Boy we sure are ‘living the dream’. We are currently hunkered down in between two blocks of flats on the outskirts of Tarifa trying to escape from the relentless wind. Last night Ollie, our van, was blown hither and thither by a gusting, godawful wind coming off the hills behind Tarifa beach. The cover for the bikes, which was already in a sorry state with numerous patches, is now virtually shredded to bits! The skylights on the roof of the van have just about held their own despite the wind trying its level best to remove them from their moorings. So, after a restless night, we came to seek some refuge in between some flats in the town. As I said, we are living the dream folks!
Tarifa is not called the kitesurfing and windsurfing capital of Europe for nothing it seems. Our guidebook also happens to mention that Tarifa, before it was famous for kitesurfing, was a quiet village known only in Spain due to its unusually high suicide rate! The reason for which is that unremitting wind, apparently. After last night I can well believe it! But anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to last week.
We left the very pretty hilltop town of Casares (a brilliant place to watch the vultures) after three days of rain to drop back down to the coast to do a proper visit to Gibraltar.
What can I say, I expect it’s a right of passage for most Brits who travel around Spain and we are no exception. We stayed at the aire on the marina at La Linéa de la Concepción, just across the runway from Gib.
The aire is €12 per night, has a view of the boats in the harbour and is far enough away from the main road to be a quiet and peaceful stop. It’s also only a five minute walk to the border.
After having nipped over to Gib two weeks ago we knew what to expect at the border. We’d walked across to the town coming back at about 5.30pm and Tim had likened it to coming out of Devonport Dockyard 30 years ago when 3000+ employees would leave the base at the same time. Cars, vans, scooters, mopeds, bikes and pedestrians were all rushing headlong for the exit! I hadn’t realised that so many people work on Gibraltar but live in Spain. Let’s just say it was an experience! It did, however, confirm our thoughts that it wasn’t worth taking the van over to take advantage of the 75p per litre diesel to be had on the island. Nope, too stressful in our opinion!
We spent a couple of hours wandering around the town, marina and Morrisons(!) on the Tuesday afternoon we had arrived. Apart from Main Street, which is pedestrianised, it’s not a particularly pedestrian friendly place. It’s so compact that virtually every space has now been built on and we only found one small park area. Usually when we explore a larger town or city we try to go through as many parks and green spaces as we can but Gibraltar town is a bit lacking in them!
Not to be deterred though the next day we had a brilliant day walking up to the top of the rock, over the other side down a steep rocky footpath called ‘Mediterranean steps’ to take in views of the east side of the island down towards Europa Point and then continuing on back around to our starting point.
It was quite a strenuous walk in the end and we were glad we wore our walking boots.
When we set out a huge cloud had been hanging over ‘the rock’ but it miraculously cleared by the time we were half way up to the top and the views were superb.
We weren’t disappointed on the ape front either.
We whiled away some time watching them at the top of the rock and at other points on our walk.
We made sure we had our lunch where none were to be seen mind!
Our other reason for coming to Gibraltar was to meet up with my friend, Nik, who had lived on the island in the mid 1980’s as her Dad was posted there for three years with the Navy. She’d come, with her Mum, on a reminiscing tour to see how things have changed. We met up with them for some lunch and a catch up. It was great to see them and we spent several happy hours chatting away over lunch whilst supping Sangria……..too much Sangria! We both suffered for our over indulgence but, well, you live and learn………or not! So thank you for lunch and a great afternoon Nik but I never want to see you again!!!!!! Just kidding;)
So that, then, brings us round to Tarifa, on the Costa de la Luz, which stretches from Tarifa to Cadiz, where we have been for the last few days. This coastline is a complete contrast to the Costa del Sol. It’s relatively undeveloped, backed by rolling green hills, with some beautiful beaches……..and plenty of wind! Saturday and Sunday were glorious, weather wise, with temperatures up to the low twenties and a nice breeze that brought out probably in the region of 300 kite surfers. It was quite a sight stretching across the 7km of Tarifa’s beach.
We were able to walk into Tarifa town at low tide along the beach and then returned over a boardwalk and some scrubland when the tide had advanced up the beach filling a lagoon which prevented us from retracing our steps.
We drove 10km up the coast to visit Bolonia which has a beautiful beach and the remains of a Roman settlement.
We met another British couple there, John and Sheila, who are doing a similar trip to us and invited us in for coffee where we exchanged stories on our experiences so far. It’s always nice to chat to other people who are doing a similar thing, renting out their house, getting rid of most of their stuff and seeing where the road takes them, just to confirm we’re not completely nuts choosing this lifestyle!
Coming full circle now, to where I started on this somewhat rambling post, we are sheltering from the wind in Tarifa instead of moving on today as Ollie is going to have four shiny new tyres fitted later. We had thought we would wait until returning to the UK to get them done but the front ones are now pretty close to the lowest limit and with probably another 1500 or so miles to do before we get back to the UK it’s safest to get them done now. They are Michelin somethingorothers (Tim has done all the research!) which will comply with the regulations of some European countries when travelling in winter. Tim does van stuff. I do cooking!!!
After the tyre fit our plan is to travel east again as we’ll eventually want to visit Granada. We seem to be doing a backwards and forwards, zig zag, tour at the moment but that’s what you get when you don’t really have a plan!!