lagoon from the sea looks horrendous! A continuous development of mediocre high-rise buildings, so we kept well away. We took a detour to have a look at the lagoon at it’s northern end to Las Salinas, which consisted of a salt production facility and a marina on the Mediterranean coast, but unfortunately with no views of the Mar Menor. This was as close as we wanted to get to the ugly development which has destroyed the coastline for miles, so we moved on, leaving Murcia, and entering the region of Valencia.