Getting there is nearly always half the fun, as someone much cleverer than me once put it and if you live in a MoHo, ‘The journey IS the destination’. But there’s always an exception to every rule, if you’ve ever taken the M180/A180, from the A1 just north of Hatfield, east to Grimsby, the stretch of uninteresting road is sooo boring. you will be so pleased to see the famous odorous town when it comes into view. Equally, here in lower Spain, the E05/N340 motorway from Cadiz to Tarifa is as just thrilling, without terminating in a haddock odour finalé. There’s an alternative of course, a little ‘A’ road that hugs the coast, we used it a few years ago going East to West, but it would take us twice as long and cost double in fuel. We can almost smell the waft of fresh Moroccan ‘hub-cap’ bread from here and were keen to get a glimpse of a corner of the massive continent.
Tarifa is just about as close as you can drive to Morocco without getting our (new) tyres wet, we remember the view, the mystery of looking at another lump of land and knowing almost nowt about it. Like France coming into view across the channel for the first time, whilst crossing from Dover to Calais, or Russia’s St. Petersburg coming into view over the side of a cruise ship on a cold wet morning and Italy’s Bridisi shore looming large in Charlie’s front screen. There’s nothing like the excitement of ‘new land’, differences, unfamiliar landscapes, skin colours, local ‘world famous’ foods, languages and traditions. Last time we left Morocco we were both surprised how deep and long the post-African-depression’ ran. Portugal’s been great, northern Spain too, but we are breaking our necks to get a longingful look at North Africa, again, if only from a distance. At only 11km (as the stork flies) from Morocco, Tarifa is just about as far south as mainland Europe gets. It’s a windy point of land with one foot in the atlantic and the other almost in the Med. Standing as look-out and guardian of the Mediterranean gateway.
The west coast of Tarifa has a super-wide, flat beach which seems never to end. Attractive to wind worshipers of all types, kite-surfing has now overtaken wind surfing, in fact, wind-surfing is now forbidden here, so the kite-surfers have multiplied, in their thousands. They’ve got the wind for it, as the westerly comes in off the Atlantic Ocean, it gets funneled down to this last outcrop of land before being let into the mouth and width of the Med.
We had every intention of ‘just passing through’ Tarifa, possibly stopping over for one night, a walk around the town, a stroll on ‘windy beach’, but the weather took a glorious turn, the mercury rose to 20 and we found a free field with a few other MoHo’s, we didn’t mind sharing it with a few horn-equipped brown cows. They didn’t seem to object, we’ve just got to watch where we place our feet, keep a look out for the sludgy land-mines.
A few days later and we have one of those rare situations, when both toilet cassettes are almost full and we’re just about out of water, so it’s off we go again. Last time we were here in this area, I remember it getting tricky to top up with fresh water. As a last resort, we were ‘reduced’ to filling the watering can from the beach shower, this time around, there’s a new service point, just behind the town. For only €3, you can empty as many black waste cassettes as you like, dump the gray water and fill up the fresh tank. For an extra charge, you can even wash your MoHo (we didn’t) but we did make use of the 14kg load industrial washing machines for €6, just an extra €2 to dry the lot, and the whole job done in an hour…service done and wash-bag empty…re-set the freedom clock!
The new rubber was rolling once again and for once in a while, in a northerly direction, just for a few miles. Tarifa is as far south as we can get, we’ve to tweak north (and east) a bit to get to Gibraltar. I’d forgotten how hilly this bit of Spain was, coming out of Tarifa, we seen to be climbing for miles, the fuel gauge low light had been on for the last 20 miles, now Charlie’s internal computer was yelling “Low Fuel”. I was determined to get to the ‘ridiculously cheap’ fuel station in Gibraltar without giving another cent to the Spanish Government in fuel tax.. The trip computer ‘Range’ indicator suggested I had ‘0.0’ miles left… that gives you confidence, but we pressed on mostly downhill now and prayed we’d get there. After 3 more warnings from the internal nanny, we eventually made in to the border, the fuel needle almost touching the lowest point. The CEPSA fuel station in Gib, just over the runway, must be one of the busiest fuel stations for miles, fuel’s cheap, VAT free possibly at 80p p/l. , that should compare with Moroccan diesel prices, so we fill up the tank for £80.
This rock that’s bolted onto the end of Spain’s version of Europe is a very strange place. The Spanish love to hate us for retaining it, though loads work here and use the shops/pubs and restaurants and it brings ump-teen millions into this almost forgotten tail-end of the Iberian peninsular. I should imagine, without the influence of the British Gib, the neighboring area of Le Linea may look as in desperate need of funds as most of the rest of Spain. So on the face of things, it does look like a Spanish/British …win-win. It’s certainly a win-win for us, cheap fuel, real ale, fish ‘n’ chips, Morrison’s, Barbary apes and a cracking view of Morocco.
The footy car park at Le Linea is basic (never very quiet, but cheap at €4 pn. inc. black waste dump), but perfectly placed for a stroll or scoot over into Gib. We managed several excursions over the border this time, once in Charlie-bus (shopping and fuel) and a few trips on Frankie. Back in 2016, we’d coughed up the €14.50 for the cable car to the top, a great ride but we weren’t up for it twice. We zoomed up the rock to a car park about halfway up to be told, ‘you can’t park here …it’s private!’. It belonged to the nature reserve and is not a public parking space, even for a tiny little moped. So we slung our hooks about 100m down the hill and fasten Frankie up to a lamp-post, then walked back to the car park/ticket office and paid just 50p each to enter the nature reserve. Just a 810m, thigh-busting, 45 degree slog and half an hour later we found our first ‘wild’ ape.
The cheeky little Barbary Apes will have your back-pack open and emptied in a flash. I can guarantee nobody has ever had a picnic up here in the open. One minute there looking all innocent at you, the next, they’re on your back trying to get the back-pack open…cheeky little buggers! On the way down, we passed a cafe (must be so used to the mischief), just as one of the little sods was hot-footing it away with 2 Almond Magnum ice-lolly’s from the freezer…the’re so comical. We wondered how much stock this little cafe, so close to the apes lost in ‘primate-pilfering’. Two hours of meandering amongst the apes later and we returned, the best quid we’ve spent for a long time.
All this funny business with Barbary apes is reminding us where they came from…Africa baby! Time to get the tickets sorted, get the beer and wine bought and stashed and get gone. Carlos as usual for the tickets, €200 will get you you an open return ticket, valid for 12 months. Fridge rammed, cupboards filled (mostly with booze) and it’s almost time to leave Europe. All we’ve got to do now is fill up the LPG at the last possible moment and we’re off.
Public field just north of Tarifa n36.04750 w5.63520 No services. FREE .Services near town.
La Linea, Football Stadium car park. n36.15850 w5.33900 Black waste dump only. E4 pn. Noisy at times. Perfect for Gibraltar.