Spain and bonjour Morocco

Trip Start Sep 11, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Saturday, October 22, 2005

After the disappointment of Mini Hollywood we spent a few days slowly wandering along the south coast of Andulucia, leaving the plastic encased countryside of Almeria well behind us and heading for the Brit playground of the Costa del Sol. Stopped off for a few hours in Malaga which looks like quite an interesting place to hang around in, unfortunately we only stayed long enough to visit the house where Picasso was born and wander around watching other people enjoy their lunch. Headed off towards Torremolinos afterwards and drove along the main drag, past the "Wolves" and "Cheeky Monkey" bars, amongst others, before heading inland a couple of miles to Balemena Costa. We met up with John and Andy (ex neighbours of Nick and Claire Farlam from Woking) who now spend their time sunning themselves and looking qfter their extensive Spanish property portfolio! Thanks John and Andy (and Johns mum Cherie) for your hospitality. Had a great meal out and it was good to have bacon and eggs in the morning, despite not waking up untill 11:30 (and sorry for embarrassing myself outside the restaurant afterwards, a bit too "Brits on holiday" perhaps, or maybe it was the spider in the toilet?...).

Headed off to Cadiz after leaving John and Andy, spending a night in the Sierra de las Nieves national park in the mountains near Ronda (very scenic), before heading on to the rather desolate marshes and industrial areas around the approach to Cadiz town. On the way we got caught up in the "day trip from Torrie" industry and got Bronwen trapped in the narrow one way/dead end traffic system in the mountain village of Mijas, all coaches, tourists, and vests. The overriding image I have of Mijas is of getting stuck behind two large (presumably British) ladies being led laboriously along the middle of the main street astride wobbly looking donkeys by a bored but well off looking donkey owner. I thought that sort of thing only existed on postcards?

Before heading into Cadiz, and after taking a detour into the very scenic but slightly smelly marshes, we stopped for the night at the Chiclana beach resort. After a walk along the beach we met up with Victor, who with his friend Julian has recently returned from a camper van trip around West Africa following pretty much the same route we intend to take. As Victor is a chef (and local bar owner) he produced a fantastic meal for us all, and passed on some very useful information (don't go to Rosso!). Had a very enjoyable night in a local bar before an early start next morning to Cadiz.

Cadiz could be summed up as "lovely city, terrible parking" Not really surprising considering the old town is a maze of narrow streets around 10 feet wide, opening up onto large open plazas every so often just to ensure you can shrug off any accumulating feelings of claustrophobia. As well as wandering the streets Claire managed to successfully request a inch telescopic tyre lever in Spanish from the local motor spares shop keeper (couldn't find Las Halfords). After listening to Claires repetition of the phrase (drummed into us by Victor the previous night) he responded with "Perfecto!" and produced exactly the required item. Another small success on the road to Cape Town!

After Cadiz (recommend a few days here to anybody) we headed off along the coast (the Costa de la Luz) towards Algeciras and our ferry to Africa. Stopped en route on a lovely beach just past Barbate, with views of Cape Trafalger to one side, and the Moroccan coast to the other. About six in the evening the Spanish army turned up in a 6x6 lorry, fully armed, and spent an hour standing around on the beach digging holes and occasionally glancing up at us as we drank wine and watched them from our deckchairs 50 yards away. The next night the same lorry arrived again, this time with an English speaking officer who explained very politely that we were camped in the middle of an Army firing range and would we mind leaving in the next few hours. We decided it might be wise to move 5 miles down the road to Zahara de los Atunes (Sahara of the Tuna). Drove straight past the camper vans in the car park and into the dunes on the beach to another very scenic camping spot before breaking open the vino tinto. Not quite the Saharan sand we are aiming for, but close enough, especially with the lights of Tangiers twinkling all evening just 30km away across the Strait of Gibralter.

On the 20th we headed to Tarifa (Spains windsurfing capital) to find a new regulator for Bronwens alternator (she has been occasionally pumping out 17 volts since Cadiz, not good for the batteries). Got this sorted, and as an added bonus spent a very hospitable evening with Brian, Brian, Rob, Kat and various others at the local campsite (thanks Brian for the chicken stew and beer/wine/whisky). By pure chance Brian had cooked the previous night for another couple from Brighton who are driving the same route as us, but one day ahead. A small world indeed.

For the past couple of days we had started to feel that as wonderful as Spain has been, we should really be in Africa by now. Staying any longer in Andalusia to see some of the bits we still want to see would seem a little like hiding. So on to Algeciras...

Ticket bought for Ceuta, and an afternoon to spare, we headed to Gibraltar with low expectations but feeling we really should make the effort as we were passing by. Expectations were fulfilled. Got stuck and lost in streets far too narrow for Bronwen, the only place we could park was Safeways (no Morrisons here yet), and the main street is full of cheap electrical goods and booze interspersed with UK high street shops. We did take advantage and stock up on essentials/luxuries (depending on your viewpoint) and now have a plentiful supply of Ribena and Alpen. Decided to walk to the top of the Rock, setting out late by tourist standards at about 17:00. The main attractions being closed (siege tunnels, second world war tunnels, O'Hara's battery etc - obviously things we BOTH really want to see) we slogged on in pretty warm weather and eventually found the ridge more by luck than judgement. The view from the old concrete lookout post up here is fantastic - looking both ways over the Rock, and over the Straits to Africa. Had to rush back down as we were now worried that Safeway would have closed and, being British, have locked us in the car park for the night. The journey down was broken by a brief spat between Claire and an Ape. Pausing to take a picture for a lone American the rather large monkey grabbed Claires newly purchased flannel and made off to a nearby rock to examine it. Unfortunately it didn't reckon on Claires sense of righteous indignation and sheer anger. After what seemed like a prolonged tussle, culminating in a flannel tug of war during which the ape was holding Claires arm and baring its teeth wide, it eventually conceded defeat and retreated with a rather fashionable M&S plastic bag. An honourable draw? I wish I could say I took an active part in assisting my beloved wife, the truth is I just stared from a distance in amazement.

And so to Africa........
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