Estepona – Gibraltar – El Puerto de Santa Maria (120 Miles)
As has become quite normal, we were in no rush to leave our Campsite this morning. The internal temperature gauge reflected that inside the van it was just over six degrees, the coldest morning yet ! So, on went the kettle and with it the heating and then back under the duvet until we heard the ‘click’ of the kettle. Sometimes we will just lay there, hoping that the ‘other’ person will get out from under the lovely warmth of the bed covers to do the honours, if I am lucky enough, Shazza needs the ‘loo’ so she then makes the drinks but if she has ‘already been’ then she is prepared to wait it out because she knows I will get up rather than wait for the water to go cold, fortunately for me, on this particular morning she had not had occasion to make an early visit !! The sun was shining and the sky was blue and cloudless, it was going to be a warm, if not hot, day today.
Our young neighbours must have decided on an early day trip somewhere, the blinds on all their windows were up but there was no sign of either of them. Once we had got ‘Big Momma’ sorted Shazza went to pay the bill and when she returned she Supervised me getting off the tree-lined pitch unscathed. We were just about to pull away when an elderly chap appeared at the side cab window, he was enquiring as to the location of the ‘Black Waste’ point and although he didn’t recognise us, I instantly recognised him. You may recall me mentioning, shortly after we had arrived at the Campsite in Agadir, a French-Canadian lady called ‘Danielle’, well this was her husband. Once I had reminded him of who we were, and where we had met, he remembered and so there was a bit of a delay whilst we had a ‘quick’ catch-up, it really is a small world isn’t it ? We bade our farewells to them and waved goodbye to Paul and Carol and then it was straight on to the ‘AP7’ and heading the relatively short distance to Gibraltar.
It should be quite straightforward getting to Gibraltar, and for most people it probably is, but most people don’t have ‘Snoopy’, who it seems is a ‘typical’ female, cannot resist having a look around the shops when the opportunities present themselves, even if the roads leading to those shops are a bit narrower than is really comfortable, I can only think that ‘Snoopy’ thinks that ‘Big Momma’ is a ‘Size 8’, whereas in reality she is actually nearer to a ‘Size 14’ !! We did reach our destination unscathed and sheer good luck had everything to do with that, on checking the route ‘out’ again we shall certainly be giving ‘Big Momma’ a little more expansion allowance !
Our night halt, or perhaps it may be two, we haven’t yet decided, is the car park of the local football stadium on the outskirts of ‘La Linea’ (GPS N: 36.15900 W: 005.33942) which has no Motorhome facilities and costs €3 per night. It is within a walled and fenced area and has great sea views. There were already a handful of vans parked up, of all Nationalities, including a large RV and even a Caravan being towed by a monster 4×4 vehicle. A chap comes around early evening to collect payment. There is an alternative location, ‘Marina La Linea’, that provides Motorhome Service Facilities (Fresh Water, Grey and Black water waste) and costs €12 per night (GPS N: 36d 09′ 20.21″ W: 05d 21′ 15.13″), we chose the Football ground parking area as we had left the Campsite with all our on-board facilities full or empty, as appropriate.
After lunch we decided to walk to the ‘Border Crossing’ and explore Gibraltar, it was a very pleasant 15-20 minute ‘stroll’ to the border, where there is nothing more than a cursory glance at your passports. Once onto ‘British’ territory we had a choice, walk across the Airport Runway and into the town or catch a bus that was conveniently waiting, a mere €3 (each) for a return ticket, we elected the less economical route !! We were already disappointed as there was a sign at the border crossing point that stated that the ‘Cable Car’ up the ‘Rock‘, where we could have seen the ‘Barbary Apes’, was closed due to maintenance, well I guess it was Winter and they have to service it at some point. Now you know by now what Shazza and I are like, if there is an easy way to do something or a hard way to do it we always seem to choose the latter, not a conscious decision most of the time, mostly due to either a lack of Prior Preparation and Planning or, as in this case, sheer utter stupidity. If in a strange place and you get off a ‘full‘ bus the logical direction to take would be the same one that the majority of the other passengers were taking. But no, not us intrepid explorers, we chose to follow a route where no other ‘tourists‘ chose to tread, and after about fifteen minutes we began to understand why, because it led to the Dock Gates of the ‘working’ port !! However, in our defence, we did manage to ‘stumble upon‘ the ‘Morrissons’ Superstore without the aid of a map or by having to ask anyone for directions. Not that it would have been difficult to find as most of the street signage pointed to ‘Superstore’, so, not wishing to labour too long on that small point, I shall swiftly move on……….
Although Gibraltar is a relatively small lump of ‘rock’, there is probably more of it going in an upwards direction than anywhere else, there is still quite a lot of things to see and it would have been a better idea to have taken one of the numerous mini-bus ‘Rock Tours’ in a group, something we may do on another visit. We would certainly like to return and do some of the touristy stuff, go and view the ‘100 Ton Gun’, ‘Europa Point and Trinity Lighthouse‘, ‘St Michael’s Cave‘ and the ‘Great Siege Tunnels‘. But for today we satisfied ourselves with a walk along the extremely busy ‘Main Street‘ with its plethora of pavement restaurants and bars, pubs with typically ‘British‘ names, the usual array of ‘Branded‘ stores with names that we are used to seeing on any UK high street as well as all the customary ‘tourist tat‘ shops. We were not too interested in most of them, however, there were a couple that we just had to pop our heads into, the first was one of the many ‘Duty Free‘ shops, I had run out of my brand of ‘English‘ cigarettes weeks ago and had been smoking ‘Marlborough‘, which quite seriously should only ever have to be smoked by our friends ‘across the pond‘ who, according to the advertisements for that particular brand, wear Stetsons, ride horses and rustle cattle for a living !! In the UK ‘my‘ brand of cigarettes would cost over £8 per packet, but over here they are a mere £2.60 !! The other good purchase was a One Litre bottle of ‘Black Grouse’ whisky at only £9.45, well it would have been rude not to have partaken of these generous acts of hospitality wouldn’t it !!
The ‘other‘ store that stuck out a dirty great big hand, grabbed us both by the scruff of the neck and dragged us in kicking and screaming was ‘Marks & Spencer’s‘, we were not interested in the clothing department just the ‘Foodhall‘. Even when we are in the UK, although we do the bulk of our grocery shopping in one or tuther of the ‘other‘ main stores, there were a few little ‘luxury‘ items that we sometimes liked to purchase from ‘M&S’. This particular food hall was not very large so some of our ‘little‘ luxuries were not available, but we managed to console ourselves with the purchase of the odd packet of this, the odd box of that and a nice selection of ‘Chinese‘ bits and pieces to make our own little ‘take-away‘ for our evening meal. When I say the ‘odd packet or box’, translated into Shazza speak that means a shopping bag ‘full‘ !! We never did bother going back to ‘Morrissons’.
We walked back along the line of wall to wall retailers and found ourselves in ‘Casemates Square‘ a big Square with lots of pavement Cafe’s and of course the obligatory ‘Burger King’, well it has to be either that or a Macdonald’s establishment doesn’t it. However, they do offer free WiFi, if you count buying a coffee as getting it for free, but we didn’t have any WiFi back at the van so it served a useful purpose. It was only when we left the square to go in search of our bus back to the border crossing point that we discovered our earlier stupidity, as we left the square through some arches, there, right in front of us, was the bus station, had we have followed the hoards off the bus when we had first arrived, then this is where we would have found ourselves, right in the main shopping and tourist area. But just think of all those people who will never know how to get to the front gates of the working port like me and Shazza !!
It had been a pleasant sunny and quite warm afternoon and it made for a pleasant walk back to ‘Big Momma’ but when we got back there were two very noticeable differences, their were a great deal more Motorhomes parked up than there were when we left and the football ground car park was filling up with cars !! The stadium floodlights were all lit so we wondered whether their was going to be an Evening match, that may have been worth watching, a bit of entertainment that would have made a nice change from watching ‘BBC World News‘, we had already watched most of our DVD’s. It was not to be, whilst their was an evening training session in progress, most of the occupants of the cars were heading for the small Bar/Restaurant which was ‘inconveniently’ located right behind where we had parked, it could be a sleepless night !
It was whilst I was updating our daily expenditure sheet on the financial spreadsheet that I realised we had come to the end of yet another four-week (28 day) budget period. Up until this month we had been doing extremely well on all of our individual ‘budget pots‘, coming in well under our allocated allowances, however the ‘Moroccan Incident‘ was going to blow that out of the water but I was keen to see the overall impact on the total trip budget. I set about doing the calculations and again we were under budget on every ‘pot‘ except for the one headed ‘Personal Expenditure‘, the one where the costs of the repairs was taken out of, as we didn’t have a dedicated pot for ‘Maintenance‘. That particular ‘Column‘ did not make very good reading, however, there was good news, as once I had calculated what our overall budget allowance was for the Twenty weeks (140 days), against our ‘actual‘ expenditure, we were still running at £642 ‘under‘ budget, we tried not to dwell for too long on the fact that that could have read nearly £2,000 !!
Fortunately, the cars and their occupants dispersed at a very sociable hour, well before 10pm, however, shortly after we had decided to have an early night ourselves, three cars parked up, not right next to us but only about ten metres away. They parked virtually side by side and all wound their windows down to engage in conversation, we could tell from the voices emanating from their direction that they were both male and female occupants and relatively young. Now I do not know if it is just a Spanish trait, but when they talk, even when stood just arm lengths apart, they tend to shout at each other. These youngsters didn’t get out of their cars, we were not concerned for our safety at all but there was no way that we were going to get a peaceful nights sleep until they had gone, which wasn’t until well after 02:00am !!
We did not wake up until 09:30am and it was to the sound of rain falling on ‘Big Mommas’ roof, I looked out of the window when I went to turn on the heating and put the kettle on, the sky was filled with grey foreboding clouds, we would not be venturing back onto ‘the Rock’ today. Whilst we sat in bed drinking our coffee we set about conjuring up ‘Plan B’, as days to do were getting few we didn’t want to waste any just sat around doing nothing, especially on a car park with no facilities and very limited Solar. Paul and Carol, the Welsh couple we met at the campsite at Estepona, had very kindly given us the Coordinates for a ACSI Campsite at ‘El Puerto de Santa Maria‘ and from here it was possible to take either a train or a catamaran across to ‘Cadiz‘, so the decision was made, we would leave the South East Coastline and travel the couple of hours across to the West coast again.
Although ‘Camping Las Dunas‘ is a site right on the periphery of the town, I certainly hadn’t intended to get too close and personal with the very small and narrow streets within the town centre in ‘Big Momma’, however, ‘Snoopy’ had an almighty brain fart and had decided otherwise, this was not quite in the same proportions as my now infamous ‘Portimao Experience‘ but believe me it is now running as a very, very, close second biggest ever ‘Brown Trouser’ moment !! I do fully intend to return all the hats, babies, shop signage, street signs and the odd motor scooter that I collected on my wing mirrors on my way through, unless that is, that the Police catch up with me first, then I am sure that they can be all collected from their lost property office !! It was just not going to be my day for relaxed driving experiences, we somehow managed to arrive, totally unscathed from our mobile sightseeing trip of the town centre to the entrance of the campsite. Now for ‘Ferry‘ administrative purposes I have to record ‘Big Mommas’ height as 3.5 metres, she is actually only 3.2 metres, which includes the ‘Sat Dome’, the archway over the site entrance stated a height clearance of 3.3 metres, it was at this point that I started to pray that I had got my measurements correct and that the people who had erected the arch were also just as meticulous with the accuracy of their measurements !! I inched forward very slowly, expecting at any moment to hear that horrible sound, the one like fingernails being dragged across a chalk board, as Sat Dome and concrete came into contact with each other, but fortunately, with what was literally only centimetres of daylight between the two, we emerged the other side, once again unscathed.
We were guided to a parking area, I cannot call it a ‘pitch’, due to heavy rain here over the last few days a lot of the ‘normal’ designated pitching areas had been flooded, however we were put onto a good-sized Hardstanding area with a convenient EHU point.
Although it was now sunny again, their was a definite chill in the air, but we decided to take a stroll outside the site, just across the road was a nice promenade and a beach area, this would be a very popular site in the summer months.
We had come here for one reason and that was because we wanted to go across the small stretch of water to ‘Cadiz’. I hadn’t realised that Cadiz was an Island joined to the mainland by a road and rail bridge but there are no Motorhome parking areas in Cadiz, for vehicles as large as ‘Big Momma’, so this site was conveniently located. We could take a train across to Cadiz but we have elected to take a ‘Catamaran’ which is only a Twenty minute walk from the site and at only €5 (each) for a return ticket it is pretty good value. Paul and Carol, who had told us about this site, had also told us that the local town was well worth a visit, so we shall take some time to explore that whilst we are here……………..