Sunday, 8 October 2017

A scrap of almost emptiness

If wild empty shores where you can reconnect with the elemental power of nature is what you crave, Spain's Mediterranean coast is never going to be your best bet. It is lovely in parts,, but in a humanised way - a developed and productive landscape. Other areas are grimly industrialised or a tawdry sprawl of villa and apartment developments.  

Still, small sections of the shoreline have been protected - bits of the Costa Brava to the north and south of Roses, the empty coves south of Bolnuevo and the Capo De Gata national park. These are all places we have discovered the peace and tranquility only found on a little frequented beach. Right now we are in pursuit of another scrap of almost emptiness. Camping Ribenor is a few kilometres from Alcossebre up an unmetalled road within the Parc Natural dear la Serra d'Irta.

The National Park occupies the coast and the limestone ridge behind it a little to the south of Peñiscola. There are walks along the shore, small rocky coves to swim in, scrappy garrigue full of big butterflies and a forest of maritime pine., Their sun dappled clearings are punctuated occasionally by abandoned buildings covered in startling graffiti. It feeels like some some compensation for the journey through Corsica and Sardinia which we had planned for this autumn but had to abandon as we waited for the sale of Gill's dad's house to be finalised.

Camping Ribenor and Bungalows is not quite as bungaloid as its name might infer. It is a beautifully kept site, very neat and tidy in a pretty setting which promises peace and quiet. Unsurprisingly it is full of British caravaners who have towed their own bungalows on wheels behind a trusty SUV in search of somewhere quiet in the sun. Monday to Friday it must suit them fine. Come the weekend the atmosphere changes. The sites stylish cabins fill with Spanish thirty-somethings and their sassy under sevens. The kids run about happily, being noisy, energetic and free. The trio in the bungalow opposite are a delight to behold. The place gets a bit of life about it. There are few situations as moribund than the sight of the retired stretched out quietly in the sun en masse, especially when you reflect that you are one of them.

Life's essentials...

aircon....(we have none)

anti-insect technology (we have lots)

A few of the sites perky under three foot citizens....treat them with respect, they are the careworkers of tomorrow!
The upside of this penchant for collective repose is that few of the site's in-patients stir more than half a kilometre from the perimeter fence. You don't have to be much of an adventurer at all to find an empty forest beside the dark blue sea where you can pretend that you are somewhere remote, though in truth, it is a very nearby remote

Even in the national park, grim inappropriate development has not been wholly avoided. The path southwards takes you past a couple of lovely villas and ends up at a tall coastguard lookout tower at the very end of the paved promenade from Alcossebre. There is a really nice place to swim by the tower in a small cove with miniature sea caves. It's great.

Walking along the coast in the opposite direction from the campsite you head further into the national park. In some ways it feels more off the beaten track until you reach a small promontory in about 2kms. Two spectacularly unattractive concrete apartment blocks have been constructed on a stretch of pristine coast. They are utterly charmless, like something you imagine the Bulgarian Communist Party might have built in 1975 on the Black Sea coast for the delectation of senior comrades.

Whether it was the thought of such past proletatarian delights, but for some reason I became convinced that the pattern of the nearby conglomerate rocks was a dead ringer for the linoleum in the council house kitchen where I grew up. I am sure I remember crawling on something like it as a baby, so I took a photo of the linoleum rocks and my shoes. Odd what occurs in your head, or, more accurately my head. Yours is probably better behaved.

I propose a new geological epoch - The Linoleum Period...
Time to stop. Rambling on now. It's Sunday afternoon, the site is quite jolly. I think we are going to go for a walk. I'll probably have a swim too.

That's my head bobbing mid frame, just to the left...

No, not struck by the heaveniy, but distracted by a helicopter.
Tomorrow we head to Valencia, then inland to explore La Mancha then head through the mountains to Seville and onwards to Portugal. So the next coast will be the Atlantic. I always feel sad leaving the Mediterranean, it is my happy place, the stuff of dreams. In February and March we will be in the Far East and New Zealand. As Gill said the other day, we cannot keep travelling the same roads. She suggested we head for Scandinavia next May and June. We avoid travelling in July and August, so it could be over a year before I return to the Mediterranean. Perhaps we'll do the trip we missed this year, to Corsica and Sardinia. Gill wants to return to Croatia, visiting the southern part which we never reached in our previous trip there in 2000. I want (need) to return to Greece. Perhaps we might combine the two plans. However, Sarah is living in Lisbon, the opposite end of the continent. Oh, I don't know....time to concentrate on the cooking.

Gill's concocted a potato dish which is a combination of patates pobre and pomme de terre lyonaisse. Rashly she has entrusted checking it is simmering slowly to me. You would think she would know better after 39 years to allow me to do anything other than scorch stuff on a BBQ. So, I'd better stop typing away on the phone notes app, and actually stare at the pan for a while.

The outside kitchen - one of life's small pleasures.

Gran Padano cheese crust - an Italian touch in a French/Spanish fusion 

The result was delicious - I claim credit for the slow simmering....

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