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BYE BYE ENGLAND!!
I know this blog is called Exploremoreuk.com, but I do like a bit of sun from time to time! As we all know, that means getting on an aeroplane, or, in this case, climbing into your camper van.
Don't get me wrong the U.K. does have a totally excellent summer now and again, but they're just not that dependable! So on this occasion, I'm sorry to say, I left the U.K.
When I travelled through Spain I wasn't into blogging, or taking many pictures for that matter, so the content in this blog post may seem a little 'thin'. The first half of the main chunk of mileage we did was done in a week or two because we had a nose for sunny, warmer weather. All that being said, I did manage to get some pretty cool photos of some of my favourite moments from the tour.
We figured out pretty quickly that Spain doesn't mind camper vans that much. You can pretty much get away with camping anywhere overnight. As long as you don't obstruct anything or make any mess and so on, you should be O.K.
That said, a small word of advice. Don't camp on any of the service areas on the toll roads. If you are on the toll road longer than a set period of time (I can't remember how long), when you leave the toll road at the other end and have to pay, it will be expensive. Be warned.
Some nights we camped in some very random locations. Car parks in the centre of town, the side of the road, Lidl car park, to name just a few. We never got bothered by anyone, but we were never there more than one night, so I think that had something to do with it.
We got the ferry to Bilbao to start our journey, and I have to say, WOW! North Spain is a countryside lovers dream. The climate is a little more temperate, so it does a bit of raining, but this allows the countryside to have a lot more greenery. Some of the most amazing nature I've ever seen was in Northern Spain (Basque Country).
It was an endless landscape of valleys and mountains. I saw numerous examples of excellent wildlife (mainly whilst driving, we did cover 11,000 miles in two months!). I've constantly expressed a desire to go back to the region since travelling there. It may happen one day.
I did see quite a few examples of insect life you don't get in the U.K., one of which is the Processionary Caterpillar pictured below. Apparently you are not advised to touch them as the spiky hairs you can see make you erupt in a pretty nasty rash if you do. GOOGLE IT!
Whilst in Spain we drove the entire coast, including all of Basque Country, Portugal and south Spain up to the point that it joins with France. We then drove back to the point we stayed in Basque, a town called 'Zarautz'- Because it was awesome!
We stopped numerous times, in sometimes random locations, and sometimes planned ones (mostly random). The biggest amount of time spent stationary was in 'Costa Blanca', and we probably all know, the Sun was the reason behind this.
Before getting to Spain we rocketed through Portugal. One of the memories from Portugal was that we passed miles upon miles of pens with large brown pigs in them. It took literally four or five hours of constant driving to clear them. On investigation, I discovered the pigs in them are for the production of 'Iberico' pork products. Anyone who has been to Spain will know what that is.
If you would like to know more about it, read this article from the GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER.
After leaving Portugal one of our stop off locations was 'Huelva' in south Spain. The place was totally dead as it was out of season. So much so, it was a little odd. It felt as though there had been some kind of exodus whilst we were on the road. Very strange indeed.
A local police officer must have been alerted that two random travellers had rolled into town when there was no reason to be there (as everything is closed). The guy stopped us on our way into town and asked what we were up to. To which we replied "looking for something to eat".
He then turned up in the restaurant we found, ordered a coffee, and eyeballed us for 20 minutes until he was happy we weren't up to any mischief.
The only reasons I can think of why he did this are that:
a. It was a tourist town which was all but closed up,
b. There was a marina nearby with lots of very expensive winter stored Yachts.
Apart from that, it was pretty cool having a campsite all to ourselves. Not a single soul apart from us and the guy on the reception desk.
After Huelva, we pretty much skipped straight into 'touristville'. It wasn't that bad as it was out of season, so not a lot of people, but a hell of a lot warmer. Even in January, it was hitting 21 celsius some days. We decided to stay there for the majority of our tour.
The south of Spain is pretty much semi-arid desert. Apparently some of the John Wayne western movies were shot in south Spain. I don't know if there is any validity in this claim. Ma camper mate 'Pete', told me.
If you do any amount of wandering off the beaten track whilst in the 'costas', you will definitely encounter Orange groves. Fields upon fields of Orange groves. I noticed that a lot of the crops remain unharvested. They had been simply left to rot on the bushes. I'm not sure of the reason behind this, and if anyone knows the facts be sure to comment on this blog and let me know!
I spent Christmas day in Spain whilst there. We didn't bother with anything traditional (Spanish or English). We took some coffee, meats and cheeses, and drove off to find a good viewpoint to enjoy some sunny Christmas solitude. It was pretty cool. Different anyhow!
As I mentioned earlier, after we got bored of the south coast we headed back to 'Zarautz' on the north coast to spend our last two or three weeks basking in the glorious countryside of 'Basque country'.
North Spain is a bit more 'quirky' than the south, which I found to be mainly tourist orientated. If you want unspoilt Spain, my advice to you, is to stay away from the coastal areas. If you venture inland you will find a lot more of 'Traditional' Spain. You don't have to go far, literally 10 or so miles, and the 'hustle bustle' gets left behind.
All in all my time in Spain was excellent. I definitely preferred the terrain of the north, but the weather of the south. A shame you can't mix the two! But if you do want to skip between them you can drive it in under 24 hours.
It's advisable to take a phrase book with you as well, it makes ordering food and so on a lot easier. The language in the north is a lot different than Castilian Spanish in the central and southern part.
Another unverified fact is that the experts of the world don't fully know where the Basque language comes from!
Hopefully I'll get the chance to revisit Spain for longer than Two months, I do like the place, and feel there's a lot more culture to be sampled than I did whilst I was there!
The gallery below is a few more of my favourite moments from my Spanish tour.