It had to happen. Leaving day had almost arrived. It was time to prepare to head homeward. I’d planned to set off on Friday, doing a leisurely four day drive north. In the forecast the weather looked good all the way through Spain, although with some very cold nights.
I decided packing up would be best done on Wednesday. I made a half past eight start by cleaning and dismantling the awning kitchen unit. I’ve got a microwave oven and an electric oven with a two burner hotplate on top of it, all sitting on a table with an extension top. Once the ovens were cleaned, they were put on the floor in the bathroom giving me access to them on the journey. Then the two PIR halogen strip lights which clip to the awning roof bars were taken down and packed in the car. By 9. 30, friend William had arrived with step ladder, long brush and bucket. He then set to cleaning the awning roof of three months worth of bird droppings. Next to arrive was Jim, closely followed by Paul. I am so grateful to these guys, both those three who helped me pack up, and Martin who helped me with the awning away back in November. By 11. 30 we were finished so we broke open the beers with me being very relieved that all the gear had been packed away in the dry.
I left El Pino at around 9. 15 on Friday morning and within 10 minutes I’d reached the A7 motorway, heading eastward towards Motril. The journey now (except for the approach roads to my overnight stops) would be entirely on dual carriageway all the way to Bilbao – and nearly all of it would be toll-free. After I’d driven 100 miles and was on the A44, at KM70 (or there abouts), I pulled into a Repsol filling station, cafeteria with large parking area to take a coffee break. Within 15 minutes I was on the road again and I didn’t stop until I’d completed 170 miles which brought me to Santa Elena. When I saw the Osborne bull, I knew I wanted the next exit.
I booked in at Camping Despenaperros which is situated at the far end of the village in Calle Infanta Elena. The site entrance has a double arched entry which with long outfits needs some care in entering. Pitches are level and all under trees without any boundary markers.
Each pitch has an adjacent electric point, water tap and drain connection although some of the electric sockets require attention. Electricity is switched on at reception so if the supply is accidentally tripped, you maybe be in trouble since reconnection requires a visit during office hours. The toilet block is centrally placed on the site and all the facilities are modern and in a clean condition. However, whilst toilet rolls are provided, none of the pans are fitted with seats. Free Wifi is available over most of the site. With my ACSI card I was charged €17 per night.
For the past four years the motorway has been carried over the gorge on a viaduct and to join the motorway requires a drive through the village to the junction however, I turned right and drove down through the gorge to the next junction. During the journey I’d been debating with myself whether to make my next night stop south of Madrid at Aranjuez or north at La Cabrera. I finally decided to get north of the City so I took a coffee break at the filling station at KM98 on the A4 after driving for 100 miles. I also took on some fuel – but not too much. I didn’t notice the price until I’d started to fill. A whopping €1. 20 per litre. That particular stop has easy access from the motorway and a good parking area. My rest over, and I headed towards Madrid. There are three ring motorways around the city. The M30, the M40 and the M50. The M50 takes the widest detour and adds about 10 miles however it carries the least traffic, so I turned on to it at junction 17. It joins the A1 at Junction 21. At KM57 I took the slip road and five minutes later I was checking in at Camping du Miel. My ACSI card was accepted with a payment of €19 for the night. Most of the site is taken up with mobile homes and bungalows however, at the edge of the site there’s an area devoted to tourist pitches. A water tap and electric bollard are shared by four pitches although being winter, the water was turned off. The toilet block is close by which has modern facilities, is clean and also heated. Washing up sinks are outside where there’s hot and cold water. With the pitch taps being turned off, there was nowhere to fill an Aquaroll. .
At 8. 30 I went out to an ice covered car with the outside temperature down to -7c however with the engine running, the windows quickly cleared. Within twenty miles I’d reached the foot of Somosierra, the pass through the Sierra de Guadarrama. It rises about a thousand feet over a distance of four miles however it’s a well-engineered three lane motorway without any serious bends. Today’s drive was just 120 miles so it was just on lunch time as I arrived at Camping Fuentes Blancas at Burgos. I presented my ACSI card but when the receptionist realized I was on my own she told me to put it away as the site fee for a single person was cheaper. I paid €17. 60 so presumably the ACSI fee would have been €19. Pitches are on level ground which is inclined to become boggy in wet weather. In some previous years when I’ve stopped there the pitches have been so water-logged that I’ve parked on the roadways. There are several ranges of washing up sinks dotted around the site however, the water is turned off during the winter months. Water is available at the two toilet blocks but again there’s no tap where an Aquaroll may be filled.
Another Osborne bull.
The last stage of my journey was the 110 miles down to Bilbao ferry port. I didn’t leave until just before 12 mid-day because my plan was to spend the night on the dockside. Arrival and check-in was scheduled between 4pm and 7pm but when I arrived at 3pm several outfits were already waiting. Check-in began at 3. 15. Very soon I presented my booking number and passport and I was issued with my boarding slip and cabin key.
When I took a walk around the parking lanes at 7 in the evening there were 45 outfits overnighting on the dockside. The night was quiet and I slept well. But where were the blue skies that had been with me for the past four days. They were gone – only to be replaced by heavy black clouds. Maybe the forecast for snow in northern Spain by Wednesday was going to be correct. The ferry arrived at around 7. 30 and loading began at 9. 30. The ship was fifteen minutes or so late in leaving but we had a reasonably smooth crossing. We docked at 9am; unloading took for ages, as did Border Control but by 10. 15 I was on the motorway and home just 90 minutes later. Just a pity about the snow!
As I’ve done in previous years, for the benefit of would be travellers, here’s a break down of my expenses for the four months.
Ferry fare Outward £363
Total ferry fare which included friends discount £709
Fuel for outward & inward journey 240Ltrs £236
Toll charges Bilbao to Zaragoza 32Euros
Cartagena to Almeria 8 Euros
Burgos to Bilbao 21. 50 Euros Total £54
Site fees for 14 nights outward journey €200
Site fees for 3 months + 1 week €996
Site fees for 3 night homeward journey €46
Total site fees €1242 Approx conversion £1092
Red Pennant for 120 days £295