Castelejo environmental trail

We found a new trail in our Algarve walks book, just between Vila do Bispo and the coast. It is only a short walk but well signed and very interesting with lots of unusual flora and fauna. We are looking forward to revisiting it into the Spring to get the best of its plant life. The first shot is of the Strawberry tree so called because its fruit resembles a stawberry. They make a local fire water called Mendronha from it. Very nice too. Also some gigantic Funghi in the woods.and lots of bird life. We think the one shown is a Bonnellis Warbler.

Cathy and Graham Visit

Last week our pals from UK Graham and Cathy came out to visit us. We met last year in Sicily and became pals then. We have had a great week. They brought the good weather with them and we had five very warm sunny days walking and lying on the beach. Sarah Cathy and Graham went swimming, I am not that brave/ silly.   Very sad saying goodbye again yesterday but hoping that this time next year they will be able to spend more time with us.

Back to the Algarve

Well here we are back to the Algarve for winter, but this time in October, and were shocked at how dry everywhere looked compared to our last two visits 2010, 2011 from February and onwards.
There are no flowers out yet but they are showing signs after the rain we have had.
We are on a new site for us at Espiche near Praia da Luz just over the road from Valverde camping where we normally stay.
The site is possibly the best we have stayed at on the Algarve. The facilities, showers, toilets etc are so good, even I am using them instead of our own.
We have bumped into Paul and Yvonne Bassett from the Carthago owners club on the site within the first few days. We had a lot of catching up to do as we had not seen them since the Carthago owners second meeting in Germany October 2009. At that time they had a Chic and we had the M liner, now things had reversed, we have the chic and they the Liner. 
Our pals Graham and Cathy who we met in Sicily last year are coming out on the 9th November so we are planning for that.

Our new neighbours are Terri and Eddie, they are good fun and we have hired a car for three days to show them around. They are thinking of buying a place in France and we have been trying to persuade them to carry on camping. We have not stopped laughing since we met up, they love a good time.

We have been busy visiting some of our old haunts and also some new ones, but more of that later. For now some pics so far..

Visit with Gary Bren and Val

On Friday morning we went over to Bren and Gary’s place near Albox.  During our lovely week with them we re-visited Mojacar an Cabrera as well as a visit up into the hills to see the monastery at Saliente.  It was great to catch up after nearly two years.  Their family has grown since we last met them, Gary’s sister Val now lives with them together with Jessica (their first dog), Darcy and Sasha (two new dogs).  Went out for a fabulous Sunday lunch which set us up for the continuing journey on the Monday morning.  Thanks again for you great hospitality.

Sierras Alcaraz, Segura and Maria

From Cuenca we continued south through the Sierra Cuenca and then onwards to the Sierra de Alcaraz.  If you like mountain scenery the twisty roads the route we have taken this year is just for you!  Stayed at a fabulous little spot down by the river at Camping Rio Mundo at Mesones. 

 The next morning we were back on the mountain rods diverting slightly to visit the source of the Rio Mundo, which appears from a cave in a high cliff.  The route took us through the Sierra de Segura and after a stop for coffee overlooking the Embalse del Tranco we took the pass over Pontones into the plain  with our destination for the night rising grandly in front of us, the Sierra de Maria and a revisit to a favourite campsite of ours, named after it.

Ciudad Encantada and Cuenca

Just a short trip over the Montes Universales towards Cuenca.  The scenery continued to be spectacular as we drove along the mountain roads the warning signs regarding deer were correct as they scattered off the road just in front of the van. 

 Huge cliffs surrounded us as we made our way to Ciudad Encantada, an area of unusual eroded limestone rocks.  A small charge of 3E to get into the park was great value for money and you could spend all day wandering amongst theses marvellous wonders of nature.

From here we drove towards Cuenca and spent the night at Camping caravanning Cuenca. In the morning we were directed to a good size car park at the top of the old town of Cuenca. This old town sits on a spur of rock with the gorges of the Jucar and Huecar rivers. From the car park we walked down into the centre.This town is renowned for it's hanging houses built over the rock face. 


We took a day off from driving to visit the beautifully preserved walled town, dating from the medieval times. Many of the houses are tiered with wooden balconies and the main square is delightful with tiny streets leading off in all directions.. We climbed the walls to the highest point in lovely sunshine and were rewarded with magnificent views of the town and area, as well as our first glimpse of Griffon vultures. Much of the town is perched on the edge of a cliff and the river Guadalaviar runs through the gorge. We found a lovely walk along the river in the shade of the trees with metal steps bonded into the cliff wall where the gorge steepened.  Well worth coming off the main road to visit this area.

Off to the sun.

Left the UK on 27th September having said our goodbyes to all our friends and family. After a night at our favourite Caravan Club CL just outside Dover we took an early  ferry to Calais. Our first night stop in France was the Motorhome Aire at Brezolles, west of Dreux.   A popular place to stop close to the river and gothic church, great location if you don't mind the bells! 

Next day started with rain and showers as we progressed down through Chartres, Tour and Poitiers stopping for the night at Rom, another Aire near Lezay. A very peaceful night was spent here on the edge of the village which had the smallest Boulangerie we have ever been in - fabulous bread though.  We woke up to a misty morning and continued southwards past Bordeaux, Dax  to our third Aire at Salies de Bearn.  Good road signs to this Motorhome Aire ( barrier system into Aire 6E a night).well positioned in the spa town.

 Final day travelling through France a journey we have finally managed to do without tolls. Sun and cloud on route through some gorgeous scenery in the Pyrennees. Then through the Somport tunnel, no toll for this either. 

Exiting the tunnel into Spain, total "wall to wall" sunshine, not a cloud in site. 

Spain - down to Huesca and the arid plains around Zaragoza.  Just past Monreal del Campo we left the main road and headed for the hills.  Our destination was Bronchales, only to discover the campsite was closed.  The next campsite that we knew of was at Albarracin but this meant crossing the Sierra De Albarracin on a tourist scenic route sometimes with single track roads.  The scenery was fantastic and fortunately there were hardly any cars on the route, it made a spectacular end to the day.  We received a warm welcome (and hot clean showers) at the Camping Cuidad de Albarracin.  

Summer, Where did it go ?

Well here we are still in the UK and the weather has reverted to it's norm for this time of year. Rain, rain and more rain. Where did the sunshine go? Earlier in the year, back in March our UK pals were regaling us with how hot it was here, hotter than Sicily, where we were at the time. We just smiled and said, wait a few days then call us again, it cannot last. Sure enough we were right. People keep asking us why we want to spend most of our time abroad, I think this weather answers the question. The UK is beautiful when the weather is good, second to no other country we have visited, but we  really do need some sunshine.
Anyway sitting here in the van, another rainy day I decided to pay tribute to our little Scooter, nicknamed Hannie the Honda. She has just had her third birthday and is our main mode of transport when on camp sites abroad. What follows is a little summary of her travels. Hope you enjoy it.

In Portugal.


 “Hannie”  is the nickname we gave our little SH125 Honda scooter when we purchased her from Grantham Honda in May 2009.

She replaced our previous SH125 which was stolen earlier in the year and wrecked by hooligans.
She has her own garage in the rear of our Carthago motorhome and travels around Europe with us. She is our main source of transport for trips not suited to either the van or the bicycles or indeed our feet and enables us to get to the start of walks which we could not otherwise reach. A classic example is the Algarve. We  managed to walk the entire fifty miles of the cliff paths by taking the scooter to the start of the section we wanted to walk and then walking out five or so miles and back giving us a good ten mile walk, then the next day starting at the outward point and doing the next ten. Moving the van only when the distance became too great to be viable.
Our first winter was spent in La Manga, southern Spain. We then spent a few months in Portugal before returning for the summer to the UK.
Since then Hannie has returned to Portugal in 2011 with us in our new Carthago for winter and then on to Croatia for the summer. WE then crossed back to Italy and took in Rome on our way south. Finally we spent five and a half months in Sicily during which time she travelled on some tracks that really were only suitable for goats and performed admirably.
Now back in the UK for the summer she has been back to Grantham Honda for a thorough check up and service, well deserved.
From leaving UK in June 2011 the Motorhome  covered 7500 miles. The scooter did 4500 miles.
In Portugal she climbed up to 2000 meters in the mountains up to the snow line/ In Croatia she took us across the border to Mostar in Bosnia, where our van insurance did not cover us. Likewise to Kotor Bay in Montenegro another 120 mile round trip in temperatures often in the high 40s and never missed a beat. All this and 105 miles to the gallon.
What a girl !
Many Motor homers pull cars on trailers but for flexibility you cannot beat the Scoot. Especially in Italy where you can park absolutely anywhere, even in the centre of cities with no charge, often impossible to get a car anywhere near.
The following pictures do not really show just how bad some of the terrain was but give an idea. We often had to get off and walk her through sections of road which had literally slipped off the mountain side especially in Sicily where “Landslip” takes on a whole new meaning. The main road around Taormina disappeared overnight taking the road and train line with it.
Here are some shots of her in action.

 The English Lakes 


San Vito lo Capo, Sicily

Some Great roads

With pals for the day 


Oxford with Cathy and Graham

Taking advantage of the glorious weather we headed down South for a re-union with our friends we met in Sicily.  Cathy and Graham organised a fun packed weekend starting with a trip around the sites of Oxford on Friday.  Saturday we walked around the grounds of Blenheim Palace and finished the evening with a couple of glasses of champagne and a barbecue.  On Sunday we spent a very enjoyable and interesting time at Bletchley Park which was made even more special as there was a 1940's weekend taking place so lots of people were dressed up in uniform and 1940 fashion, as well as "Winston Churchill, Montgomery, and the King" making speeches during the day!

Walk in Cromford and Giddy Heights with Gerry

Giddy Heights.
We have tried to find this walk on previous visits to Derbyshire and failed dismally. Gerry invited us to join his group this Sunday 13th May. It was our first ever Group walk and we arrived at Willersley Castle at 9.30am ready to go. Our group consisted of 24 people of various ages and abilities and indeed knowledge. We found the pace a little difficult as we were governed by the slowest member of the group. However, Gerry's knowledge of the route and geology of the region was amazing and he treated us to some of his lovely stories of the area with his usual wit and humour.