Our stay in San Javier was the chance for a new travelling experience. We’ve stayed on many motorhome-only sites before, of course, but this one seemed to be a haven for overwintering Brits. We’ve often toyed with the idea of a warmer winter spent down here, but we’re not so sure now. The newly introduced post-Brexit rule of limiting stays in the EU to 90 days in 180 doesn’t help; many of the travellers we spoke to used to come from October to March.
The Camperpark La Ribera has to be the cleanest, most organised place we’ve stayed in. And with the most rules. Probably not unconnected with the fact that the owners are German. They might have been Dutch, but I won’t let that get in the way of a bit of casual racial stereotyping 😉 We were handed a closely-typed A4 sheet of rules on arrival and told that you must use the swipe card for entry and exit – no ducking under the barrier; you must not make a sound after 10pm; and if your dog does its business anywhere outside the designated area you will be fined €50. And they have CCTV everywhere to make sure you comply.
Something we’ve seen elsewhere, particularly in Spanish campsites, is the way long-term stayers get their elbows out to maximise the space on their pitches. We wandered around the site among tightly packed motorhomes of all sizes and budgets. The common factor seemed to be windbreaks and awnings set up right on the very edge of the pitch, with the tyres of the vehicle touching the other edge. One had two tents taking up the rest of the space, others had ground sheets or temporary decking, they had fairy lights, plant pots, scooters or cycles, trailers and all sorts squeezed into tiny plots. It had the air of a shanty town in places.
San Javier is certainly a respectable little town but it didn’t really have a lot going for it off-season. It had a retail park where we could get our supermarket supplies, a fuel station, and a generous, but very quiet promenade along the sea front. The few restaurants which were still open provided a good value lunchtime menu del dia but there wasn’t a lot of life in the place.
It seemed to us that the preference of most of the guests at the motorhome camper stop was to stay on site. There was a little cafeteria with both inside and outside tables offering Brit-friendly burgers and chips with a side order of beer. I’m sure to many, it’s a perfect winter paradise, where you can meet and chat with the same familiar faces every year – and it’s not my place to criticise. But it’s really not for us. After watching the same old fellow slowly pacing backwards and forwards over and over, filling his watering can and topping up his van’s tank three mornings in a row – we had to move on.
What we needed was to get back in touch with why we do this, and get off-grid for a while. Long-term readers might remember a previous visit to the Béznar reservoir south of Granada. It was ideally placed for a revisit on our way further south. At Béznar there’s a parking spot by the huge dam in the Lecrin Valley overlooked by the Sierra Nevada mountains.
The area seems to be one enormous orchard! We took a stroll up rough tracks into the hills to the village of Pinos del Valle. Along the way we stopped to pick a ripe orange or two to sustain us, and we’ve just had a quiz to try to remember all the rest of nature’s bounty* we saw growing around us. Almonds were falling from the trees, we saw ripe lemons and limes, olives everywhere, heavy persimmons and pomegranates were hanging low on the branches but to Gill’s disappointment we were a little late for the figs. We managed to find just one or two sticky late maturing fruits growing wild at the roadside.
An unexpected discovery was the Cementerio Pinos del Valle, a walled mausoleum in the middle of nowhere. The ground here must be too hard for traditional graves to be dug as the departed were stacked three high in long rows. The Spanish show great respect to family members who are no longer with us. Every place of rest seemed to have fresh flowers and photographs showing that they are visited frequently. It was lovely to spend a few quiet moments with them.
Two nights by the reservoir were enough to recharge the batteries. We soon felt ready for another bounce down to the coast for more beachside mayhem. Next episode – Nerja; drunk on the prom, and some serious (for us) hiking.
*no, there weren’t any coconuts