Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Naturism on the Costas

Who would have known what a lot of Naturist campsites there were in Spain and how many `Nudist’ and Naturist beaches there are. However one has to be careful about calling a Naturist a Nudist or a Naturist camp a Nudist camp. For clarity, a Nudist beach is just a beach where you can go naked if you want to and if you aren’t a `Naturist’. A Naturist Camp/ Beach is where you go if you’re a full-time Nudist (that’s a Naturist with airs and graces). In their opinion there is no such thing as a Nudist camp, and they will correct you if they hear you call it a Nudist: camp, beach, spoon, bar of chocolate, tree or anything else you pre-fix with the word Nudist.

Anyway enough of labels for now; as per the previous blog we only picked the Naturist camp because it was close to Cartagena. We both had to decide to bite the bullet and get our kit off, which quite frankly once you’ve done it is a doddle ... it’s that getting in cold water syndrome again ... difficult at first and then you wondered why you took so long. The campsites population is mostly olds in early retirement, overwintering (generally in the buff weather permitting).

What else is there to say? We could have been prudes and stayed dressed or in minimal clothes most of the time, but we decided that it was easier to avoid funny looks by just immersing ourselves in the novelty of walking around the place naked ... we did however constantly titter and prattle on to each other about the sights we saw ... photos will not be forthcoming. We did see a couple on the beach posing on rocks and in the water, but there is clearly an unspoken etiquette that you don’t photograph the wider world ... and frankly and being a bit crude who wants to see some octanegerians knee length ball bag in a photo (comes to us all eventually no need for pictures).

Naturists have a word for those outside of the Naturist circles: Textiles. I’m usually a Textile, I go to Textile beaches. It doesn’t matter what scene you fringe, they always have a word for people not in their club. On the S&M/Fetish; those into S&M call those that aren’t into S&M `Vanillas’ as an example. And I used a sexual orientation on purpose, because while we’ve been here, and once you’re able to see the threads in the tapestry of life, you get to know when feelers are being sent out. Mostly it’s all been innocent, families and old folks spending their days not creating piles of washing. However from certain quarters came probes, and from one person a direct point to a pair of Swingers to nod politely to but avoid in depth conversation .... for fear of creating `confusion’.

I’ve been around the Fetish scene during my misspent youth, and the less than discreet probes naturally came from single men on the prowl. It is a shame because it knocks the carefree easy living image off centre when you’re aware that the friendly advice and banter is getting risqué, and that that bloke giving you a lift into town to do shopping has his eye on half a chance you’ll either share your missus ... or worse oneself and or oneself and ones missus. Needless to say like the mercenaries we’ve become, we took the lift to the shops, got home prepped our gear for an early departure and left the next day for our current mooring in the hills of Mojacar.

We had a relatively fantastic time at the Naturist camp, we were evangelised to by the self appointed `everyone’ should be a naturist, and I only talk about naturism bloke (again). We spent a bit too much time in the bar, on a quiz night, a music evening, and just because we didn’t shop well enough before we got there and the nearest supermarket was miles away, so we only had minimal fresh food.

The upshot is: if we had no other destination that would get us close to what we wanted to see or be near, we would do it again. However we would be much wiser to the probes from the get go, and would probably not be so friendly or open. On the other foot of that statement, the Naturist camp had a proper buzz to it, it was busy, friendly and the partisan lines between countries were entirely absent.

So if Angela Merkel and the Brussels brigade want Europe to harmonize before the `Fucking Freezing Cold Day in Hell’ mentioned in the previous post `The Romance of Travel’, they’ll get their kit off ASAP and ban clothes in western Europe.
The Author Demonstrating Naked Atop a Cliff at El Portus


We travelled from La Marina around sixty miles to Cartagena where stayed for fiv days at a Naturist campsite. It was an experience not to be forgotten. Of all the campsites we’ve been to it was by far the most social, with a real evening scene in the on-site bar. The campsite sat at the end off a road near the village of El Portus surrounded by mountains on both sides, with a suntrap beach facing almost directly south. We experienced a mini heatwave and had bright sun every day.
The Naturist camp, Moho is Down There bang in the middle

Eastern Cliff Top Looking South
Outer Wall of the Harbour
Oil Tankers Waiting to be Towed in by Tugs
 The reason we stayed at the naturist site was down to the logistics of getting back into Cartagena, or put another way: the naturist site was the closest open campsite to Cartagena. We walked and scrambled the eastern cliff to get a view of Cartagena which as the crow flies is no more than three or four miles east. By road it was closer to six due to the rather large lumps of geology that stood in the way.
Lintel at the Amphitheatre Entrance

Fantastic Example of Restoration and Partial Reconstruction to Give a Feel for the Scale of the Amphitheatre 

Church on the Side of the Amphitheatre (Brilliant video turn of its evolution inside)

7000 seats

The Exit

Sympathetic Reconstruction Again Fantastic Work

Cartagena is another ancient place, once a province of Rome `Carthago Nova’ (or New Carthage). It was the disembarkation point for Hannibal when he took the elephants over the Alps, it’s also been Arabic and Moorish, but was probably first used commercially by the Phoenicians.
Sculpture by the Marina

Graffiti/Mural in a Side Street

Rubber Tree,_Spain (as ever Wikipedia will explain more for those interested).
The Next Eight Pictures Form a Panorama from NNW to west Clockwise


Naval Buildings, New Hospital, Container port 

Marina, Refinery, Inner and Outer Sea Walls, Castles on Hilltops

Marina, Shipyard, Naval Area

It’s old 2000 years and more, however because of its North African influence General Franco apparently ignored it because of racial impurities. This explains why in the main, the archaeological sites it’s now becoming famous for, lay untouched and undiscovered (shockingly for those from the UK who are used to our history being laid bare) until the very last years of the twentieth century, and as recently as 2008. The current mayor and civic authorities are more than making up for the past now, we are pleased to say.
Maritime Archaeology Museum (again fantastic and free after 2pm on Saturdays)

Peral Submarine
The natural harbour, which has been augmented over the centuries is huge and now houses an oil refinery, the naval shipyards, a yacht club and marina and small container port. From our vantage point at the top of the cliffs at El Portus we could only see the far outer sea wall and the very fringe of the refinery. From within the port you can only see the highest tips of the refineries chimney’s, and even from the top of the castle in the old city you can still only see the highest parts of the refinery’s structures, you can however see all the rest of the harbour, old city and the urban sprawl inland, all interspersed with great lumps of geology and ringed to the west by mountains (to the east from Alicante the land is mostly flat, but still quite high relative to sea level). The port itself at its southern extremity is fringed by more rocky hills. And all of the significant hills and mounts around the harbour and old city’s castle have forts and castles of their own. Some of these are still in use as offices, museums, military hubs, and inside the walls of one a brand new hospital has been built.

The drive down was interesting, lots of agriculture; vines, olives, almonds and salad crops. Dotted here and there are dozens of derelict and abandoned windmills, some for grinding grains in days gone by, but a fair majority (we were reliably informed) were for pumping water for irrigation in the days before boreholes and electric pumps.

Anyway enough of the scribble, we’ve landed at a site with fine wifi, so I’ve uploaded lots of pictures enjoy.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Moving on Again

We’ve spent five days at a site south of Alicante. If nothing else it’s taught us never to take advice from people twenty years older than ourselves. Especially if those people drive a land yacht with a satellite dish, have a dog, or are from the north ... oh and if they read the Daily Mail or Daily Express or The Sun and then offer you their cast off news papers from two days before.

Why? Because they didn’t come here to explore and because their goals and desires are going to be wildly different from ours. Twice we’ve been led to believe where were going was lovely; and it is. If you want to do bugger all but sit next to your wagon when the sun shines, have golf lessons with Miguel the local Pro, play Petanque in your racially pure clique in your allotted time slot under the watchful gaze of Zee Commandant. Walk your horrible yappy little ankle biting bastard dog along the off season beach, gleeful that the little bastard can lay dogs eggs all over the sand and you don’t have to worry about picking up his stinking little hand warmers in a small polythene bag (they are supposed to they just don’t ... it’s Spain; dogshit on the beach is ... well not my problem I’m going home in March), or do more line dancing lessons with craggy the Ex-Redcoat singer from Solihull who migrated to Espania in the 80’s, to become permanently orange and inflict her dreadful singing voice on foreign or rapidly going deaf ears because she had not a cats hope in hell of joining a chorus line in Britain, let alone becoming the British equivalent of Dolly Parton. The downside is she has to teach the deaf old bastards a rudimentary set of: back, forward, round and round, and side to side steps, but all the olds want to do is talk about how Miguel `has a twinkle in his eye’, and if they were thirty or forty years younger they’d blow him so hard his eyes would pop out. While the men begrudgingly step along because the one I refer to as craggy in their wizened rheumy eyes looks like a goddess in spandex ... like that bird who used to do the fitness thing on breakfast TV.

Seriously why the PA has to be so loud is beyond me ... I did wonder if the Brits were being held against their will and her singing was a way of covering the sound of tunnelling, but now I think it’s just her way of venting her spleen on the innocent as well as the guilty.

The commandant of this predominantly German site says that if our papers are all in order vee may leeve vis zee other Britishers tomorrow, as long as vee don’t return ... or vee vill be shot as spies ... At least the Germans wear nice outdoor clothes and generally resist the urge to trowel on ze makeup, and by and large (at this site) don’t respond to hello in any other language but zee Deutch, preferring the Teutonic version of `copping a deaf’un’.

From now on we will nod and ignore. This site is fabulous for what it is and I’d be a liar if I didn’t say I haven’t enjoyed the downtime or the on-site indoor pool and spa complex which is equal to anything back home ... it being brand new may have helped. However just a look at some of the fit and finish and you know in a year or two, the shower heads will be hanging off the walls (one already is), the grout will be out from between the tiles, and all the screws that are showing the early signs of rust will have stained the glorious ceramics red brown. Sounds cynical, but that’s the facts. So we’re happy we caught it at its best but I doubt we’ll ever return.

The problem with taking advice from olds is that they aren’t looking for historical sites, rugged and jaw dropping landscapes and new experiences. They’re looking for looking for a site with a gate, lots of other olds, a line dancing class with a woman who spends the summer doing cabaret in a local bar and a dog wash.

As an aside; reading two day old newspapers from Britain just goes to show how much of a `down’ the British Press has on Britain. And how much the press seems to want the British to be miserable ... and in particular during the season of `enough fucking misery already’ being winter. Utter utter bastards.

We’ve hit the Costa Blanca, didn't really want to, but it's an enormous leap to dive straight past. About 4 kilometres north from here just 29 kilometres south of Alicante is a reserve and salt production facility, 8 kilometres further north from the salt flats, is a small provincial town. The salt flats and ponds are epic, there are Flamingos and Egrets and all sorts of other birds. The ponds range in colour from crystalline white to pink to green and a myriad of shades in between. But this is Costa Blanca, so while there are hides to stand on and see the sites, the gates are closed the place is ring fenced and if it was once open to the public then it isn’t anymore. This area (in my opinion) hasn’t awoken to the tourist looking for more than a strip of sand by the sea, or if it did the idea was killed by the recession. The road between the town and here is a non-toll road and has a speed limit that is universally ignored. You couldn’t stop on it unless it was the direst of emergencies, and you couldn’t and wouldn’t cycle on what passes for the verge unless you were having a really bad day and were toying with the idea of suicide, but were going to let the fates make the final decision.

We’re disappointed. We drove from a place called Oliva (`Camping Kiko Park ... what a shithole’ it was extremely disappointing ... except for some stormy weather and a bit of a back drop) 88 miles through some of the most jaw dropping country we’ve seen since we left the Basque region when we first arrived.

On the high flat plateaus through the mountains we saw cities and towns and fields of fruit and olives, but again we couldn’t stop by the roadside to take pictures to share, it’s just not safe to do so. So that drive will only live in our memories.

There were castles and old walled towns falling into ruin, old watch towers long abandoned and in all fairness not worth the diversion to try and get a better look at for logistical reasons which is frustrating. The bits we would like to rummage around are in the main entirely inaccessible. In part because there are no Aires or Camperstops in the isolated places and very few of the mountain roads have places to park or take in the view, or foot paths (Spain is waking up to this form of adventure tourism, we’ve seen it in the north east where cycling and walking is the weekend pursuit we know), it’s just tailed off as we’ve come south.

As a top tip if you want rugged with real Spanish flavour, Alcossebre is lovely, rugged coast and beaches in walking distance of each other, high and lowland mountain paths, a very neat and tidy town with a good mix of traditional and international foods (without being naff).

The other issue with the high places where things look properly exciting is that being that high up (I think we got to 11000 feet above sea level) gives us a headache. IF,we could stop to acclimatise for a day or so we would, even overnight stop may give you a fighting chance. However it’s worth noting that these high places aren’t tourist destinations, just towns with working people doing what working people do. Lately that appears to be collecting the oranges and pruning literally millions of trees in advance of this years growing season. So there is the possibility that they don’t want a load of eager beaver tourists tramping all over the place.

Up in the highlands there are vast Aluminium distribution and logistics centres servicing the agricultural land, one assumes Juiceries and juice packaging plants and all the infrastructure required to support hundreds of thousands of acres of agriculture ... and quarries that have seen entire mountainsides hundreds of feet high sheared off and used to build god alone what. Dropping into Alicante from those mountains is one of the largest cement works I’ve ever seen.  However dotted about liberally everywhere we have been, are the marks of the recession, abandoned housing projects, entire streets with lighting, pedestrian crossing, pavements and street names , rapidly being eaten by plants, entire sections of towns abandoned, peripheries of towns looking like something out of a Spaghetti Western Ghost Town or a Zombie movie.

The day after tomorrow we are heading to Cartagena an ancient city steeped in history. Not a huge drive and not too high. Access to the ancient town and its history should be relatively easy. Places like it and Peniscola, Morella, Alcossebre even Hospitalet Del Infante where there are living parts of the old towns are always exciting, this place outside of La Marina is a made up place, it didn’t exist before 1985 and it bears all the scars.

The Romance of Travel

This may take some time, have a brew and maybe a biscuit. There are no pictures just a little over 5000 words.

This is one of those get it off your chest posts. The sort that takes the romantic notion of freedom from work, living day to day in sunny locations carefree and cheerful ... by its ear drags it over a knee bares its backside spanks it shiny, and sends it to bed for telling huge whoppers.

For every three days of having a laugh or an explore, there are the relative hardships of keeping house, cooking and shopping, making up the bed, dismantling the bed, airing the bedding, taking the washing up to the washing up area, filling the main water tank, filling and dosing the chemical toilet tank, emptying the crapper cassette or the waste water tank, walking to the shower block every time you need a pee, a poo or an actual shower (to not use the onsite facilities you’ve paid for results in, emptying the crapper or the waste water tank even more often, and in a worst case scenario; the fug of human excrement minging around what is essentially your living room and kitchen) ... you see, romantic notion thrashed soundly and dispatched to a corner to think about its sins. And I haven’t even gotten started yet.

Everything takes so much longer, from making a cup of tea to doing laundry. Life gets broken down into chunks of time, and the chunks of time have set processes but the time itself varies dependent on the specific rules or facilities available at a campsite, and your distance from those facilities. I touched on this before when I wrote about the discomforts of driving across the top of Spain. Our previous site was fully serviced pitches, water, electricity and waste all on pitch, the one I’m on to finish this post is a pigs ear of a site where the nearest tap to the moho is an inaccessible to the moho  50 yards away, necessitating bucketing water in 7 litres lots to fill the main water tank, or de-camping and driving the whole rig a hundred yards to a service point (this Oliva site is frankly shit and I’m sorry we came, but live and learn).

Let’s start at the beginning.

You have to get up in the morning, now that’s not too difficult, but for the fact that there are two of you and the space you get up into is only large enough for one person to safely get dressed in at a time.  We are a bit battered and stiff most of the time, so contorting around each other (while full of amusing innuendo moments), is likely to result in a literal bishop bashing, a stomped toe or chaffed nethers . The space you get out into, between oven and fridge (I like to refer to it as the Main Hallway) has a thermoclime. Above the bed is warm, floor level to knee level is cold; an invisible layer of `I don’t want to put my feet on the floor’ has to be factored in (this desire to stay in the warm can be overridden by `I need to pee’ more of which shortly).

One has to make sure before one puts ones feet on the floor, that there is not an object to step onto, left there by the resident campsite Gremlins, who spend the hours between sunset and sunup, loosening electrical connectors, moving shoes and miscellaneous stuff into walkways where the bleary eyed and barefooted will blindly step the following morning, or loosening the cap on the sugar pot in its shared nook in the breakfast cupboard (more on that later). Where upon said Gremlin videos the resulting  hilarious, half fall, half step antics and the accompanying diatribe, before posting said video on `You’ve Been Maimed’ presented by the Sprite and Pixie worlds very own Greminy Beagle.

We sleep heads to the middle of the van, so the space we move into when we get up is behind us (the Main Hallway), this means that a pirouette is required to get out of bed, not an athletic one, just a twisty turny all the covers fall off and it feels awkward and unnatural one. If like Marilyn Monroe and I, you sleep with just a dab of Channel No5 as pyjamas this means that quite often the first thing Amanda sees in the morning is my back wheels and hindquarters swaying through the ether, with the ever present danger of the morning gun firing a warning shot ... this is only ever funny to one occupant. And or, the one confronted by swinging hindquarters takes an opportune swipe at said hindquarters for their own sadistic glee or desire for said sight to be `smote from their eye’, likewise this is only ever funny to one occupant ... and maybe the gremlin.

Having levered oneself out of ones pit, without inducing toe or thigh cramp, or missing the support of the edge of the kitchen worktop with ones hand, to find that old prankster gravity whizzing ones face headlong towards the cold floor ... and avoided ruining the morning by propelling oneself forward with a guff of mostly nitrogen based wind (not that that ever seems to be reasonable mitigation), and avoided any booby traps left by the gremlin. One then has to reach back to ones locker and ferret out under garments and whatnots, this generally gives ones partner a close up of ones dangly bits (if of course they are warm enough to dangle). Then (as a general rule) one will totter off to the facilities to tinkle (on very cold mornings or wet ones the en-suite facilities get used). I swear my bladder capacity has trebled since we got here.Site facilities in the morning are usually populated by Germans and old people all saying hello in their native tongues ... we’ve adopted the Spanish Ola to cause confusion and to avoid starting a conversation.

Then it’s generally back home to make tea ... at this time I like to think of people living in a big house having to walk miles to the nearest latrine as karmic punishment for having too much room, though I suspect most actually have en-suite facilities in every room, or if they are really traditional and wealthy a Piss-boy with a golden bucket following their every step.

A chap cannot get going without a hot beverage, preferably tea, preferably builder strength, preferably with a Digestive, without question McVities (when the Digestives run out we have no option but to make a headlong dash to Gibraltar where we are reliably informed there is an over-priced (where McVities Digestive are concerned there is no ceiling limit on price) Morrisons). Bugger the Barbary Apes, I want wholemeal biccy, not overly sweet, with good crumb and doesn’t turn slimy when dunked ... if you know McVities then you know exactly what I’m talking about, if you don’t, then you should probably stop reading this blog and have yourself admitted to an asylum for an indefinite stay.

While in Spain, we have tried to acclimatise to the water that comes out of taps, to save a few Euros, to avoid the humping of litres of water around in paper thin plastic bottles that then have to live in the bunded area we call the shower room, and of course to avoid plastic waste on a monumental scale (the whole country is littered with plastic bottles from 500ml to 8litre and every size in between. There is not a Parqe Natural (even at 1070metres) or reserve or picturesque jetty without the obligatory selection of bottles sizes wedged into crannies, or decorating footpaths. The bunded area by the way ensures that if the gremlin ever drills the plastic bottles, that the water goes outside via the plug whole in the shower tray (though part of me suspects that somewhere somehow, a gremlin has seen this tactic previously, and in the war of attrition between the visible world and the world of sprites, elves, pixies gremlins etc, and the world of mathematical probability or improbability popularised by Mr Douglas Adams that one day eight litres of drinking water will find mohos most intimate internal crevices. This will in turn give me a fatal aneurism that will cause the gremlins (ironically) to die laughing whilst watching.

Where potable tap water is concerned there is no consistency to taste, even in the same place day to day. Maybe as a consequence of imbibing the waters we have both now experienced that old standby of the British comedian `Spanish Tummy’ or more correctly `The Shits’. This is somewhat frustrating for a two reasons: One, for several days one has to do the post `get out of bed pirouette and crawl’ very carefully, because, if mostly nitrogen based guffs are not acceptable, then they are definitely not acceptable if accompanied by a gravy spray.  Two, every other release of posterior `airs’ has to be done with the safety of a porcelain safety net and a nearby roll of Andrex, and breaking wind in bed ... well frankly you’d be insane to dare it.

Needless to say we now only drink bottled water, but have obtained 8 litre solidly built affairs that require decanting to, from the paper thin ones, before said paper thin ones get squished and binned ... FFS it’s the 21st Century, you’re part of the largest single f*$%@ing trading block in the west, at least make the taps pour something that isn’t laced with Dysentery Omoebas or alternatively what tastes distinctly like bleach ... or have a tap in the supermarket and big drum to refill the old bottles with your favourite `brand’ of H2O.

The matter of breakfast tea. The kettle has to be filled to a level that just fills both our mugs (from the bottled water). I have marked this level with a CD writing pen (wasting hot water is a sin at home out here it’s a crime unless there is enough to warm or half fill a thermos flask). The `US’ level on the kettle has changed once or twice because mugs seem to be more suicidal the further south you go, and the gremlin likes to juggle with them when we are asleep. Amanda has Earl Grey, I have PG-tips, I use Soya milk, Amanda has the stuff that comes out of cows (if I use the stuff that comes out of cows, then the mostly nitrogen based wind seems to have a higher quotient of sulphur or methane or something ... either way, one of us never finds it funny).

So what you say, you make two different cups of tea ... get over it. However that isn’t the point, the point is that each of these tea components like almost everything else lives in a shared space with something else equally as important and or as likely to be used in the same space and period of time; a small cafetiere (once upon a time), cereal bowls, sugar (in a pot the gremlin has loosed the lid on, with results hilarious to all magical creature only cats can see ...  usually when it’s really really dark and you’re home alone for the first time in ages), honey, muesli, glasses (albeit plastic ones).  It’s the breakfast cupboard, it also houses fresh bread when we get it, and due to its overall use as my cooks cupboard, also houses: salt, pepper, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, herbs and spices various.

So f@#%ing what you say. However this is the same for every cupboard, everything houses multiple things, for multiple roles, so you have to move things to get to things, and nothing goes back perfectly from whence it came ever.  When consumable are replaced you can’t always get the same shaped or sized package as previously. And anyway life would be dull if you didn’t try different honey’s, biscuits (while maintaining a stock of the gentleman’s biscuit mentioned above), breads etc. This variety however alters storage dynamics, day to day.

For the purpose of enlightenment think of it like this: When you get off a plane having spent four or five miserable hours penned into an uncomfortable seat in cattle class, having been subjected to three or four rounds of frankly pointless expensive in-flight service. Service that’s supposed to break up the misery and make the time go faster ... when if you were left alone you would have slept yourself through the whole miserable experience using the self medicated double expensive booze you imbibed in the departure lounge specifically to knock yourself out for the duration of the flight ... you should be able to request a full anaesthetic for flights longer than an hour ... I’d pay for that and you could shove your airline mascot bear up your arse ... I digress. 

Once back on the ground you are prompted to be careful opening the overhead lockers `as hand luggage may have moved around since you took off, due to turbulence etc’ (turbulence of any kind is unwelcome almost anywhere). Well it’s the same in the moho, but from hour to hour. Kitchen roll; how many times has that roll of utility paper made a dash for freedom, unrolling itself as it goes? How many times has the salt cellar, a mug, ear buds, or a half full pack of Digestives tried to either assault me or try to kill itself as I’ve opened a cupboard door? R.I.P small but perfectly formed caffetiere, I’m sure the gremlin has saved one of your shards for one of our feet, for one of our mornings sometime hence (nothing tickles the gremlin funny bone harder than the site off human blood). In the case of Digestives; subsequent to being roughly caught or dashed against a cranium, how many have later fallen in half mid dunk to become a biscuit sludge in the bottom of my mug come tea break? This has introduced a new biscuit process: the safety tap, to find to faults lines before ‘dunk splash’ incidents occur.

Morning tea precedes breakfast, I like to keep breakfast simple or just avoid the whole messy business altogether. This is a practice frowned upon by one half of our dynamic duo. Because when I run out of energy, I also seem to run out of patience, fair English temperament, and the use of any vocabulary above four letters, though in my defence those four letter word sentences can be quite lengthy.

I’m a fan of bacon, bacon is easy to do on the George Foreman thingy (the best £21, convenience cooking implement we ever bought for our adventure). However George doesn’t like being immersed in water and has to be allowed to cool down before going back in his cupboard, lest he melt the floor. While George hangs around cooling down he is in the way, so bacon has now become a bit of a luxury reserved for jobs days. I’m also a fan of Muesli. However most muesli contains Whey powder, Whey is a milk product, I can’t imbibe milk based substances because of its negative effects on social harmony. So we’ve had to start making our own since the Dorset Cereals ran out, and only Alpen is widely available (Jordans here and there), they both contain milk. Making muesli is fun, it’s just oats, bran, seeds and fruits all mixed together in a plastic box and then shaken. To test whether that was correct I checked the BBC’s recipe pages, then I got cross about paying the licence fee, because: taking 100grams of Muesli, a handful of any chopped dried fruit, and a pot of natural yoghurt and combining them in a bowl isn’t a recipe ... it’s what you do with a bowl of muesli you patronising wankers (even if it’s soya yoghurt).

Toast has moved up the rankings as breakfast of choice for the Lactose impaired, George is great at toast and he doesn’t need washing up afterwards, just a safe spot to cool down where a misplaced elbow can’t find him.

Once the breakfast and `what are we going to do today?’ quandary has been sorted out (unless it’s a jobs day or pre-planned expedition), we have to perform several additional tasks depending on whether it’s Moho, bikes or shanksies pony that’s taking the strain. 

If it’s bikes, they either have to be taken down and set-up (saddles to height, handlebars straightened) and checked, the chains seems to get rusty real quick in spite of TLC with WD40 and a small copper wire brush. We then have to load backpacks either light (that’s pump inner-tube and puncture kit) if we are going shopping, or heavy if we are going for an explore (that’s water, snacks, spare inner-tube, puncture repair kit, first aid kit, mobile phone, pump, water proof jacket and or fleece, cameras etc).

If we are taking Moho, then we have to (if possible) take the bikes off the rack and leave them secure at the site, there is no point humping their weight if we don’t need to, or expose them to potential theft if we are parking the whole shebang in a public place, moho crime is somewhat rife. We have to reel in and or secure our hook-up lead, and detach the waste water tank, and generally padlock it to the bikes (not essential but at £58 who would take the chance on someone walking away with it).

If we are going on foot (shanksies pony) then we need to secure everything: Moho, the bikes, put the laptop and electrical items in the safe etc. Take water;  more decanting to our aluminium water bottles with a small funnel ... you see decanting ... it’s all about probability, the more you do something the more likely at some point it will go wrong, with the resultant side splitting results for the gremlins.

We may take lunch as well ... all the things you do at home, but with all the complications of having to move around each other and this tiny space, without: A: falling out (ha F@#%$ing ha to that one), B: injuring one another, with unexpected locker doors being open where a head will be moments later, impaling or slashing each other with bladed implements when turning around. C: Otherwise damaging Moho, cupboard contents, or anything else that dares stick it’s head above the trench line. I’m sure this prep period forms the main stay of early evening entertainment TV in the fairy realm.

And then finally around lunchtime we’re off, with around four hours of good daylight for activities, plus one for delays, and one left for making the most of daylight to prepare an evening meal and or unpacking and putting away all the stuff we spent most of the morning packing so we could go out. I can now see why some people become sofa surfers rather than go off on daft adventures, and instead choose enjoy the pleasure of travel vicariously ... as we used to using the telly and Alan Whicker.

Lunch out is always good. A big lunch, just snacks for tea, no washing up, even if it’s packed lunch. Just find a bin for the greased proof paper and jobs a good’un.

The evening meal is one of the bigger faffs of the day. I like to cook, I like to cook proper food. We do have some readymade foods but we keep these aside for when things get silly. Ready foods like Uncle Bens two minute pre-cooked rice, or those ready in ten minute pasta things that you can just throw a bag of salad and a tin of fish at, and all of a sudden you’re Jamie Oliver, done dirty and cheap.

Thinking about it, it’s carbs that take the time, potatoes, rice and pasta, lots of water lot’s of gas lot’s of steam. It’s worth pointing out that condensation is far less of an issue here than it was in December in England, but you still need the head start of a boiled kettle, and if spuds are your poison, cutting them up small is recommended by this hobo chef (saves gas and time).

Clearly if you’re on a site on hook-up light isn’t really an issue, you just switch them on. However out in the wilds, you have to strike the balance between good light and running your fridge. Throwing away food isn’t good at anytime. Out here it’s even worse, because Tesco Metro’s, Sainsburys Locals, and Coops don’t litter every high street and corner. So you can’t just nip out and pick something up, if you find the fridge has gone all oven like and part cooked tonight’s fish in a foul smelling bacterial ooze, and is now only palatable to other bacteria. We have found cooked meats and milk on shelves with `use by dates’ exceeded by weeks in the smaller local emporiums. Caveat: some of the cured meats (which I love and Amanda does not), only have manufacture dates on them ... so in reference to `The Shits’ above, I may have been my own worst enemy once or twice.

Amanda timed me doing a half an hour spag bol recipe the other evening, it’s one of my Monday evening standbys, it took an hour and half to prepare. All the same ingredients, the same method, but you have to play chequers with the bits as you prepare them, and set them aside in cooking groups in bowls ... it’s like Saturday Morning kitchen with a Gordon Ramsey impersonator having a really bad haemorrhoids day.

In reference to Jamie Oliver above. Now I think back to those shows where he cooked outside, he actually had quite a bit of additional worktop to play with. Your brain doesn’t see those things when its going all googly eyed because he’s cooking chillie prawns caught fresh that morning on an improvised barbeque by a harbour wall somewhere sunny. All your brain sees is; is what a piece of piss it is to chop up some chillis, drizzle some runny honey, waz up some floobabdoobs and tiddlywinks with a touch of mockney sparkle and knock it all back with the local bevy DAAAAAARRRRLLLIN!

Three things: Only one cook book eventually made it to travel time: Jamie’s Fifteen Minute Meals (sorry Hugh). Mr Oliver set me free in the kitchen and let me know I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I can’t follow all the recipes, if any. But it provides rough and ready cook times for many things and means I can still work the odd miracle. I also Love Hugh Fearnly Whitingstalls books, but you do need a better setup than I have here (though River Cottage is represented by the Edible Seashore book, and some CDs of his TV series someone burned for me ... we’ve seen them all, they make me homesick for cold and wet, dark at 4pm and telly). Two: if I miss anything it’s about twelve inches of additional kitchen worktop, so the dinner prep chequers isn’t such a faff, and then I could cook up a storm. Three: I could have packed the Braun Handy Mix and made very good use of it if had I known how much time we’d be spending on proper campsites, with leccy (since we got the 2014 ACSI card).

Our bodies haven’t adjusted to the new hours of daylight or our new routines ... what routine??? Our friend Lance Harrison pointed out some time ago that not knowing where you are, or where you are going must be disorientating and he was right. I never feel settled until I see the stars at night, and can spot Jupiter, Orion, the Pleiades and the Plough ... funny enough I always plot them relative to Lance and Zoë’s patio in Southend not anywhere I’ve actually lived. This does help, and how strange in this day when I can plot my position to within 10metres or there about with the Snooper Satnav that I only feel happy once I’ve seen the oldest navigation devices known to mankind.

Come darkness we look around the campsites, clocking the odd bit of flickering light indicating real telly. But mostly we look around and wonder why we are the only ones up later than 8pm most evenings? Us sitting under the dull spotlights listening to each others breathing, sniffing, throat clearing and farting ... and in my case the annoying clickety clickety click of a keyboard being variously pounded, poked or snickered at when I think I’ve written something funny.  I wish I’d bought a kindle, I wish I’d bought a Euro Wifi Fandango widget that means I can surf and scribble (I still might).

About this time I should mention Facebook, we post to Facebook via Twitter when I post a blog. Facebook is a window onto home, a portal to all our yesterdays, our friends who supported us, those that follow what we do and of course it’s the source of acerbic cartoons about why all men are bastards, all husbands are stupid lazy bastards, women who are variously hot totty strumpets looking to blow you, or hatchet faced crones you were stupid enough to marry, and photos of kittens cuddling rats, kittens hanging upside down off toilet rolls or sitting in your pants while you’re taking a dump, and other time wasting twaddle and memes floated out  by the Illuminati to waste your days and keep you indoors ... according to David Ike fans on the David Ike fan page on Facebook (I may have made that up ... ).

Of course out here in Third World Europe T’Tinternet is like magic. It’s something you can be charged through the F@#$%ing nose for, for speeds of 33kbit a day or so it seems ... for those not techy, 33kbit download speed a day would be this paragraph or less in 24 hours. It’s slow it’s unreliable, it makes Skype a nightmare, and waiting for that picture of the tabby kitten hanging off your bogroll becomes pure hell. It also means that computer time becomes premium when wifi is good (which is usually after midnight on campsites) ...  I like to think of those Victorian travellers and explorers away for months and years with only the post, and lead times of weeks for getting a single letter to and from home ... when it’s not my turn to sit snickering at the trivial shit that passes for entertainment in the world we seem to have left behind. And I’m left asking `What’s funny? What’s funny? What are you laughing at? Accompanied by the Clickety Clickety Click of Amanda sharing witticisms with her Facebook clan, while I’m still packing away all the shit we used to do dinner three hours before.

The thing is all these issues can be resolved with money and technology and bigger motorhomes. We met a fat bloke a week or two ago, who had a Skybox and a Freeview box, normal Internet speeds via satellite, two full size made up beds, captains chairs, the British newspapers , and the attitude that he was here in Spain doing them a favour, as long as they kept the beer cheap, supplied English breakfast at the tragically named Alli Babars Curry House and English Pub ... Ali Barbar is a Persian, Curries are from India FFS. However most of those people in the land yachts are not here to explore, they’re here to escape the British winter and that’s about all. 

The fact that most of what draws them here to whit: English themed pubs, other English tourists, rides on banana boats, parasailing behind a speed boat driven by an irresponsible twat who speaks pigeon English and is looking to either make you shit your swimming trunks, or fuck your girlfriend, is not open again until March. And so those in the land yachts have their satellite dishes, TV’s, a million mod-cons and a place near a beach with sun every third day or so, for £12 a night as long as they stay in the same place for three months at a time. I should point out it’s not just Little Englanders, it’s also Ze Germans and Le Francais and a few Dutch and Swiss, and at the weekends our hosts the Spanish. All finding ways to irritate each other just enough to keep the countries separate. Be it biking, petang, walking or feeling the need to fly your own national flag from your motorhome or caravan, or setting up a communal area on an empty pitch to ensure no one of a different nationality can move in without passing a racial purity test ... I’ve not seen any Polish campers. If nothing else proving that it will be a `fucking freezing cold day in Hell when Europe is fully harmonized’. 

There are of course exceptions in the land yachts and to the national isolationists, those that choose to come for what little sun there is and to enjoy the fact that Spain is closed for winter and miles and miles of resorts are just shuttered up for months. Those that come every year but always to somewhere different and new, who live fulltime in their giant tin cans both here and at home; new Gypsies not New Age Travellers or Pikeys, those for who this is life and living 24/7/365. The early retired renting out a building back in Blighty, or Holland or Germany or France ... they come from all over Europe, themselves living wherever they fancy and like us always on the move, and as a general rule say hello.

The sun when it’s out here lifts temperatures to very agreeable levels ... though the locals are wearing scarves and coats and look at us in our shorts and tee-shirts as if we are either insane or taking the piss ... except those who weekend here from the north `Green Spain’, and enjoy almost all the same weather miseries as those even further north.

It’s the people like Amanda and I, in the improvised campers and smaller moho’s who are here to explore, and for us it’s been a treat ... in spite of the tomfoolery that accompanies everything you do. Entire historic towns and sites have been ours to ourselves all day, miles long beaches with not a soul but us, empty foot and cycle paths, no queuing, only local eateries open. We have decided that it’s best to avoid the eateries that stay open near the campsites, the food quite often seems `thawed’ as opposed to cooked. The tourist food sections of supermarkets are empty so you have to eat local. Only the odd Ex-pat English shop selling the taste or feel of home ... but only really what was left over from last season.

And so to bed. The bed that we came out here with lasted all of three months before I had an `Epifit’ as Amanda calls them (Epifits only ever go out after the watershed on Pixie land TV) and is to be consigned to the bin in favour of our new sleepy gear. The Duvalay, a grownups version of the child’s Readybed; part mattress part sleeping bag all contained in zipped up Polyester Cotton softness. No more duvet stealing tactics, no more having to open the rear doors to make the bed properly. You just set out the bits that make the bed base, re-arrange the cushions from seats to bed base, and roll out memory foam based comfort, add in a hot water bottle on really cold nights and you’re home and dry. Oddly making the bed up never seems such a chore as putting it away.

It’s a bit of a faff making then breaking camp each morning, but the truth is you don’t have to walk far for any of the creature comforts, and if you can tolerate snoring, farting, having your arse slapped or poked as you crawl to a place where you can stand and days when you feel like you’ve been rolled down a hill in a barrel, then been forced to open your eyes with matchsticks because the Germans are loudly encouraging each other to throw metal balls outside your wagon in the middle of the only access road in the name of entertainment ... then I can tell you there are far far worse places you could be than here.

Thursday, 9 January 2014


With three days of car hire our next port of call was Morella, an ancient walled city 50 miles inland from Alcossebre. What can one say? It’s mind blowing, its place in the landscape, its size and how long it's been a stronghold for humans.,_Castell%C3%B3n
(it even has it's own tiny dinosaur museum).

From About 3 miles Away

You don't get the size from this picture

Death From Above (Old Skool Style)

From a distance you see this thing rise out of the ground on a mount higher than all others on the mix of plains and terraced lumps of geology (it isn't the highest point, it happens to sit in place that's very prominent relative to everything within a very wide radius). You’re 1070 metres up from our position on the coast; air pressure dropped to 896 at its lowest level in the main square of the castle right at the top and breathing was hard for the first twenty minutes on the steep streets and steps of the non-military part of the town, what seemed like miles below. With the switch backs and slopes I reckon you cover two miles within the city walls to get to the top.
Bit of Polyfilla to Close up that Crack

The Neolithic Cave Now with a Timeline to Modern Times

View from the Top (Main Square)

Still not in the Castle itself

View Down the Various Layers, Some of the Restoration and a Bull Ring (only the buildings on the extreme left are outside the Walls) 

The place has been occupied from the Neolithic until now, first as a cave nothing more. Then as a fort through multiple generations, and occupants (Moors, Romans, various Spanish factions and even El Cid ... who has a bar in town even to this day). These various occupants disprove the theory that the place is impregnable (siege is its Achilles heel), despite the fact that it looks unassailable. It is worth noting that the place has wells so water isn't the issue, with siege it's starvation. In some places it looks organic, in others successive layers of building and expansion make the place look like a building site. And a couple of sections (not pictured) are building sites, as restoration and preservation take place in the off season. And wonder of wonders, the church in the centre defies belief. I’ve said before I don’t do god, but those from the days of yore that did do god, certainly made a point in Morellas church.
You Couldn't have been Prepared for this in the Church

A Very Friendly Man Who Ruined my Mediterranean Diet

We finished the visit to the castle with a visit to a tiny restaurant outside the church. We were made welcome like we've not been made welcome anywhere else. The food was all Castellon and nothing like we've had elsewhere, cooked by the bar keeps mother in a kitchen in a yard. They own two restaurants and the family has run them for four generations. I had the Lamb and Amanda had the Deer/Venison, we were also treated to croquets various all home made, a small bird that was probably quail, in a bitter orange sauce, and a variety of pates and jams; all that was eventually missing was a siesta because those lovely people fed us absolutely full ... and then we got the bill 36 Euros. We both thought we'd been under charged, and the guy actually seemed offended when I tried to tip him (he's the man walking in the last picture above). There is a different Spain inland a way, older and deeper than the Costas, and worth the hair raising driving conditions, hairpin bends and bowel clenching drops to see.
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