We left L’Estartit at the end of February and had an uneventful journey along the A7 motorway to the Costa Blanca. We took the northernmost stretch of motorway around Barcelona. There was very little on the road which was a relief as we weren’t sure what would be about on a Monday lunchtime. We were feeling good and decided to drive for a full day ending up at Oliva, South of Valencia on the coast.
We arrived in Oliva and looked for the signs to our pre-booked campsite-Kiko Park-we saw one instantly very early on after leaving the motorway and thought this a good omen. The worst part about being our size is not wanting to leave a marked route as we would be in real trouble getting lost in a town centre. Initially we saw signs but they disappeared so we stopped at a zebra crossing where a local policeman was helping schoolchildren cross the road. He gave us directions in Spanish and said it would be a couple of kilometres. After what felt like about 5 kilometres we decided to pull over and let some impatient drivers past. A council van pulled in in front of us, the driver walked back to our vehicle and asked us to follow him. He was wearing uniform so he looked official and his last words in English were ‘Trussme’. So we did. We were going down ever smaller roads, with no passing places for other cars getting even slower and he dutifully waited ahead of us. Eventually he pointed to the end of the street-it was our campsite. What a relief. He shook hands with Mike and disappeared off in his van-what a Good Samaritan. We had already booked our pitch at Kiko Park and hoped that it wouldn’t matter that we were a couple of days early. They didn’t have room for us and our pitch already had someone on it so we parked in the car park overnight. This gave us an opportunity to suss out our pre-booked pitch. It was way too small and Mike had very clearly left our dimensions at the time of booking.
Mike was at the office as it opened the next day and re negotiated another pitch with the manager who he had booked it with in the first place. He admitted his mistake and offered a pitch for the 1st 10 days and a move to the biggest and best pitch on the site for the second half of our stay which we would be on for about a further month. We reversed onto our first pitch for the length of the whole site, much to the horror of everyone on the site. Our van has got the loudest most piercing reversing alarm ever invented and our fellow campers were not happy. We really were struggling to get onto our pitch. Colin (who we had met earlier on our trip) not realising it was us had heard all the noise and cycled over to see if he could help. His advice on how to get in was invaluable and we were very quickly sorted on our new temporary pitch.
Kiko Park is a very popular spot in the winter for Northern Europeans escaping their cold dark winters. The site is dominated by Germans some of whom have been wintering there since the 1960’s. Many also pre book for years in advance. This gave the place a slight feeling of a German resthome where they did not like to be disturbed from their normal routine-which included our reversing alarm. The noise really was unnoticeable if they had gone inside rather that shouting at Mike and me with their hands over their ears.
Our next pitch was the biggest on the site but the route to get there was hideous as there were many obstacles such as posts, the low concrete blocks housing the night lights, sharp bends and T junctions. The pitches advertised were big enough for large motorhomes but the access was pretty difficult for us with such a long wheelbase. Luckily for the second move Nige and Sally were staying with us so Nige being an HGV qualified driver was able to give advice along with Colin who had helped before. It was great pitch, closer to the seafront and with sunshine all day.
Mike has fortunately abandoned the idea of growing his hair for a year. He would have had it cut a lot sooner if I hadn’t kept mentioning that it needed a cut. When Mike saw what his hair looked like from the back he went off and found a Spanish hairdresser in Oliva Town. He did such a good job of Mike’s hair I decided to go there for my next cut. My Spanish isn’t good enough to explain a haircut but fortunately the form is the same so I just tried not to worry as the experience unfolded. I sat in the chair to have my hair washed, my feet were raised up and the chair started rippling up and down my back. It was an automated back massage chair-fab. Whilst waiting for Senor to come over and cut my hair I realised that I had not bought a picture to show him what I wanted. Aware of the omission I frantically leafed through the magazines in the shop and found something a bit similar to my last cut. He took one look, flicked his hair back in rather a theatrical way and we were off! Edward Scissorhands himself could not have worked faster-he used 3 different pairs of scissors and his hands were literally flying over my hair. I was terrified of what the end result might bring. Well I needn’t have worried he did an excellent job-phew.
There are many different nationalities living permanently on the Costa Blanca. We have been aware of English, Germans, Dutch, Norwegians and Swiss all making their homes here alongside the Spanish. The main advantage of this is that all types of cuisine are available for eating out. Mike and I decided that we should do something a bit different and booked in for an Elvis Night at a local restaurant owned and run by an English couple in Oliva. We also hadn’t had an Indian meal for a while and when we were there a man with huge side burns celebrated his birthday with friends. We noticed this as he had a cake bought out-not because we were so nosily staring. Anyway- due to the facial hair we quietly commented that he could have been Elvis. The following Wednesday duly arrived-we got scrubbed up for our night out and sure enough it was the same man. He was much better than the Elvis at my 40th by the way-similar age but a much better repertoire, and able to do a few moves as well.
Oliva is roughly split into three parts. Oliva beach where we camped, about 2 km inland is the new town of Oliva which is a typical Spanish working town and up on the hill on the other side of the main road is Oliva old town. Very picturesque with whitewashed houses and tiny roads but not as prettily perfect as some old towns. We did a self guided walking tour with Nige and Sally. In the Jewish quarter the houses were built directly onto the rock. In the evening we enjoyed a carnival procession through the town. The atmosphere was excellent and there was a great variety of different floats.