Newbie Caravanning in Spain
The Mobile Wendy House
I live in a cave house in a town called Baza in a little known corner of Spain known as the Altiplano de Granada. Cave houses are often said to resemble hobbit houses from "Lord of the Rings". I, however, often think of my place as being more like "Mole End". This, you may recall, was Mole's home in that timeless children's classic (that adults love) "Wind in the Willows".
I sometimes think that I myself might have dropped into a fantasy story. One bright spring morning this year, fed up with household chores, I too, just like Mole, slipped out of my underground home looking for new horizons. My wife and I bought a caravan. (Caravans, incidentally, were also a passing craze for the rich and conceited Mr.Toad in the same story).
Times are hard here in Cave House Country and, unlike Toad, we didn't have much money to spare, so the caravan had to be cheap! It just so happened there was a "cheapy" for sale not far away. It was being offered by a couple of local dealers. Short and round, they were the very image of Tweedledum and Tweedledee, straight out of a Spanish version of "Alice Through the Looking Glass".
"Es muy barata,"(it's very cheap) said Tweedledum or was it dee.
"Es muy chula" (it's very cute) said the other.
"Would you reduce the price?" said I.
They both looked aghast. The mere thought of it seemed to depress them.
The caravan was well travelled. There were bumps and scratches on the outside but inside it looked to be in good condition. It reminded us of a Wendy house - a mobile Wendy house. The type of miniature house that children love to play in. (You may also remember the original Wendy house appeared in "Peter Pan, the Boy who Never Grew Up").
We were now caravanners. Or should I say newbie caravanners.
Mr.Toad on Caravanning
"The open road, the dusty highway, the heath, the common, the hedgerows, the rolling downs! Camps, villages, towns, cities! Here today up and off to somewhere else tomorrow! Travel, change, interest, excitement!"
Kenneth Grahame - "Wind in the Willows"
If you would like to find out more about Mole, Toad, et al (or remind yourself), I recommend this beautifully illustrated book. You might even want to read it to the kids!
Getting It Home...
...With a Little Help
I must have driven a million miles over the years but I have never towed anything, anywhere. When Paco, aka Tweedledum, hitched the caravan to the back of our car it looked, through the rear view mirrors, less like a Wendy house and more like a juggernaut. Upon seeing my apprehension he volunteered to tow the van back to our house so that we could fix it up before we sallied forth on the open road. He even offered to give me a towing lesson and agreed to store the van for us between trips.
Having finally got the caravan home the first thing to do, of course, was to climb inside, sit round the little table and have a celebratory glass or two of good Spanish vino.
...More than I Could Shake a Stick at
Closer inspection of the inside of the van revealed a host of minor problems. The 12 volt system had been disassembled and therefore some of the internal lights and both the tap in the little kitchen and the one in toilet cubicle would not work. Virtually all the cupboard door catches were either broken or misaligned and all the doors had obviously been thrashing back and forth during the journey home.. The tiny wash basin in the toilet cubicle was cracked and coming adrift from the walls. The waste pipe from the kitchen sink was blocked and the cupboard beneath it had collapsed. The curtains were dirty and and falling apart and needed to be replaced.
Closer inspection of the outside of the van, however, revealed considerably more problems than the broken window, bumps and scratches and broken plastic fittings that I knew about. The tyre side walls were cracked and new tyres must be bought. The hand brake did not work and needed urgent attention. Worst of all, a proper look at the underside of the of the caravan revealed that it had been crudely reinforced with chipboard which crumbled to the touch.
All the other problems I could fix, but what to do about the floor? Why didn't I check things more carefully before we laid our money down? Gloom set in.
Spongy Floor or Delamination
Internet to the Rescue
A look at the internet soon revealed that I had an acute but treatable case of spongy floor or delamination. (The caravan, that is, not me personally). This is a condition that afflicts the floors of elderly and, by all accounts, not so elderly RVs of all types due to excessive foot traffic. The floors are made from a foam material sandwiched between two sheets of plywood and delamination occurs when the foam and the ply start to part company. This situation has to be remedied because the whole structure of the caravan is weakened if the floor is not strong.
It was quite a big operation and a messy one. It involves boarding up the underside, drilling countless holes, injecting special adhesive and placing heavy weights on the treated area. Job done.
Eventually, most of the problems were remedied and it was nearly time to head for the open road. Paco came round to give me a towing lesson which went very well until we got to the reversing bit whereupon he became overly excited (I thought) at my ineptitude. (After several trips I could still use a few lessons from an expert of a more equable disposition.)
"The Open Road...
...Here Today, Up and Off to Somewhere Else Tomorrow!"
One of the great things about living in this part of Andalucia (Andalusia), Spain on the Altiplano de Granada, or Cave House Country as I prefer to call it, is its close proximity to many other places of great natural beauty and historic interest. Another good thing about this area, especially for newbie caravanners like me, is the excellent network of main roads blessedly free from heavy traffic.
We are about 900 metres above sea level here and there was still a slight chill in the March air, so it was decided to take our mobile Wendy house down to that part of the Mediterranean coast known as the Costa Calida (the Warm Coast). Paco hitched us up, and we were off, duly arriving, without mishap, at our destination a couple of hours later. This was a campground near the resort of Mazarron in the adjacent Province of Murcia.
This site is situated in a place called Bolnuevo which boasts an impressive beach and easy access to several more. We were now in a different world. A world of gently swaying palm trees where most of the inhabitants were over sixty-five and a minimal amount of clothing was necessary. A world inhabited by genteel prosperous people , the "snowbirds" of northern Europe and beyond. A world of RV's, of enormous motorhomes that towed cars, jet skis or speed boats, of air-conditioned caravans of great length and girth and of fifth wheel trailers bristling with technology and looking like starships.
One of Many Beaches Near Mazarron
There are miles of lovely beaches in the Province of Murcia. It is one of the least commercialised areas of all the Spanish Costas.
Mimosa Flowers in the March Sun
A Newbie Nightmare
We travelled slowly down avenues of the most expensive "camping" equipment that I had ever seen. Each situated in its own little plot, cheek by jowl with it's neighbours. Each patch was different, sporting such things as tented extensions, costly gas barbecues, artificial grass, potted plants and even a concrete garden gnome or two. We began to feel like a couple of country hicks or hill-billies down from the mountains, which in effect, I suppose, we were.
We eventually arrived at our designated pitch, whereupon I decided that it was beyond my skill-set to reverse the caravan safely into our allotted space. I did not wish to risk destroying the dividing hedge and quite possibly the neighbouring motorhome, the owners of which were pretending not to stare. There was nothing else for it, the Wendy house had to be unhitched and physically pushed into position. There was, however, only one snag in this scenario - we couldn't separate the van from the car. They seemed welded together. A lot of huffing and puffing and a furiously whispered discussion took place which was eventually interrupted by the kindly offer of help from a portly German senior citizen. He, too, physically struggled with the problem and I began to think he might have a heart attack. I pointed to the offending hitching gear and told him that it had been made in Germany, a fact that I thought might help.
"About one hundred years ago, I think," he replied.
My observation may well have been useful because suddenly his face lit up and he said triumphantly, "You hef to press ze button!" and indicated a safety catch which was partially obscured by grime and of whose existence I had been unaware.
In a trice we were free and quickly shoved into position. Our saviour returned to the climate controlled comfort of his own RV, a craft which looked so futuristic that it would not have disgraced Star Fleet Command.
We were now free to continue with our first caravanning expedition whilst trying not to look too much like newbies....
This Didn't Happen to Me - I'm Pleased to Say
This is a newbie caravanner's nightmare!
Another Local Beach
Weird Eroded Landscape at Bolnuevo
One of the Big Guns of Mazarron - One of Two 15 inch Calibre Guns.
The gun batteries at Mazarron formed part of the shore defences for Cartagena, HQ for the Spanish Mediterranean fleet for 500 years. The site, which is vast, has been abandoned for years, but now looks as if the it is being turned into a tourist attraction. There are other large guns and some almost whimsical fortifications (castillitos) to be seen. A great free day out and not too far from Mazarron!
Beachside Cave House (abandoned!) - Playa Los Cocederos, Costa Calida
How could I, as Cavehouseman, go to the Costa Calida and not visit this abandoned fisherman's cave house in this exquisite setting. Warm sea, lovely weather, quiet beach, need I say more. (This particular photo was taken July 1st).
Mud Bathers at Lo Pagan - Mar Menor - Mar Menor - Europe's largest mud bathing area
If you travel north along the Costa Calida you will join the Costa Blanca and arrive at the Mar Menor. This is a 170 square kilometre stretch of water separated from the Mediterranean Sea by a narrow sandbar. This is a haven for water sports enthusiasts, tourists and health and beauty seekers.
Would You Like to Go Caravanning?
....and now the End is Near
As we approached Baza, during the warm spring afternoon, we agreed that the trip had been successful, apart from a few fundamental, newbie errors. Improperly secured windows flew open, improperly secured food items ended up on the floor and I did, briefly, forget to plug in the electric cable to the car. This journey was all over bar the shouting. (This is an expression that I was bought up with, but in this case it was literally true).
On our arrival at Paco's yard, the man himself was there to greet us and he wanted me to reverse the van into a narrow space between two almond trees.
"MAS, MAS, MAS!" (More).
"ES FACIL!" (It's easy).
"MADRE MIA AHHH...!"
This is the UK company that supplied the one-shot delamination adhesive that I used.
- Camping Los Delfines
This is a pleasant place to stay with its own health giving geothermal pool.
- Camping Playa de Mazarron
Good site with most things that you could want. Easy access to the beach.
- Camping Pueblo de San Javier
Another well run site. Reasonably handy for the mud baths at Lo Pagan.