Friday, 9 May 2014

Albir to Santa Pola - approx 40 miles

Albir to Santa Pola

We finally got away from the campsite at about 11 am so that wasn’t too bad.  We had to refuel, do some shopping and drive about 1 hour 15 to Santa Pola where we had arranged to meet Ramin and Christine at around 2pm.

Mmmmm – apart from moving the van from the pitch to the dump (motorhome service point to be pc) and a few times of hiring a car, I hadn’t driven in 4 months.  This was to say the least very strange.  So it was time to get used to handling a behemoth of a motorhome again.  I very tentatively drove out of the campsite, taking care not to take any bollards with me and turned right into the very narrow road at the entrance – I have to admit that I did have to wiggle a bit and I might have gone up on the kerb to get round.  Then it was off into the wild world of the Spanish drivers. We were heading to Benidorm, 1 to get fuel and 2 to get supplies.  We didn’t know what the campsite would be like or how far it would be from civilisation so we decided to get food for about 3 days at least – and to stock up on the essentials of beer etc etc.

I had forgotten just how long it takes to fill with LPG, you have to stand there for ages and ages and ages holding the button down so that the fill happens. However we were not going any further until we had filled up our habitation tank so it just had to happen.  We have three tanks to fill, LPG for habitation and engine and we also needed to top up with Petrol. We like to keep about half a tank just in case we run out of LPG.    

But the good news was that our habitation tank took approximately 15 euros to fill – which meant that our habitation gas (cooking, heating etc) had only cost us 15 euros for the whole 4 months of the winter. Beat that mortar homers!!!!!!  Mind you we did eat out A LOT!  

So having left the fuel station we then headed for Carrefour at Finistrat (just outside Benidorm).  Now this is not my favourite supermarket but it is a huge one and that usually means plenty of parking.  To park properly, our van needs 4 car parking spaces – two in length and over one in width.   I did once get into the narrow bit in Tesco in Rugby and had to do a bit of jiggery pokery to get out.   Fantastic, plenty of parking. The day was going well so far.

Shopping is boring but just one comment, Amstel lager was on special offer of buy two get one free. I did point out to Mr Right that I thought that was buy two cans get one free but just to be sure he put 3 CASES onto the trolley.  We then considered topping up our mobile phone as we only had about a euro left, but it was the first time that we had topped it up since getting it in January and of course we hadn’t got a clue how to.  But time was getting on and we needed to be on the road to meet our friends at 2.

Now this is a tip for anyone travelling – if you are in a place and know it well and you need to do something, do it there, not when you get somewhere unknown.  We have always gone on our own advice, if you need a supermarket and see one, stop, you don’t know where the next one will be. Should have topped up the phone!!!!!

We needed to ring the bank.  In their infinite wisdom they had cancelled Iain’s debit card and issued a new one and we needed to ring and find out more.  Of course as the card wasn’t working this meant that we couldn’t get onto the internet banking so we couldn’t find out if there had been any problems on the account. 

Anyway off we set for Santa Pola, however as most husband and wife teams know, driving and navigating can be a bit problematic.  It was only about 200 yards before the first row, well it was more of a shout followed by silence. I seem to have this problem telling my left from my right.  I am driving a left-hand drive vehicle when for the last 30 odd years I have driven a right-hand drive and I’m driving on the right-hand side of the road when ditto on the left. Whilst I have no problem being on the “other” side of the road, or the other side of the vehicle, it totally confuses me when it comes to an instruction of turn left or right.  Also this was not helped by the fact that I had it in my head that Valencia was a good signpost to follow and not Alicante. 

So having gone north instead of south on the dual carriageway, Iain politely mentioned that as we were around Benidorm it wasn’t far to the next junction where we could turn around. So we came off the next junction which meant that we had to go right at the top, over the bridge, to the next roundabout and TURN LEFT. Not quite, because turning left actually means turning right at the correct exit from the roundabout. Well I missed the turning (signposted Alicante) because actually there were two different exists signposted Alicante and I was trying really hard NOT to follow the signposts to Alicante on the toll road. Oh so we were on our way to Valencia AGAIN. At this rate we’d be home before we got to Santa Pola.

Well the language and volume were incredible I think it went something like “What bit of LEFT don’t you understand!!!!” Well it must have been bad because Mr Right hardly ever loses his temper but he does insist that he didn’t swear at me. So again (in stony silence) we crossed the bridge and round the roundabout, then back across the bridge to the same roundabout again and this time successfully managed to take the correct exit towards Alicante.  Phew – we were finally on our way, 3 hours since we’d left the pitch and we’d only gone 5 miles.

There wasn’t much talking for the first few miles I must say.  The non-toll roads in Spain to my mind are much easier than the non-toll roads in France.  Here at least the main roads are quite wide and the N332 goes through towns but generally stays a good size.  Unlike the French roads that when they go through towns tend to get very narrow and there is a lot of stop-starting which is not an economical way to drive our truck. There can be quite a lot of traffic lights and roundabouts in the towns but generally they are ok.

Luckily, once I was heading in the right direction and tempers had cooled there wasn’t much else to mention about the journey.

So onward quizteam soldiers to Santa Pola. 

Another thing we do when we have to be somewhere is to find it first, then find somewhere to park. Otherwise if you park up you can find that you are still miles from your destination.  I think one good thing about arriving anywhere by boat is that you will nearly always be near the centre of the town, whether it’s a canal in England or a marina in Spain.  So we headed for the marina to find Ramin and Chris.  Wow and it was five minutes to two so we had made brilliant time.  We pulled up as close as possible to the marina to let them know we were here and that we’d park up and come back.  Of course my 8.3 m motorhome ended up down a no exit, except with a turning circle where there was a height restriction of 2m. Ramin found us so we arranged to park and then come back for lunch.

So with an audience I had to swing the motorhome round and go back in the direction from which I came.  Not a mean feat in a tight space. We drove around a bit trying to find somewhere to park and ended up by the football stadium.  This appeared to be an ok place to stay overnight but I must admit that the outlook was pretty boring.

We walked back to the marina and boarded Shiraz for a drink. We headed off for some tapas lunch and had a good old catch up with Ramin and Chris.  It’s amazing how similar and yet how different things are when living on a boat or a motorhome.  It was great swapping stories of some of the triumphs and disasters that happen when travelling around on both. All those things that terrify you at the time and then you laugh at the afterwards. 

After lunch we went back to the motorhome and having seen some motorhomes parked up, we then drove to the sea-front to find somewhere to wild-camp for the night. Now I’m quite happy to wild-camp, and technically we can park a motorhome on any road, but parking does not necessarily mean sleeping. Although this was to be our first night wild-camping in Spain, I didn’t feel nervous, but the down-side is that you can’t spread out and get your chairs out.  Thankfully the council had decided to put a bench just outside where we had parked so at least we could get outside for a while.

Later on I walked the dog along the sea front and I thought Santa Pola was quite a nice place to be except that again like Oliva it was like a ghost town.  I know it is still out of season for Spain but there are so many apartments and no one living in them.  Although Santa Pola wasn’t on our list of places to visit, I would not cross it off as somewhere I didn’t want to go back to. 

Looking towards the marina

Miles of sandy beaches

Having had a good night’s sleep, we took the dog for a long walk along the seafront in the morning and then parked her back at the motorhome and walked to the marina for a coffee with Ramin and Chris before leaving for La Manga.  It was lovely to catch up, our paths simply crossed and we hadn’t seen them for about 9 years.  They were on their way north and then across to the Baleriacs.  They had taken 3 years to get to Santa Pola and I wonder how long it will be before our paths cross again.

We left Santa Pola for about a two hour drive to La Manga and the biggest campsite I've ever seen. 

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