We left Torreguardiaro and the comforts of the Villa on Monday and headed south. I wanted to see Gibraltar so we found a 24 hour car park in La Linea (Sp) and walked through GB customs and across the Gibraltar airport runway onto the rock. There is not too much to write about Gibraltar, but it is a strange sight seeing the likes of M+S and Peacocks on a sun filled palm tree lined high street. We did succumb though to one of the traditional English pubs and we ate sausage and mash (me) and Sharon had a full beef roast dinner served by a Spanish looking gent speaking a strange ‘Englishinol’ dialect. We were also dampened by the fact that we had to pay (18 euros) to stay overnight in the car park, but we are back on tour now and we will take the high with the lows.
The next morning we were Tarifa bound and this is the first place on the tour so far that I have been to before, be it around 10 years ago, and I was looking forward to see if it had changed. A quick pass by the tourist information office meant that we had directions to the area in town where ‘autocaravanas’ are permitted to stay for 24 hours for free and this was about 3 km from the old town centre in the vicinity of the football stadium. When we arrived at the area there were clear signs stating that motorhome overnight parking was not allowed in the whole Tarifa municipal and there was even a sign depicting a motorhome being towed off. On the trip we have been struggling to understand the rules of ‘free parking’ and again in Tarifa it seemed confusing. Strengthened by the 30 or so motorhomes that were dotted around this area and using lemming logic we pulled up at the far side of Playa de los Lances. We took a walk down the beach side promenade into town centre and marvelled at the amount of kite surfers, there must have been in the region of 500 altogether!
The next morning, since were not towed away, we decided to check out the free parking area that is listed for Tarifa in our book ‘Camper Stop Europe’ which lies about 10km from the town. Once we arrived there, down a sandy track, we were greeted by both a large muddy swamp due to the recent rains that blocked the entrance to the site and a group European Dreads with shovels. They warned us that people have been unable to enter or leave the site for a week, however they did not look too worried as they wafted back to their small pack of converted horse boxes. They did intrigue us though with the information that if did get stuck then somebody on the site has a 4×4 and for 30 euros they could tow us through – is this hippy capitalism?? 😉 The site is in a superb position, absolutely beach side and tranquil. These are the sites we are searching for, however we followed our heads and not my heart and with glum faces we turned the bus around.
Filled with the confidence of the Tarifa town centre stop over we decided to try the next beach along, Playa Valdevaqueros to check if any opportunities for free stop overs lie there. Upon arrival again we were greeted by the ‘Municipal de Tarfa’ sign stating ‘no overnight parking’ however 20+ motorhomes were parked up. After a second lap around the car park, as there were not any spaces available, a Spanish kite surfer invited us to double park alongside his van – in for a penny, in for a pound! Also, once we took a walk down to the beach, the car park where we ended up was at the other end of the bay from where we originally headed for, so this time, avoiding the mud was the right decision.
The Suntor at the top of the dunes returning from Punta Paloma. Valdevaqueros bay is below.
I want to note, before we turned off to the beach car park, we headed straight on to Punta Paloma. It is here where I had my first motorhome driving fright on the tour. On the way up the hill the two way road narrowed to single track and then tarmac gave way to hard sand and then sand morphed into light rubble. It came to a point where I had old stone walls quite close to the sides of the van as the track narrowed. It came to a point where I thought I would have to reverse all the way back down!! So here is a question to any motorhomers that may have stumbled across this website – so when do you know when to give up and turn around? Just as the road narrowed, around the corner it could widen again? (I am predicting I may receive a few comments about the benefits of proper motorhome Sat Navs that consider the width of the vehicle and the route you are travelling!!??!) For the philosophical, when in life does a path that narrows, widen?
Ummm, moving on. Playa Valdevaqueros is quite stunning: – pale sands, clear sea and an unobstructed back drop of green mountains and massive sand dunes. Oh, and about 100 kite surfers. The weather is also quite hot, around 20 degrees meaning that the sea was warm enough to enter which I did for the first time on the trip.
On the second night, here we managed to do some socialising with two Dutch couples. Dave and Matilda were in their mid 20s and had converted a Mercedes UniMog and were completing a 4 year around the world driving tour, they had just returned from 4 months in Morocco. Bert and Astrid, also in an ex Merc military vehicle, albeit a 1960s version, who had also spent time travelling in North Africa coincidently. Drinks ensued and many tails about touring were enjoyed (I have picked up a few tricks). We actually all ended up in the Suntor, which was quite flattering, as our old Fiat was absolutely the least impressive, but has the all-important rear lounge!
Our van looks like a conservative touring choice nestled in between a Dutch plated UniMog and a US School Bus that had travelled from Germany. Playa Valdevaqueros car park.
On Friday (25 March) we returned to Tarifa as one of the objectives of the tour alongside food and drink is of course ‘culture’. We wanted to witness the Semana Santa (Easter) parades and Tarifa has been hosting one every night. We duly waited with a large crowd in the old town until 8pm when the procession started. After absorbing 40 minutes of the 3 hour procession we hot footed away from the crowds in search of a cheap ‘plato combinado’ (ham, egg and chips!) and a glass of wine!
Culture vultures: Semana Santa in Tarifa old town.
For completeness, I would like to note that I have been suffering from a bout of ‘holiday diarrhoea’ all week and this has meant that we have had to empty the chemical loo out on most days at a cost of 3 euros. I have also made my first ‘out of budget’ purchase as I succumbed to the numerous cool Tarifan surf shops and bought a new pair of shorts (Hot Stick Kite Surf, Tarifa). These two events are by no means related.
Whilst on the subject of purchases, the times are a changin’, as I now have my first ever man bag (5 euros, Chinese Bazaar, Tarifa) as I am determined to have my camera with me at all times as I keep missing photo opportunities. The missed shot that prompted this unlikely purchase was a beach information sign at Playa de Los Lances that very clearly stated ‘no kite surfing’ complete with picture and red ring with a cross through it. Whilst above the sign in the sky you could see 100s of kites attached to surfers jousting across the waves!
Dusk, looking back at Playa de Los Lances, Tarifa town.
We have now left the Tarifa area and I am writing this in Zahara de los Atunes in the Cadiz region. We plan to spend the next week plodding up/across this coast taking in Jerez and Cadiz and the coastal hippy hang outs.