Just getting there

For many people going to Spain and Portugal is an adventure in itself; my friends Polaris Overland have just returned from the Pyrenees and had a lovely two-week holiday exploring the mountains.  However, for me, given the time constraints of the whole trip and the need to meet Poppy in Tangier, this first week has been mostly a process of “just getting there”.

That meant taking the motorway a lot of the way, Nelson reliably (touch wood) trundling along with the trucks at 80 or 90kph and sightseeing limited to visiting a few cities and some wild camping in convenient, rather than beautiful, places. Nelson did get another flag, and the centres of Porto and Lisbon were both quite interesting for an afternoon and evening, some photos below. However, cities and sightseeing especially on one’s own, are not really the reason I like to travel, so I was happy enough to get this hard run down through Portugal over on schedule.

Along the way, I became well acquainted with motorway service stations and found the custard tarts a highlight, even better than the doughnuts when coupled with a good cortado coffee.

Just as I left Portugal, and a little full up on cities, I looked at both Cadiz and Seville as possible stops, but both are heavily built up and offer little chance for camping near the city and only very slow and congested drive-through options.  Instead, I had a day of more traditional overlanding, I turned off the motorway just after I crossed the border into Spain and looked for a place that looked interesting on the map.

Thanks to a wrong turn I ended up in a little place called Ayamonte and had a lovely evening. The town itself is down dead end road but has a big marina, so there are lots of restaurants and a lively buzz

Plenty of free parking at the Marina of Ayamonte

The lovely town squares were full of kids playing in the cool of the evening

Lovely squares and restaurants gave plenty of choice

Just outside of the town I spotted a museum based around an old tidal water mill. The tide flooded a large reservoir and the water then flowed out through a turbine-style water mill, the energy being used to grind flour.  I picked this up from the signage outside, as the museum is actually closed apart from the weekend, which made its quiet car part a perfect place for a free camp, far enough from the city and in the middle of the lagoon I felt quite safe, the local police checked me out but did not object to me camping.

My campsite for the evening with the “blue moon” behind

I was rewarded with a lovely sunset and the rising “blue moon” almost as the sunset completed, and a nice quiet night’s sleep before heading to the Ferry to Africa the next day.  This was more like my normal overlanding and restored me from my overexposure to motorways and city touring.

Sunset over Ayamonte from the water mill in the marshes
While on the opposite horizion the blue moon rising

The next day was off to the port of Algeciras for the Ferry to Africa, when the Celtic Safari would really start. unfortunately, I had to be at the port by 9 am, so once again, I was in a car park for the night near a massive supermarket and the ticket office, along with other French travellers doing the same thing in large camper vans.

Early the next morning, I made my way to the port, still in the dark, I had the feeling of the adventure really beginning as I prepared myself for the border formalities organising tickets, passports, registration documents, and money ready for the confusion of landing in Morroco.

Waiting in the que, still dark, sorting out money and paperwork
As we leave the port the Rock of Gibraltar is under a blanket of cloud

The process of boarding the Ferry was simple, with Moroccan passport checks on the ferry speeding up formalities on arrival at Tangier Med

My first view of Africa, on this trip, heralds the start of the adventure

As the sun rose, we were treated to a nice first view of Morroco through the clouds, I had the feeling that the real adventure starts now!

On arrival at Tangier Med, the process of clearing the truck through customs and getting insurance and money all went very smoothly, helped by the fact I was the only overlander on the ferry, so there was no queue, and I was clear of the port inside an hour.

Tangier, here we come.





About Gerry Mulligan

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