Andalucia to the UK, our final roadtrip from Spain back home. After nearly 20 years we were leaving, it was adiós Spain for good!
Leaving the warehouse for the last time was a bit odd, we had mixed feelings about the whole thing, the why’s and what if’s but ultimately we were moving forward. The deal was done on the warehouse and with all the loose ends dealt with we headed off into the unknown. First we had to get out off Spain, this was the initial leg of the journey, second would be the ferry and lastly the home stint toward the north east of England. This is how it went:
Leaving Andalucia the weather was fine but the closer we got to Madrid [or skirting around Madrid] the more grim it became. The Shogun was also noticeably heavy having packed every square inch with something by the time we added ourselves it became a big wallowing beast around the corners.
Being used to the mountainous regions of southern Spain we were surprised at how flat it was around Madrid, the drive was pretty straight forward to the first campsite, Nico grabbed the bull by the horns and assumed navigaton duty and the weather became ever more intimidating the closer we got to the camp site.
The campsite was open all year and we’d pre booked it as a half way way point between the south and Santander, it was easy to find after a somewhat hairy ride around the outskirts of Madrid and it was good to be back in rural parts again. The heavens opened just as we’d finished putting up the Thrymheim and Sunseeker.
As campsites go in Spain Valle Enmedio was a good one, mainly due to location. We pitched up right in the middle of the woodland, great as you could actually get your pegs in the ground, there was also a nearby river, cows wandering in the woods beyond a fence, and a huge amount of mushrooms. You still had the shanty town vibe happening which always spoils things but the facilities were adequate and the service good.
The new sleep systems we’d invested in came into play as did the ANKER Powerhouse which proved essential and while it rained for two days we were set up in the tent with everything we needed.
On the second [just hours before hitting the road again] night we also received the news that the Santander ferry had been cancelled due to bad weather, frantically searching for a solution we decided that the best thing to do was to drive through France and make the Calais ferry while still remaining inside the four day window for the dog’s paperwork and tapeworm treatment.
Having to drive through France really did throw a spanner in the works but at the same time added to the adventure and certainly made things more interesting. Our drive from Andalucia to the UK just got longer.
The second campsite was a bit of a blur to be honest, we’d been driving a good few hours and decided to find a coffee shop to take a break and check cyberspace, somehow we ended up in the most expensive coffee shop in northern Spain by a country mile [should have known by the cars outside], what clinched it for me was when the ‘valet’ wandered into the car park to arrange a guests car. After being handed a menu we left very quickly.
Stopping at a services to arrange the ferry refund and find a campsite we headed north towards Burgos which is a beautiful part of the world. We stayed at a site in a town by the sea which could not have been any different to anything in Andalucia, the camping was on a hill leading down to the sea front and our only regret was that we couldn’t stay longer. The next day was an early start to begin the first leg in France.
Storms and hotels
France is a stunning country to drive through, I remember it well from when we drove down back in 2004, going back up was a little different though as we got closer to the storm that was making it’s across the northern half of the country. After a 10 hour shift behind the wheel it was clear that there were no campsites in the area that were open all year so we decided to use a hotel for the night.
Using a hotel may sound like luxury but when you’re tired and driving conditions are challenging it was the safest option for us. Having an overland rig [even an old one like ours] can be attractive to thieves so we asked about secure parking, the hotel owner was very accommodating and let us use the gated parking area behind the building. It always pays to ask the question especially when you’re somewhere you don’t know.
Day 2: If we knew what day 2 in France was going to bring we would have probably stayed where we were. Storm Kieran had moved north and we headed straight into it. The last few hours in France were some of the most challenging I have faced in more than 30 years of driving.
On the approach to Calais bridges were closed off to high sided vehicles and the Shogun was getting buffeted all over the road, my son then asked me if I remembered the scene at the end of ‘Mothman Prophecies‘ [if you’ve seen you’ll know] which kind of makes you grip the steering wheel a little tighter… We had overturned HGV’s in the road, down trees making roads impassible, and the rain was coming down so hard the wipers couldn’t clear the windscreen fast enough.
After pulling in we decided another hotel was the way to go as even if we did find a campsite there was no way we were getting the tent up. Safety first but boy was that second hotel expensive, buckets all over the foyer and a leaking roof did not put us off, we had no choice as visibilty was pretty much zero.
The next thing we know is that all ferries across the channel were now cancelled and it wouldn’t be until the following morning that we’d find out if we were leaving France or not.
An hour or so before bording we learned that the ferries were back on, the storm had passed so we were on for being back in the UK within a couple of hours. Arriving first at the port of Calais has it’s advantages – first on the ferry in Calais means first off the ferry at Dover.
Navigating the port isn’t difficult and we didn’t get searched which was a bonus, given the amount of tightly packed gear we had in the Shogun getting searched would have been a real pain. Border control took the longest but we had no issues before being told to wait in our lane for news on boarding. An hour later we were on the ferry shortly after we were leaving Spain.
As the French coastline got further away and England got closer it was quite emotional, reminding ourselves of why we were doing this in the first place. There should have been four of us but there was only three, it was a fresh start, a head long deep dive into the unknown.
1842 miles later and our Andalucia to the UK road trip had taken nearly 6 days. It had been the longest journey so far and I was glad to be home, we’d noticed there was something about being ‘home’ when we’d returned for the first time in 19 years earlier in the year. There is nothing quite like being back in your home country.
After everything that has happened being back was like a weight off our shoulders, now was a time to look forward and take advantage of all the things that the UK can offer that Spain couldn’t – and there is a lot.
Looking ahead I already have a list I’ve started, what our overlanding is going to look like a year from now is anyone’s guess but it will be different that’s for sure. We will be taking a good few weeks to settle in and then hopefully hitting the road at the weekends again to cover northern England and the Scottish borders. There will be many things that change, some we are used to and some not, reverse culture shock is already upon us but that’s another story entirely.
For now we’re just enjoying being back.