Last Wednesday we drove back down the mountain in search of some warmer weather.  (The nights in Granada are bloomin’ cold and breakfast outside required me to wear both hat and gloves.)(Makes you kind of nostalgic for Iceland in August…) 

1 Scenery 1

2 Scenery 2

3 Scenery 3

4 Scenery 4

The route was truly beautiful at first but as we drove along the coast the landscape became almost alien; the land was literally covered with polythene greenhouses. 

5 Plastic 1

6 Plastic 2

Every square cm has them, right up to any towns.  It could put you off the area, but it is wonderfully mild and sunny here and you can’t see them in the coastal strip.  We camped a few km from Almería in an absolutely massive campsite near Roquetas del Mar; there are about 1000 pitches.  There are lots of friendly travellers and we have just spent a great evening with a couple called Anne and Gary who are living full time in their camper van with their two beautiful huskies Sasha and Ellie. 

7 Husky family

They have a rather sweet story.  They used to be massively overweight and they met via a website for people with similar problems.  They fell in love, got married, bought the dogs and have since had to exercise them several times a day.  As a consequence they have both lost loads of weight.  I don’t think that story would work well in a flamenco song!  We ended up cooking them a curry and carrying it halfway across the campsite to eat with them in their motor home.  They did like the food, so it was worth it.

On Friday we cycled into the local town of Roquetas de Mar, a nice 5km cycle, much of which was on a cycle path.  There is a lovely little fort there, much of which has been reconstructed and now is used as a very pleasant art gallery. 

8 fort

The Bromptons continued to provide hilarity for the locals.

There was also a display that showed how the town has developed from a poor fishing village to the prosperous place it is today.  Apparently the local hills were covered with trees, which all got chopped down.  This caused major erosion, hence the lovely beaches.  In the 60s they discovered how to use sand mulching, drip watering and plastic green houses to grow tons of vegetables.  The other thing that really helps is that, although it hardly ever rains here (I keep on hoping, anyway), there is a vast aquifer to supply the region.

You can probably sense that we are moving less as time goes on.  This is due to two things; we have visited all the places we knew we wanted to and, now we have found such nice weather, it looks a lot less inviting to move on, because the only way forward is wetter!  The people at the campsite were all really friendly and Tim had a great time playing pool with several of them.  It is a constant with the travelling people that we meet that they are warm, friendly and interested in other people.

After a couple of seriously lazy days (OK, we both were into books that we didn’t want to put down) involving lovely weather, a little gentle exercise

10 Beach at roquetas

9 beach roquetas

and visits to the bar every evening(the sun goes down before 6 and we must sort out some decent lighting, because it is not the most fun thing to do, sitting in the dark for several hours a day) we headed back up north to just north of Valencia.  We drove over 250 miles and the whole route was lined by plastic green houses, open vegetable fields and orange groves for as far as the eye can see. 

11 crops 1

If you have ever wondered why so much vegetable matter comes from Spain, check out Google Earth for this area.  There much be money in it, as we saw several really huge new greenhouses going up.

The route varied between spectacular

12 motorway

13 Motorway cut

14 cool rocks

and Benidorm.  Now I know where all my former prejudice about Spain came from. Yuck! 

15 Benidorm

Tim said this was a Fascist symbol, used by the Nationalist Falangists.

16 Facists

We found a campsite about 25 miles north of Valencia, near a nice little town called Moncofa. 

17 street Moncofa

The campsite has very few people here at the moment, but most of those are Brits.  It’s very friendly; our neighbours gave us a cup of tea before we even got the tent up!  The bar seems to run on English time- it actually shuts at 8.  It does, however, have the nicest pool I have come across on this trip and it’s still functioning!

18camoing Moncofa

19 cool pool

We took the Bromptons out for a spin, finding both Moncofa Playa and the next beach town of El Grau de Nules.  It was a bit unnerving as both places seemed to be almost totally deserted. 

There are literally miles of apartment blocks that show no sign of life whatsoever.  There was one bar and that was closed (despite boasting that it was open all year), and it was not until we got very close to Moncofa itself that we found anything open at all.

This Wednesday, after an abortive attempt to find a cycle path that should have taken us to another local town for the market, we explored the other way down the coast.  Moncofa has the most annoying one way system, where they alternate directions which each successive road.  It gives the impression that the person that is in charge of local signage has a relative that runs a sign company.  As we got to the far end of town, it became even stranger.  There is this huge great grid of roads, with a complex one way system, street lights, cycle paths and nothing in between them.  The whole area looks massively over developed and someone must have got a huge wadge of dosh to build roads. 

21 Ghost town

You just keep on waiting for the tumble weeds to roll on by….  (I gather the whole place is very different in the summer).  We headed back into the centre of town for (guess what) beer and tapas and I talked Tim out of stealing the wheels off the police Discovery 3 (Camel already owns 9 wheels, how many “boots” does a girl need?)

22 wheels

On Thursday we actually listened to the directions to the cycle path and had a lovely ride through orange groves to the nearby town of Nules. 

24 orange grove cycle path

It’s a really nice little place with some beautiful churches and fountains.  Yeh, OK, the beer and tapas were pretty good too!

25 Nules

We passed a large system of concrete irrigation channels, which look like they have been superseded by drip feed piping, but the local heron population really seem to like them.

26 heron

When the channels reached the sea we were once again confronted by huge numbers of nearly empty buildings.

27 dead zone

28 Bromptons in the dead zone

We have been much luckier with the weather over the last week and I have to keep on reminding myself that it is less than a month until Christmas……

29 shepherds warning