Málaga to Almería

And back again…

The time has finally come to leave our little home in la Cala del Moral at Area Malaga Beach. We are moving on to Torremolinos so that Stuart can be near the airport for his commercial drone pilot exams. It’s only a temporary farewell however, as we will be back for a few days in January and we’ve decided to come back for the whole month of February. But for the next three weeks, we’re off!

First stop, Torremolinos. We’re booked into the campsite here, a short drive away from the airport. The only reason we opted for this campsite is the location and the fact that we don’t need any additional chores or risk being moved on so that Stuart can focus entirely on his exams.

The campsite itself isn’t the best. It’s located on the very edge of the town, nestled in-between high-rises. It’s not far from Plaza Mayor shopping village (about 5 minutes by bike) and the beach is about a mile away. Not the best location but it could be worse. The pitches are small and cramped, as is the little road on the campsite to get to your pitch. It’s not terrible, the facilities are a bit dated but it’s all quite clean and functional. Still, we don’t particularly recommend this site and we probably won’t rush back. It serves a purpose.

Torremolinos itself is quite a long walk away but it’s very nice by bike along the seafront. La Carihuela is a lively area just along with lots of bars and shops. Torremolinos old town is up on the hill. It’s a nice place, and it’s probably really vibrant in summer, but in January it’s mostly looking a bit run-down. Luna and I do plenty of exploring for a few days while Stuart is hard at work doing his practical and theoretical exams. It’s a tough slog but a few days later he’s happily passed all his tests. He’s now officially qualified as a commercial drone pilot. Next will be the frustrating task of wading through miles of Spanish red-tape to get registered and get the actual licence.

For now, we head back to la Cala del Moral for a weekend before we start a 2-week road trip!

We’ve decided to head to Almería and back in these two weeks, as we didn’t really visit this area last year because we headed inland from Cabo de Gata towards Guadix and the Sierra Nevada. So this year we take the coastal road. But before we start this little planned road-trip, we’re off to la Cala de Mijas again for some business networking and some more time with friends (more about that here). A few days in Fuengirola aire and at la Cala de Mijas carpark (behind the blocks! very important these days as you will get moved on…) with Sarah and Andy from Only the Bare Necessities and with Sue and Dave who we worked with on Sandringham campsite last summer.

After all our socialising, it’s time to start our road trip. First stop: Nerja. We have been wanting to come here for some time and we’re glad we went now. We stayed in a lovely spot, right next to the beach with some restaurants nearby. It was a short walk to the town itself, along some lovely beaches. The town is lovely, vibrant and lively, seemingly all year round. There is the beautiful Balcon de Europe from where you can enjoy lovely views along the coast and out to sea. We stay for a day or two so that Stuart can get over a cold before we move on.

A visit to Frigilinia is a MUST when in this area. This hillside village is a beautifully white-washed pueblo with bags of atmosphere. It hasn’t got any motorhome parking but you can take a bus up from Nerja or park alongside the road near the town centre. We really loved it here although it was a brief visit, and we will certainly be back.

By now the weather was starting to change and Storm Gloria is well on her way. We’re really not sure which way to turn to try to miss as much of this storm as we can… We decide to head inland for a night. The winds are really picking up and we have a rocky drive up to Embalse de Beznar where we have a quiet and rather cold night.

The next morning, we decide to head back to the coast. By now there is no escaping the storm. Storm Gloria is everywhere! We head to an aire with services in the marina at Almerímar. We find a safe-haven here, albeit a windy one and the whistling of the wind through the sailboats’ ropes and masts only adds to the gloom this storm is bringing to the usually sunny south coast. This is a very popular and busy spot, although in this weather it is hard to see why. We meet some lovely people in one of the British bars in the marina, where we find a strong sense of community so perhaps this is part of the draw.

We continue to travel east, and as we do the weather does improve. It turns out we’re very lucky as the weather in and around Malaga is very severe indeed with a crazy hailstorm in the city centre, floods to the west of Malaga and huge thunderstorms in la Cala del Moral. As we arrive in Roquetas del Mar, a weak sun is trying to peak through the clouds and the wind is dying down a little.

Roquetas de Mar is another very popular destination for motorhomers and there are hundreds along the coast here, parked in carparks. The police don’t seem to have an issue although they do clear some areas as we travel through. There are also often reports here of bike thefts of carriers on the back of motorhomes, and we see some kids ride by during the day, taking an unhealthy interest in some of the bike-carriers. At this point we’re glad we don’t carry bikes on the outside. The location is really lovely however, with a beautiful beaches stretching along for miles. Even with the weather as it is, it is nice to have a stroll around.

From Roquetas, we head to Almería. We find a carpark behind a theatre, and again it’s very busy with motorhomes. We’ve never seen it as busy with motorhomes as what we’re seeing on this coast!

Almería is a smallish city with bags of history and an ancient moorish fort on top the of the hill which is free to visit, amazingly. The fort has beautiful gardens and remnants of the ancient water system. As we climb up the different levels of the fort, we find more ancient ruins including some examples of what the moorish houses used to look like, with small rooms for sleeping and cooking and a small inner court-yard as living space, all very dark to keep the sun and the relentless summer heat out. Storm Gloria has moved on from Almería for our visit and we enjoy some lovely weather again.

Next we start traveling west again, through the land of the poly tunnels; an ugly landscape of plastic where fruit and vegetables are being grown for un-seasonal consumptions. It looks like there is loads of waste, as we see plastic pollution everywhere, as well as containers full of discarded vegetables. We see workers’ shanty towns and the conditions for living look awful.

Our stop for the night is in Carchuna, a tiny hamlet which appears to be at the end of the world, cut off from the rest of the world by poly tunnels. There is a lovely beach, and the village looks nice. Even here we are not alone, finding ourselves in a carpark with half a dozen other vans who have found this remote corner.

We want to see if we can find somewhere nice to stay near Almuñecar or La Herradura but as we drive west, we encounter Storm Gloria again. She’s in no rush to leave the Spanish south coast, a bit like us really. As we drive along, we see the blackest clouds gathering on the road ahead and suddenly it doesn’t seem so clever to keep travelling. We spot a sign for Playa Granada which rang a bell from when we looked for camper stops, and we promptly turn in and decide to find this aire.

We head for the beach, and soon we come upon a small carpark. It looks quiet and unlikely to be the right place. Then we look ahead a little and we see a road heading into a larger carpark absolutely packed with motorhomes! There are hundreds here! We struggle to find a spot. We’re not sure if we want to stay, but we decide to at least have some coffee and wait for this inevitable storm to pass. It’s not long before the rain and thunder starts up, but the worst of it is definitely further up the road, so once again we dodge the worst of this storm!

Whilst Playa Granada is incredibly busy with motorhomes, and the little beach bar incredibly loud with party-goers, we decide to stay for a day or two anyway. We meet some nice people here and generally have a little break from the work we’ve been doing lately. This carpark is quite remote and there is no village or shops nearby, just a golf resort. The beach is beautiful however, and the sun is finally coming out again properly as that last thunderstorm turns out to be Storm Gloria’s last Hurrah.

Finally, we head back to Nerja, to our little spot near the beach. It’s busier here as well this time but there is a nice feel to the place and we decide to stay here for the next 5 days before we head back to la Cala del Moral.

Nerja proved to have too much of a draw on us, with its little lanes, incredibly cheap pizza (€3.50 at Little Italy) and tasty free tapas with a drink at Redondo. We were drawn to the peace and quiet of the place, the lovely beach and the lively village centre.

Stuart wanted to do a big hike up the Rio Chillar – 26KM through cold water! And I could do some work in the van. As we settled in we realised that Julie and Jason from Our Tour were just arriving in Nerja as well, so that was simply a good excuse to meet up with them as well. (As we were staying here, Stuart saw engineers measuring up the carpark entrances for barriers. We’ve since been back to Nerja and the barriers are up already; another place lost.)

All in all we had a lovely time, and it felt somewhat symbolic that we should be at the Balcon de Europa on the 31st of January 2020…

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