We have been on the Costa de la Luz for just over a month now, two weeks of them in the semi-lockdown we have here in Spain. The campsite where we currently are would normally have about a 50% occupancy, predominantly with ‘Snowflakes’ (people from northern Europe fleeing the cold) but as soon as the potential of lockdown appeared they headed home, leaving just three vans in their wake. Essentially closed, the owners have been kind enough to let us stay on. So, when you can again come to this part of Spain, we can recommend Camping Pinar San Jose!
Back in 2016 we visited the area and fell in love with it, huge beaches ideal for surfing of all kinds, long forest walks, beautiful villages and towns, plus some great golf as well. And then there is the food!... Tuna is a specialty of the area, fresh fish, plus fantastic Retino beef, aged 40 days. The range of local restaurants is wonderful, but due to the lockdown the top ones have all closed until February at the earliest.
Cadiz is 50km down the road and is, allegedly, the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe. On that basis I recommended the area to a friend as a base to stay for a year or so in Spain, and he hated it. Too quiet, desolate, not enough to do, he said, and promptly moved to Malaga. As much as we also like Malaga, we find it too busy, too built up for us. Each to his own!
The big town near us has a reputation for being a bit of a drug dealing area. One of the favourite restaurants for locals that does a roaring trade, is ‘Le Paquete’ (The Packet), a nickname given to the packages of hashish shipped over from Morocco, only 15km across the sea. This is not the only illicit cargo - as you might imagine, the coastline sees the illegal trafficking of people on a daily basis. On our walks along the beach we see many boats with Arabic names abandoned, along with the remains of large rubber dinghies. It’s a sobering sight. Shockingly, it is thought that over 5000 people die every year on this short stretch of water trying and hoping to get to a new life in Europe. Like everywhere, scratch the surface and you will find that it may not be the paradise you imagined. That said, all the time we have been here we have not seen any hashish or even got a whiff of it! Though looking around us, the local Range Rover dealer seems to do rather well!
All in all, the people are fantastically friendly and helpful, relaxed and fun. We love it.
When we left home last January, Coronavirus was something seemingly only in China. Then, as we passed through Italy, there were fears it was starting to take hold there. Never for a moment did we think it would be centre of everyone’s lives for the year. We are now on our second lockdown. Our first in Turkey was, from what we have been told, a much better place to be than the UK and we would agree. Now on our second lockdown here in Spain it seems that we have struck lucky again. The weather has been kind to us for the last month and we are able to get out and about in the sunshine virtually every day, and when it has rained, conveniently it tended to do it at night.
So, what do we actually do with our time? Well, we exercise a lot, by walking and cycling as much as possible, this keeps us sane. We read a lot and we can recommend a great book by a friend Lesley Parr, who we met on our last trip, ‘A Change in the Aire’. It would be the book we would write about motorhome life, if we were good at writing!
We eat out twice a week, though we do have a drink or two at our favourite bars that we have found and perhaps a Tapa where available.
Looking at the apps on our phones I can tell you that this week, we have walked over 70km and cycled over 80 as well. We are keeping fit! I have started running again but it is tougher on the beach and so am only going out one day a week and nearly do the full 5km.
It seems like a good time to mention a bit more about our bikes, we bought two electric bikes for the trip. This is not because we are lazy, but sometimes you will end up having to park the van miles away from places you would like to see. Buster is a big boy over 7 metres long and just short of 3 metres tall. Thus, we can end up as far as 10 – 15 km from places we would like to get to. I bought my Trek Super Commuter 8 in early 2019 and used it to cycle to work for 6 months. It is fantastic - the Bosch motor is wonderful and when used as an E Bike it is exceptionally smooth. Though it is quite heavy it is very balanced and easy to cycle without power.
Karen bought a Specialized Como this bike was delivered just before we left and we did not get much time to test it. We bought it through Cycles UK and they were fantastic, but as soon as we reached Greece the battery failed. Cycles UK put us in touch with the Greek Specialized people. A new battery was sourced, and the bike was back on the road, so a big thank you to Kassimatis Cycling in Piraeus for getting it sorted! It has a few niggles, but that said, it rides really well, the motor seems to be even smoother than the Trek and Karen loves it.
We have had trips out of more than 70 km without an issue and the batteries have had over 25% left. Recharging has been possible - one at a time, off the solar panel - and when we are parked up we can plug in the chargers on the outside of Buster and top up.
On our walks we are still finding new places as we go out on our walks. This week we found the ‘Mirador’ overlooking the cape where you can get the scale of the battle that took place all those years ago. It seems that Spanish, French and English spotters sat side by side at this very vista looking out to sea at the spectacle through their telescopes, watching it unfold before their eyes. It seems that was quite normal back then and I have a vision of the French and Spanish shaking hands with the English spotters and congratulating them on the win. We forget that this one battle changed the course of history.
As we get closer to Christmas and we are still hoping to get back to the UK to see family, we know it may not happen. 2020 has been the year to make plans - lots of them, because you must keep changing and adapting them. It is good to make plans - it keeps you looking forward. Sometimes it is the just a demonstration of our hope for normality to return. Over the past few days, I have watched my golfing friends back in the UK planning their first outing on the course when UK lockdown ends on the 2nd. They don’t know for certain they will be allowed play, but they, like us, make plans. Why? It must be Hope … la Esperanza. We hope we will be able to move on and as long as we have hope, we endure.
For now, we continue to laugh and plan our next adventure, eat and drink and make new friends - despite what 2020 throws at us. We are looking forward to next year, seeing old friends, making some new ones and visiting more places in 2021 … hopefully!
The Grey Gappers are travelling in an Elddis Encore 250 motorhome.