Monday 2nd February – Conil De La Frontera – Estepona (102 Miles)
Another decent nights sleep, but we awoke to a chilly morning, the night temperatures are getting pretty cool down here now, dropping to four or five degrees. The Internal temperature gauge showed only Seven degrees so it is now back to our old routine of turning the heating on first thing in the morning, at the same time that we get up and turn the kettle on, the van doesn’t take long to warm up, just about the same time it takes to make our cuppa’s, return to a nice warm duvet and then drink our coffee !! Once we were up and dressed, their was no hanging about, Shazza got the inside of ‘Big Momma’ ready for ‘On the road‘ mode whilst I did the outside stuff, disconnect and stow the EHU cable and ‘off the blocks’, quick check that all the external lockers were closed and locked, lights working and then the moment of truth !
‘Big Momma’ started first time, it is still strange that we had had the problem where she wouldn’t start, on the day before we set off for Morocco, but since then she has started first time every time, excluding the fuel problem incident that is !! I think I knew what that initial problem was, it was all to do with the ‘Automatic Gearbox Selector’, the engine will only start if it is in ‘neutral‘, I think there was a minor issue with a sensor which just seems to have sorted itself out. Anyway, we drove down to the Reception office to pay the bill and whilst Shazza went to sort that out I stayed with the van with the engine ‘ticking over‘. We needed to make a short detour off our route to re-stock on some provisions, their was a handy, quite large, ‘DEA’ Supermarket just a couple of minutes up the road and again, I stayed with the van whilst Shazza did the shopping. Everything sounded fine, the engine was ‘idling‘ quite nicely, but in my head I knew that the problems only arose when I needed to accelerate and get some real power on when we were in Fourth or Fifth gear, so I still had that ‘knot‘ in my stomach. Neither Shazza or I mentioned anything about ‘The Incident‘ to each other during the journey, although we were probably both thinking exactly the same, but we kept our own counsel.
Although we hadn’t originally decided to take the Southern Coastal Route, we were just going to return to Estepona via the same route we had taken to get to Conil, however, I had a slight difference of opinion with some Navigational Instructions provided by ‘Snoopy‘ and so we ended up taking a rather more scenic route back to Estepona. For those who have not travelled this Southern Coastal route then let me tell you that it is absolutely beautiful, the roads are very good, many parts being dual carriageway. There are also lots of Campsites along this Southern Coastline, none that I have ever found listed, but they are there, We saw them, many with some wonderful sea views, and they took Motorhomes !! But for us, this proved to be a superb route for one very important reason, the roads were good enough to once again put ‘Big Momma’ through her paces, we hadn’t had any problems so far but we were about to really find out if she was totally back to ‘Full Health’. As you come around the South East corner, the road climbs, and climbs, and twists, and turns, and then climbs some more. ‘Big Mommas’ Automatic Gearbox was getting a right good workout and so was the engine, with frequent acceleration and deceleration, but she coped without so much as a hiccup, yes I think we could safely begin to relax now, the ‘knot’ in my stomach had disappeared, it’s just a pity that by this time so had some of the wonderful views but Shazza had taken some snaps so at least you can now enjoy the bits I didn’t get chance to see properly as I was concentrating on other things !!
We found the Campsite quite easily, although the site had given us the GPS Coordinates when they had responded to our Email, it was well signposted off the A7 and was just under three miles from Estepona on the Northern side of the town. It wasn’t like the big ‘Category 1′ site that we had just left, all of the pitches here were within quite tight tree-lined avenues. Once we had booked in at the small reception, which also doubled as a very well stocked on-site shop, we had to walk around to identify a suitable pitch. We found one right on a corner but we would need all our communication skills to reverse on without doing any damage to either ‘Big Momma’ or the trees. The first problem was going to be negotiating the narrow site access roads, however, this problem was overcome when the site manager told me that I could drive down the very straight ‘No Entry‘ road that conveniently led down to our selected pitch. Shazza and I had become quite proficient at ‘reversing‘ manoeuvres, we had had plenty of practice over the last sixteen months of reversing back out of ‘no through‘ roads or roads that had suddenly become too narrow, once we had got half way down them !! We soon had ‘Big Momma’ pitched up again, on blocks, plugged in to the EHU point and transformed back into ‘home’ mode again.
The site itself is quite small but as well as the on-site shop there is a small restaurant/bar, a very decent shower/toilet block and a very smart-looking indoor swimming pool, unfortunately the water in the pool is not heated so only the really brave, or the really stupid, would use that in these temperatures. The site also offers ‘Free’ WiFi, however they haven’t invested in ‘repeaters‘ around the site so with all the trees it is difficult to pick up a usable signal in the van and even though the ‘Motorhome WiFi iBoost‘ could pick up the signal it required the ‘WEP Key‘ and not the site ‘Password’, so that was a no go either. However, it was only a short walk to reception if and when we needed to get access to the Internet. The one downside to this site is that although Estepona is only 6km away, it is alongside the very fast and busy ‘A7’ which has no pavement, there would have been nothing preventing us from using our bicycles to cycle in, but that really would have entailed taking our lives in our hands until we reached the outskirts of the town.
However, we discovered that there was a bus stop just a five-minute walk from the site with buses running every half hour, so this would do us very nicely and as an additional bonus there were buses that ran along this route to Marbella, just about Thirty miles further North. We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening just relaxing and planning a ‘flexible‘ itinerary of things to do over the next few days. I suppose I should also mention that the site is virtually next door to a ‘Wildlife Park‘, entry can be discounted for people staying on the Campsite. But it also serves another very useful purpose, when Shazza tells me that I was snoring in the night, I can tell her that it wasn’t me but probably the Lions or Tigers in the enclosures next door that she could hear !!
Sometimes one or other of us can have an off day, at such times the ‘other’ person often puts things into perspective and gives the one having the ‘off day’ a swift kick up the backside, now if you were to compare the number of bruises on our respective bums it would be easy to see who has the more ‘off days’. Not to be one to tell tales out of school, let’s just say that I can sit down a lot more comfortably than a certain other person one is travelling with !! However, on this occasion we had both let the ‘Moroccan Incident‘ effect our moods, it was still the main topic of our conversations and we had let that one unfortunate issue overshadow what had been, in the main, an enjoyable visit to Morocco. The problem being that when both of us are a bit gloomy it is easy to let things get the better of us, once on that downward spiral it can be difficult to stop it and get back to a more positive disposition.
We went back in to Estepona town, it was just as good on this second visit as it had been on our first, we also had a very brief visit to Marbella and had also walked down to the beach just a short walk from the Campsite, after many conversations we both agreed that ‘It’s time for a kick up the bum‘. We also both agreed that it was time to get our ‘Adventure‘ back on the road, the clock was counting down pretty fast now, we had a little over three weeks left before we were due to get on that ferry back to the UK and there were still plenty of places to visit.
On our fourth day on the site a number of new vans had arrived, parked next to us was an old Auto-Trail Scout, in excellent condition. The occupants were two young ‘British’ lads, I say young but to us they were, they were both probably in their mid to late Twenties, they had worked together in a Bank but both had been made redundant. They took the redundancy money and decided to take a career break, bought the van and were touring Europe. They had recently visited Gibraltar, tempted by the cheap fuel they had crossed the border but unfortunately on the way out had hit a height barrier resulting in a bit of damage to the gas ‘Exhaust Vent’, which on these older models was roof mounted, they had also damaged their ‘Status TV Ariel’. Their vehicle did not have any rear ladders so I offered them the use of my step ladders so that they could at least see onto the roof and inspect the damage. They were extremely pleased to discover that the Ariel, which they thought they had lost, was still on the roof and was very quickly re-connected and the plastic housing ‘snapped’ back into place. They were also relieved to find that fortunately the only damage to the ‘Exhaust Vent’ was to the outer plastic cowling, the metal vent pipe was un-damaged. It made me feel better, I was again glad to have been able to help fellow Motorhomers, even if it was something as simple as lending them a set of ladders.
Another new arrival was a very nice looking British registered ‘Dethleffs’ Motorhome owned by a Welsh couple, Paul and Carol. We exchanged the usual pleasantries, as you do, and we got chatting, again, as you do. They were a really lovely friendly couple and after exchanging stories about where we had been we discovered that they had just come from Gibraltar but had also previously stayed on an ACSI Campsite on the West Coast were they were able to get a Catamaran to visit Cadiz. So we exchanged details and GPS Coordinates about Aires and from that Shazza and I became re-vitalised and our ‘Adventurous’ wanderlust returned. We didn’t need to start heading North just yet, we had just read the BBC News and discovered that Northern Spain, part of the route we would be taking back up towards Santander, had been quite badly affected by Snow !! Also, it would be a shame to have Gibraltar on our doorstep and not visit it, it was after all just a little over Thirty miles down the road, what’s more, it had a ‘Morrissons‘ Supermarket, the smile came back on Shazzas face. I mean come on, The ‘Rock of Gibraltar‘ and a chance to see, in the flesh, the famous Apes that inhabit it, that we had only ever seen on TV Nature Documentaries, but no the smile was at the thought of visiting and shopping in a ‘British’ Supermarket !! We had made our decision, we would leave tomorrow………….