Sunday, 10 February 2019

Winter Sun Spain & Portugal 2019. Despenaperros. Part 3

We finally made it to the mountains after a longish drive through some interesting Spanish countryside. We had a booking with the camp site in the mountains for the next 7 nights as all the coastal sites were full. 

The DespeƱaperros Natural Park is a magnificent sheer-walled rocky river gorge that forms the backdrop of the most dramatic gateway into Andalucia. As the only natural break in the 500km-long Sierra Morena, it used to be one of the main routes into Andalucia from the north and Madrid. Today it is occupied by the A4 motorway and the Cadiz-Madrid railway line. Despenaperros literally means "cliff where dogs plunge".

Camping Despenaperros is usually used as an en route stop so we didn't have high expectations! The site was easy to find and in an attractive spot in the Despenaperros mountains north of Jaen, south of Madrid, in a small very Spanish village called Santa Elena.

Short dash cam of our arrival.

The entrance to the site was said to be difficult for larger units we are only 6.3 m so sailed in. The site was very quiet with a few permanent caravans and half a dozen cabins. We were given a spot under the trees with our own water tap.

The site is a two minute walk into the village and surrounded by olive groves on one side and the mountains on the other. We have found ourselves on our own most of the day with one or two overnight stoppers at around 5 to 6 pm. The site is very rural with loads of birds and amazingly silent at night.

View out across the olive groves.

Towards the mountains.

The toilet and showers have been  really good with very hot water though somewhat chilly in the mornings. Washing up is out side but OK. 

We did wonder how we would while away 7 nights here but we have been out walking most days. The paths surrounding the campsite go out into the national park.

A beautiful walk through the trees.

One day we found the local museum which explained so clearly the reasons for the Crusades. A huge and deciding battle was fought here between the Christian and Muslim troops in 1212.The museum explains the history.

We were the only people there and we had a great time looking around. The museum curator was very friendly. The museum had a tower that looked right out across the battlefields. Some of the soldiers were still lying there.

View out across the valley towards Santa Elena.

We have been so surprised at how fast 7 nights have flown. We have done all our shopping locally with fresh bread from the village shop and a few vinos in at a typically Spanish bar. All the locals have been very friendly although not much English spoken here.

Even Den now has a vocabulary of three Spanish words vino tinto & blanco. I actually understood how much the bread was this morning without looking at the till.

Across the road from the site is an hotel. We ate there on our first night and had a lovely meal. Tonight we will sample more food. Anyone for deer burgers??

As an en route stop Despenaperros is well worth it. Not sure if I would want to spend another whole week here but two nights would be perfect, or three if you really needed peace and tranquillity.

Tomorrow another hike to the coast and our third stop Castillo de Banus on the Costa Tropical. We have had some beautiful weather here in the mountains with some days hitting 20 C+ and no rain. Lets hope the coast lives up to expectations. 18 nights for the next stop, so sun ordered please.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Winter Sun 2019 Spain and Portugal. Rio Formosa. Part 2

We arrived at Rio Formosa not quite sure what to expect. It was a very tidy site all on gravel. As we had booked through the Camping & Caravanning Club we were allocated two pitches which meant we could park sideways and we still had plenty of room. 

The entrance to the campsite was very secure you could only leave or enter with a card.

Easy to find and the campsite directions were good.

We were really pleased we had been booked in, as the site was full.

The site was populated by a variety of people in all kinds of units. Some had been there since October and were very tanned. Things were looking up! The toilet block, one of two, was fine with really hot water. There were inside and outside washing up sinks and a good laundry. The swimming pool was well maintained and open every day not that it was quite warm enough to swim in.

 The site had a restaurant which was open most days except on the day of our arrival!

Lots of gravel and paving slabs but this was tempered by the greenery, olive and orange trees amongst them.

We settled the van in and went for an explore. The site is on the edge of a small village Cabanas de Tavera which is about a 10 minute walk down the road. By the beach it was beautifully sheltered and usually very warm. We spent a few happy hours in the bars and walking on the boardwalk, pretty well populated with happy Brit holiday retirees. 

Fishing boats in the harbour. To get to the beach you had to catch a water taxi. Sadly they don't run in January. We will have to visit again! 

Most of the time it was warm enough during the day for shorts and tee shirts although the cold wind at the site did make the evening and early mornings seem chilly. In the village was a well stocked supermarket, a bread shop and a great butchers shop. We were so well set up that after the initial stock up at a local Lidl on the way in, we didn't need to go out shopping . Other campers who didn't want the bother of driving caught the train to Tavira as the station was next door to Lidl, very handy.

The little church of Santa Maria. Mass in Portugese was shall we say, "an experience". Not sure what the sermon was about but it seemed very up lifting.

The nearest big town of Tavira was just about walking distance from the site using a rather wobbly bridge. 

An interesting concept in the days of the Elf & Safety Elves. There was a kind of barrier but no safety notices. Most people climbed over and as it was a bike track walked the bikes over. We watched a whole Dutch party of walkers crossing. We made it safely!

Beneath the wonky bridge they were digging in the river. Something tasty for dinner perhaps??

The walk across the salt flats took us just over an hour.  It was actually a lovely walk through the open expanse of the salt flats and incredibly quiet.

Not masses to do in Tavira but a nice bridge, restaurants, castle and bars. 2 euros for two glasses of wine.

The high spot of Tavira the town centre.

A little light refreshment here an Irish pub no less, excellent food.

The another attraction in Tavira, the castle and museum complete with rebuilt tower of course.

A shady spot in the castle gardens.

The quickest way  to Tavira was by train, two stops down the line at the massive cost of 4 Euros 50, return for two. The train station was a five minute walk from the camp.

We soon got into a routine. Breakfast, coffee and shopping in the village, lunch and a walk or bike ride in the afternoon. We caught the train into Tavira and spent a happy few hours wandering around the town and sampling the local cuisine. We ate at local restaurants a few times and the campsite did an excellent lunch for 7 euros 50 including a drink and coffee.

Our two weeks at Rio Formosa flew by. It seemed we were busy every day. The weather was lovely I think we only really had one wet day. There were loads of easy local walks and we managed a few miles every day so we didn't feel too lazy.

One of our favourite strolls through the back lanes to the beach.

All too soon time to leave we were off to our next stop in the mountains for a week. Let's hope the sun stays shining!