Week 6 – Sierra Nevada to Valencia


The drive down from the mountains was a little challenging – icy at the top and very windy roads – and trying to use as much engine braking as possible.  We made it down and stocked up at a supermarket then camped for a couple of nights outside Granada to allow us to take a bus in on the Saturday to explore the city.

Mels cold seems to be going at last, but it appeared to have mutated and gone on to me, converting from a normal cold to fully blown man-flu.  It must be true as I am getting more sympathy than I gave.  Our trip to Granada was hassle free on the bus, but we weren’t overly impressed with the city.  As it was chucking it down again we opted to have an afternoon chilling/sniffling in the van and planning the next few weeks and our way home.

The following morning we set off back to the south coast, then headed east towards the south-eastern point of Spain.  The road and scenery was interesting enough in places, but all the towns looked dire, and the majority of the view was of polythene-clad green houses.  Continuing on towards and into Parque Natural Cabo de Gata-Níjar, the scenery became a lot more picturesque.  Its description is quite difficult to communicate – a cross between stunning; picturesque; bleak and boring!  We ended up where we hoped where we were impressed with a little area right next to a tiny village, cove and beach joining around 4 Dutch vans though this had grown to a dozen or so by the morning.

After a lovely short walk, my man-flu got the better of me so we went back and I just had to get the duvet out.  “Feed a cold” the saying goes, so after some paracetamol, nurafen, chocolate brownies, crisps, chocolate bar, and a beer I was smothered with a blanked and visited the land of nod helped by soothing noises of the sea lapping the beach.

The morning was gorgeous, and the panoramic view we literally had from bed was stunning and I was feeling a bit better.  From hereon, we were unfortunately heading homewards with around 1,600 miles to do.  There didn’t seem to be much right in the south-east of Spain so we headed up towards Alicante via Cartagena for lunch.  The national park was lovely, but as before the villages and towns we went through looked very third-world and didn’t tempt us to stop.  Cartagena however was a great place for lunch and had a lot going for it – though not spectacular.

Alicante turned out to be about what we expected rather than what we hoped for.  We located our planned campsite and the pitch they expected us to pay for was about the size of a car park space right next to a railway line.  Needless to say we left and found a quiet spot to wild camp.  Judging by how many people were there – we are bemused why people lower their standards to stay in a naff site, in a naff place, and then stay there for a month!!   We had a 5 mile run along the beach (as I was still ill and needing sympathy) and still saw nothing to excite us, prompting us to move further north the following morning.

Our guide book described Benidorm as “vastly improved in recent years but top attractions are sex, sun and English pubs.  It is also reputed to have 1 of the top 10 beaches in the world”.  Didn’t sound too bad – so we ventured there and, well, Beni-dump is more appropriate.  It is almost completely made up of tower blocks with tacky shops on the ground floor.  The sex appeal of the vast majority was zero, and the best English pub seemed to be a concrete rendered “Rovers Return”.  Two good things about Benidump though was the fact they had a wakeboarding cable in the sea (unfortunately closed) and the roads were clear to allow a quick escape.  Maybe bikini-clad babes improve the place in the summer months.

Continuing rapidly to Calpe we needed to settle and fill up tanks and empty waste, so we found a brand new campsite and stayed there the night.  Unlike every other campsite in Spain (so far) this was superb.  Fairly small, but the facilities were great with hotel-sized bathrooms!  Calpe has a huge rock – Penyal d’Ifach which you can climb up.  Some of the path was challenging and the only saving grace was that it wasn’t wet and the rocks were grippy.  No barriers and in some places one false move and you’d have a 1000ft drop.  On reaching the top we had some light drizzle – just enough to make the way down “interesting”.  A great hike though and we lived to tell the tale.

Leaving Calpe and continuing north, we stopped at Denia for a picnic lunch.  This is another touristy town but without the tower blocks and with traditional character, and it made for a nice wander round and bit of shopping.  A lovely beach too, but the wind was a little chilly to get the kite out.  We then continued north towards Valencia looking for a spot to wild-camp for the night, and as such TomTom was routing us the interesting way.  We went through towns that were absolutely deserted – as if they were unused film sets, and others that were just shite, seeing very little to tempt us!  However, ended up lucky and found a really quiet spot about 20m from the beach in La Albufera with two German vans and pitched watching the waves for the evening.

We foolishly decided to go for an 11 mile run in the early morning, before the sun had really come up, and we think we had the British chill as it was absolutely freezing!  Not the most picturesque beach we’ve seen and after 5.5 miles we had run enough – but we had to do another 5.5 back!  We drove into Valencia – and regretted it!  The traffic was mental – around 8 lanes in places with the typical Spanish driving, and nowhere at all to park.  We eventually escaped then turned back in and found somewhere on the outskirts and caught the tram into the centre.  Completely knackered after our run, walking round Valencia was not ideal.  From what we saw though the city had a lot of nice areas and we did enjoy our tour.  Not stunning though, and sort of summarises our view of most cities!

We left finding a decent camping spot a bit late, and when we headed up the coast it was dark.  From what we could see though we still were not attracted to most of the areas we came across.  Clearly we’ve not fallen in love with Spain, but even so, not many places looked good enough to stay.  We’ve come up with the phase “Not Even Last Chance Dance Standard” to describe it!  We ended week 6 outside a campsite which sounds really pikey – and, well, it is, and it wasn’t my idea.  We arrived late and will be leaving early, so really can’t be bothered with checking in!

For our last full week away we plan to do different and explore some different parts of Spain before escaping the country for good.

CLICK HERE FOR WEEK 7

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