Bongo Beach Bar, La Manga, Costa CálidaFebruary 15 in Spain
We had planned a rare visit to a nearby spa today but last night Will had noticed the leisure batteries were only at 3% - far lower than they should have been given the amount of power we'd used. This morning the levels had dropped to 0% and the automatic cutout hadn't engaged. Something was definitely wrong. No spa for us today!
Vicky had breakfast by candlelight and when Will got up we removed the passenger seat and tested the two 100Ah batteries. One was completely dead and the other showed just a flicker. They'd been getting less and less efficient and in the last week we'd had problems with the 12V charge point above the table. This had fixed itself but the 3 year old batteries would need replacing and fast. We'd survived before without electricity but without running water, heating, light or a fridge it wasn't a situation we wanted to stay in for long. We were very grateful it hadn't been a cold night.
We'd previously researched the possibility of using lithium ion batteries but decided against it because the conversion technology wasn't as well developed as we'd have liked it to be. So what to do? A search of 'autocaravanas' in google maps told us there was a shop that sold accessories and did repairs 23km away. Pulling up at the forecourt entrance Will communicated what we needed but we were relieved when the employee was able to speak English to a decent level. First we were told it would be tomorrow or Monday, but then a mechanic came along and was able to find two suitable batteries. They were each 5Ah less than our current ones but they were a better make so would probably be just as good. After carefully checking they were the same physical size we carried out a card transaction that made our eyes water. Fitting them ourselves meant we didn't need to pay extra or wait until 4:30pm when the shop could squeeze us in. After another 20 minutes on the forecourt we tentatively pressed the test button on our internal power display and breathed a sigh of relief when it showed a nice green 93%!
A 70km drive would give our new source of power a good charge and get us to our planned stopover. We'd made enough headway south to reach the sea today. It's aqueous expanse is always a welcome sight but with the warm weather and bright sunshine we were blessed with today, the Mediterranean had taken on a sparkling rich blue that was even more alluring than usual!
From Cape Palos on the Costa Cálida (Warm Coast), a sandbar extends 13 miles to San Pedro del Pinatar, maintaining an enormous lagoon between it and the mainland. We are aware that the coastline around here is in high demand with holiday makers, but nothing had prepared us for what the sandbar had been turned into. Almost every square inch was covered in high rise apartments and villas. The sand had been raised and reinforced by boulders to create foundations for these money towers, many of which were castelated with mock turrets. Park4Night had told us there was a spot we could stop at on the strip, and although we couldn't imagine ourselves relaxing in this urban beach, we wanted to experience it all the same. Passing through the resort gateway of La Manga, our senses went into overdrive. As we progressed down palm lined streets, billboards displayed images of banana boats, jetskis and expensive power boats with male models at the wheel. Paddy's Irish bar was signed and The Sun newspaper was on sale outside one of the few shops open out of season. An overindulged looking child marched up to a pedestrian crossing holding up their hand mouthing something at us, no doubt demanding we stop immediately. Once the family has crossed, the child predictably pressed the button for the lights to cycle again.
To our surprise Park4Night led us to a small double T shaped parking spot in a dead end. A Belgian van was already parked up but there was enough space for three here and an equal amount in the T that mirrored ours. A small plot of sand covered in purple and pink ground flowers, was for sale between us and the road, ahead was a brown wooden shack and terrace covered in dried palm leaves; Bongo Beach Bar (closed for the winter). To our left, only a narrow red tile pavement divided us from the fine pale sand and the sea 30m beyond. An island covered in green scrub and dotted with a couple of whitewashed houses rose from the waters just a couple of miles offshore, while the tall buildings of our sandbar pealed of in a crescent until they rejoined the mainland and became fuzzy with sea haze. Although we were in the midst of all these buildings, it wasn't busy and there wasn't a soul on the beach.
We quickly changed into swim shorts and let Poppy out. She loves the seaside and she got so excited she broke into a run towards the water. Vicky paddled while Will went for a quick swim. We both had our eyes off Poppy for a moment but when Vicky turned back round she was lying in the sand having a fit. It didn't last long and after a little while she was able to get up and walk back to near the van. We got her water and bed and our beach towels and lay out with her, initially in the shade but as it cooled we allowed her to move into the evening sun. There didn't seem to be any lasting effects from her episode but she'll be 15 years old in less than a month and we are aware she won't be with us forever. All the more reason to appreciate our time together and give her experiences she enjoys.
As the sky hues turned pink we crossed over the road and onto the small beach opposite. We couldn't have walked more than 100m! The sun was now a blazing amber ball disappearing behind the low peaked hills accross the lagoon. Gorgeous!
The night was mild and the following morning was just about warm enough for Vicky to do her pilates/ yoga on the beach! We've travelled south quickly and combined with the time of year, sunrise has fast been getting earlier. It was a glorious feeling to be stretching in the open air, watching clouds reflect the soft colours of the rising rays, until the instense light crested the horizon and rose quickly skyward.
You can see a 30 second timelapse of the sunrise here on VnW Travels You Tube Channel: https://youtu.be/hVEMterfmf8
It was a little cloudy but still warm and we were able to cart the canoe over the road and paddle it along the edge of the lagoon for a couple of miles in t shirts and shorts. The water was clear and shallow for the most part and we saw a few flatfish skimming along the sand. Strings of nets were layed out at frequent intervals but we were able to easily pass over the top over them. They didn't seem to have anything but rubbish caught in them. The sandbar provided protection from the waves and the buildings shielded us from the wind, making it a very pleasant paddle.
We'd planned to move on but Vicky was ill again so we stayed put and Will whiled away the day on the beach, swimming, playing his guitar, reading and fishing.
We kept checking and double checking the level of our new batteries. They'd only dropped to 76% over 3 days. With the old ones we would have needed to start the engine on the 2nd day in order to give them a charge.
When we entered the high rise sandbar we thought it unlikely we'd want to stay one night, let alone three! The lesson 'don't judge a book by its cover' is constantly being reinforced on the road and we were very glad we gave this place a chance, despite our initial misapprehensions.Read more