The fog

Every drive down the N340 in Spain is full of surprises.  Appalling drivers, bush fires, and – the fog.

The Fog was a 1980 film by John Carpenter which had a spooky fog that swept in over a coastal town in California and brought lots of mariners ghosts with it.  Carpenter also did the brilliant Assault on Precinct 13 (1976).

So here, travelling up the N340, approaching Estepona from the south, in our Landy, was The Fog.

Creeping in from the sea.

Fog creeps in from the sea

We watched it roll in from the sea as we drove up the coast and suddenly..

…. it was enveloping us.

fog….

… more fog..

.. and still more fog….

And then suddenly we were clear enough for ‘planes to land at Málaga airport.

All set for a clear landing

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Bush fires

Despite living in Australia and Spain I’d never seen a bush fire before. Until this year.

In the space of a few weeks, we saw fires both on the way up and down the N340, perilously close to houses, flames leaping into the air, and helicopters desperately trying to drench the flames.

Apparently some 50% of fires in Australia may be caused deliberately.

And in Spain? Well, apparently 95% of fires are due to people, whether deliberate or otherwise.

Farming practices, deliberate arson, people throwing bottles or fag ends on dry and brittle vegetation = fire.

Spain apparently has suffered the driest winter for 40 years. No wonder there were bush fires in May.

And while we drove past the first one at La Duquesa, the one near Sotogrande was a definite no-no – and we were sent back up the road by the Guardia Civil to take an alternative route.

Smoke at La Duquesa

Flames at La Duquesa

Time to turn around. No arguing with the Guardia Civil

Flames taking hold near Sotogrande

Helicopters to the rescue

Helicopter drops water over the flames

Please people, never throw your cigarette ends out of the window, or chuck them anywhere, in fact don’t smoke. Don’t leave bottles lying around in dry areas, in full sun, dispose of them sensibly.

Or this is what happens. Burnt trees, burned ground, houses luckily surviving. Where everything was once green and full of life, it is now, burnt to death.


The new Málaga by-pass, A7 – east to west

And the flip side – east to west. I don’t think any text is necessary if you have read the previous post.

Except to say head for Algeciras all the way and you can’t go wrong.

A nice peaceful start to the journey

One of those adorable ruins ‘para reformar’?

Spanish love their bridges

By-passing Málaga and looking towards Alhaurin

Entrance to the tunnel

Spectacular views on the other side of the tunnel

And rejoining the old road again around the hills above Torremolinos

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The new Málaga by-pass, A7 – west to east

The last time we set off down the N340/A7/goodness-knows-how-many-other-names-it-has down to gin, it looked as though the new by-pass around Málaga was finally open.

Either way we missed it.  And trotted happily off down the usual old city by-pass route (opened nearly 20 years ago in 1992) which is pretty quiet on a Sunday anyway.

But coming back up from Gib a couple of weeks ago we decided to go for it.

Yes, the by-pass of the Málaga by-pass finally opened at the end of October.  A press release from 2008 says it was due to cost more than 83M euros for 4kms.  That’s roughly 21M euros per kilometre. Think we travelled more than 4kms too.  Guess it cost more than 83M in the end. Link here.

Wait.  I have found something slightly more up-to-date and accurate.  We are now looking at a total cost of 339M euros for 21.3kms.  Ah, that’s more like it. Thanks Costa del Sol News – more info here.

Anyway.  It was good.  It’s not a toll road, at places there are four lanes, and right now, it is not overly used.  Not at weekends anyway.  And there are some cracking views, although, it is hard in Andalucía not to have cracking views.

If you are heading east, follow the signs for Almería. There is also less lane-swapping for that route, so it is a good thing all round.

Some pix.

Heading off on the new road..

One of the last parts of the by-pass to be completed was the 1.25k Churriana tunnel.

Entrance to the tunnel

Graffiti artists are in there as fast as they can

Looking towards the airport, the new road runs well north

And, with Málaga behind us, heading for the hills of the Axarquía

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Tips for driving in Spain ;)

Travelling on the N340 today and watching varying styles of driving, made me think it would be useful to compile one of those lists for how to drive elsewhere – in this case in Spain.

1) The obvious one. Speed limits do not apply. Or if they do, they are the minimum speed for driving.

2) When you are merging onto a dual carriageway or motorway, it is important to go as quickly as possible and push your way on in front of someone, especially if it causes them to ram on their brakes. Those little white lines that indicate ‘Give way’ certainly do not apply to you. Someone already on the main road does not have right of way.

3) In the unlikely event that a Spaniard is driving in the inside lane of the dual carriageway/motorway, when approaching a merger, they should immediately speed up to prevent as many vehicles as possible entering in front of them.

4) Stopping distances are for wimps. Tailgating at 120 kmh, or more, in the outside lane is the way to go.

5) The obligatory joint, shot of your spirit of choice (eg brandy, anis, whatever) is how to start your journey.

6) The most important thing is to get to your destination as quickly as possible. So drive quickly and don’t stop when you feel tired. It doesn’t matter if you doze off for a few minutes, no-one will notice.

(The above two points go some way to explaining the meandering style of some drivers and the erratic speed changes).

7) When your mobile rings – answer it immediately regardless of where you are and what speed you are going at. It could be important. You can then slow down of course as you chat away on your non-hands-free mobile.

8) And don’t forget when you want a fag, take one or both hands off the wheel to faff around lighting it. When you have done that, continue to drive with one hand on the wheel so that you can enjoy your cigarette.

9) If you are looking for somewhere, make sure you slow down without warning, speed up when it is the wrong exit, and then slow down again to check the next one. Finding out which exit you need before you start the journey spoils all the fun.

10) If someone is attempting to overtake you, immediately speed up and do not let them.

11) If you fail, and they do succeed in overtaking you, you need to get them back straightaway.

12) Wait until the very last minute to swap lanes to avoid the toll road. This has the added bonus of cutting across all the vehicles who want to use the toll road. Similarly if you are speeding along in the outside lane and want to take the next exit, it must be a last minute dash across the lanes.

13) Indicators are unnecessary. They are a waste of time and whose business is it where you are going anyway? So never use your indicators unless you are bored and want a little diversion. Especially at any roundabouts – where – if you do use one, make sure it is the wrong one (assuming you know how to indicate at roundabouts).

14) If you are suddenly going slowly – for whatever reason – do NOT put on your hazards or give any indication that you are dropping speed.

15) This last one is perhaps the most important. If someone is foolish enough to indicate to pull out into your lane – DO NOT LET THEM. Never pull into another lane to allow someone to move out. Even if there is enough room for them to pull in front of you, you absolutely must speed up so they are stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle. Keep them out at all costs and watch them lose speed and be totally unable to pull out. Oh! So! Funny!

This is a tongue in cheek guide, I hasten to add. I neither recommend nor condone anything on the above list.

We also saw numerous examples of every single one of the above in a two hour drive today.

Is that because we drive a Land Rover??

Not such a pane – the trip to Arcos

As this blog is about travels and trips as well as mending Landies, I thought I would finish the series of glass-hunting posts with some – ‘phone – photos of the trip taken on the return journey from Arcos.

We’ve travelled up the beautiful Cadiz coastline before, up through Jerez, via Sevilla, and into the Cota Doñana, and we’d travelled inland around the Medina Sidonia area, but we’d never been through the centre and the Alcornocales Natural Park.

So when we had to change our travel plans – due to lack of scrapyard at Jimena – I took a quick look at the map and off we set to Los Barrios to pick up the A381, which is the main route to Jerez.

I was most put out that we weren’t going to Jimena. It looked a good route, I had planned a couple of geocaches into the trip and all in all it should have taken about half a day.

One look at the map, and the trip to Arcos was a full day’s trip. Nearly three hours to get there, another three to get back, goodness knows how long to find the scrappy, and then if we were lucky, faffing around to get the relevant bits off.

And I hadn’t packed any sandwiches for our picnic. I would be STARVING!!

But once we started on the road, my bad humour disappeared. The scenery was stunning. The natural park is full of what seem to be huge lakes, but which according to the map, are apparently reservoirs.

The road cuts through the south-western part of the park across two reservoirs that seem to stretch for miles. Despite the main road dual carriageway status of the A381 it was incredibly quiet. It was like being on a toll road at the weekend, except there was no toll to pay and this was Friday, usually a busy day on the roads.

We came off at the Medina Sidonia junction, as I couldn’t face the idea of traipsing off towards Jerez, and then back on ourselves towards Arcos.

The road would probably have been good but it was full of hellish roadworks, and a huge wind had picked up, presumably the usual Poniente from the Atlantic.

Once past Paterna de Rivera, and the roadworks though, it was another lovely route, and eventually we hit Arcos with plenty of time to find the scrappy before lunch and the inevitable three hour siesta, or so we thought.

Finding the scrappy was the nightmare we envisaged. We had been told it was on the main road in from Jerez (it wasn’t), so we ended up having to ask directions every couple of kms as it was quite complicated to find. We took it in turns to get out of the vehicle and ask in our brilliant Spanish ‘Dónde está el desguace?’

It is, incidentally, on the road out of Arcos towards Algar – the CA5221. There is a sign next to the venta. (Pic on post from last year in May).

Post scrappy visit, we stopped at the venta and I asked where the road went. I figured we were heading in the right direction and shouldn’t need to traipse back through town. We didn’t. So we followed the road down through Algar, over the most vertiginous dam that reminded me of the famous Land Rover ad,

and back down through, towards Alcalá de los Gazules and to rejoin the A381. Well, admittedly we made the odd wrong turn in Alcalá and ending going back towards Medina Sidonia. But we got back on track in the end. Thank goodness for the GPS on my iPhone! *Blush*

If the first trip had been pretty quiet (roadworks excepted), this one was unbelievably tranquil. We had hit siesta time by now so the whole of Spain seemed to have gone to sleep and we had the road virtually to ourselves.

It was, in the end a good day out, a successful mission, and a lovely round trip. But damn! I wish we had thought about the striker plates.

And we still haven’t been to Jimena, so maybe that should be the next photo-trip post.

Arcos de la Frontera – stunning place and worth a visit

Spring flowers – reminded me of English countryside which doesn’t happen often in Andalucía

The winding road to ourselves

Alcalá

Entering the reservoir zone with trees growing in water

Crossing one of the reservoirs

What a pane – lessons and costs

Here is the much promised post about lessons learned and costs when replacing the glass/doors, based on our mistakes.

Short and sweet:

1) When you find a windscreen at the scrappy, take the frame as well. The glass is easy to get out of the frame of the donor vehicle, but it is a pain to put back in yours. And new windscreens are dear. As we know to our cost.

2) Don’t be in so much of a rush when you buy doors that you forget the striker plates. They do vary. Again .. as we know ….

3) With the rear sliding windows, make sure you line up the aluminium box sections correctly. At least we got that one right this time around.

4) Washing-up liquid helps to make working with the rubber seals easier.

5) Don’t rush. Sit down and think about what you need to do. We started off by pricing new glass from UK suppliers and the price was horrific. Don’t rush at the scrappies either. If you are reading this from Spain, the system is different – normally you have to wait for them to take off bits, but if you take your tools they will usually let you do it yourself. Use forums and ask for help. It doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t cost, and you may get some useful info. We did.

Costs:

The first lot of glass we got was from El Inglés at the Poligono Industrial in Málaga. The cost was €25 for each piece of glass regardless, ie the back door, windscreen, two front doors and two pieces each for the two rear ones. Eight, if anyone is counting.

And at San Miguel in Arcos de la Frontera, €40 for each middle door.

So far so good, €280. Until the windscreen went and it was another €300+ to get it done professionally in La Linea. More than the cost of all the others put together.