La Duquesa to Coria (337 Miles)
It was inevitable, we knew we would have to start making our way North sooner rather than later, we were hoping that it would be later and had already extended our stay at Camping Bella Vista twice, and yes we did try for a further two-day extension, unfortunately the pitch had been pre-booked so alas our time here had come to an end. However, although somewhat reluctant to leave we knew that we would be back here again in eight months, that would be a definite !!
So we put Plan ‘A’ into operation, it would entail quite a long drive, one of around 240 miles, or so. After a brief stop to top up with Diesel and LPG at ‘Los Barrios’, only around 24 miles away, we would head for one of the two free ‘Aires’ at ‘Zafra‘, the place where we should have stopped ten days ago during their ‘Iberico Pork Festival’, we were going to be ‘a bit late for the party’ but perhaps we may still have been able to purchase some of their wonderful ‘Iberico Ribs’ and have our own meat feast !!
We were pretty familiar with our route up to Seville, let’s face it, we had driven these same roads several times over the last few months ! We were also pretty familiar with the Repsol service station at Los Barrios, so we knew exactly which row of pumps to head for, there is only one row that also has the ‘Auto Gas’ pump. We didn’t actually need to top up with LPG, but as we are discovering in this nomadic lifestyle, a bit like fulltime Liveaboards on boats, who, whenever fresh water is available, whether required or not, still top up as you just never know how long it will be until the next opportunity arises, well the same applies to LPG. I was a bit surprised when it took 8 Litres as I hadn’t thought that we used even that much since last topping up. However, it has been a bit chilly at night so we have used the gas to give the heating a bit of a boost now and again as well as using the oven a little more, at least now we know we are full again and as our last few days are going to be using ‘Aires’, where we will be reliant on the LPG to power the Fridge, Freezer, Hob, Grill, Oven, Water Boiler and Space Heating, we won’t have to worry about running out !! I have also planned in a final LPG re-fill before we leave Spain, it’s cheaper over here than UK so it makes sense to fill the tanks on this side of the Channel.
To prevent us from getting bored on our long journey, as usual Shazza had made some sandwiches and I had made the flask of Coffee, but also on today’s picnic menu was a special treat, we had stopped by the English Butchers at the Marina and picked up some of their gorgeous sausage rolls, when I say ‘picked up’, I don’t mean that we ‘shoplifted’ them, we did pay for them !! Had I have known how our travel itinerary for the day was going to pan out I think I would have purchased a few more and got Shazza to make ‘more’ sandwiches than she did !
Now you know that I have a ‘OCD’ (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) in relation to planning, Shazza doesn’t do planning, in fact she makes it up as she goes along and she hates the fact that I ‘must‘ have a plan and quite often she surreptitiously attempts to ‘scupper‘ them at every opportunity, in fact, I am now of the belief that even if it was a perfect plan that she knew was logical and practical, she would ‘sabotage‘ it anyway, just because it was ‘a plan‘, something that had been thought about instead of something that just happened !! Well today, she didn’t just ‘sabotage‘ my well thought out plan, she totally ‘annihilated’ it !!
The original Plan was to drive to the ‘Aire’ at Zafra, and as we would already have eaten our picnic lunch en-route, after a quick Cuppa we would spend the afternoon exploring the town, stay the night and move on in the morning. We were making good time and had left Seville behind us, we were headed up the non-toll Motorway (A66) when Shazza announced ‘Plan B’. “Do you really want to go to Zaffra” she blurted out, “Why, don’t you ?” I responded. “Well, we have already missed the festival and it only looks like a small town” she said, I knew there was more to come so I kept quiet. “I know we hadn’t planned to stop at Merida this time, but you said you would have liked to look at it as it was bigger and it had a river running through it”. She was right, before she had scuppered my previous plan when we were leaving Seville, the one where we should have been heading North but somehow ended up on the Costa del Sol, three hundred miles in the wrong direction, I had made a plan whereby after Zafra we would stop three nights on an Aire in Merida. But now we didn’t have the time if she still wanted to spend a few days at Salamanca, we had a ferry to catch in just five days time !! I thought about her suggestion for a minute or two and discounted it, it was already going to be a long day driving to Zafra, to travel further would have meant that we would have got to Merida later and I certainly would have been too tired by then to want to start exploring the town. “I have thought about that“, she said, “We could cut Salamanca down to just two nights and have two nights in Merida, that way you could rest up today and have a whole day to explore the place tomorrow“. This was a great idea, a well thought through plan, too well thought through to be just one of those ‘on the spur’ of the moment’ kind of ideas, but it would have been a pointless exercise trying to get Shazza to confess to at just what point this plan had been hatched, so I just suggested that she should perhaps re-programme ‘Snoopy‘, a broad grin stretching from one ear to the other appeared on her face.
It wasn’t a bad drive, in fact with the sun shining, a beautiful blue sky, magnificent scenery and virtually traffic free Motorway it was a very relaxing journey but after five hours behind the wheel I would certainly be ready to stop driving for the day.
The ‘Aire’, according to our ‘Camperstop Guide’, was very close to the centre of the town and it had all the usual Motorhome Services, however it would cost us €13.25 a night (£10.80), quite expensive I thought for a ‘basic’ Aire, especially as that didn’t include any EHU. However, it was basically in the centre of the town and I reasoned that we had been prepared to spend another €58 at Camping Bella Vista, had our pitch been available for another couple of days, so we were in fact saving some money and it was only €1.25 over our ‘actual’ daily budget for nightly accommodations. ‘Snoopy’ guided us directly to where we were supposed to be with no ‘brown trouser’ moments. It was a car park, a car park with barriers and a ticket machine. We saw one other Motorhome parked up but as we pulled up to the ticket machine a chap in a green ‘High Vis’ jacket approached ‘Big Momma’ and in ‘Spanglish’ explained that we could only stay until Twenty Two, which I interpreted as him meaning 10pm. I checked my understanding that this meant we could not sleep overnight and he confirmed it by saying “Si, no sleeping“. We asked him if he knew where we could stay overnight and he told us of a Campsite about 3km away, he gave us general directions and then raised the barrier to permit us to go in to the car park, turn around and then exit again. So we were now on to ‘Plan C’, fortunately the campsite he had directed us to was an ACSI site which was already pre-programmed into ‘Snoopy’. However, when we arrived at the site, although it was open for business, a sign directed us to pitch up and to call at the bar/restaurant later that evening to pay. It didn’t look open, the place was empty apart from two, less than salubrious looking, caravans parked up, we drove out again !!
Okay so now we needed a rather hasty ‘Plan D’, we were about an hour away from Caceres, we knew there was an Aire there, in the centre of the town, although we had visited the town on last year’s Winter Trip and didn’t plan on the need for a return visit, we were rapidly running out of time, we were both getting tired and these two things combined, which we knew from previous experience can lead to, well let’s just call them ‘In cab frosty moments‘ !! ‘Snoopy’ was once again re-programmed !! It was as if there had been some ‘ESP’ (Extra Sensory Perception) going on between us as we both sat silently staring out of the windows, our moods beginning to darken. I didn’t really fancy making my way into what was a fairly big and busy town only to find the possibility of a fifteen space parking area fully occupied and then having to make my way out again, neither as it happens did Shazza. Between us we hatched a joint ‘Plan E’, we would come off the Motorway just above Caceres and join the ‘N630’, we could see a rather large ‘reservoir’ on the road map, we had empty ‘Grey’ and ‘Black’ tanks and a full tank of ‘Fresh’ water and full LPG so we would look for a place by the water’s edge and ‘Wildcamp’, our moods lifted and there was a certain excitement again, we loved Wildcamping and we hadn’t done any for quite a while now, we even talked about staying for a couple of nights and even getting the opportunity to get ‘Kevin’ out on the water again.
We saw the reservoir from some way off before we even got close to it, the sun was still shining, the external temperature gauge showed that it was still a very pleasant 16 degrees(c) and I already had a mental image in my mind, both of us sat at the water’s edge, outside ‘Big Momma’ in our sun chairs in the evening sunshine with a glass of ‘grape juice’, of the red variety of course.
It was going to be ‘one of those days’. We turned off the main ‘N630’ onto one of those ‘Yellow’ roads, as my human navigatoress refers to them, and sure enough we were driving tantalizingly close the sparkling blue water, there were a number of tracks leading down to where we wanted to be but there was just one problem, one of the ‘tools’ that I had omitted to bring with me was a ‘bolt cropper’, to cut through the padlocks securing the gated entry points all marked ‘Private’ !! We drove the full length of the reservoir hoping to find just one ungated track, but the road eventually wound its way up and away from our dream location for the night. That was it, we had both had enough for one day, anywhere would do now, even a lay-by on the side of the road, the one thing that the Spanish do not appear to have many of are lay-by’s !! Eventually we came across the town of ‘Coria’ with its large hillside Cathedral dominating the surrounding landscape, as we crossed the bridge over the river that leads into the town we looked down and saw a large parking area along the river, we decided to take a closer look. What we found was a very acceptable ‘Wildcamping’ spot, right next to the river and at the foot of the town, we were overlooked by the Cathedral that towered above us.
It had been a long day, but Seven hours and 337 miles and eventually we had found a place to rest our weary bones……………. Okay ! Rewind that last bit, Shazza put the kettle on and after drinking a lovely mug of hot, strong ‘PG Tips’ tea she suggested that we both go for a walk !! This woman is a sadist, all I wanted to do was stretch out on the sofa and relax, I could see that it was time to put my foot down, we’ll both feet actually as I put my walking shoes on………………… !!
As impressive as the Cathedral and walled town are, ‘Coria‘ is not famed for this ancient bit of historical architecture, it is famous, only in this region of Spain, for the annual running of the ‘Torres‘, the ‘Bulls’, not quite as famous I think as the one at ‘Pamplona’ but each year, you can, if you feel brave enough, run the streets of ‘Coria’ and try to evade a couple of sharp horns been shoved up your ‘Jacksie’ by a few tonnes of raging beef !!
So, after a long drive, a long walk uphill, a tour of the Cathedral and walled town and a stroll into the new part of the town it was time to ‘hobble’ back down the hill to ‘Big Momma’, have our evening meal and collapse into bed……………………………..