Monday, April 24, 2017

Carreteras españolas con Franki

A little late in posting but I'll attempt to write several posts over the coming weeks about the trip with Franki, the faithful Mercedes Benz Sprinter 211 CDI van.

Rolling out of the village with 4 bicycles and a wheelchair strapped to the roof, it was Abengourou or bust on 17th December 2016.  I really had the jitters, worried about too many things and whether Christophe and I would get on for the next week or so. He had booked as far as Nouakchott via BlaBlaCar, a car pooling website, we'd never met but had chatted on the phone twice, I had a copy of his passport but that was for the ferry booking.  I found him in a McDonalds in Perpignan just before the Spanish border, he'd caught the train from Avignon early that morning to be able to meet me. Christophe looked sane and friendly, the manager of the branch offered me a free coffee totally out of the blue; things were starting to come together, I downed the coffee and we hit the road south!
Leaving my small French village
Finally feeling somewhat more confident, we exited Perpignan and joined the A9, my first concern was Franki being quite heavily loaded and making it up the hill to the border.  She whizzed up the hill over the Pyrenees without any problem!  We got to Girona and pulled in to find a Decathlon, the bikes on the roof all needed new tyres, inner tubes and a chain.  Franki got her first re-fuelling of the trip since leaving home, we were good to go, aiming to be in Utiel that night, an hour inland from Valencia.

I'd been invited to meet Rosalia & Juancar via the internet.  They were looking for information on travelling in Africa & it turns out they had already bought a vehicle but only Juancar had been to Morocco, not any further south.  Very kindly both Christophe & I were offered beds for the night in return for information about the road south and how to travel in sub-saharan Africa.

The road from Barcelona should turn into the AP-7 and the A-7, friends told me it wasn't easy to find the A-7 which is toll free but just follow the signs they said.  We did, to no avail!  Poor Christophe was doing most of the driving at this point and I kept navigating him onto the N-340, it was getting darker all the time.  We rejoined & exited the AP-7 on numerous occasions but finally gave up, bit the bullet and paid the tolls until we turned right at a windy and rainswept Valencia to head into the hills and Utiel.
In Utiel: Christophe, Juancar, Rosalia & her mother
After a great evening chatting, Rosalia's parents gave me a lovely room at their house, Christophe went back to Juancar's place.  We waited a while in the morning for the guys to arrive, but nothing, we then discovered Christophe was exhausted and still fast asleep!  Unfortunately we had to get back on the road to make Marbella by early evening, a short but wonderful time with lovely new Spanish friends.  They left Utiel yesterday (23rd April 2017) so wishing them the best of luck!  Hope to catch up with them, Ver, Oir y Viajar, in Abengourou later in the year.

An hour or so heading west out of Utiel
The drive south through central Spain was stunning at times, the weather certainly helped us and we were thrilled when we got to Grenada, the weather was so much warmer.  We'd been invited by Jason & Eli of Mayan Monkey Mijas to talk about chocolate, the situation of child exploitation and trafficking.  Jason also offered me the use of his beautiful villa in the hills of Marbella for the night, absolutely stunning!  The following morning I picked Christophe up from Don Carlos, a 5* hotel and we set off for Mijas.  It's a wonderful small town up in the hills where we were treated to a tour of Mayan Monkey's chocolate factory and spoilt with a big breakfast ... not to mention the endless chocolate Eli gave us for the trip!
Fantastic chocolate with excellent ethics!
That afternoon, we drove out of the Marbella/Malaga region onto Motril to catch the 8h ferry across to Tangiers, the trip was really starting now!  We were ready for African soil by midnight!

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