Thursday 26 November 2015

The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly on Us

Spain, 22nd – 26th November 2015

Praia de Os Castros
It seems the weather has turned off for winter here now, with some days of almost constant rain, the rest with grey skies and showers, and temperatures hovering around 15°C. My shorts have made way for trousers, I’ve had to dig out my thicker fleece and even had my woolly hat on yesterday. We didn’t make it into the Picos Mountains as it was down to 7.5°C in the evening at our campsite at the edge of them, and forecasts gave minus temperatures up there so we’ll have to do them another time. Instead we continued west to Cangas de Onis and Gijon, then continued along the coast to a couple of nice cliff top spots with great views of the stormy seas that I’m looking at now as I write this. If it wasn’t for having to return to the UK in a week and a half’s time, we’d have started making a dash south for some better weather, which is what we heard from Ellie and Matt today is their imminent plan.

While on the campsite at Camping Picos de Europe we spent the time making use of the free WiFi with our booster aerial connected to the laptop and it set up as a hotspot for us to be able to connect on multiple devices to get jobs done simultaneously. In the evening I found the first part of the Building Cars Live TV programme on YouTube to watch, which was based at MINI Plant Oxford showing various stages of the build process in a modern car factory. Watching it was making me feel inspired to want to work there again (I’ve worked there in Quality Engineering previously), the first time while touring that I’ve had any motivation to go back to work in the UK. I won't be rushing back to do so just yet though!

The closest we got to the snow capped Picos mountains...
In the morning we took the opportunity of being on mains power to cut my hair which was well overdue, then used the facilities that were conveniently right next to our pitch, to have nice hot showers. As the man that checked us in said we could stay until anytime, we stayed put until about 3:30pm to get some more use of the WiFi and electric to continue with our tasks. After using the service point to do all of our tanks to keep us going for a few days again (although we have found there are plenty of free service points in this area now), we got on the road to Cangas de Onis, which is the main town on the approach to the Picos National Park.

There are only four spaces in the Aire at Cangas de Onis (GPS: 43.35212 -5.12516, Free inc. service point) which is part of a large car park and signs forbid parking outside the designated area, but with only one other motorhome there when we arrived we got parked up no problem. The bays would be awkward if the area was busy as they are arranged in two rows of two and are less than 8m long. If cars were parked in the neighbouring bays it would leave hardly any room for an average size 7m-ish van like ours to get in and out from two of the spaces. I don’t know why they didn’t just put the four bays for campers to park side by side. Anyway, thankfully the rain had cleared during the morning so we headed out for a look around. As we were leaving the van a chap walking by who didn’t speak English asked me with the aid of gestures something along the lines of if my pipe tube on the roof was an awning, and I think I managed to get across that it was for storing long objects in. It seems they don’t have them on the continent as I’ve had several people in different countries ask about it, and I’ve not seen any whilst on our travels. We had a walk through the town, much of which was closed up, and the remainder was restaurants and tourist shops. Jo wasn’t keen on a large mechanical dancing cow in the entrance to one of the shops we passed! We crossed the river and followed a path along its banks, where we bumped into the pipe tube man again coming the other way. We finished watching season 4 of Breaking Bad in the evening and heard an ongoing sound that was like cowbells but we couldn’t figure out where from, so I thought it might be a wind chime.

We realised where the sound was coming from in the morning; there were cows grazing on the hillside across the road beyond the back of the car park, and being quite empty the sound was carrying across this space. We left Cangas, cruising along main roads and dual carriageways to Gijon, calling at Lidl on the way in. I put a 3kg bag of potatoes in the basket as they were on offer at only €1 rather than about €2.40, although Jo doesn’t know what to do with them all now – suggestions are welcome! We went down to the Aire (GPS: 43.54501 -5.69513, Free inc. service point) which is positioned next to the main road into the shipping port and an adjacent freight rail line so there was some noise but we didn’t find it interrupted our sleeping at all, it was certainly better than some places we’ve stayed. There’s quite a nice outlook from the parking bays with the water and a beach over to the left and a park area in front. We walked around the bay to the edge of the town centre (about 3km), detouring onto the port which had a seemingly excessive number of disabled parking bays, and less standard bays. We passed a Christmas tree made out of thousands of empty cider bottles and walked around some of the old town. After a while it started to drizzle so we started walking back to the Aire as it continued to rain. Expecting it to be noisy, we’d originally planned to move on somewhere else for the night, but it seemed fine to us so we cracked out the sangria before cooking some nice sweet chilli chicken with Patatas a lo Pobre (Poor Man’s Potatoes) for dinner, which coincidentally is a local dish.

On Gijon port
Two blocks of flats on the portside that appear to be styled
like cruise ships

We awoke to a grey drizzly day again so got on the road, calling for some diesel (at only €0.984/l, or 69p) and then I nipped into Lidl for some bread, where I bumped into the pipe tube man again in there! Taking the free AP-8 motorway west which crossed several viaducts and was more easy scenic driving but there was quite a headwind blowing, dropping our MPG. We were heading for an Aire that looked and sounded good in the details we had, which was on cliffs looking over the sea. Driving through the village of Ortiguera we saw lots of smart modern houses and parked up with one other van that was there. The designated parking (GPS: 43.56105 -6.73385, Free inc. service point) is a layby area with room for only three vans. Previously a grassy area next to it could also be used but this was covered with a layer of earth and bits of slate, and was fenced off with orange plastic netting. It looks like some work has or is being done here, possibly installing drains below, re-landscaping the area, or maybe extending the Aire.

We went for a walk around the area seeing the nearby lighthouses and a memorial to local people who’ve lost their lives at sea. Walking through one side of the village there was a mixture of recently renovated houses, more worn looking ones and a couple of very old abandoned houses made of slate. One of these was for sale and joined onto a modern styled renovated house which made a drastic contrast (see photo to right). Some of the properties have great sea views and it was a very pleasant quiet little place, the sort of place I could happily live. There was a cold wind blowing so after returning Jo to the van, I ventured out again alone to take advantage of the clear spell but with an extra layer and my hat on to explore more of the village and take some photos.
The modern lighthouse
The original lighthouse with bell that would be rung when visibility was bad
The beach next to the Aire
Remains of concrete tables outside what was a bar with view
over the neighbouring cove
An abandoned grand old house with the grounds being used as a farmyard!
This afternoon we’ve moved along the coast and found a great free parking spot on the coast on cliffs facing over the sea again. We had an Aire in mind to head to unless we saw anything else en route along the coast road. We had fun in Porto Rinlo with the first attempt at getting through to the rural coast road. The road got narrower leading into a one way system through the centre of the small village. As we went around one corner it looked too tight ahead for us to get through which meant a reserving manoeuvre about 150m back up the road was required to get to a side road to turn around in, and involved a following car having to reverse all the way back too! After leaving the village the next road along had a narrow entrance but the road was fine and about half a km down it we found this spot at Praia de Os Castros (GPS: 43.55482 -7.13385) (Photo to be added tomorrow when I've got one). We’ve had a look around and started walking around the bay until the rain reappeared so made a hasty retreat to the camper.

Looking at the map and our Aire and stopover books we’ve worked out a rough plan for the next week of spots to visit, and are aiming to get down to Vigo before we turn east into a loop back.

- Matt

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