19th April 2010 Altura (Portugal) to El Rocio (Spain)

19 04 2010

I was up at 8.45am walking Jack on the beaches of Altura, Lorna rose a little later but when I got back to the motorhome there was a cup of tea waiting and our sandwiches had been made ready for lunch later in the day. We got ready to leave which involved lifting a drain cover to empty the toilet cassette and filling our water tank from a drinking fountain, a long job with 5 litre water bottles. Eventually we got going at 11.30am and headed toward the nearest petrol station to put some diesel in, I only put a small amount in as we were heading to Spain and fuel is much cheaper there (up to €0.20 per litre).

We headed out of Portugal, over the large bridge that took us into Spain. I mentioned to Lorna that on the other side of the bridge the roads would suddenly improve, and I was right, as soon as we entered Spain we were driving on nice smooth road surfaces again.

We passed through Huelva and joined the A494 which took us past some huge industrial areas and then into the national park that runs all the way along that part of the coast. After we stopped at Torre de la Higuera to eat our sandwiches we drove further down the coast to Matalascanas which turned out to be some strange kind of ghost town, full of holiday homes and apartments but no people, quite a surreal place to be in, but that was nothing compared to our next stop at El Rocio.

We were recommended El Rocio by Frank and Yvonne who we met whilst staying in Luarca a good while ago. As we approaced the town we could see the white buildings and a large white church reflecting in the waters to the right of us and as we got closer we started to get an idea of just how strange this place was. We pulled into what looked like a car park and we were immediately shown where to park by an official looking guy in a flourescent vest (N37•07’53 W006•29’11). We asked if it was ok to sleep there, he said it was and charged us €2 before handing us a rather second hand looking parking ticket. We then went for a walk into the town and this is where the surreal feel of the place really hit me. All of the roads in the town were just dirt tracks, some leading to what can only be described as village squares, but again, no road surfaces.

El Rocio Street

The buildings that made up the town looked like buildings out of a spaghetti western, all with covered verandas and fences that ran all along the front. The shops in the town all sold flamenco dresses and for the men those very straight suits with short jackets and straight drainpipe trousers, much like the bullfighters wear. They also sold horse riding boots and saddles. The main church was very majestic, pure brilliant white with a shell like roof to the entrance. Inside the altar was stunning with a huge gold backdrop.

The Church at El Rocio

We wandered up to the tourist information office which was across the main road and on the edge of a small clutter of houses, outside one, a family of about 15 watched as the father barbequed their tea. I tried to work out how so many lived in such a small place, virtually a shack. The tourist office was closed so we decided to have a little drive up the road to have a look at the camping site. We had a note in our map that told us to park opposite the Police station and next to the campsite but we had seen neither on our way in. The Police station turned out to be a very small shack like building that showed no signs of being occupied and the campsite was another kilometre up the road so we returned to where we were originally. We parked again in a similar place which suited us slightly better but were soon moved on by another guy who was obviously now issuing parking tickets, he moved us to the exact same spot where we were earlier so we obliged but parked facing the other way around with the door opening onto a patch of grass instead of the sandy ‘road’ surface. He didn’t charge us €2 as we showed him our ticket from earlier, but Lorna kind of understood that he was a volunteer that was selling parking tickets to support his family, most of whom seemed to be with him. In fact his two little girls were most interested in Jack after running away the first time they saw him.

We then decided that it was time to settle down and so we had a drink whilst being chatted to by the two little girls who we managed to get the ages of but little else. We watched coachloads of schoolchildren arrive and depart and were constantly hearing shouts of ‘Ola’ as they walked past our motorhome.

Later on we took Jack for another walk, which was a good excuse to try and see where the two other motorhomes that had arrived were parked but we couldn’t see them and so we assumed that they had moved on. When we returned I started cooking our tea of sausage and mash with baked beans (a triumph of a dish by me even if I say so myself) whilst we were being talked to constantly by the youngest of the car park ticket guy’s daughters. She kept repeating the same sentence and as neither of us could understand her Lorna decided to go and ask the parents what she was saying. The parents could speak no English, Lorna no Spanish and so she tried French. Big fail. A while after Lorna returned, the parking ticket guy came across quite concerned that we had a problem with our motorhome and it took us a while to try to get across what Lorna had tried to say to them, we failed at that too. Entertaining but also a bit confusing.

Later in the evening we watched as a chap on a horse went to one of the bars in the main square. Then at about 10pm some kids on a horse and cart rode close by and banged our windows which gave us both a bit of a start, Jack of course sprang into action and opened one eye. We had a chat and decided to move to a slightly different location as we realised that we were the only people about, we moved closer to the main road and directly outside the Guarda Civil office (N37•08’02 W006•29’16), better safe than sorry.

I thought Fatima was surreal but it had nothing on this place! Never mind, Cadiz tomorrow. I wonder what that will hold for us?




One response

21 04 2010

it’s obviously a local place, for local people…..

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