Sunday, 10 April 2016

Puerto de Mazarrón, Cartagena and onto the Costa Blanca

Spain, 2nd – 5th April 2016


From our freeparking spot in La Azohia we had a day trip out in the van to visit nearby Puerto de Mazarrón and Bolnuevo. From here we next went to Cartagena then onto a couple more beach spots whilst heading for Alicante.

The main thing at Bolnuevo are some unusual sculpted sandstone rocks in the cliffs which have been formed by water and wind erosion. We parked in the area next to them to have a look before a walk out of the edge of the town. From here the road becomes a rough dirt track leading around to Calnegre passing some nice bays but we didn’t want to drive it in the camper, remembering how rough, potholed and scattered with rocks it was when going along it in a hire car with family when I visited this part of the Spanish coast some years ago on a holiday. We stayed in a house in Puerto de Mazarrón so I wanted to revisit it as it was a nice town and to see if it had changed. Finding a spot to park on a wide quiet street near two other British vans we’ve spotted three times previously while we’ve been in Southern Spain, we first had a look in a large Chinese shop and picked up a couple of bits. We had a walk along the length of the paseo (promenade) before getting some lovely gelatos from a shop on a street back and ate them sat by the marina. Mazarrón seemed about the same as before, with some improvement works to the beachside and port area, and is still a pleasant place to wander around with a large selection of restaurants.


After a third night at La Azohia we went into Cartagena, the main town in this bay. The Carthaginians arrived here after being driven out of Sicily by the Romans to establish a new base to try to attack back at them. Cartagena was Hannibal’s capital city on the Iberian peninsula named after Carthage in North Africa. Later, it was a strategic port and administrative centre for the Romans.

We parked for the day in an aire next to a Shell fuel station on the edge of town which is free to park at during the day (GPS: 37.61524 -1.00566, €10 overnight) and walked along the side of the dry river into the centre. It was scruffy along the river banks with graffiti and litter and views of blocks of flats, but once into the main town it is smart with tall old buildings lining the streets of shops and restaurants. It was busy and lively being a weekend with a few children’s rides in one of the main plazas, where I spotted and picked up a phone from the ground. I put it in my pocket and being an honest person planned to hand it in to the tourist office if nobody called it to locate it first. Within about fifteen minutes whilst we were looking around some nearby Roman ruins on a hill a friend of the phone’s owner called it & despite him barely speaking any English we managed to arrange to meet back at the place it was lost and got it back to him.

El Zulo statue in Cartegena harbour, a tribute to victims of terrorism
There are three free museums in the town (naval, underwater archaeology and archaeological) which could’ve been interesting to visit but they close at 2pm on a Sunday so we were too late for them unfortunately. We walked along the marina to one end and then the other looking for an empty unused old military hospital building mentioned in our Rough Guide but we didn’t find one, I think it might be that since our old edition of the book has been written the building has been redeveloped for use as one of the museums. Getting hungry we went into Burger King on the waterside for a small snack, but I noticed a couple of people pick up offer voucher leaflets from next to the tills so I grabbed one and we had a large Big King burger each and shared some fries for €5, and some nuggets too while sat on a bench looking at the yachts.

Our alternative road to the AP-7 alongside!
After a wander back to the aire we used the service point (€1 for water) and filled up on LPG in the fuel station while we were at somewhere cheap, then headed off north skirting around the Mar Menor, a large inland sea lagoon. By avoiding going onto the AP-7 last minute in case of unexpected tolls we ended up on a dodgy road running alongside it (see photo) that was basically a farm access road! I thought all AP- roads were peaje (toll), hence the P in their name, but it seems this stretch wasn’t. We gave Park4Night a try to find somewhere to stay after having it  recommended to us in a comment on the blog by Gayle, one of our readers, and navigated to a tarmac carpark at Les Salines near to salt marshes and a beach. Continuing a little bit further along the road we found an alternative patch of parking overlooking the beach and next to a large marina at Playa de Torre Derribada (GPS: 37.82330 -0.75821), and settled there.

Les Salines is on a spit of land with wetlands and a saltworks on the inland side
The next day we had a walk around the marina and another one later along the beach. The weather started nice but turned off with dull skies and wind in the afternoon followed by some rain, the first we’d seen in ages. Free or cheap places to stay closer to Alicante were limited so we decided to stay another night. I spent the rest of the afternoon working on drawings for a new idea for a design of a compact multi-purpose campervan for our next van. The rain became heavier later and carried on into the night.

Filled up with cheap diesel and stocked up in Lidl in the nearby town San Pedro, we passed around the edge of Torrevieja and pulled off into La Marina to check out a potential stopover from the Camperstop book. The parking area at El Pinet now had no motorhome or caravan signs up so we continued and found an area of rough beachside parking with around 12 motorhomes so parked with them (GPS: 38.14864 -0.63163). After a clearer morning the weather didn’t look too good again so we decided to stay here and visit Alicante the following day. When we headed out for a look around and walk along the beach it started raining so we made a hasty retreat before it got worse and did some reading and designing instead. It was a quiet little place to stay with just a row of houses with a restaurant at the end facing directly onto the beach which stretched down the coast.

The next stop from here for next time is Alicante.

- Matt

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