By mid-week, the weathermen were forecasting high winds and heavy rain for the Costa del Sol after the weekend. Certainly, by Saturday the view out to sea was looking very stormy.
In view of that, I thought it advisable to take down my awning on Sunday, ready to leave on Tuesday. Saturday morning was spent cleaning the kitchen equipment and emptying the awning ready for packing away the next day. I was most grateful to see Willy and Jim come down to lend me a hand. By 11.15, everything was bagged and put in the car.
Monday’s rain didn’t arrive. In fact, it was a pretty decent day. In the afternoon, I took a stroll around the site to say farewell to lots of friends I’ve met over the years. I found Willy working on his latest pebble model. You probably recall I wrote about his hobby in an earlier chapter. His current job isn’t finished yet. He still has the rider to make to complete it.
My sailing is on Sunday afternoon from Santander, so leaving on Tuesday gives me a leisurely journey of around 160 to 200 miles each day with time for a bit of sightseeing. So for the first day, with a departure at around 9.15 from El Pino I expected to arrive at Santa Elena in time for a late lunch. Within two miles of leaving the site, I was on a toll-free motorway which continues all the way to Santander. After nearly 100 miles I pulled into a filling station for a coffee break. I didn’t need fuel but the site has a large lorry park where caravan parking is easy. Once refreshed, I didn’t stop again until I reached Santa Elena.
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 need attention. Electricity for the pitch 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 €18 for the night. That’s a 1Euro increase since November.
After a quick lunch, it was still only 2.30 so I thought I would go and have a look at Cimbarra Falls, close to Aldeaquemada. It’s in the next valley and only 10 miles away as the crow flies but via the mountain road, the journey takes 20 miles. As the road twists ever higher, looking back there are some spectacular views of the tunnels and viaducts which now carry the A4 motorway across the Despeñaperros Gorge.
The twisting road passes through woods filled with a type of oak trees which produces cork. A cork oak must be at least 25 years old before its bark can be harvested. Its cork can then be stripped every 9 or 10 years after that for as long as the tree lives. Eventually, the road drops again and one arrives at a small, scruffy looking town. From there, an unpaved road goes through olive groves and finally ends at a parking spot. A circular route is a scramble over rocks along the edge of the ravine before arriving at a viewpoint overlooking the waterfall. Because of a dry few weeks, not much water was falling.
To return to the site I drove along the old A4 which first weaves its way down one side of the gorge, along the bottom, then up the other side. It was a nostalgic drive – I couldn’t help but remember times past before the viaduct was built when the road was filled with nose-to-tail, crawling HGVs.
I was ready to leave Santa Elena by 08.30 and took a coffee break at my usual filling station at KM98 having done around 100 miles. I made a fuel stop south of Madrid then took the M50 around the city. Traffic was very light. I arrived at La Cabrera in time for a late lunch having done 206 miles. This site has also increased the ACSI fee to €20. Just one other outfit is keeping me company.
To read this blog with extra pictures see:- https://jondogoescaravanning.com/spain-nov-2018-feb-2019/