Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Moving on Again

We’ve spent five days at a site south of Alicante. If nothing else it’s taught us never to take advice from people twenty years older than ourselves. Especially if those people drive a land yacht with a satellite dish, have a dog, or are from the north ... oh and if they read the Daily Mail or Daily Express or The Sun and then offer you their cast off news papers from two days before.

Why? Because they didn’t come here to explore and because their goals and desires are going to be wildly different from ours. Twice we’ve been led to believe where were going was lovely; and it is. If you want to do bugger all but sit next to your wagon when the sun shines, have golf lessons with Miguel the local Pro, play Petanque in your racially pure clique in your allotted time slot under the watchful gaze of Zee Commandant. Walk your horrible yappy little ankle biting bastard dog along the off season beach, gleeful that the little bastard can lay dogs eggs all over the sand and you don’t have to worry about picking up his stinking little hand warmers in a small polythene bag (they are supposed to they just don’t ... it’s Spain; dogshit on the beach is ... well not my problem I’m going home in March), or do more line dancing lessons with craggy the Ex-Redcoat singer from Solihull who migrated to Espania in the 80’s, to become permanently orange and inflict her dreadful singing voice on foreign or rapidly going deaf ears because she had not a cats hope in hell of joining a chorus line in Britain, let alone becoming the British equivalent of Dolly Parton. The downside is she has to teach the deaf old bastards a rudimentary set of: back, forward, round and round, and side to side steps, but all the olds want to do is talk about how Miguel `has a twinkle in his eye’, and if they were thirty or forty years younger they’d blow him so hard his eyes would pop out. While the men begrudgingly step along because the one I refer to as craggy in their wizened rheumy eyes looks like a goddess in spandex ... like that bird who used to do the fitness thing on breakfast TV.

Seriously why the PA has to be so loud is beyond me ... I did wonder if the Brits were being held against their will and her singing was a way of covering the sound of tunnelling, but now I think it’s just her way of venting her spleen on the innocent as well as the guilty.

The commandant of this predominantly German site says that if our papers are all in order vee may leeve vis zee other Britishers tomorrow, as long as vee don’t return ... or vee vill be shot as spies ... At least the Germans wear nice outdoor clothes and generally resist the urge to trowel on ze makeup, and by and large (at this site) don’t respond to hello in any other language but zee Deutch, preferring the Teutonic version of `copping a deaf’un’.

From now on we will nod and ignore. This site is fabulous for what it is and I’d be a liar if I didn’t say I haven’t enjoyed the downtime or the on-site indoor pool and spa complex which is equal to anything back home ... it being brand new may have helped. However just a look at some of the fit and finish and you know in a year or two, the shower heads will be hanging off the walls (one already is), the grout will be out from between the tiles, and all the screws that are showing the early signs of rust will have stained the glorious ceramics red brown. Sounds cynical, but that’s the facts. So we’re happy we caught it at its best but I doubt we’ll ever return.

The problem with taking advice from olds is that they aren’t looking for historical sites, rugged and jaw dropping landscapes and new experiences. They’re looking for looking for a site with a gate, lots of other olds, a line dancing class with a woman who spends the summer doing cabaret in a local bar and a dog wash.

As an aside; reading two day old newspapers from Britain just goes to show how much of a `down’ the British Press has on Britain. And how much the press seems to want the British to be miserable ... and in particular during the season of `enough fucking misery already’ being winter. Utter utter bastards.

We’ve hit the Costa Blanca, didn't really want to, but it's an enormous leap to dive straight past. About 4 kilometres north from here just 29 kilometres south of Alicante is a reserve and salt production facility, 8 kilometres further north from the salt flats, is a small provincial town. The salt flats and ponds are epic, there are Flamingos and Egrets and all sorts of other birds. The ponds range in colour from crystalline white to pink to green and a myriad of shades in between. But this is Costa Blanca, so while there are hides to stand on and see the sites, the gates are closed the place is ring fenced and if it was once open to the public then it isn’t anymore. This area (in my opinion) hasn’t awoken to the tourist looking for more than a strip of sand by the sea, or if it did the idea was killed by the recession. The road between the town and here is a non-toll road and has a speed limit that is universally ignored. You couldn’t stop on it unless it was the direst of emergencies, and you couldn’t and wouldn’t cycle on what passes for the verge unless you were having a really bad day and were toying with the idea of suicide, but were going to let the fates make the final decision.

We’re disappointed. We drove from a place called Oliva (`Camping Kiko Park ... what a shithole’ it was extremely disappointing ... except for some stormy weather and a bit of a back drop) 88 miles through some of the most jaw dropping country we’ve seen since we left the Basque region when we first arrived.

On the high flat plateaus through the mountains we saw cities and towns and fields of fruit and olives, but again we couldn’t stop by the roadside to take pictures to share, it’s just not safe to do so. So that drive will only live in our memories.

There were castles and old walled towns falling into ruin, old watch towers long abandoned and in all fairness not worth the diversion to try and get a better look at for logistical reasons which is frustrating. The bits we would like to rummage around are in the main entirely inaccessible. In part because there are no Aires or Camperstops in the isolated places and very few of the mountain roads have places to park or take in the view, or foot paths (Spain is waking up to this form of adventure tourism, we’ve seen it in the north east where cycling and walking is the weekend pursuit we know), it’s just tailed off as we’ve come south.

As a top tip if you want rugged with real Spanish flavour, Alcossebre is lovely, rugged coast and beaches in walking distance of each other, high and lowland mountain paths, a very neat and tidy town with a good mix of traditional and international foods (without being naff).

The other issue with the high places where things look properly exciting is that being that high up (I think we got to 11000 feet above sea level) gives us a headache. IF,we could stop to acclimatise for a day or so we would, even overnight stop may give you a fighting chance. However it’s worth noting that these high places aren’t tourist destinations, just towns with working people doing what working people do. Lately that appears to be collecting the oranges and pruning literally millions of trees in advance of this years growing season. So there is the possibility that they don’t want a load of eager beaver tourists tramping all over the place.

Up in the highlands there are vast Aluminium distribution and logistics centres servicing the agricultural land, one assumes Juiceries and juice packaging plants and all the infrastructure required to support hundreds of thousands of acres of agriculture ... and quarries that have seen entire mountainsides hundreds of feet high sheared off and used to build god alone what. Dropping into Alicante from those mountains is one of the largest cement works I’ve ever seen.  However dotted about liberally everywhere we have been, are the marks of the recession, abandoned housing projects, entire streets with lighting, pedestrian crossing, pavements and street names , rapidly being eaten by plants, entire sections of towns abandoned, peripheries of towns looking like something out of a Spaghetti Western Ghost Town or a Zombie movie.

The day after tomorrow we are heading to Cartagena an ancient city steeped in history. Not a huge drive and not too high. Access to the ancient town and its history should be relatively easy. Places like it and Peniscola, Morella, Alcossebre even Hospitalet Del Infante where there are living parts of the old towns are always exciting, this place outside of La Marina is a made up place, it didn’t exist before 1985 and it bears all the scars.

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