Week 20 - Moving on.

Starting a fourth week in Javea seems almost unbelievable, but we have set Monday as moving day, so just the weekend to see anything we have missed, say goodbye - again - to Dirkje and get the van ready to roll.

“Oh! You are actually going then?” said our neighbours obviously not believing that we were serious, but we were fully packed and ready to move the van off the pitch, then, before 11.00am we were on our way south.

Our destination just a few miles west of Cartagena at Isla Plana. The site is Los Madriles, and our reason for picking this site is that it has two huge swimming pools that are emptied each night and refilled with fresh sea-water. They are also heated.

We had a very pleasant drive here although it seemed a bit strange as it is one of the few caravan towing journeys we have done since 17th September when we had been on our own - weird! The countryside around here is bleak, very bleak it puts me in mind of the desert we crossed (in a bus) when we visited Petra in Jordan.

The Costa Blanca is quite a green area of Spain with huge orchards of orange and lemon trees together with large olive groves. On the way to Isla Plana we passed through a market garden area where there were miles and miles of green crops being harvested, but here, outside the towns and villages, there is virtually no green at all just a brown seemingly endless scrub with, alongside the coastal strip, hectares of a sort of grey plastic greenhouse.

IMG 1223

Arriving at Los Madriles we were given a map with vacant pitches marked and told to have a look around and choose a pitch we liked. We found a pitch that has a view that didn’t look hard to get into and towed slowly up the hill turning left into the little road road where the pitch was. It was then things started to go wrong. What had seemed plenty of room to swing the front of the car as I backed the caravan onto the pitch turned out to be anything but. The new van is less than a metre longer than the old but I can’t seem to adjust, oh well never mind we have a motor mover. That worked well for a few minutes and then the drive wheels started to dig themselves a hole as the un-driven wheels went up a rise and slightly lifting the driven wheels which then lost traction. This had the effect of swinging the caravan making the rise worse and eventually the van was jammed across the road and we were unable to move to the left or to the right or backwards or forwards.

Oh bugger!!

From every which way appeared helpers. Unfortunately all but one was German with lots of enthusiasm but keiner sprach Englisch all were pushing or shoving everyone cancelling everyone else out. The only Brit said “if we can get them all to push forward and move the van three or four inches we can then swing the front of the van to the left about 45 degrees and then the slope can be attempted from a shallower angle” it took a while to get them all to push in the same direction but once we did the whole thing went like a dream and five minutes later we were on the pitch.

It’s a nice bright day today so we have taken a car ride a little way (back) north to have a look at the Mar Menor, a gigantic lagoon 20km east of Cartagena. There is an almost complete land bridge running north/south with a road that runs over 17km almost but not quite connecting back to the mainland at the northern end. Sue had looked at this narrow spit on our road atlas and was staggered on arrival to see that the narrow strip of land was covered in high-rise hotels and apart-hotels. The northern end of the strip is narrow with not much more than the road and it is here we enjoyed, seeing lots of different birds, including flamingoes, on the seaward side. The lagoon side water temperature is said to be fully five degrees centigrade higher than the Mediterranean sea side.

We had read that the nearby city Lorca, is known as “The Baroque City” because of it’s many fine Baroque buildings and so decide to visit it today. As we drive towards the city we could see high on a hill a castle which was dismissed in our guide book thus “. . . its castle dates from this era, although only two of its original thirty five towers remain . . .”

IMG 1247

Thinking that we would have a quick look before the main event - the town centre, we followed the “castillo histórico” signs and went in. What was to be an hour at most turned into a full five hour visit. The electronic audio guide was easily the best we have come across, and we have come across more than our fair share, and there were two areas of the castle that could be accessed only when accompanied by a guide, only Spanish guides available said the lady at reception but it will still be worth going. The guide explained that he should give the talk in Spanish but as we were the only attendees and he could speak English he would do the first tour in English but if anyone else joined us for the second tour he must revert to Spanish. They didn’t and nor did he. Juan Carlos (like the king) was not really a tour guide he was an archaeologist who had worked on the castle for the last ten years and was planning to do the same for the next twenty, although in the current fiscal climate he did not know if that was possible. The first tour Juan took us on was of the castle Jewish quarter. The Jews being great merchants had thrived in the castle which separated two kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsular trading with both for two centuries until Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand gave the jews the choice of converting to Christianity or moving elsewhere. Although a few converted the majority moved elsewhere and the quarter was simply left to decay. When religious people moved into an area previously occupied by those of a different faith they often converted the religious buildings for their own use. In the jewish quarter at Lorca Castle the synagog was located very close to the christian church so, not being needed that was also left to decay and remains the only medieval synagog in Spain that had not been altered in any way. The finds dug up during its excavation, for example the glass lamps are particularly important and special.

The second tour and we are again on our own with Juan Carlos. This time we are to visit the main Keep or castle tower. There is quite a steep path to the keep, the door of which Juan opens with a very old looking key fully 12 inches long. It was 140 rough crumbly steps from the entrance via the two intermediate floors to the roof. Juan made every step interesting as he explained the history of the castle as it related to King Alphonse Xth known as “the wise one”. As we walked up Juan several times mentioned a recent earthquake which had done serious damage to the castle and town

When we reached the roof Juan explained that the earthquake that hit the town on 11th May 2011 had measured 5.1 on the Richter scale, a smaller tremor two hours earlier had sent people into the street when the main quake hit it caused extensive building damage, ten people were killed by falling masonry, and over 1000 were injured. Only one building collapsed completely during the quake but over 1000 have subsequently had to be demolished. The two main churches were both so badly damaged that they are both being rebuilt and are currently closed to visitors, as are many of the other historic buildings.

For our last day in Los Madriles we went for a drive into the Sierra Espuna National Park. It is not a drive for the faint hearted. The road was narrow, mainly single carriage width but with cars, motor bikes and suicidal mountain bikers rushing in both directions as we rose 1295 metres (4250 ft) in a very short distance - thats higher than Snowdon at 1085 m (3559 ft) but not quite so high as Ben Nevis (1344 m - 4409 ft). The views were at times frightening but at all times stunning - a must do journey.

Last Updated - Sunday 27th April 2014.             © Seve  Ghost 2014