Yesterday morning I was sitting in the back of the Landrover holding a warm cup of Red Bush tea looking out over a beautiful but bitterly cold landscape. My hands and feet were freezing and had been since the night before. We had spent the last two evenings huddled up in a 9sqm space watching movies keeping warm by either woolly hats and blankets or the diesel heater and as our plans take us further north there is little prosepct of anything warmer for some time to come.
What was my mind thinking about? How much I missed the cottage? How soon we can call it all a day and build our viking longhouse somewhere warm? Not even close! I was contemplating how beautiful the trees were and whether we should cross to Morocco sooner to get some heat. It didn´t occur to me until much later that it hadn´t occured to me to question our new life living out of a Landrover and taking our chances with whatever nature chooses to throw at us.
James and I chatted about it later, at no point….yet….have either of us questioned or regretted our decision. If where we are isn´t working for us then we´ll just haul anchor and try somewhere different. What are the minor inconveniences of a nomadic life compared to our old lives? A joy and a pleasure, that´s what!
So we are now a month in and sadly are having to retrace our steps from southern Spain back up north and into France for the only ferry currently running to Morocco. We have decided to make the most of the journey and see as many sites as we can along the way. I spent a happy couple of hours researching what delights await us and plotting a course between historic sites. One thing I can say for Spain – they do a good line in castles and cathedrals!
First up, the Palau Ducal de Borja. A seemingly little known palace in Gandia which even Nick and Petra had never heard of despite being only 45 minutes away. We therefore didn´t hold out a great deal of hope but it was beautiful! The Gold Room, the Prayer Room, and all the other rooms were just wonderful to see.
Moving north the Caves of Bolomor appeared not to be open to the public so we swiftly moved on to Cullera. Here was both a castle and a pirate cave – we were excited! Sadly the best thing about the castle was the view from the long windy road up and the hundreds of cats! Lots of renovation work had been done and whilst to a good standard it had kind of lost its authenticity.
Having been disappointed by both caves and castle we felt uninspired to push on to the pirate cave and instead headed back to the camp site we had stayed at on the way down to Moraira and nicknamed ´Benidorm´ for reasons I will leave to your imagination! We figured that around that part of the coast it was definitely a case of better the devil you know.
Refreshed and raring to go the next morning we sped up to Sagunto and the castle residing there. We were in luck! This castle was a ruin but enormous and definitely authentic. It was a blisteringly hot day and we had no water with us – James wasn´t feeling too well either – so we just spent an hour or so wandering around and admiring the stunning views.
Further north still, Castillo de Mora de Rubielos was a fun castle used mainly to showcase gruesome torture and battle equipment but also with fabulously vaulted cellars and a wierdly smiley horse.
Tired and somewhat castled out we headed to the nearest campsite with green stuff and rested our feet in a beauitful setting to decide what the following day would bring.
Zaragoza was the next big town north that promised cathedrals and palaces. We headed off for a day out in civilisation – including the obligatory ice cream and doughnuts! The town didn´t disappoint although we waited an hour for the Aljaferia Palace to open only to find all tickets were sold out – so we had to satisfy ourselves with external photos only!
One day in town was enough for us but finding somewhere to sleep for the night was proving difficult. Wild camping in Spain is technically illegal so suitable places are few and far between. Especially in this area, campsites were pretty much our only choice and most seemed far too commercial. Eventually we found ourselves driving miles up a lonely gravel road quite late in the evening with fingers tightly crossed that the campsite at the top existed, was open and welcoming.
When we finally rounded the corner we were not disappointed. It was in the middle of nowhere, peace and greenery abounded and no closed gates. No actual people to book in with either, but with a little help from kindly Belgian and Swiss passersby we found the owners running a nearby restaurant and managed to use universal sign language to get ourselves booked in.
In fact we enjoyed the peace of the site so much we decided to stay two nights and breath in the fresh air and solitude for as long as we could.
The next day we were heading towards the heights of Andorra – a whole new country for me and the excitement was building!