We’ve had a few days of wind here near Tarifa (stop giggling at the back) but it’s not stopped us getting out and about. I recall hearing Billy Connolly once quote “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes” and it’s very true. As we found out, our cycling trousers are not waterproof, nor our shoes or gloves and our helmets have holes in them!
When we arrived we headed into Tarifa to explore the old town area. There’s a stretch of a few miles on the road before a turn off onto a fab boardwalk for probably a mile through the coastal marshlands before it joins a promenade of sorts, but all cycle and walk route. From the boardwalk there are carpets of tiny yellow flowers, lots of little egrets, herons, cormorants and small birds that I can’t name, bobbing around. It’s also close enough to the sea to easily watch the lunatics with a plank of wood attached to their feet and a big kite attached to their waists! Actually they are mesmerising so I now call them wizards!
The promenade is a great route but Tarifa ‘new town’ is a concrete block lovers paradise and clearly attractive to graffiti artists who have created some great art in places. All the way along into town are signs of the fighting and defensive past, crumbling look out posts, derelict military bases, all reflecting different times for this part of Spain. The old town however is very different, at this time of year and with the restrictions it’s a very atmospheric, architecturally grand but tired part of town. It’s clear to see that in season, it’s a hive of activity, plenty of cafes, bars and small shops to enjoy and an endless run of seafood restaurants.
The main thrust of this area however is kite surfing, this area holds the number two spot in the world, behind Hawaii and blimey, there’s everything here to support it. Even at this time of year there’s an edge of town surfer culture with vans from, in one count at one spot, 9 different counties, all wild camping by the beach. Such is the draw. There was line vehicles of all shapes and sizes, as far as the eye could see, many home made and a real relaxed off grid culture. There was something in the air if you get my drift!
In the opposite direction from where we are parked up are the incredible dunes of Valdevaqueros. Again, a ride on the road to a ubiquitous wild camping spot for the dudes, and onwards up and around the dunes towards another abandoned military camp. An impromptu tomato and onion lunch (only very fresh fish on the menu) at a tiny cafe in the hills and we were re energised! Heading down a steep slope from there however, we were on a deserted beach watching the waves before heading back up through the national park to discover the talking Beatles (oops beetles!). Down by the water we had the option of horse or bike to get back up! The milder climate and sheltered nature of the park meant lots of lovely forest flowers coming into bloom and some colourful mushrooms.
Anyhow, as you no doubt gathered the weather turned, great for kite surfers who took to the waves in their droves, not so good for bikers as I discovered. I came a cropper on a bend on a very wet wooden boardwalk, it might have helped if I could actually see where I was going in the driving rain. Having sheltered in a hide, even the birds didn’t come out, we carried on “once you’re wet, you’re wet” playing in my mind. The upside was however that we found a brilliant veggie cafe (briotarifa.com) to dry off in that we returned to today for a two hour late lunch as they have to shut at 6. If you ever come here, go there even if you enjoy el carne!
Pre lunch, we discovered the Tarifa triangle. At a view point high up east of Tarifa, where there’s yet another abandoned military base, (bored yet?!) there a bird migration viewpoint. Didn’t see any birds but we did witness cargo boats disappearing into the sea mist rolling in from the Atlantic. This evening the light pollution from the town has uplift the mist, it looks like it’s on fire.
Above where we are staying is another national park, very quiet with a gorgeous tree canopy, lots of spring flowers and wild horses. Not a soul around so enchanting in amongst it, with only the horses for company. We felt quite sad for them. Yes they are hardy but they looked sad and miserable (Liz and Julia would have adopted them all)
We were planning on just another few days here but that’s scuppered due to my inept bike riding, I’ve done something to my knee in an altercation with a barrier yesterday, so need to rest up a bit. We’ve no timetable though and as there’s some inland routes we want to do we’ll stay here before heading further west towards Barbate and from there we’ll plan to start to head North. For those missing us, we get the boat back from Santander on 20th, we have a test before we can board and two more once back while we self isolate back at the ranch! (affectionately named by us, home of the wonderful Julia and Liz)
Take care everyone (note to self too!) x
Lunch at our restaurante favourito, Briotarifa (yes, started before remembering to take a pic, we’re no pro’s!)
Santuario de Nuestra Senora de la Luz high up in the hills behind La Pena