Five things you really don’t need on a roadtrip in Campervan
You’re about to set off for a Van Break adventure! I say adventure because a road trip is essentially an adventure. If you’re a city dweller such as I am, chances are that you’re preparing a bag full of things you’ll really don’t need while you are riding on Andalusian roads.
Here are the top five things that you’ll really don’t need:
– [For girls and hipsters]: a full beauty case with lots of different creams and products. My Van Breaker companion Marie broke into laughter when she discovered that I had a hand cream! Well, Marie, I have creams for everything! She was happy though to use my eye cream, the perfect remedy for puffy eyes after a looooooooooong night in the wild countryside.
– Different clothes for every day: Definitely not useful… especially if you do wild camping like we’re doing. I have to confess that I’ve been wearing my boyfriend’s sweater day and night on top of the same shorts and T shirts for two days in row. That’s the spirit of feeling like a natural woman 😉 ·
– [Girls again! Boys, please don’t read further!] I took off my bra the minute I left Malaga and it feels amazing. When can we girls walk braless under a T-shirt without feeling awkward except for this kind of holiday?? It’s part of girl trip: FREEDOM, FREEDOM, FREEDOM!
– A laptop: even if you need to stay connected, write or post your adventures -which is our case, a smartphone is enough to do all that!
– Regarding van life, you’ll be amazed by the comfort, design and equipment of your camper van. We cruise with a California Beach that has everything you need in there from kitchen ware to bath towels, a portable shower that rocks for bush showers and a bed sheet… So your sleeping bag is really the main thing you need as well as your own sheet to keep you warm inside it! That’s all folks! You need a free spirit and lust for life 😉, Andalusia does the magic and Van Break allows you to focus on what’s key: ENJOY!
Let’s take a break from Parisian life, let’s take a Van Break!
Marie and I are both living hectic Parisian lives. When I told Marie that we had the opportunity to go for a week holiday in a Kombi VW driving through Andalusia, the answer was immediate: YES! Another kind of proposal, that one was a promise of a fabulous road trip in gorgeous Southern Spain.
A few years back, we spent some holidays together in Corsica and Brittany. I knew that we had the same way of enjoying holidays: no big planning ahead, go with the flow – but not with tourist crowds, and fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run*. We both went through an intense first semester in our jobs and personal lives, thus feeling in great need for a break in the calm and empty countryside. More to come in the next post!
They’ll be coming ‘round the mountains when they come…
We landed in Malaga on Monday 1st May morning after a very short night… What a sight: this shiny yellow Beach California VW parked in front of the airport! Can’t miss it! It’s an Andalusian sun shade, that set the color palette of our trip.
Here comes the best part: discovering all the features of the Van Break campervan. It’s a design masterpiece: every appliance or piece of furniture pulls out of its hiding place: picnic table stuck in the sliding door, chairs stored in a case in the trunk door, amazing sliding roof that reveals a complementary sleeping bunk! Once ready to hit the road, Aurélien & his Van Break crew ask us over coffee where we’re heading. Let’s be very clear here, Marie is the captain, I’m just the pilot! “We’re going to see Ronda and the white villages. We’ll take the mountain roads through natural parks, where we can camp in the wild!”
First lunch break on the way to Ronda in the town of Coín, in the luxurious valley of the Rio Grande. May 1st is Labor Day in Spain, as in many other countries. We stop in a crowded restaurant with Gypsy Kings music at full blast, with Andalusians families enjoying this festive day off loudly! In my next post, I want to share with you the sheer pleasure of driving this amazing van!
Post 4 Life is a ride: Driving on mountain roads with a Beach California
Let me share some of my van and driving memories from other times and places! I had the chance to travel with a camper van both on the Western Coast of Australia and in the Southern Island of New Zealand. At that time, I was with a seasoned driver who drove all along in a Maui camper van. Now, on this Andalusian road trip, we take turns to drive with Marie. I took the wheel on the first day at the airport. I also wanted to drive on the sinewy roads through the Sierras because I’ve always enjoyed driving in such conditions in Spain and Italy. I get the feel of sliding into a rally driver’s shoes 😉
I don’t intend to spoil your discovery of the van capabilities, but let me sum this up for you: great horsepower and very easy to handle! When covering 30km takes in an hour in dire conditions, you need a dependable vehicle, and that’s exactly what the new Beach California from Volkswagen is! You very quickly get to know your van’s engine, and how to handle it without thinking; you just need to focus on the road!
By the way, Andalusian drivers are up to their reputation: fast drivers and sometimes a bit reckless… When they’re bumper to bumper with our van, I’d rather let them overtake us and keep on driving at my pace. Pleasure doesn’t necessarily mean speed and insecure behavior!
Kids, in a Kombi VW road trip nothing good happens after 9PM!
It’s a beginner’s mistake, right? Aurélien had warned us: don’t wait till it’s dark to find a spot for the night. There’s no big constraint with the camper van: it’s smaller than a mobile home and can be parked on a regular spot in any town. But we, Van Breaker girls, have got great expectations for this road trip and we wanted from Day 1 to see the sun rise in a pristine and wild area! Well, we hardly followed the safe procedure to do so on the first night!
Our first day in Andalusia was epic, as you’ll shortly discover… After a drive West from Malaga, we finally got to Ronda. Marie was so eager to visit this Andalusian white village. But we were also both knackered from our early morning flight, the drive, the Andalusian May heat… We stopped in Ronda for evening tapas – I mean Spanish evening here around 8PM. We couldn’t figure out where the historical center was. We ended up drowning our disappointment into a pint of beer. 9PM ticking… “We should take off”, said Marie.
She was right indeed, but it was a bit too late. After wandering in the outskirts of Ronda, we made up our minds on a small path supposedly leading to the woods that Marie remembered on our way to Ronda. BAAAAD IDEA! Imagine the caricature of a couple arguing in a car…
– Pull over, it’s here!
– Stop your nonsense, that’s not the path, this leads to nowhere! Anyway, I can’t pull over in the night at the last minute…
We ended up camping near a viewpoint, Gate of the Winds (Puerta de los Vientos). Once we had parked, we still had to prepare the van for a good night sleep… Marie running completely out of batteries and I being emotionally drained! Now you understand: kids, when you’re in a campervan, don’t wait till it’s dark to prepare for the night! By the way, we survived that windy night even if we were a bit scared and woke up at the sound of the shepherd’s whip and hails.
Delving into the Andalusian culture in Ronda
The next day was dedicated to visiting cliff-hung Ronda and its remains of Andalusian archeology and history. The town was a sweet spot for romantic artists and authors such as Rainer Maria Rilke, Orson Welles or Ernest Hemingway. They appreciated it for its eye-catching views over the canyons and mountains. This geographical stronghold was preserved from the industrial revolution until the early XX century.
Near the new bridge, all crowds were converging to a small kiosk surrounded by a flowery garden, where a duet of musicians played a guitar and harp concert. Ronda is up to its romantic reputation! But my favorite white village was a smaller one, we landed in afterwards: Montejaque. I’m a bit biased here because we had the best mojitos ever in there! More seriously, the village is less crowded and offers insight to visitors on beautiful wall panels. There’s an old lavatory with a huge stone basin at the center of Montejaque, small fountains, statues…
We also met with Felipe, in Montejaque, a local man who chatted with us, gave us some guidance and directions to continue our road trip. He rightly pointed out that we were as white skinned as the table we were sitting… Could we take it as compliment? Let’s suppose so 😉 We’ll do something about that tan when we reach the beach, but for now we just want to enjoy the Sierras!
The train seldom stops in Gaucin
Wait a minute: how did we end up staying for a night near Gaucin train station? Let’s be honest not the cutest place on earth! Oh right, we spent an afternoon walking in a cork oaks forest, following a river. We were like kids in a candy shop with all the surrounding birds, herbs (peppermint, sage…) and gorgeous wild flowers. I’m not gonna pretend I was able to recognize many of them, I’m a city girl, remember?!
After this relaxing walk, we left this spot with our Van Break camper van through a winding track full of pigeon holes… Andalusian Sierra driving, level 3!!! This track lead to a more decent road, which took us to Gaucin train station at dusk. There we stopped, afraid to spend another evening looking for a good place to stay. So, let me tell you this: even freight trains seldom stop in Gaucin. That’s all for today folks!
Showering in the bush, one of my favorite camper life moments!
You’re starting to know me now: I’m a girly girl! I love my beauty rituals. How do you handle when you don’t stop in camping? Well, you use the portable shower provided by Van Break and wash in the bush.
Again, great memories come back to me: showers with bucket and a natural sponge in the Moroccan desert, but also in central Australian bush or in Burkina Faso. I can easily give up the comfort and efficiency of a full blown hot shower to enjoy the simple pleasure of washing myself in a beautiful natural setting. My two favorite shower times were in the Sierras, near an olive plantation and near a river (rio) lined with Eucalypt trees.
Tale of the unknown lake… and the famous beaches!
The running joke of our stay in the Andalusian Sierras was the search for the unknown lake… A less philosophical tale than Jose Saramago’ Tale of the unknown island though 😉 We were set on bathing in mountain lakes that we could see on the map. But guess what: we could never find any! We discovered virtually dried up ponds or unreachable dams, but a lake suitable for bathing, never! Fair enough, we bathed in rivers!
Everyone urged us to go the famous kite surf beaches of Tarifa and Zahara de los Atunes, and reach Vejer de la Frontera and Barbate. We spent a windy afternoon on the Tarifa beach and the nearby Tarifa beach club – back to civilization after the wild life! We did feel like moderately clean hermits coming out their caves; we had indeed stayed a night near the cave of the Hundidero. Our closest neighbors were eagles and other impressive prey birds. We had also walked in the footsteps of wild boars… We wanted adventure, we got it!
Anyway, we chose the amazing beach of Playa del Carmen to spend two full lazy days. The beach is huge and almost deserted at this time of the year except for some tourists and local people. Andalusian families started arriving on Friday night. During our stay in Zahara de los Atunes, the town of Playa del Carmen, we enjoyed some shopping, gourmet food and lengthy picnics on the beach. We met with Rafael, a very nice beach volunteer who made us feel at home on our (forbidden) camping spot 😉
We spent some time asking ourselves whether we should head north on the coast to Vejer de la Frontera, but we made up our minds against it: we needed a break from road trip life. It’s already Saturday. On our way back to Malaga, we stop for our last beach afternoon in Fuenjirola, a seaside resort near Marbella. First and last huge turron ice cream, last sun bath…
– Can you believe that we’re going back to Paris tomorrow morning?
– Don’t tell me about it!
We’ll meet with Van Break co-founders, Aurélien and Olivier before heading back home. In my next post, I’ll tell you about these guys that allowed us to experience such a beautiful road trip!