We have been on the Costa del Luz for just over a month now, two weeks of them in the semi lockdown we have here in Spain. Our campsite where we are, would have about a 50% occupancy with snowbirds (people from northern Europe fleeing the cold) but as soon as the potential of lockdown appeared, they headed home leaving just three vans behind. Essentially closed, and the owners have been kind enough to let us stay on. But when you can again come to this part of Spain, we can recommend Camping Pinar San Jose!
Back in 2016 we visited the area and fell in love with it, huge beaches ideal for surfing of all kinds, long forest walks, beautiful villages and towns, plus some great golf as well. And there is the food, tuna is a specialty of the area, fresh fish, plus fantastic Retino beef aged 40 days. The range of local restaurants are wonderful, but due to the lockdown the top ones have all closed until February at the earliest.
Cadiz is 50km down the road and is the allegedly the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe. On that basis I recommended the area to a friend as a base to stay for a year or so in Spain, and he hated it. Too quiet, desolate, not enough to do and promptly moved to Malaga, so each to their own. Much as we also like Malaga, but it is too busy, built up for us.
In last week’s blog Karen let you know the big town near us has a reputation for being a bit of a drug dealing area. One of the favourite restaurants for locals that does a roaring trade, is Le Paqute (The Packet) A nickname give to the packages that the hashish is shipped over from Morocco only 15km across the sea. It is not the only illicit cargo this as you might guess it a people smuggling area. On our walks along the beach, we see many boats abandoned with Arabic names, along with the remains of large rubber dingeys. It is thought that over 5000 people die every year on this short stretch of water trying to get to a new life in Europe. Like everywhere it may not be paradise, and all the time we have been here we have not seen any hashish or even got a whiff of it! The people are fantastically friendly and helpful, relaxed and fun, we love it. Though looking around the local Range Rover dealer seems to do well.
When we left home last January, Coronavirus was something in China, maybe there were some issues in part of Italy. Never for a moment did we think it would be centre of everyone’s lives for the year. We are on our second lockdown, our first in Turkey was from what we have been told was a much better place to be than the UK and we would agree. Now on our second here in Spain it seems that we have struck lucky again. The weather has been kind to us for the last month and we are able to get out and about in the sunshine virtually every day, and when it has rained conveniently it tended to do it at night.
So what do we actually do? Well, we exercise a lot, by walking and cycling as much as possible, this keeps us sane. We read a lot and we can recommend a great book by a friend Lesley Parr who we met on our last trip A Change in the Aire. It would be the book we would write about motorhome life, if we were good at writing!
Also we eat out twice a week, though we do have a drink or two at our favourite bars that we have found and perhaps a Tapa where available.
Looking at the apps on our phones I can tell you that this week, we have walked over 70km and cycled over 80 as well, we are keeping fit. I have started running again but it is tougher on the beach and so am only going out one day a week and nearly do the full 5km.
It seems like a good time to mention a bit more about our bikes, we bought two electric bikes for the trip. This is not because we are lazy, but sometimes you will end up having to park the van miles away from places you would like to see. Buster is a big boy over 7 metres long and just short of 3 metres tall. Thus we can end up as far as 10 – 15 km from places we would like to get to. I bought my Trek Super Commuter 8 in early 2019 and used it to cycle to work for 6 months. It is fantastic the Bosch motor is wonderful and when used as an E Bike it is exceptionally smooth. Though it is quite heavy it is very balanced and easy to cycle without power. The build quality has proved very good and the new model has the new more powerful lighter Bosch motor. Most importantly Trek have improved the warranty to two years and made it transferable. I had bought mine as a demonstrator and Trek would not cover it even though the bike was only 3 months old. This was because in their view I was the second owner their warranty only covers the bike for the first owner.
I had two issue the original controller switch failed, and one of the pedal cranks worked loose and had to be replaced. Our local dealer Cycles UK sorted the issues out at cost and serviced the bike for me before we left plus upgraded the software at no extra charge. Again I can say that I love the bike it is wonderful and now Trek have changed their warranty, would recommend anyone to buy a Trek bike.
Karen bought a Specialized Como this bike was delivered just before we left and we did not get much time to test it. We bought it through Cycles UK and they were fantastic, but as soon as we reached Greece the battery failed Cycles UK put us in touch with the Greek Specialized people. A new battery was sourced, and the bike was back on the road a big thank you to Kassimatis Cycling in Piraeus for getting it sorted. It still has a few niggles with the lights turning on and off plus the fit of the new battery not being perfect, but it runs like a dream. But the build quality is not quite there we hope when we get back to the UK Specialized do as promised to make good the little niggles, she still has with it. That said it rides really well the motor seems to be even smoother than the Trek and Karen loves it.
In Conclusion they are both great bikes, for those of you that want to keep active and get around, electric bikes are the way forward. Though we would now recommend buying crank motor versions rather that the wheel ones we had last time. They are more expensive but that are that much better. We have had trips out of more than 70 km’s without an issue and the batteries have had over 25% left. Recharging has been possible one at a time off the solar panel and when we are parked up we can plugin the chargers on the outside of Buster and top up.
Back to the Battle of Trafalgar!
On our walks we are still finding new places as we go out on our walks, this week we found the ‘Mirador’ overlooking the cape you get the scale of the battle that took place all those years ago. It seems that Spanish, French and English spotters sat side by side at this very spot looking out to sea at the spectacle through their telescopes watching it unfold before their eyes. It seems that was normal back then, and I have a vision of the French and Spanish shaking hands with the English spotters and congratulating them on the win. We forget that this one battle changed the course of history.
As we get closer to Christmas and we are still hoping to get back to the UK to see family, we know it may not happen. 2020 has been the year to make plans lots of them, because you must keep changing them. It is good to make plans it keeps you looking forward. Sometimes it is the just a demonstration of our hope for normality to return. Over the past few days, I have watched my golfing friends back in the UK planning their first outing on the course when UK lockdown ends on the 2nd. They don’t know for certain they will be allowed play, but they like us make plans. Why? It must be Hope, we hope we will be able to move on and as long as we have hope we endure.
Here we still laugh and plan our next adventure eat and drink and make new friends despite what 2020 throws at us all we are looking forward to next year seeing old friends making some new ones and visiting more places in 2021, hopefully!
Hasta la Luego from Barbate