After our ill fated but nevertheless enjoyable trip to Stockholm, we intended to be off north to cooler climes in the motorhome within a week or two. However, as usual life got in the way and a series of first world problems hindered our quick get away. But at last on Thursday 4th August we finally rolled out of our gates and were on our way north. By this time the daily temperatures at home were in the mid to high thirties, uncomfortable and relentless. Our car had been off the road for a couple of weeks (just one of the aforementioned first world problems) and our kind neighbour, Kate stepped into the breach by offering lifts and the use of her car. She also held our car key so that our mechanic could come over and have a look at it while we were away. More of Kate’s amazing neighbourliness later.
We have air-con in the camper cab just when we are on the move. (This had caused another delay as we realised that it needed re-gassing before we could set off), so we organised our trip north so that we were travelling during the hottest part of the day and arriving at our camping spots in the early evening. This worked out well in that together with use of the twelve volt fans Nigel had bought, neither us nor the dogs sweltered too much. We didn’t hang about and got up to the northern Asturias Atlantic coast in two and a half days. I have to admit that I was sceptical about anywhere in Spain being comfortably cool enough to want to spend weeks in a metal box on wheels, however Nigel was right, apart from a few very hot days, the temperature has been mostly in the low twenties, often with a fresh breeze, very pleasant indeed. The first thing that struck us was the difference in the landscape, green and lush compared to the parched dry brown fields of home, an encouraging sign that the weather would be more comfortable.
Our first few days were spent mostly on Aires by beaches. Aires, for the uninitiated are spaces where motorhomes and campervans can stay overnight (though some are daytime only) for free. No caravans or tents are allowed. These are usually funded by the municipality and often there is a bar or restaurant close by that one is encouraged to support. If you are lucky, the surface will be level, or level(ish)! There is usually water available and a point to empty grey waste and chemical toilets. Camping behaviour is not allowed, no tables and chairs or cooking or drying of laundry outside. We have used many throughout Europe and they are a fantastic resource, there are now apps on our phones to be able to locate them. However, not being used to summer motorhoming we were a bit overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of vans at some of these spots. In some cases we were sleeping closer to other people than we ever do having folk stay at our house in the spare room or on the boat! We didn’t hear any snoring but I do wonder if anyone heard us! Also another slight inconvenience was that on the vast majority of these beaches dogs were prohibited. When this was the case we took them on early morning and late evening, as locals did, when hardly anyone was about.
As August gave way to September, the crowds were thinning out and we found a few “honey spots” as we call them, as we headed slightly south from A Coruna on the west Atlantic coast, delightful places that we have to ourselves or share with just a few.
Then we decided to head inland for a short while to visit places we had read about in the rough guide but it was so hot again, we soon headed back to the coast.
We were meeting up with friends, Mandy and Bill Brotherstone who we first met on a campsite in the French Alps in 2009. We hit it off, kept in touch and have met up at each other’s homes and on our boat many times since but then they emigrated to New Zealand in 2016. They had decided to get a ferry over to Santander for a month in their caravan after spending time in Scotland and England visiting family and friends. Now it was our turn so we made arrangements to meet up near Santiago de Compostela on 27th August. As we turned the North west corner we stayed on the coast, beach hopping so that we were never too far from Santiago.
It was about this time that little Poco started vomiting after every meal. When this went on for four days we decided a vet visit was in order. He was his normal lively self in all other ways and the vet could find nothing obvious so gave him an anti sickness injection and some tablets to soothe his digestive tract. This seemed to work initially but unfortunately the sickness returned by the end of the week .
By this time we had arrived at the campsite and had a joyful reunion with Bill and Mandy who we hadn’t seen for seven years. M, B and I visited Santiago in their car to see the Cathedral. Nigel looked after the dogs as he doesn’t “do” crowds or tat shops of which there are many!
We wandered around the old part of the city along the narrow cobbled streets and witnessed the queues of pilgrims waiting to get their certificates. Many were arriving and being greeted with applause and hugs, others were sitting on the ground with bare feet, boots and rucksacks by their sides, looking relieved and happy to have completed their pilgrimage. The queue to go into the cathedral was massive, we reluctantly decided we would give it a miss as it looked like covid central! A shame but we have to make do with Alex Pollizi’s you tube clip in her Secret Spain series at 29 minutes in. Where did they shoo all the people to while they filmed this, I would like to know, as I have read that many hundreds of pilgrims arrive every day of the year, especially since lockdown which seems to have inspired more people to achieve a personal or religious goal. The campsite we stayed at was one of the offices where stamps of distance could be collected along the way and there was a constant stream of named luggage arriving each day by transport followed later by the owners walking or cycling wearily to collect their belongings and set up camp for the night.
We spent time together especially in the evenings when the gin and wine flowed and the conversation flitted all over the place. Nigel and Bill had a mountain bike ride together one morning just like old times!
So, back to Poco, we had booked 3 days at the campsite but extended our stay to a week so that we could visit another vet for a second opinion. After x-rays and scans it was decided he needed surgery to remove a “foreign body” from his stomach and bowel. To cut a long story short, he had his operation but nothing was found so he is now recovering from what appears to have been pointless major surgery. But we had to know as we assumed he had picked up and eaten something he shouldn’t have on a beach somewhere. Thankfully we took out insurance for him in January when Ditto’s was due for renewal. We picked him up and he was in a sorry state, very spaced out and dribbling all over me. We fitted his cone which initially didn’t bother him but as he became more aware, he was not impressed. He had a cannula in his leg so that his drugs could be topped up next morning.
It was a little sad to finally say au revoir to Mandy and Bill who left the same day as us to explore more of northern Spain. We hope to see them again next year as they are planning another trip now that they have both retired. We searched out quiet places we could stay whilst Poco got over his first few days and went back for his post op check ups.
We had planned to go back to the coast to continue our beach hopping but after three nights of very little sleep, we decided to make our way home as fast as possible so that we would have more room for little Mr. Cone Head not to have to clamber all over us at night! We had him up our end of the camper at bed time because of the possible hazards of getting the cone caught on handbrakes/seat belts etc. or hurting himself if he wanted to get down so he spent the night swapping between us, lying on our legs and we were scared to move in case we hurt him. Ditto in the meantime cried and whined most of the night because he wanted to come up too!
We were faced with another week of disturbed nights as it would be 10 days before the stitches could come out so after his check up on Monday morning we made the mutual decision to hightail it home. We had just one stop on the way, an Aire just south of Madrid. It had been a long drive and we stopped and fed the dogs and ourselves and fell into bed. There had been some loud thump, thump, thump music while I was cooking our tea, which Nigel couldn’t hear, going on since we arrived and a lot of cars. So I shoved some earplugs in and tried to nod off only to be awakened at midnight by the loudest fireworks we have ever heard which went on for half an hour. A google search the next day showed me that we had arrived in this town (Aranjuez) on the last day of a five day festival and the fireworks were the finale! Nearly finished us off I can tell you. Anyway, we survived another disturbed night and arrived home at 4pm on Wednesday! The dogs slept in the kitchen, no hazards for Poco and we had the bedroom to ourselves, bliss!
We discovered that the pool cover we had installed before we left (although filthy, now cleaned) had done its job and prevented evaporation. Various bits of the garden are somewhat overgrown but will be tackled all in good time.
I mentioned Kate, our neighbour, earlier and she had a pretty grim task to perform one day which she reported to us on messenger. She discovered on checking the house a couple of weeks after we left that after a recent power cut, the electricity had not reset itself as it normally does but that our mains switch had tripped some days before. The fridge freezer had defrosted and the contents were rank so she kindly cleared it all out for us so we didn’t have the stench to deal with when we got home. Apart from the lack of food in it, we would never have known there was anything amiss, she did a great clean up job! Next time we go away for any length of time we will run it down and leave it off before we go to avoid it happening again.
And so that’s almost the end of this blog except to say that since we are home earlier than expected, the plan is now to take off again when little Poco has had his stitches out but this time southwestwards towards the straits of Gibraltar to see the autumn bird migration.