A chilly November day in Murcia , the perfect type of day to finally complete Ziggy’s first adventure. We have had a very busy few weeks but no more excuses!
To complete the Camino de Santiago, pilgrims have to present their stamped passports in Santiago de Compestela. You have to have walked , cycled or ridden a horse at least 100km of one of the ways. We hadn’t done this but had seen the many ways signposted by the ubiquitous shell. The final part of the Camino is not obligatory but definitely worth a visit. Fisterra / Finisterre or ‘ the end of the world’. A lighthouse jutting out in to the Atlantic. Next stop America! However people didn’t know that if they had been living in the dark ages. The world was flat ! If you kept sailing from Finisterre you would eventually fall of the edge! We parked a few kms down from the point as there was quite a lot of tourist traffic and we weren’t sure about parking Ziggy at the top. It was a lovely walk , completing our own Camino with incredible views and once we reached the lighthouse you really could understand why folk in the past thought you would fall of the edge…the horizon was a straight line in the distance..no curve to suggest something beyond it!
We ( naively?) thought that this would be a quiet spot , perhaps with a night park where we could watch the sunset over the ocean. There were one or two vans on the point but we were pretty sure that they would be moved on by night time and so we decided after a picnic lunch to try and find a place to stay nearer Santiago.
My family and especially Walt know that my spacial awareness and navigational skills are somewhat wanting. After leaving Finisterre I was in charge of finding our next park up for the night. I had a ‘stay in our garden’ spot picked out on Park for Night. I am not sure how I did it but must have put the wrong coordinates on to maps. As we drove up a very pretty country lane, Walt began to shake his head then laugh. I was taking us back to the little ‘octopus ‘ sight that we had just left that morning. Doh! Back to the drawing board or Google maps! Once on the right track, we quickly found Castor and Marianne’s beautiful home on the edge of Santiago de Compestela. We had emailed them on our way as there are only 2 spots for vans in their garden. There was one available! When we arrived Castor welcomed us with hook up for our electricity, beers and the offer of doing a washing for us! He and his wife couldn’t do enough. The other spot was taken by a lovely French couple in a tiny van. We enjoyed a chat with them in the beautiful salt water pool while Rocky relaxed under a fig tree! As the festival in Santiago was still in full flow we had a day off , a gentle hike, swimming , snoozing , reading and Walt made a drone video of the house and garden for our hosts. They were delighted with it and quickly shared it far and wide.
Our two days in the garden at Xesta saw us almost completing two weeks on the road. We were sad to leave this beautiful spot and our amazing hosts but we felt that were getting good at the campervan lark and after a lovely stroll round Compestela and a good walk to retrieve Ziggy , parked at an out of town shopping centre we headed back to the coast. The sight we headed for was a paid one, on the beach across the estuary from the town of Vigo. It was not my fault this time but the GPS decided to test Walt’s driving skills in a van on tiny, single track , super steep roads before taking us back on to a main road and the gate to the camp site! As we parked at the edge of the drive near reception, a black VW with UK plates pulled in behind us! The couple we had met a few days earlier . They were touring France and Spain , taking seven weeks to do it! The little sight was perched on a cliff with a short walk to the beach. After a day walking in Santiago and our GPS stress, the following day was going to be a catch up with washing, tidying Ziggy and relaxing on the beach day.
Day Fifteen ! Time for a new country . We set off early although Google maps wanted to take us on another tour of the steep , narrow streets we had encountered two days earlier. We needed diesel and putting the nearest petrol station on to maps lead to some confusion! We were on a peninsula and had to get back to the mainland and routes to Portugal. Eventually we made it . We had taken 15 days to travel from Riaño in Cantabria, through Aturias and Galicia. There is still so much to see in these beautiful regions that we will definitely be back . We are hooked on campervan camping ( we’ve done a few short hops this autumn aswell) and with some adjustments and improvements to Ziggy and our organisation we know that we could be on the road for much longer in the future!
Our first stop in Portugal was to have a ‘left overs’ lunch…basically bread and cheese and a welcome tea for Walt, coffee for me. My little Italian coffee pot, bought in the Scottish Borders is travelling well! We stopped in a large, empty beach carpark. It was on the Portuguese camino and as we ate our lunch a good few pilgrims passed us by. Our spot was sheltered by high dunes and after lunch we walked over these dunes and on to our first Portuguese beach. Wow! Mile after mile of soft sand, big waves and beautiful skies. The carpark wasn’t on Park for Night but with hindsight and some tips picked up from other vanners it appears that this part of Portugal is not so strict about overnight parking as in the more touristy parts such as the Algarve. We probably could have stayed there, it was quiet, very pretty and it had loos! We did have to move on however, if nothing else but to find food! Our small van supplies tend to stretch to three days at the most. Storage is limited but I am thinking of ways round this during the winter months. We now have a roof solar panel and after one or two learning curves are confident that with a little more in the food cupboard ( ikea boxes) we could survive off grid for longer.
The solution to both food and an overnight spot to sleep was in this lovely park above… it was part of a restaurant and recreation area where mini buses arrived with children on holiday club activities and elderly folk for a very pleasant day centre. The car park was large, tree lined and free to stay in. Park for Night suggested that having a beer or similar was a polite thank you. We went a bit further and had the most delicious ( after a bread and cheese lunch) burgers – they were amazing. Before dinner we walked along a track to the beach. At the end of the track we found at least twenty campervans set up comfortably and housing lots of surfy folk! Once again the park had council run loos and no bans on overnight parking. We’re not surfy folk though and were quite happy with our spot. Once all the day visitors and restaurant clients went home we had just two neighbours, an Austrian family in their van and Dutch couple in a tent on the roof of their car!
Day 16 and Porto next stop! We have visited Lisbon and loved it . Porto also came highly recommended, one of my students was particularly keen on us trying some port! For various reasons that didn’t happen but after a quick breakfast and tidy up, we hit the road with a council run autocaravan park in a little town just outside the city, in our sights. This sight was 5 minutes walk from the railway station and a half hour train run in to the city. We had read that parking in Porto was not easy and not always safe. I reckoned that Rocky wouldn’t be that keen on another city anyway so after we parked up, Walt took the train in to Porto while Rocky and I sat under a tree and tried to speak Portuguese to a very lively group of children who wanted to cuddle Rocky! I now know Portuguese for dog, thank you, what’s your name and good day! There was a park and community centre next to to the van park up which explained the hordes of little people. For 5€ a night, paid in to yet another honesty box, we had electricity, loos and an outside shower! The heat was cranking up again so this was fantastic.
Walt had a wonderful walk around Porto and this local delicacy!
It’s called a Franceshina, and is basically a 1300 calorie meat sandwich topped with a special sauce , chips and sometimes a fried egg! Cholesterol on a plate! Luckily there’s a lot to see and plenty of walking around this beautiful city , at least some of those calories were burned off! My turn to visit the city was the next day. It was a Saturday and the temperature had climbed well in to the 30s so I had a shorter explore than Walt but did visit the cathedral and looked at the Osborne Port warehouses across the river. I was too hot and tired to fight through the tourists to sample the port so found a very quiet cafe for some tasty sardines and a lovely craft beer. The port will have to wait! There are lovely shops around the railway station but I am not a shopper so a bit of window shopping was enough for me then the train back to the boys! We had a decision to make!
The decision was….. how to get home? We had two choices . Walt had wanted to go through the Douro valley for ages, either on the motorbike or in Ziggy but this summer the heat was just too much. We could either head straight for the Spanish border and Extramadura, air con on ,such as it is, in Ziggy or wend our way down the Atlantic coast to the Algarve and then along the Mediterranean. We would have loved to have done this but had to be practical. We had set a budget for the trip and as fuel was so silly expensive this year, that much longer road trip was way out of the budget! We decided on a ‘go for it’ get home quick option. After 18 days, we had had an amazing adventure and lots of of plans for more in future. Early on Sunday morning we packed up and left Porto. We drove directly for the border , inland this time. We still avoided motorways however and passed along some beautiful country roads lined with Cork trees. Ever wonder where your wine cork comes from? Now I know! Theses wee trees look so strange, their trunks stripped bare!
Sunday morning cycle race as temperatures reach 40! Crazy or very brave!
We found a great campervan sight in a small village not far from the town of Caceres. The countryside was stunning and there are lots of interesting places to go, hikes to make. Caceres is apparently one of the prettiest towns in Spain. It was however too blooming hot to do anything. I have never felt heat like it. The air and wind was like a hairdryer at its hottest setting. The campsite manager said that spring and autumn are the best times to visit! We sat in the shade of Ziggy until the sun went down, had a very tiny dinner..too hot to eat!, then put the mosquito net up over the tailgate and tried to sleep. I had to get up at one point and sat outside trying to cool down, the plus ? As we were in the countryside and on the edge of the village there was little light pollution…the sky was beautiful, millions of stars, a yellow moon and in the distance , the lights of a small train snaking through the valley. We got up very early the next morning and left the village by 7.30. It wasn’t a sleepy early morning scene…the shops were busy, people were doing their garden, painting houses , cramming in as much as possible before the heat made it impossible! Day 19 and we focused on going home! After nearly three weeks on the road and feeling so grateful for an amazing adventure, we were already planning the next one! We got home to a very warm Murcia but a lovely healthy garden thanks to our watering system and a good friend who keeps an eye on it for us. We are so lucky. Where to next?