Some of the best village ramparts in France
We have torn ourselves away from Daimus! We spent 13 nights on the Dunes Camper site for the princely sum of €125 although that does include 6 nights with electricity when it was wet and cloudy. We said our goodbyes to some friends on the website and we do hope we might see them again on another site one day. It has been really good to relax and chill out knowing that everything we need is within easy reach and with plenty of other english speakers to chat to. We may well come back here sometime – if not on this trip then another time.
Before we left we walked down to the beach for a last paddle for a few days as we will be away from the sea up in the mountains for several nights. This was our first paddle since the big storm and the water was much colder. I was not tempted to go for a swim today! On our way back from the beach we stopped at the fruit and veg shop and stocked up with oranges (2.5 kilos for €1.92) and then across the road to stock up with yummy chocolate coconut macaroons from the bakers!
We finally rolled out of the gates at 12:30pm and Bertie was raring to go! First stop was a few miles down the road when we filled up with LPG and diesel. Very impressed with the diesel price at €1.12 per litre (97p!). We turned off the main road at Oliva and headed up into the mountains – it set the scene for the trip when we were greeted by a sign saying that the next 42kms would be twisty and the max recommended speed was 70kph. In the event I am not sure that we ever actually made it up to that speed and most of the time we barely managed 30kph.
The road wound steadily up through numerous hairpin bends and with tantalising views as we got higher and higher. Nowhere to stop until we got to the top. This was the Coll de Rates at 625m (2050ft) and this was just the first pass – there was another pass to come before the final climb up to our stop for tonight – itself at 1800ft! It tooks us over 3 hours to drive the whole 45 miles meaning an average of 15 miles an hour and that is allowing for our various stops. The road itself was superb with a lovely smooth surface however it was not that wide. We could pass a car coming the otherway with care but anything bigger would have been tricky. Fortunately that only happened once when we met a school bus (!) just below Tarbenas but that was on a slightly wider bit of road and we could inch past safely.
The main traffic we had to contend with was the bikes – lots and lots of serious cyclists in brightly coloured lycra. On one really twisty section climbing up to the second pass we came up behind one guy powering away. There was no safe way to pass so we had to follow him for a few miles. It sounds silly driving up a hill behind a bicycle but really we had perhaps 50 yards view ahead and the road was too narrow for Bertie, a bike and a car. Anyway this guy just pedalled away and on several of the sharper bends he was leaving us behind! Bertie was doing about 20 – 25kph in second gear most of the way and that guy just kept pedalling. There was no relief as this was a steady climb of at least 10% and maybe 15% in the steep bends but he still kept pedalling. Serious respect!
We found a mirador (picnic site and view point) just below Tabernas and pulled in for a break and bit of lunch. It was not that much further to Castel del Guadalest but this was too good a place to miss. On this road miradors are few and far between. From the viewpoint we could see the road winding down the hill and it did not look too far down or too wiggly. Wrong! Once we move off after lunch we soon realised we were much higher up than we had thought and the valley floor was much further down. The reason it looked OK was that the valley walls closed right in and what we thought was the bottom was actually barely half way down! Of course once we got to the bottom and could turn off right for the final approach to Castel de Guadalest we then had to climb most of the way back up again! Anyway Bertie performed perfectly even though the temperature guage nudged very slightly above normal once or twice. At these low speeds he is a joy to drive especially on these lovely smooth roads. The one feature of Spanish roads that does bother us is the huge drop off at the edge. Sometimes the metalled road surface can be a couple of feet above the verge! If you put a wheel off that you would drop straight on to your chassis and do serious damage. We think they repair the roads by laying another layer of tarmac on top of the old road and each time they do this the road gets higher and higher above the surrounding ground.
Finally arrived in the car park and parked up at 4:30pm. Slightly miffed that the overnight price was now €6 and not €4 as expected which seems a bit much with no services (water etc). So we will just have the one night and push on to Castalla tomorrow after we have visited the little town and struggled up the 200 steps to visit the castle and viewpoint. Watch this space for a full report!