Day 75: Spain, Cartagena – Algeciras


We’ve taken possession of a new travel mate, Grandaddy Moose (who like Dr Who is on his 3rd re-incarnation of our Moose friend), from our nextdoor neighbour, Debbie. Whilst on a ladies weekend, he happened to attach himself to the group, regaling them with tall tales and cocktails (as Moose’s do!) and Debbie kindly suggested he may want to do a bit more travel with us. So, here he is! Thank you, Debs, he’ll forever have been yours first!!!!

….back to last night for a minute

Our last braai in Cartagena last night was with our new favourite veg, sweetcorn, cooked directly on the coals and 2 chuleta de ternera (that all cost €12 at the butcher in Santa Ana called Carniceria Guerrero-Poligono – a definite must visit in town).  They have fantastic local products here.  They were much bigger than we needed – 1 would have been plenty between us as they were 600gr each – the other one went into the freezer for a quick meal sometime in the future when we’re wild camping.

….and so travel continues

We had an early start this morning. Plans have changed for us just a little.

We’ve had a call from a client and it looks like (fingers crossed because it’s not yet confirmed) there some work for us (that’s the Royal Us!!!) back home in the new year. It should all be or may be confirmed by next week.

But, in the meantime, it has influenced our plans. As it now means that we will be returning home 2 months early in January instead of March, we want to try and maximise our time in Morocco. So we have decided to cut out visiting Granada and Seville (we’ll come back another time, hooray another visit to Spain!) and make a dash straight down to Algeciras to cross over to Morocco as soon as possible. We’ll have to leave Morocco shortly after New Year or even a bit earlier to start our journey back home but at least we’ll still get to spend Christmas in Morocco. Then we’ll make a dash north and get ourselves ready for a start on 13 January.

I suppose that’s the beauty of travel – that you can be flexible and leave places to visit to a next time. And some extra work only means more travel when we get back on the road. A bit of a win-win really and it just means that our overland travel is a little delayed his time. No real worries that we can’t get to do it all immediately. Like a delicious sweet, sometimes holding back can make it taste even sweeter. What it does mean though is that our top bucket list item, a trip to Japan during cherry blossom season, is now close enough to touch. Yeah, baby!

So we set off this morning at 9am, passing through the Tabernas Desert with the blue sky above, the snow-capped mountains in the distance and the temperature at a fairly chilly 8 degC. Far less than we’ve been used to in Cartagena.

Needing a cup of coffee brought us quite by happy accident to the Hotel Restaurante Casa Lorenzo which, eeh by gum, is totally worth even driving out of your way for. We walked into a cavernous dining room, legs of cured jamon & sausages hanging from the rafters, local sweet breads, meats, olive oil and cheeses in the various display cabinets and a host of friendly people waiting to take our orders. We were just perusing the board of barbecued meats whilst we were sipping on our cortados when we stopped at Costillas Cordero (lamb rib but actually lamb rib chops) and decided to eat lunch here even though it was only just gone noon. Everything ordered, talked about and decided on in Spanish, not a word of English spoken and, ain’t that just the way, as we’re leaving today….Never mind, next time.

We packed away a massive mixed green salad with olives, asparagus and tuna, followed by our lamb chops and a second round of cortados. Cortado means “to cut” as in cut the coffee with milk (half coffee, half milk served in a short glass). We were soon back on the road feeling fortified and ready to tackle the rest of today’s journey.

By the time we were near Algeciras, the sun was setting, headlights were on and we were feeling pretty jiggered. We stopped to top up on diesel and LPG and, as we had been seeing various ticket offices selling ferry tickets dotted along the road, decided to stop in for a price. Now we know that in Algeciras at Viajes Normandie (36.17916667, -5.44111111 or 36°10’45.0″N 5°26’28.0″W) an open ticket return, and valid for up to a year, is €200. So when we got a quote for €355, we dismissed it immediately and set Google Maps to the Viajes office.

Just 1 final push to buy the tickets. We are well aware by now that it has been a very long day and in our previous experience, despite feeling fresh enough to drive, actually it’s a bit like scuba diving in cold water. After 20 minutes in single figure temperature 2 + 2 is now an impossible task ….as much as you feel that you are entirely capable. But when you test your responses, you know absolutely you’re not. So, as we approached the ticket office, now going on 8pm and spotted the free aire right opposite, the sensible thing was to pull in and stop for the night. Gibraltar will be better appreciated when we’re fresh tomorrow.

We were welcomed in to the office, dealt with super efficiently and warmly, ticket provided on presentation of our passports and a parting gift of biscuits and local bubbly (sparkling apple cider) pressed into our hands. Our Spanish heros! BTW the tickets from Viajes are for the slow ferry (2 hours for the crossing) but they are open both ways – just rock up at the ferry port 1 hour before departure).

We staggered back to Kaya, now pretty much dead on our feet. Luckily, the day before we left Cartagena had been designated as a day for cooking. I had found a lovely oxtail in a Mercadona freezer so that had been prepared into a warming stew and was a veritable life saver served piping hot with some local bread and butter.

Gas heating on, freshly showered and wrapped up in pajamas, we cuddled up in bed …… and fell asleep almost instantly.

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