by Karen Davies | Jul 12, 2019 | Featured Post, Guest Blog
We love meeting new people on the road and hearing what brought them to travel. When we rocked up to a wild spot on the west coast of Portugal, there was a bumble-bee coloured van sat looking across the ocean. Of course it was only polite to see if they minded us parking next to them – and then we saw they were British. And that moment was the start of a fabulous evening, sharing food stories and a few tipples. Here is Emily and Lloyd’s story of their gap year in their self-converted minibus, Flora.
At the beginning of 2018, Lloyd and I hatched a plan to travel the world. We looked into backpacking, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail before finally landing on travelling the world in a van. For budget reasons, and for design creativity, we chose to self-convert a van.
I work in Marketing and Lloyd works in Sales, so you could reasonably assume that we didn’t have any DIY skills. I was handy with a paintbrush and Lloyd could change a lightbulb and put up a picture. Although beyond that, everything we learnt, we found on the internet. We followed anyone and everyone on Instagram who had converted their own vans for inspiration, we read blogs for tips on the best things to use and we watched videos on Youtube on how to put it all together.
We had saved around £3500 to spend on a van, and we would then save the same again to fit it out. We found Flora, a 15 year old LDV Convoy Minibus on Autotrader with around 17,000 miles on the clock. With no intention of buying that day, we drove up to visit the first van to get the ball rolling, and next thing we knew, Flora was ours. We drove her away on the same day. She had 17 seats and a roof rack – and she was ours.
Initially, we were very optimistic about the conversion; we spent a weekend gutting out the 17 seats, the plastic walling, the floor, the soaking cab mat and were left with an empty husk of a van. A bright yellow empty shell. After watching videos, we had planned to spend the following weekend cleaning, rust treating and priming. That weekend stretched from 1 weekend to 4. That was a bit of a wake up call.
Initially, we kept the van on my mum’s driveway as there was more space than outside our 2 bedroom house in Portsmouth. However, by August, we had insulated the van using Celotex boards, expanding foam and some recycled plastic wool, which was not as far as we were planning to be. We moved the van down to Portsmouth, and whilst we both worked full-time, our evenings and weekends were spent in Wickes, B&Q and in, on or around the van.
Our house is small and we lived in chaos. We ate Heinz tomato soup and ready made pizzas to save time in the evenings so we could make the most of the light. We gave up hobbies and socialising. We worked all day, every day and it was some of the most stressful times of our somewhat short lives.
We hit a turning point in early-mid October when it finally started coming together. We had finished the main components of the build and could see a light at the end of the tunnel. I was painting, Lloyd was completing woodwork pieces. I was put on garden leave in early November which was a real blessing. We would not have been ready to leave by the deadline we had chosen if it wasn’t for that, because not only were we converting our van, we also had to jump through the hoops required to let out our house.
We moved out of our house on December 31st. Trying to get the final few things completed for the house was a mad dash. We had electricians ripping up floorboards on the 23rd of December and replacing the fuse board. We received our gas safety certificate and, the day we handed over the keys, we collectively let out a sigh of relief, in part because we had only just finished cleaning the house that very morning.
Lloyd worked the first week in January, whilst I cleaned, painted, carpeted and packed the van. The day before we left, Lloyd fitted the gas, the diesel heater and we had an issue with the battery which needed fixing. Then like it was nothing, we started up the engine on the 13th of January, and we left the UK for the trip of a lifetime.
How we are finding it so far?
We are now eight months into our trip and we still cannot stop smiling.
We live with 75L of water which lasts us 4-5 days. We rely solely on solar power to charge our phones, laptop, iPad, lights, fan and water pump. We have a 13kg bottle of gas that has lasted so far and is still lasting us. We don’t have hot water, we don’t have a shower and we don’t have a toilet. We live with less now than we ever have before but feel richer with everything else we get to experience on a daily basis.
It was a steep learning curve. 15/20L of water a day doesn’t really sound as little as it is, but as the average use of a person living in the UK currently stands at 300-370L of water a day, so it’s a noticeable adjustment. We don’t have a shower so rely on boiling water from the kettle and using the sink and a flannel or a swim in the sea. We don’t have a toilet, which has been a source of many laughs, tears and midnight drives, but now our bodies are starting to get used to it.
It sounds like a nightmare, but really, it’s not that bad. In fact, it’s just not bad. We have this inexpressible freedom to go wherever the wind blows. Choosing where to park is easy now with so many apps and websites for camper vans, caravans, and other converted vans.
How we afford to travel
As I said earlier, we both worked full time, during which time, we saved enough money for us to travel for a year. On a budget of maximum £1000 a month, we are currently spending around £600 a month on all our expenses, for both of us. Food, fuel, travel costs which is split about a third each way. We currently don’t earn money on the road, and we’re not sure if we ever will, so we have saved enough for us to do the things we want to do for a year.
We are very lucky that there are so many places to free camp across Europe as this has saved us vast sums of money and it also means we have been lucky enough to have some of the most beautiful places as our back garden.
Our route and future plans
Our journey has taken us from Dunkirk to Lake Annecy, Lake Annecy to the Etretat Cliffs, along the coastline to Mont St Michel and the Cote de Granit Rose, to Bordeaux, Biarritz and Bayonne. We have petted wild horses in the Pyrenees, had our van towed in San Sebastian, drank cider in Oviedo and hiked the Ruta del Cares in the Picos de Europa.
When we first met Karen and Myles, we were in Portugal and cannot express how beautiful this country is. From the granaries in Soajo and the Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga to the street performers in Porto, we had the most incredible time exploring Portugal in our van. We carried on through Southern Spain and up the Mediterranean coastline for an exceptional month meeting family who met us in Barcelona, the Verdon Gorge and Antibes, before heading over through Switzerland & Northern Italy, where we spent a magical evening under the Tre Cime de Lavaredo. After a quick stop in Lake Bled in Slovenia, we met friends in Austria, before finally heading through Slovakia, a completely underrated country in our opinion!
Our journey now, will take us from where we are in southern Poland, up through Lithuania, Latvia & Estonia, where we are planning to take a ferry to Helsinki. We will then drive up and over into Norway in time for the Northern Lights around September/ October time (before we get snowed out), then we will head down for the Christmas markets in Germany & Czech Republic, before returning to the UK for our MOT in December.
If you’d like to follow along with the rest of our journey, you can follow us on Instagram: @ourconvoyage or you can check out our blog www.ourconvoyage.com.
by Karen Davies | Dec 29, 2017 | France, Travel Blog
One of the most poetic and diverse regions of France has surely captured many a heart – ours included. After nine weeks wandering this enigmatic Provence countryside, we fell in love with its mountains, gorges, villages built into the rocks and coastline.
Perhaps Provence is most famous for its lavender and its celebrity status along the Côte d’Azur – French Riviera where bling will outshine even the most sparking water. Although Provence has so much more depth offering you colour, texture and flamingoes. And how could you forget the eight Les Plus Beaux Village de France that are just waiting for you to succumb to their charm? Who would have thought that one region could have so many ways to captivate its visitor, leaving them surely wanting more.
From the Camargue with its wild white horses, bulls and salt flats to the deep valleys of the Gorges du Verdon and De Loup to the craggy coastline that commands the respect of the richest of the rich – Provence will delight and amaze. Check out our highlights from the last two years in this interactive map that lists our camping options and must-see spots by clicking the icons.
This is one part of France that deserves your time, your admiration and your adventurous spirits and I defy you not to fall in love….
Pin it for later? Click the image below.
by Karen Davies | Jul 11, 2017 | Bulgaria, Travel Blog
Route 2 – Bulgaria Tour
Trekking north from our southern Bulgarian initiation, left us a little sad, only because of the innocence and raw beauty of this undiscovered piece of heaven. And as we said goodbye to the pine forests, we came into flatter land; well relatively speaking. There were, in truth, some rolling hills and golden fields of corn, which offered us a lovely contrast to the mountains, and here sunflowers reigned supreme. With heads bowed to the sun’s dominance, acres of bright yellow start to give way to a lime green hue as the season’s fruit bears its gift.
The Stone Mushrooms
Petrified Stone Mushrooms, Beli plast
A little stop at the rock phenomenon, Stone Mushrooms, just outside Beli plast village, in between Kardzhali and Haskovo, is worth doing. 2.5m high stone formations unique to this area, shows Mother Nature at her best. 20 million year old volcanic rocks that have been weathered by sun, rain and wind hold great legend. It is said that the petrified mushrooms are the daughters of a villager who lived in a fortress. The fortress was attacked one day by the Turkish Ottoman army and the daughters took defensive action, killing the Ottoman leader. The slain soldier’s friend took his revenge and caught the murdering daughters and, one by one with his magic staff, killed each one, turning them to stone. Geologically speaking, the rocks have a high volume of zeolite minerals, which are said to purify water. A great little stop.
Camping Alexandrovo – A little retreat
Alexandrovo Campsite sunrise
Our retreat, after what seemed like a big exploration of new territory that left us a little travel weary, was Camping Alexandrovo, just east of Haskovo. (41.987199 25.726452 www.alexandrovocamping.com). A fabulous home-from-home spot that allowed us to rest up, run by the lovely Matt from England. The wildlife here was wonderful, with Golden Oriels, Hoopoes, Woodpeckers, nesting doves and Wolves as our nighttime melody and the cattle being herded – our morning song, lit up by amazing sun rises. Just such a wonderful stopover for four nights and a place we would definitely recommend and come back to.
Here’s Dave’s view of this lovely spot.
This was though, where we sadly said ‘au revoir’ to our convoy buddies from Followourmotorhome as our paths took different routes as we headed directly north, into the central mountains. What treasure would this region hold for us?
To reach the mountains, a passage through Kazanlak was required, which from our southerly approach was seriously ugly and the first time I felt a little uncomfortable. We wanted to visit the World Heritage Site of the Thracian tombs, although finding somewhere safe to park was tricky. So we hopped, skipped and jumped out of there and headed for the mountains.
The Belly of Bulgaria
Our tyres continued to roll towards the Valley of the Thracian Kings, and Shipka, where ancient and modern history both leave their marks. 4th Century BC tombs are scattered in the plains of the Shipka valley, interlaced with lavender and sunflower fields, making a pretty landscape for history to really feel embedded. Thracian Kings and archeological sites are found all over this region. Although what caught our eye more so, was the distant sparkle of something hidden in the woods. And so like magpies, we felt compelled to take a look. What soon became clear was that gleaming mirage was in fact an enormous Russian style Monastery that belied the simplicity of the charming and humble Shipka village. A short walk up hill is rewarded by a breathtaking piece of architecture that transports you to something out of the Kremlin rather than Bulgaria. Although of course the intricate partnership between the Soviet Union and Bulgaria during the Communist rule, soon allows the penny to drop. A short visit to this wondrous religious monument is definitely worthy of your time. Check out the intricate detail of the exterior, its shiny domes and gaze in wonder at the surprisingly small yet highly decorated interior. This is a serene place to while away half an hour or so.
Captain James T. Kirk, I presume?
Our little diversion did not deter us for long though, as our original destination was the Shipka Pass, where talk of a UFO piqued our curiosity. This stunning road allows you to enter deep into the belly of Bulgarian culture, as carved into inch of earth are the battles of the Russo-Turk war of 19th Century, where Bulgarian volunteers played their role in defeating the Ottomans alongside their Russian comrades. Monuments throughout this region offer reminders of this significant war.
The pinnacle of this route though is the almost eerie building that rises up from the mountain’s heart as if in some dominant defiance against the rebels. The Buzludzhanski Monument perched 1441m up on the mountain top looks more like a UFO than the Social Assembly Hall that was its original identity. Looking like something out of Star Trek, this concrete spaceship is, these days falling apart and offers the now democratic Bulgaria a real diplomatic dilemma; repair it – showing solidarity to the past or leave it to decay and focus on surging forward progressively under EU protection. There are rumours that there is to be some investment in restoring the building and turning it into a historical museum – so watch this space – if you pardon the pun!
Scoobie’s wild spot
There’s a couple of great wild spots up here (42.731573 25.389351 and 42.7314 25.3872) where the views up and down the mountain are quite spectacular. The hike up to the now derelict UFO is worth it for the view alone, and the 2 mile round-trip to see the other monuments in the forest is definitely worthwhile.
Etar – Ethnographic Museum
We seriously thought about stopping at this peaceful place, where even the birds seemed to be silenced by the eery eyes looking down the valley. Still after a few days of respite earlier in the week, we carried on, along one of the worst roads we’ve encountered so far in Bulgaria. It was a doable road, although had to be taken with caution and slowness of speed as the rough, pot-holed tarmac left a lot to be desired. Picking up a couple of Hitchhikers, which is becoming a Motoroaming habit, allowed us to stay a little distracted from the stress of the terrain and after dropping them off we found a decent surface, under which we could get into third gear, finally! A short 20 minute journey took us to Etâr, which is an open-air museum presenting historical arts and crafts indicative to the region. The village has been created beautifully and invites you to step into a rustic way of life, with nearly 50 authentic workshops, many of which are powered by water mills. It’s a great portrait of a Bulgarian by-gone era and really helps you appreciate the culture of this central mountain region. And for 5 Leva per person, that’s about £2.00 each to you and me, it’s a steal. Whilst so close, a little trip up to the Sololski Monastery, 6 miles up the hill is worthy of the diesel. Although not as grand as Shipka’s offering, this understated 19th Century religious building, set with the backdrop of pine forest, is a sight to behold. Especially the original chapel, which with its sky-blue exterior and ornate inside, is worth a peak, even if you’re not of a religious persuasion.
A synchronistic meeting half way down the hill with, not only another motorhome – a British couple to boot ended off the day beautifully as we shared an evening together. John and Kath had been hot on our tails since Greece strangely and it was lovely to pass the time and share travelling stories together.
Our finale of this little section of the central mountains was Tryavna, home to wood-carvers extraordinaire. The town, despite its mountainous position and perceived ‘middle of no where’ image, has built on its wood fame and is an elegant and buzzy administrative centre, which we were not expecting. Outside of the touristy central square, the old town gives you the real feel of the carpentry skills that were and still are to some degree, renowned across Bulgaria. The 19th Century artistry amidst a romantic blend of cobbled streets and bridges is a working town, where craftsmen still train. If you look up above the tourist shops, the architecture of the buildings is incredible and every door has an ornate carving of some sort, revealing the talents of the modern day and historical experts. An hour will suffice in this cute little place as Veliko Tarnovo will call you onwards. And onwards we came – a new chapter we begin to write and share with you we will – soon enough.
Until then, we will leave you with images of mountain monuments, spaceships and authentic Bulgarian culture hidden deep within the heart of this central treasure trove of loveliness. Kx
by Karen Davies | May 12, 2017 | Greece, Personal Insights, Travel Blog
One of my first impressions of Greece as we rolled off the Anek Lines ferry, was how the full moon lit up Drepano Beach, Igoumenitsa and made the sea sparkle in its darkness. It welcomed us with open arms and from that moment on our love affair with Greece began. And now as we sit in Nafplio in the south-east Peloponnese, the full moon once again reminds us of his dominance over the night, signalling that we have, incredibly, had one calendar month in this beautiful land. It seems almost impossible to imagine that we arrived here just 30 short days ago on 11 April.
And yet in one month, we have already learned so much about the country, its customs and diversity, how to fit in with the locals and how to ease into Greek life effortlessly. I absolutely know that the next full moon will have taught us even more, although for now, I thought I would share my insights from my Greek teacher!
- Greece is amazing in spring. Before the sun turns on her power, you have some amazing weather that starts to acclimatise you
for the hotter days ahead. On top of that, the spring brings new life in the floral world with yellow cactus flowers, red, pink and purple bougainvillaea and the most intense deep red poppies. The kaleidoscope of colours just wake up our dark, winter eyes with joy and beauty.
- Talking about weather, the afternoons, at least at this time of year, seem always to be windy. There has been an uncanny pattern that as the sun’s heat rises, the wind decides not to be outdone. Even on the eastern edge of the Peloponnese, almost without fail, our afternoons have been rather breezy. It has been great to keep us cool, although does thwart our bar-be-que efforts.
- Wild camping is a joy in Greece. Now I know that this can be a contentious subject and often rallies the hotly debated issue of campsites v wilding. Although for those of you who follow us regularly, you know how respectfully we treat wild camping in terms of contributing back to the community for the privilege of camping in the wilds. At that’s the word I would use for camping in Greece – it’s an absolute privilege. We’ve camped in some of the most wonderful, wild, secluded and sensational places I have ever had the honour to call home and the memories they have created will stay with me forever. And certainly camping in this way, ‘out of season’ has caused us no issues with locals or authorities, despite indications in camping books suggesting otherwise.
- Of course wild camping brings its own problems such as toilet dumping and water. Water is not a problem here as almost every beach has a shower and tap, which you can fill up from – and whilst not potable water, it’s fine for showers and washing up. Just use bottled water for everything else. Also find yourself a marina that are two to a penny here, as they always have taps for the visiting boats. The toilet is a bit more of a challenge. The biggest advantage we have is that we have a second cassette, which has been worth its weight in gold, giving us up to six days if we need it. Although when it comes to emptying, we either drop into a campsite and tie it up with washing and internet or we find a garage who often let you use their outdoor toilet, if you fill up with petrol. So it’s doable, although it would have been more challenging with one cassette.
- And whilst talking about camping, it’s also worth saying that many of the campsites certainly early April are not yet open. The season doesn’t really start until mid May in Greece. And although some of the campsites are beginning to open up slightly earlier as us snow-birds are making our presence known, this is the exception and not the rule. So do be aware of this as you plan your trip if you are not a comfortable with wild camping.
- Not all wild ‘pitches’ are as they seem. There are some of the most wonderful spots to pitch up on, on beaches close to the water’s edge, although this does come with some dangers. Firstly, Greece is incredibly mountainous, which means that some of the roads to these out-of-the-way spots can be a trek, down narrow, steep and sometimes tricky to navigate roads. So we would recommend parking up and assessing on foot before making a decision to commit to a road that might be difficult to turn around in. These beaches, with their azure seas are a magnet. Why wouldn’t you want to park up close the sea with the crashing waves as your lullaby? Although do check these spots, as the pebble pitches lure you into a false sense of security and are not always as stable as they look. We had to tow two vans out of said beaches because their tyres sank into the pebble floor beneath them.
- Camping here feels safe. We’ve had some ‘incident’s during our 14 months full-timing and although it hasn’t put us off our wild camping experiences, it certainly turns your dial to ‘high alert’. Although so far in our first month, we have felt as safe as any other country we’ve been in.
- Travelling in Greece takes time. It’s a strange thing to see your next destination on the map just around the corner, and then, on putting in your co-ordinates, finding that 30km is going to take you 90 mins! Still, when you see how windy some of these roads are, you will understand why. There is no rushing here and the routes are so magnificent that you will want to take your time to breathe it all in.
Our convoy buddies
Being in convoy is a great way to cut your Greek teeth. We’ve had the joy of travelling with our buddies Andi and Paul, from Followourmotorhome, for the last three weeks. And whilst we are about to ‘go solo’, having a chance to travel new lands together with someone else makes it for a great virginal experience. The support you can give each other is priceless and it enhances your confidence and pleasure in your early weeks.
- Greek customs are wonderful to share. If you come at Easter, go to Corfu, where they apparently have one of the most amazing celebrations on Easter Saturday and Sunday. It’s a short ferry ride on foot or bicycle from Igoumenitsa. May Day is where you will see ladies out picking their wild flowers for headdresses and wreaths to celebrate summer’s battle over the winter. And each morning locals gather at the most charming chapels found along the road and coast, to honour their Greek Orthodox faith and light their candles of remembrance.
- Eating out here is a joy. Slouvaki (kebabs), Moussaka, Prawn Saganaki, Tzatziki, Taramasalata, Greek salad with fresh feta, olive oil and fresh oregano blossom, pitta breads, aubergine, courgette balls and meatballs are all laced with garlic and homegrown love. And it’s not that expensive. For two with a main meal and a beer each, you’re looking at €30. And what is so delightful, is that in each restaurant we’ve been in, you are presented with either a complementary liqueur or a biscuit cake at the end of your meal. We have found some wonderful places, off the beaten track. Some of the tourist places will draw you in with a their sales pitch, where you feel obliged to sit down. Avoid these and go back a couple of streets to find more authentic Greek hospitality in family run establishments. Out of season and in some smaller villages and towns, many of the restaurants will not have very much fresh food in and so their menus may be limited and frozen. You will though get plenty of grilled food, although not the long-baked dishes that Greece is famous for. Although hunt well for your restaurants and you will not be disappointed.
- On a practical note – lamb is really expensive here. I thought that we would have an abundance of lamb here, and although you can buy a whole carcass (especially around their feast days), minced lamb in particular is impossible. Because the meat is so expensive you pay €10 per kilo and given that most of that is bone, it makes for an expensive option.
- Whilst talking about money, the cost of living here is an interesting one. So far we’ve found that food is more expensive than say Spain, although perhaps on a par with Italy and France. Although the Greek wine is cheap, the boys say it’s not great, although they happily report that the Ouzo is superb. You can get a 2 litre bottle for €16. Other spirits are expensive so stock up before you come. Beer is more than palatable although again can be quite expensive. Six small cans of Fix larger is around €4.65. Do try the local road-sellers as their fruit and veg tends to be a little cheaper and more tasty, especially their oranges. Diesel prices vary; in larger towns like Igoumenitsa we were paying €1.29, although further south in the Peloponnese we found it at €1.15. And a lovely surprise has been the regularity of LPG. There are no issues on availability here and is coming in around €0.79.
- So far we’ve found three main supermarkets; Lidl of course are pretty much everywhere and there is also My Market and AB. At Lidl you know what you’re getting as it’s pretty standard across Europe, although the other two have some different ranges on offer and some staples that Lidl don’t offer.
- If you want big shops for clothing, haberdashery, health shops etc, then look for a larger town. In our month travelling south from Igoumenitsa to the eastern board of the Peloponnese, we’ve only come across two big shopping centres, Patras in the north and Nafplio, south east. Whilst butchers, bakers and local supermarkets have always given us our day-to-day essentials, other items like clothing etc have been a bit more limited, so you will need to work your way to a larger town for other essentials and the good old ‘Chinese Shops’.
Sea Urchin, Porto Cheli
If the ocean calls you, you will be treated like a king or queen. The waters here are incredible for all sorts of activities. We suggest that you wear water-shoes as around some of the coastline, the sea-urchins will act out their revenge on human imposters, so take care. There are jelly-fish too, although they look pretty harmless. Look out for turtles as they call this coastline home, evidenced sadly by one that was washed up on shore this week. The snorkelling apparently is amazing, if this is your thing.
- Talking the lingo. We have always adopted the philosophy that wherever we go, we learn the language basics, so we can at least show we’re trying. My sense is that the locals always appreciate you having a go. So I have put together The Motoroamer’s Guide to Getting by in Greek list, with some of the basics that we have learnt over the last month. Although it must be said, that many Greeks, especially in the retail trade, speak a little bit of English and German.
- The Greeks are the most delightful people; warm, welcoming, polite, helpful and engaging. We have loved being amongst them. They invite you into their kitchens, give you tasters in shops to sell their wares and are always offering you something complementary. They shake your hand, smile at you, wave and, there are often impromptu serenades at restaurants from budding Pavarotti’s. If you are ever in need, just ask and the Greeks will do as much as they can to help you. They have kindness at their very heart.
- The Greek economy may be in dire straights, although we haven’t really seen much evidence of this on the whole. Some of the roads are a bit ropey, although not as bad as we thought. Italy is definitely worse! In fact some roads have been recently relaid, making some of the advertised wild-spots listed in books and apps impossible to reach because of the drop. There’s evidence of new cables going in for better internet provision and some of the villas you see here are quite magnificent. The only real issue we’ve seen are some of the hotels in more ‘out of the way spots’ that just have gone to wrack and ruin. Otherwise I thought that Italy showed more deprivation than Greece, so far anyway. Interestingly, we found in Nafplio that they have half day shopping on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday – we’re not sure whether this is because of the economy or contributes to the state of the economy! So do check before shopping. This is not true though for supermarkets, it’s worth adding.
- The countryside is to die for. In our first week, I was so shocked to see such a rich, luscious and diverse landscape. In many ways it reminded me a lot of the Lake District in UK. Rolling hills, stunning greenery, dense forest and so many beautiful flowers. It will blow you away and that’s before you even set eyes on the craggy coastline with azure blue seas that invite you to test their waters and the ancient monuments that take you back to Greek mythology and historical intrigue.
So Greece, what else can we say? It has taught us a new tongue, it has taught us about the art of convoying, how deeply profound the Greek culture and heritage is and how much it has brought us into the heart of the way of life here. It is beautiful beyond any adjectives I could use from the Thesaurus and that beauty comes as much from Greece’s soul as what you see with your eyes. So if you are considering coming here, then do. It is a stunning place to learn about, call home and rest awhile. I have a fancy we will not want to leave. Here’s to more lessons coming in the next moon month of our Greek Odyssey that takes us to the island of Crete and then up the eastern coastline. For now, yamas!
Karen and Myles, The Motoroamers
by Karen Davies | Mar 27, 2017 | Popular Posts, Spain, Travel Blog
As I sit here watching the sun go down over the Ebro Delta on Spain’s north-eastern coast, I can hear the gentle cries of the flamingoes in the background and the plentiful birdlife playing in the twilight sky.
We stumbled upon this little haven after moving on from Peniscola where the campsite there was door to door vans, with no room to breathe. I felt completely hemmed in and claustrophobic so we hopped, skipped and jumped out of there and up the autovista to somewhere more wild, open and beautiful. And we found it. The Ebro Delta.
It does seem odd to put the next two words in the same sentence; car park and stunning, although this is the truth of Casa de Fusta (co-ordinates N40° 39.505′ E0° 40.523). As a centre for tourist activities, cycling, bird watching and walking, offering a restaurant and toilets, this large parking area accommodates at least fifty motorhomes, for free. There are services although you pay €3 for grey waste and water and €3 for black waste.
Casa de Fusta camping
One of the things we have come to appreciate in our year on the road is how wonderful car parking spots can be for camping overnight. We’ve called a few of them ‘home’ in the last twelve months and our experiences have changed our perspective of car-park style Aires. And this one serves to be a positive reminder of that opinion.
This region is really a slice of heaven. A good five miles from the motorway, you weave your way through some pretty narrow roads to find yourself in the Ebro Delta – a Natural Park and conservation area, which is changing by the year as the sea reclaims the land. Although for now, the natural beds of salt pans, natural lagoons and reed beds hide a multitude of birds, some rare species claiming this as their territory.
And then you catch a glimpse of brilliant salmon-pink wings as the flamingoes land with surprising grace, right in front of you. What a privilege that is. These creatures that simply don’t look like they’ve been designed to fly and have jumped right out of the pages of a comic strip.
We saw flamingoes at El Rocio in western Spain last year and again in the Po Delta in Italy, although neither place offered such an easy-to-access view of these stunning birds. In fact Italy had turned it into a fee-paying tourism activity, fencing the birds off so that only the largest telephoto lens would pick them up.
So for me as a bird-lover to get so close to these magnificent creatures and hear their cries as my morning alarm has been a rare treat. Miles of cycling along flat roads that run alongside the irrigation channels, where birds take flight as they hear you approach, just adds to the magic. Only five miles away you have El Trabucador – a causeway of sand that shelters the lagoons from the often ferocious Mediterranean sea determined to win the battle over the protected waters. You can park here during the day ( N40° 36.565′ E0° 43.522’ ) and watch the kite surfers skim the lagoon surface, dancing with the on-shore winds. No camping is allowed here over night, although the for the day, it is a great spot to watch the mountains whilst listening to the roar of the ocean. The peace and tranquility are palpable – minus the exception of the odd arctic lorry that gingerly passes on the compacted sand towards the salt factory at the end of the spit.
Deltebre wild camp spot
Our final night in the region was sadly awash with heavy rain, so we were pretty relieved that we didn’t stay any longer on the beach as we’d have made a nice based for a sandcastle. Although we still found a lovely little wild camping spot right on the River Ebro. ( Co-ordinates N40° 42.851′ E0° 42.932′ ) On a good day, the river walk looks lovely, although in this weather, we gave it a miss. Deltebre is a functional town rather than anything pretty, although I do accept that the rain and the need to shop could easily have affected my view. Still there all the supermarkets are here, together with really cheap petrol – the first we’ve seen this year at .99c.
So if you haven’t gathered by my vociferous bigging up of this area – we like it here and really feel that it deserves your time and adoration as it offers so much to the active, bird-loving, nature adoring camper. If you love having a town’s vibe, nightlife, shops and restaurants, right on your doorstep, then this probably isn’t for you. If instead you love nature’s orchestra, then this is definitely worth putting on your To-Do list when travelling up or down this eastern coast of Spain. We hope you like it as much as we did. Kx
Here’s our Gallery of Ebro Delta pictures;
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