The adventures of Jasper part 3.
30.05.2012 - 27.06.2012
After nearly 2 months of dreary UK weather, it was finally time to flee the cold, windy and rain soaked island. At the time of decision making we had 2 options; To hang round for an extra week in London and try and catch the Queen’s Jubilee weekend, the other was to book our ferry and leave for Spain ASAP. A quick peek at the weather forecast and our decision was clear… Spain.
With ferry tickets booked absolutely last minute and the van not even remotely packed, it was a mad rush to get everything ready to leave, our good friend Lonnie was patient enough to let us keep him up on a Sunday night burdening him with our washing and last minute antics.
With the van packed and a new GPS firmly stuck to the windscreen we set off for the ferry port eager to leave England in our wake. After a leisurely 24hr cruise we landed in Spain, greeted by golden sun and clear blue water lapping sandy beaches. Driving off the ferry we realised our GPS wasn’t working; unable to work out that we were no longer in the UK, but with the sun beaming down brightly, our exact position on the map was the least of our worries.
We found ourselves a beautiful beachfront restaurant and ordered off a menu we didn’t quite understand (note: if you order a hamburguesa you will not receive a hamburger), then with the sun dipping below the horizon we found ourselves a nice spot to stop overnight in a nearby beach-side car park, reveling in at the beauty of the Spanish coast.
With an inoperative GPS, a few arguments regarding the rules of round-a-bouts when driving on the right, and the acquisition of a petrol station road map we set off for Spain’s capital, Madrid. Without any way of finding a nearby campsite we drove straight into the city centre and bought ourselves a local sim with data to help us find out where we were and where to go next. A quick update for our GPS and some clever google mapping skills saw us ‘setting up camp’ literally only 300m around the corner from where we had stopped.
Our free ‘campsite’ for the next 3 nights was a parallel parked spot on a not so busy road next to Parque de la Bombilla (translates to park of the lightbulb… I know right?), directly in the city centre of Madrid. By day this park was a place for locals to whisper sweet nothings into their lover’s ear and view the international rose bush display, but come nightfall it was the hottest place in town to score the prettiest lady boy you could get your perverted hands on. Renee and I spent our 3 nights spying on the various going-ons of the lady boy prostitution trade… many laughs ensued!!!
Madrid is a sweatbox of a city, humid and baron with not a sole in sight during the day yet it boasts a cracking nightlife that parties into the wee hours of the morning. We often found ourselves wandering the streets questioning where all the retailers had gone, only to realise they were out for siesta. It’s no wonder the unemployment rate is so high, those 4 hours in the afternoon spent on siesta could easily be spent employing people to service the likes of those who do not wish to sleep ie. Joel and Renee.
The lull in the afternoon retail hours leaves you with pretty much only one option, to go out at night instead. We wandered the streets of Madrid mostly at night and were welcomed by overpriced tapas bars and street performances that demanded money at even the slightest glance. A small plate of shitty garlic prawns will cost you in the vicinity of 14€ for those who aren't familiar with the local eating spots. After 3 nights in Madrid I was well and truly ready to leave for Morocco…. which you have already read.
Our flight to Morocco was at 0730am, not the earliest flight on record but an early flight none the less. Not wanting to chance missing a Ryanair flight Renee and I were up at the ungodly hour of 3am, our parking lot at Madrid Baharas airport already set in the GPS, and the van packed and ready to leave. All would have been smooth sailing if our GPS maps had been up to date and the motorway exit points clearly labeled. After missing probably THE most important turn off we spent the next 90 minutes navigating the side streets and no through roads surrounding the airport. I swear it felt like we'd taken a wrong turn, left the safety of the motorway and driven straight into a third world country – zero street lighting, dirt roads, half-builtround-a-bouts and unfinished buildings surrounded us at every turn.
After a stressful drive, we finally found our airport parking only to be greeted by an unprofessional car park assistant whom spoke not a word of English other than the word 'No' (which he kept saying to us as we tried to explain we had made an online booking to park there). After many back and forth Yes/No's he finally checked his paperwork only to find our name on the top of his list. Apologetically he chauffeured our van into a bay and piled us into his van racing us to the terminal with little time to make our flight. After being dumped at the airport both of us were left wondering if we'd done the right thing leaving our Jasper with these people and crossed all fingers that we'd receive him back in one piece when we returned.
Arriving 'home' from Morocco, our Jasper was returned to us in exactly the same condition we'd left him and a big sense of relief washed over both of us as we hit the road again and headed toward the Spanish east coast.
Late afternoon saw us driving into Valencia, including driving along of a short section of the Valencia Formula 1 Circuit… (that’s right even Jasper can hold his own on an F1 track haha). We stopped briefly to order an overpriced, terrible Paella from a beach bar before piling back in the van and making our way towards a nearby wild camp spot that had been suggested on a website. Navigating our way to this particular spot proved harder than anticipated with some very dodgy dirt roads and steep rocky terrain that proved a little too much for an '88 VW camper. After much cursing and a few near misses concerning some very large trees we finally found our way back to a deserted beach side car park and set down for the night.
As nice as it is having a year off work, sometimes all the travelling and constant moving around can become a bit much. After entering Spain, spending 2 weeks in Morocco and now struggling to find a free camp spot, we decided it would be nice to spend a week just relaxing with nothing on the agenda. A local campsite was secured in Benicarló where we managed to find time to fit a new leisure battery and get Jasper a much needed service, all while lazing on the beach, playing bowls with the locals and enjoying the delicious Paella & Sangria night.
From Benicarló we made our way towards Barcelona, this time arriving to a big city with a campsite already secured just outside the city centre, right on a beach, with a train station at our doorstep - organised! We spent 6 nights in Barcelona, lapping up the sun on the very liberating beaches (bikini tops optional and skimpy bathers essential… total bliss!).
I can’t say we really did a whole lot else in Barcelona. We caught up with a good friend we made in Morocco who was kind enough to take us to his favourite champaneria (a sandwhich bar that served delicious sandwiches of cured Spanish meat and 1€ glasses of champagne); We managed to catch the Festival of Sant Juan and witness some fireworks (nothing on the Chinese New Year); and gazed in awe at some of Gaudi's magnificent creations before leaving our Jasper at yet another airport car park and boarding a flight to Ibiza.