A Way of Living
My reference to 5ers at La Manga Campsite caused Peter to ask “What is a 5er?”
In thinking about that, it occurred to me that we are living in a sub-culture which has its own language and certainly its own way of life. OK, La Manga is an extreme example of this culture. There seemed to me to be a case for an attempt to show how the over-60s (and some under 60) European trailer-trash exist.
It was interesting to read in the Guardian that the 65-75 age group were the “happiest generation”. I have to admit that many of the people we meet are clearly returning to the values and attitudes of the “flower power” age we remember – without the free love element! They have decided to opt out of the rat race and to find a life with the minimum of stress; building their own worlds in a climate that they find congenial.
Barter is dominant. I needed a haircut. A short walk around and a conversation with another feller about our satellite dishes and he told me which van to go to for a trim. The barber was into photography. He wanted some software which I happened to have and he showed me a programme that he thought I would find useful. While we were chatting, a lady arrived to say her car wouldn’t start. Peter took us across to another pitch and introduced Harry who mends any vehicle although he is now 78 years old. My haircut cost me 7 Euros including a beard trim. Helping each other, just because we can, is prevalent. Whatever your needs are, there always seems to be somebody around ready to provide know-how and/or equipment.
Of course, this does have a nodding acquaintance with anarchy. The results are not always atheistically pleasing but those who run campsites have found ways of curtailing the worst excesses – just as well – without getting into confrontation with their customers. This is wise because they couldn’t hope to win by coercion what they can achieve by persuasion.
La Manga has almost certainly started as one of those places after the 2nd World War when people bought old railway carriages and plonked them on beaches as Summer holiday homes.
Here is a link to a short slideshow that we have made that shows something of the site in its context: http://www.viddyou.com/viddstream?videoid=49505
At the end of November, Jo (Liz’s Sister) came out to visit. We decided that it would be better to rent a flat for the week which wasn’t hard to do at this time of year – Manga beyond the busy campsite is almost deserted.
The apartment was on the 7th floor of a newish block built for those wanting Summer homes.
There were only three or four other residents in the whole complex. But it looked out over the two seas, sadly facing North so we had to go out to see the sun. The views were magnificent.
The weather, however, was not magnificent. It blew a gale of the time. Having said that, it wasn’t cold and the sun did make an appearance on the last couple of days.
We ate and slept a lot but did manage some excursions beyond the local supermarket. We took the ferry across the Mar Menor to Santiago de la Ribera,
a very pleasant place having a local fiesta that day. It was a marked contrast to La Manga as a real working town, not just there to attract tourists.
We also visited Cabo de Palos, a charming little fishing village.
Liz enjoyed having a very appreciative extra beneficiary for her cooking and we all enjoyed the week.
The Buggy Returned
The buggy had been refusing to start sometimes. The starter motor would jam and could only be freed by using the recoil starter. Whilst Liz was trying it out on the campsite, the rear wheels seized up solid. We took it to a local specialist in Cartagena and after much tutting in unintelligible Spanish, they agreed to strip it down and tell me what parts would be needed from the suppliers in Keighley. A week later and we were still getting “mañana” and I was beginning to think we would be lucky to get it back within the month. Then on the eighth day we got a message to say it was ready to be collected! It appears that the starter motor was jamming because a nut had fallen off and this had worked its way down to the gear box where it jammed in the cogs there.
A bill for €156 later and we were able to leave La Manga for our final Winter destination at Almeria.
I don’t know what they did apart from freeing the escaped nut and replacing a couple of bearings but the result is that the buggy now performs much better and is also considerably faster – reaching nearly 90kph (55mph). It even felt reasonable on the autovia which we had never dared risk before!
After saying a sad goodbye to Jo, we headed South to Almeria which we thought would be the place to stop until the end of January as it has a very mild micro-climate. An uneventful 200 miles brought us to a campsite at El Cabo de Gata. A nice site but it is in the middle of a very barren wasteland, miles from any sort of civilisation. We decided to move on the next day with a list of sites between there and Marbella to inspect.
As we travelled through Almeria, we realised that we had to get away from the area. It is covered in plastic sheeting! Really! The area provides a lot of the out-of-season soft fruit for the UK and other countries; tomatoes, oranges, lemons, avocadoes etc. It is covered with plastic sheet greenhouses wherever there aren’t buildings. It looks atrocious.
Quite apart from ruining the look of the place, the intensive use of the land requires extensive use of fertilizers and chemical pest control so the land has become almost unusable in any other way.
We just kept on going until they were just a bad memory.
The journey onwards through the coastal mountains was very reminiscent of the Italian Riviera It had a lot of little beach spots reached by steep, mostly unmade, roads leading to isolated coves. Many of them were being used by motorhomes for wild camping and in many ways we were tempted to join them but our task was to find somewhere for Ben and Julyan to come to for Christmas.
Our next stop was at Torre del Mar. This is a delightful and largely unspoilt seaside town catering for the Spanish holiday maker. Sadly, the two campsites were not what we wanted. They were clean and tidy but geared towards the Summer heat when shade is everything. At this time of year, they are dark and feel very claustrophobic. A couple of nights were enough.
Six or seven campsite inspections later brought us past Malaga, Torremolinos and Fuengirola to where we are now, Cabopina, some 8 miles East of Marbella.
As soon as we got here, we felt good about the place. It is an open site but with enough trees to feel protected. The beach is about 10 minutes walk away. It has two swimming pools, one indoors. While we were walking round, we stopped to talk to a couple of English people who said “We know you, don’t we?” They are a couple whom we met at Leiston in Suffolk while they were getting ready to leave England!
A few minutes later and we were being helped to establish the van on a sandy pitch by Keith and Cis from Somerset. Within a few hours we had made contact with three or four other British couples and some German and Dutch neighbours. It all felt like we had joined another community.
Sadly the weather has gone downhill for the last couple days and this evening has been wet and windy. The temperature has also fallen and the locals are saying that they have never known it to be so cold (10ºC this afternoon but back up to 14º by midnight). They do say that the Spanish Winter is very short and we are rather hoping that this year won’t prove to be different!
A Little About People
It seems to me that everyone we meet has an interesting tale to tell which has led them to be where we are. Several people have health problems, alleviated by the better weather. One woman had been confined to a wheel chair for seven years, wearing size 20 dresses, when she had a stroke. After some further tests, it seems that she had lost the use of her legs because her arteries were blocked. With a correct diagnosis and much battling, she eventually persuaded a surgeon to do the operation at her risk. To-day she is happily walking around, looking slim, and is very cheerfully coping with the stroke-induced dud hand and memory loss as they spend most of their time touring around Europe in their large motorhome. What must it feel like to walk again after seven years in a wheelchair?
We have also heard of a neat trick when corners are too tight for a wagon. Apparently, you get to the point where the back wheels need to move over to get round. You take a pit prop and jam it between the bank and the wheel. Throw a bucket of water on the road round the back wheels and drive forward sharply. The prop makes the back wheels skid sideways on the wet road and round you go.
Aren’t people fascinating?
Ready for Christmas?
We are not but then we never have been. Many of the motorhomes, chalets and caravans are dressed overall with lights, Fathers Christmas and trees. Ours is still unadorned but we have some lights to put up. Ben and Julyan will be joining us and both have their flights booked to come out on the 23rd. Ben booked his own flight but Liz had to arrange Julyan’s, of course, so he is flying from Paris Beauvais (wherever that is) to East Mids to Malaga and will return Malaga to Belfast to Paris Charles de Gaulle. Will this persuade him to book his own flights in future?
All we have to do is find them somewhere to sleep here. There are rumours of people who let out their chalets here so…
We have only had one Christmas in the Sun before and it feels strange to be warm and writing Christmas letters. Whatever else, it should be an experience!