Month: May 2016

Day 38, Calella to Barcelona — 55km

I made a gigantic mistake today, and it may affect the rest of my trip. On my way into Barcelona, I stopped for gas. Unfortunately, I somehow managed to grab the wrong nozzle and didn’t notice that I was filling my tank with Gasoil A instead of Gasoline 95 until I hung it up.

There was stop-and-go traffic when I left the highway, and my engine clearly wasn’t happy. It stalled a few times at stoplights. Sitting still while waiting for a green, a scooter came up and knocked my mirror askew (great driving, jerks). Otherwise, it was a pretty smooth ride to the hotel Matt had selected for us to meet. He was already ensconced in our suite, but came down to help me unload and get squared away with reception.

We were supposed to meet a former client of mine and some of her friends for lunch at what looked to be a really nice restaurant, but I needed to hunt down a mechanic and Matt had another phone meeting urgently come up, so we canceled.

As it turns out, there were several mechanics nearby, so I went to one and asked. They were all very busy, with lines of people, but eventually I got to talk to someone. He thinks there’s a chance that if I keep topping up with the right gas, and if I didn’t put too much in (I don’t think I did), then I should be fine. Fingers crossed. And if not, he gave me his card. I was too stressed out to go give it a whirl right then. Instead, I went back to the hotel.

The hotel has a spa area with a large, color-changing jacuzzi, a steam room, a multi-directional shower, and an infrared sauna. I enjoyed the jacuzzi and the steam room quite a bit. I was the only one there.

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Then I went back to the room and napped.

Matt had another meeting, in person this time, so he went off for that. I joined him later, at an Irish pub, where I had a burger and fries. 🙂 It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great. It was standard international Irish pub fare.

We were both tired, so we went back to our hotel, where we are spending the rest of the evening lounging around, reading books, and in Matt’s case, watching YouTube videos.

Tomorrow we will meet up with Deniz and Laura at our apartment for the week, a place Deniz selected for its size and proximity to most of the venues we will be enjoying music for Primavera Sound Music Festival. It’ll be great to see them!

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Day 36, to Blanes and back — 41 km, and Day 37– 0km

I took a break from writing yesterday because I intended to do it this morning. But I didn’t.

Yesterday started with croissants fresh from the camping site’s restaurant, then I went into town for a wax and massage (in that order). I’ve been having some trouble getting a good massage. Or rather, some trouble with getting anything other than a relaxing massage. I don’t need relaxing. I need some work on stiff muscles. Anyway, it was a nice relaxing massage, helaas.

Then I drove to Blanes to enjoy the wonderful botanical garden. More pics than comments here. Botanical gardens are more fun when I go with any of my botany-geek friends. Me, I’m just a gardener. Still, it was a lovely place.

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After that, I navigated treacherous roads to get back down to the port, where I lucked out on restaurants (again). I picked one that didn’t have 8 million menus plastered, but only a handwritten one. People were eating there, one table of late middle-aged Spanish people, and they looked like they were taking their time over a really good meal.

Fabulous. The first course consisted of 2 “small” courses: first a tray of grilled gambas and fried sardines:

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Then a huge pile of mussels flavored with fresh lime (yum yum yum) – no pic, I just ate them.

Then 2 hake steaks elegantly arranged on a plate with tempura vegetables. Here was their only failure – the sauces that they’d decorated the plate with were definitely not fresh-made, and they could have been.

All this with an excellent white wine.

Dessert was a really nice arroz con leche decorated with drizzles of fruit, then a tiny cake with blackberry ice cream. Then coffee.

I lingered a long time.

The bill came: 21 euros. Damn. That would have just paid for the mussels in the Netherlands. Maybe the mussels and one glass of wine. I was served a whole bottle (I didn’t drink all of it, but I could have – it was left in ice on my table).

After lunch, I walked up and down the beach a bit before heading back to my campsite.

When I got back, I checked out the pool, then read by my tent, then ate yesterday’s groceries, then went to sleep.

This morning, I woke up late, read in my tent, finally got up, made coffee, walked down to buy croissants, and read my book some more. I got a token from management, did my laundry, read my book some more.

When it seemed like lunchtime, I wandered down to the beach bar. This was an excellent idea, but also a very bad one. The only thing that really appealed to me on the menu today was fried calamari with alioli. 😀 But an entire pitcher of sangria, followed by a glass of cava, seemed like a reasonable accompaniment.

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To be fair, it took me almost 4 hours to drink it, but I should have ordered more food. I was pretty drunk when I went back to my tent. I slept for 3 hours.

When I woke up, it was time for dinner, and I pleaded a need for vegetables to the friendly bar staff at the camping restaurant. They didn’t really have salad on the menu, but they made me one, and I had bubbly water to go with it. And flan… because one can really never have enough flan.

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The only other people in there were a big table of Dutch people. Then more Dutch people came in to play pool. I left when the cook and one of the bartenders from the beach bar arrived and ordered beers.

Tomorrow I’m off to Barcelona, and Matt will be there too! 😀

Day 35, Colera to Calella –181 km

I have settled into a nice place for the weekend. I am only about 30 minutes outside of Barcelona, and the beach below my campsite filled up with an after-work crowd around 18:30/19:00.

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My drive today was lovely. I started out along the same coastal road I had taken yesterday, but soon my route curved inland. It felt homey – farmland not far from mountain or sea.

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Eventually, I came out at the coast again, and followed a winding cliff road beside the sea for quite a long while. My planned campsite was along this route, but I was so tired of difficult driving that when I saw it, I decided I couldn’t handle getting the bike into the camping plot. I continued on.

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I planned then to take a campsite around the location of the botanical gardens. There were several near each other, along the beach. They were flat, but so uninvitingly beach/sun resorts that I couldn’t bear the thought of spending the weekend there. Lots of older Dutch people were drinking beer on their terraces. I continued on.

Finally, I reached some more gently curving cliff and sea roads much closer to Barcelona. I drove past a campsite. I drove past it again the other direction. I drove past it one more time. I looked it up. It sounded pretty nice. I drove in.

It was siesta for another hour, so I had decided I needed to give up on coast and head back inland, to the wooded hills beyond. The campsites there sounded much more my style anyway. But suddenly, a man came running down the campsite’s road, asking if I was looking for a camping. He put me into his golfcart and toured me around the place, showing me the pool at the very top (cute, but a very steep, badly paved road getting up to it), and the flatter sites nearer the road. I chose the latter. He was the maintenance man, so he lent me a hammer and said his boss would take care of my registration when he was back later.

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I set up my tent and walked down to the restaurant for a delicious lunch of grilled squid, really good fries, a small salad, a pot of alioli, and some really fresh bread. And one of my favorite Spanish beers. It seems this was exactly the right place.

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When the boss was back, I completed registration, and walked down to the beach. There are walking trails from here as well, so the weekend has many options.

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Tomorrow I will get a massage from a friend of the bartender’s, who has a salon nearby, and then visit the botanical gardens. After that, well, we’ll see!

My evening was spent drinking beer on MY terrace, and reading terrible free vacation books. Now that this is done, I will continue the reading inside my tent, where I can be warm while I start to get sleepy. This place is so far TO BE RECOMMENDED. 😀

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Day 34, to Cadaques and back — 65 km

It is evening as I write this. Looking around me, I see several other solo campers. They are all men, of various ages, all reading books. Until a moment ago, I was also reading a book. There are women here, but they are all less visible, with men, except for the two young German campers in their 20s.

I chatted with my Dutch neighbor a bit this evening. His dog barked all morning while he was at the restaurant for breakfast, but strangely, it didn’t particularly bother me. He says he’s been coming to this campsite for 4 years, and has never seen so many children as this time. Oh well.

Today I drove the very windy route to Cadaques to see the house where Salvador Dali and his wife Gala lived. They started with one house in the tiny fishing village of Port Lligat, but eventually connected seven, and grounds. It is adorable. I loved it.

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My impression of the Costa Brava is that it’s wonderful. I’m a bit torn between it and the Costa Verde. Both are full of coves and fishing villages and are greener and more mountainous than the popular sun resort areas of the Costa del Sol and Costa Calida. Both are full of people who seem very patient with my Spanish, although both are full of people with their own language/dialect. No one here seems bothered that it takes me a while sometimes to think of the correct word when I’m trying to express myself. That hasn’t been the case everywhere (to be fair to Extremadoura, though, it was also wonderful – and the people also appreciated my bad Spanish). Here I’m supposed to refer to Spanish as Castellano, though, and I keep forgetting.

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Back to the day’s events. I took my time leaving. I woke up to the sound of Brom’s barking (my earplugs were in, so I heard but didn’t exactly startle at the kids, but the dog was closer and louder), then made coffee. I walked over to the restaurant and bought 2 croissants to eat with my cherries. I talked to Matt for a while, and made more coffee. I called the Dali museum and reserved a visit at 16:00. I then called the restaurant next door to the museum and reserved for lunch at 14:00.

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I drove to the border with France and back. Just for the hell of it. Then I drove to Cadaques. I parked in the busy square by the beach, then walked from there to Port Lligat. I was early for my lunch reservation, but no matter. I was the only person dining.

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Lunch was fabulous, and my waiter was a really young kid who was fascinated that I had been on my motorcycle for almost 5 weeks already. I had told him I was glad I’d planned my house visit after lunch, since I drank so much cava and local wine, and shouldn’t get on my bike so soon, or he never would have known. I sat for a long time enjoying the view from their terrace.

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Unfortunately, my house/museum visit didn’t go quite as smoothly. Although I had spoken first Spanish then English when making the call, and I arrived when I was told to (15:50), they changed my time to 16:20 and put me into a French-speaking tour. This was clearly a mistake, because the guide at that time was quite surprised. She explained things to me in a mixture of Castellano and not excellent English, but I think I missed a lot because she spoke a lot to the French people, and I only caught a little of it. There were lots of English speakers in the 16:00 and 16:10 groups (I know, since I watched them go in).

Anyway, I LOVED the house. I want to build a house like this. I loved that Dali wanted to see the first light of morning from his bed, so he installed a special mirror in the sitting room below his bedroom at an angle that caught the first rays and sent them to his bed. I love that the house and grounds grew organically. I love that he bullied the government into declaring the area reserved and not allowing more houses or other developments to be built there. I love the weird nooks and crannies. If I could build my dream house, I would want it to be similar. I have often thought such a thing. Actually, mine would be different. I have drawings and plans. Different landscape, different needs. I plan a series of connected tree-houses and lagoons. 😀 Yeah, when I suddenly become rich because of… ??? still working on it.

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Anyway, I liked it. After wandering around for quite a while in the house and grounds, I walked back to Cadaques, had delicious gelato while looking at my motorcycle. Then I suited back up. Other bikers showed up as I was leaving. They were French, but seemed quite surprised by me (?? just based on their expressions… they didn’t say anything other than bonjour and waving goodbye). I drove back to Colera, bought more cherries and more of this yummy dessert thing (not bakery fresh like yesterday, but the same thing) called torta de aceite (seems vague – it comes in a variety of flavors, not all dessert), and had the same dinner as yesterday, so no further pictures, email except for the walk to the harbor at Colera.

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Tomorrow’s plan is to pack up and drive to see the botanical garden at Blanes. If I like the area, I will look for camping around there (there are many options). The rain prediction seems to have vanished, which is great. If I don’t like the area, I may still go into Girona for a hotel there I found that has a sauna, jacuzzi, and rooftop swimming pool, as well as reasonably priced single rooms. I could use a couple of nights of a bed. My sleeping mat is 6cm thick, but my neck is hurting from stuffing my hoodie into a pillow case. Also, I could use an armpit wax and a massage. An urban area would make finding those easier. So… we’ll see!

Day 33, Vinaros to Colera — 404 km

I was craving green and less dry. I almost got more than I asked for. I had decided to go past Barcelona to the edge of the coast and Pyrrenees, then make my way back when necessary.

Altogether, the world gets greener in Catalunya!

There was a choice for route between El Maestrat, a mountainous region full of fortresses, or the Delta de L’Ebre, a wetlands beside the sea where flamingoes hang out. The weather made the choice for me. As I was leaving the campsite, I noticed black clouds only slightly inland, among the rising altitudes. I headed for the coastal road.

Eventually, my route did go inland, in order to avoid the dense traffic and busy freeways of Barcelona. And it was lovely. I stopped for lunch in an adorable town called Moia, where there seemed to be a lively cafe and restaurant scene. I had actually set a course for a particular restaurant when I realized it was almost lunch time, but it was closed. Not realising the numerous possibilities, I told myself I’d take the first place where people were visibly eating. I ended up with a really nice little cafe in one of the town’s plazas.

Not anticipating a menu in Catalan, I told the waitress I didn’t need the English menu. After a few seconds of puzzling over it, I realized I could still make out almost everything, so I guess I still didn’t. Written Catalan seems very much like a mix between French and Spanish. An example:

Exit (English) = Salida (Spanish) = Sortie (French) = Sortida (Catalan)

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Anyway, she was super sweet. I had my first cava of the trip (which is from Catalunya), and enjoyed a funny variation on a cheese toasty with ketchup: an open-faced cheese toasty with tomato marmalade (yes, it was sweetened and more like a marmalade than like ketchup, which is good, since I don’t care for ketchup). When I was finished, she said the coffee was on the house (I had in fact ordered it), to help me with my ride. And she suggested that if I have time, I cross the border near where I’m now staying, to see a town in France called Collioure. If I can’t get into the Dali house museum in Cadaques tomorrow, I may just do that. Their online reservations said to call instead.

My new campsite is both more my style and not quite what I expected. Thank goodness, there are pine trees, and the ground is grassy. Instead of sun-chasing pensioners, there are busloads of school children doing I’m not sure what, but I don’t think they’re staying the night. I could be wrong. My tent is across from 2 girls in their early 20s. On my right is a Dutch man in his late 60s and his very sweet dog in a camper van. On my left is a young Spanish guy in just a van. There’s a dive center and kayaking/outdoors activity center onsite, and he may be attached to that.

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I set up camp, checked on the pool and the wifi, then walked into the tiny village. The woman in the pharmacy was very friendly and told me where best to find a supermarket (I found another one as well). The man in the supermarket was also very friendly and advised me on regional wines. So I made a few purchases and went back to my tent site for a light dinner (I won’t eat all of this tonight!).

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It’s about 20:00 and getting quite noisy. A group of teenager girls has set up for talking and drinking right next to me. The girls across the way are now blasting tinny bad-quality music from their tent. The kids are still noisy, but have moved on to the restaurant. I have put my earplugs in already. On the plus side, it’s likely to be quiet in the morning. With old people (the past few nights), the drunk ones stay up really late, but the other ones wake up ridiculously early and talk almost as loudly. I’m pretty sure this set of people will be quiet in the morning. But I guess we’ll see.

Rain is expected in this area over the weekend, so I’m not sure what my projected stay will be. Currently, I’m thinking two nights here then perhaps move into a hotel in Girona for the rainy weekend. It’s a big enough city to keep me occupied, but small enough to be easy to get in and out of.

OH! Everyone has gone off to dinner! Earplugs out. Now it’s only normally noisy… I like it. Feels lively without being ridiculous. If the weather were more promising, I had wanted to stay through the weekend and do some kayaking or snorkeling around the rocky coast. We’ll see.

Day 32, Mazarron to Vinaros — 458 km

I am not made for hot and dry. I was happier on the north coast and in the mountains. I miss trees. I miss other green things. I need to move on. Last night I spent hours planning several options for today.

The first option involved an excellent looking campsite which was either a 2.5 hour drive from where I was or was a 2 hour fast drive then a really nice route through some recommended roads and a really interesting-sounding fortified village. The campsite sounded fabulous, too. But when I woke up, all I wanted to do was GET THE HELL OUT OF DODGE!

Just to be fair, the place where I would have left the highway was the best-looking area I passed. It probably would have been wonderful. As I approached it, and the hills became green and red instead of white, I rejoiced. You can only barely see the landscape in this picture, but I was yelling and howling with joy as I saw green on hills.

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Why do people talk about the south of Spain??? It is SO dry and barren. Give me rain and green. I loved the north of Spain. I loved the north middle of Spain. But when I went south, it became a sometimes picturesque but always dry land. At the coast, it’s full of tourist parks and hotels, but they don’t look very appealing. The prices of everything go up, but the ambience has gone down down down.

I have decided that my best bet is to try further into Catalunya. I am at the border now. There is a nice little beach cove near(ish) my campsite, but the water was too cold to swim here. I went to the pool, also cold, but comfortably so. If you actively swim, you warm up just fine. All of the Dutch people here and the Spanish guy in the maintenance room (only time I saw him, so I don’t know his role) thought I was insane.

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weird. I took a really nice selfie at the beach, but I guess I deleted it. 😦

There are LOTS of Dutch people in this site. I am getting bad at Spanish again because I keep having to switch back and forth, and I’m not used to it. There’s an English guy hanging out with the Dutchies, and he keeps saying that I should speak “American,” but I think that’s because he doesn’t understand when the conversation goes into Dutch. The woman running the restaurant thinks it’s funny watching me switch languages and has decided to work with my Spanish, which I appreciate. She has also noticed that my right hand is browner than my left hand. I think I forget to smear sunscreen on the right, since I use the right to smear it on the left. 😀

Anyway, as gezellig as this campsite is, it is NOT what I’m looking for. I will move on tomorrow. Hopefully I will find a good base camp tomorrow, and if not, I will move on again.

Day 31, Santa Pola and back– 243 km

Last night was super windy. My tent didn’t blow away, but it kept me awake and woke me up over and over. The alarm went off at 06:00.

Sunrise was lovely, but I watched it from the road. I was meant to be on a boat to Isla de Tabarca by 09:30, getting into wetsuit etc. by 09:15.

Unfortunately, the dive shop didn’t confirm with the water taxi, and he wasn’t set to go until 10:30. I could have slept in.

Still, finally we were set to go. Snorkelling was fun but short, for the same reason. Oh well. It was nice to be in the water, and we saw some fish and sea sponges and sea grass and rocks.

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Here’s where our boat taxi brought us. We walked to the other side, near the old prison. We swam out to this rocky mass first.

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I thought I’d taken a picture of the prison, but I guess not.

Then we swam on the edge of the very nice swimming beach.

Although it was a short day, I got back to camp exhausted. Sorry this is short!

Day 30, Cartagena for lunch and back –75km

I took my time today, made coffee and read my book, cared for the bike. The pool opened at 11, so I went for a swim. The dive center emailed, and I’m confirmed for snorkeling tomorrow, but I noticed that my one-piece is see-through in places and my two-piece is really stretched out. Time for a replacement. There’s a Decathlon store in Cartagena, so off I went, via wonderful roads!

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I have a new two-piece also with swim shorts, which should be great for the snorkeling as well as general beach and even light laps. I didn’t like any of the lap suits they had.

TripAdvisor led me to lunch, the number 1 rated for Cartagena. My waiter was super nice, and um… I wanted to share dessert with you, but

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oh well!

I took the same roads back, stopped at the supermarket and gas station, then dropped everything back at the camping and went to the beach across the street.

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I have an early morning tomorrow, so I’ll leave you with that.

Day 29, Santa Elena to Mazarron — 449km

Today nearly killed me, but it started out so fine. And it ended that way, too (I put this here for those of you on FB who are obviously not reading but commenting anyway).

After saying goodbye to my last companion for this trip, the very awesome Lynn Leitte, I set the TomTom to avoid “interstate” highways and take me to Guardix, somewhat south. Of course it took me through the same wonderful windy forest road from yesterday. Lovely. I was more awake and ready to enjoy it today. It was nice yesterday, but it was wonderful today.

Eventually, however, the landscape became arid. I would have sworn I was driving through the American west. The one from all the movies. There’s a reason for that. Many of them were filmed in the area I passed by today. There are several tourist parks where you can explore the film sets and enjoy a theme day. I may do one, but I didn’t do it today.

I passed a sign reading “Badlands de Espana” shortly before arriving in Guardix. I tried to stop for a photo, but it is sometimes difficult to find the right place to safely pull off the road.

Guardix and the villages surrounding it are FASCINATING. I wish I’d taken more pictures. The people in this area not only lived (past tense) in caves, they still live in caves. Apparently, it’s mostly the Romany in the area who live in the cave quarters. I didn’t press on this information, but I allowed an older woman who lives next to the viewpoint and interpretation center to herd me around and tell me where to eat. It was a run-down little cafe, but I was happy to eat and to support the neighborhood instead of one of the places down in the more normal town.

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I loved the overuse of the word “troglodyte” and also of the title “expert digger” in the relatively unexciting interpretation center. Dear troglodytes in my midst: I bought two postcards from the local woman. Two of you will be lucky recipients. I’m only sure about one of you so far. Of the others, I have to choose.

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After lunch, I drove all over the cave quarter (to the consternation of drowsing locals – Saturday afternoon) before heading out of town. I reset the TomTom to fastest route to the campsite I’d chosen.

And this is where it begins to all go wrong. The roads were lovely, but DRY.

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I had a nice conversation (sort of) with a local who has some bikes when I stopped for gas in the middle of nowhere. He thought my bike was making some strange noises. I reassured him that I have chain lube and would take care of it tonight. I haven’t yet, but I also got in much later than intended.

Things got even more dry. Even my jacket reeks now. (well, not anymore…)

I arrived at the campsite at the expected time: about 16:45. The street outside was being blocked out for a triathlon. The campsite was VERY very very very horrible-looking. A huge facility, with many lovely spots, but tents are relegated to the furthest corner from anything useful, with only pavement and no shade at all. At all. There were some children kicking a ball around the tent lot, which had no tents in it. The nearest toilets were nowhere nearby. I decided against it.

I spent a few moments trying to decide between the other ones in the area, which had sketchy reviews and which also showed no tents in the photos I could find. There was one about an hour and a half drive west (the wrong direction) which had looked good, and had good reviews from other bikers (tenters as well) in August, so they must have shade. I started towards them.

About ten minutes later I realized that was a dumb decision, as I had already seen that stretch and done most of the things I’d wanted to do in that area. So it would be, at best, a one night stay. There had to be another option in the right direction.

There are 3 campsites total where the horrible one was. I pulled in next at the other well-rated one. Their tent sites were also unshaded. Sigh. RVs have airconditioning and unlimited space for carrying extra shade. Why punish tenters?

I was thinking that the nudist campsite about an hour away would HAVE to have shade, and anyway, I like being naked, when I remembered passing a small one that had trees and an interesting coastline a few minutes before.

Win.

I had some trouble getting settled, but the Germans nearest me and the Dutch next to them came to my rescue (the ground, like most of these places, is hard and graveled, so you need a hammer and sometimes stronger stakes — most places either sell or lend them, but this one does not). I toiled for a while without help, but apparently looked so pathetic that they had to help me. The Germans are nice but don’t speak English or Spanish well, or rather, almost as bad as I speak German (some of you know just how bad that is). The Dutch people are from Bergen op Zoom and are super funny. We had a nice chat.

Then I went for a swim in the sea-water pool which is apparently naturally heated by geothermic vents (NICE!). I also did a load of very stinky laundry.

And then I walked along the rocky cliff-surrounded beach to the nearby town (about half an hour walk) to the first restaurant. I am quite happy. It is a welcoming place playing weird music, with mismatched comfy furniture, a pool table, and many other excellent features.

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When I’m done with my wine, I will put my headlamp on and walk the road back (instead of the rocky coastline), and I will sleep… sleep… sleep! In my shady place.

Day 28, Estepona to Santa Elena, 390km

Unexpectedly gorgeous today.

Our big goal was to get to Banos de la Encina, a small town with a huge Arab fortress built in 967. We got there in time for lunch, where I enjoyed the local wild rabbit in a delicious sauce. It was a little difficult to eat with all those tiny bones, but our host so enjoyed my willingness that he was really encouraging and gave good pointers. As he promised, the brain was the most delicious, followed in my opinion by the tongue. I couldn’t quite do the eyeballs. I’m not sure I was supposed to.

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After lunch, we drove closer to the fortress then walked around it and enjoyed the view. Unfortunately, no one came to open it up at 17:00, as both the sign and the groundskeeper said they would, so at 17:30, after a couple of hours of enjoying the view, we had enough.

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We took the slow route to our intended camping site.

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In addition to those views, we later went through some windy forest roads, part of another national forest. It was really lovely. Tomorrow we are perfectly placed for making our separate ways, Lynn back to Madrid and then New York, and me onwards to… I don’t know for sure. I think I’m either going to look at some troglodyte villages south of here, or some spaghetti western film sets. Depends how I feel when I wake up.