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.


… 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


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.

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??

Toll roads – Costa del Sol

And the good news is, the toll prices have gone down with the end of the summer holidays.

Mountains on the way up at the rest area between Estepona and Marbella.

It wasn’t all cloud though – blue sky looking towards the coast.


So new prices:
Fuengirola – Marbella: €3.75
Marbella – Estepona: €2.55

(although I could have sworn on the way up it was €4.15 between Marbella and Fuengirola).

Finally we decided to try some tapas at Los Altos de Marbella service station/rest area/restaurant, narrowly beating a coachload of customers to the counter. Phew.

1 racion of pimientos asados
1 racion of ensalada de patatas (incl egg and olives)
1 portion of pizza
bread included
1 coke
1 18.75cl bottle of Rioja

Total: €14.60



Potato salad.

And yes, the helpings were bigger originally. They were well demolished by the time photos were taken…

Avoiding San Pedro – the toll road

Cruised up to the finca this weekend. Round trip is around 350kms.

Here we are at Chilches. We usually stop here to let the dog out for a walk.

For the first time ever we used a toll road in Spain for the section between Marbella and Estepona, to avoid San Pedro de Alcantara.

Cost – two euros 55 cents (one way).

Reason – roadworks that are apparently going to last for the next 18 months and are causing huge delays.

Verdict – very nice. Worth two euros 55 cents. Possibly made up for in fuel efficiency by not sitting in traffic jams.

Note – toll road costs go up over the summer period so according to Via Michelin this goes up to five euros 72 cents. Probably still worth doing to avoid delays which will be even worse in summer.

The stretch of toll road is around 23km with a rest area/filling station/shop/cafeteria/toilets/parking etc on both sides of the road. Note, the shop prices seemed somewhat dear, but they maybe don’t get a lot of punters. Loads of space and great for dog walking. Clean toilets.

On non-toll roads in Spain the slip roads are terrible, you have to go from a standing start to meet traffic travelling at minimum 80kmph. Here, you actually get a decent slip road to get up enough speed to pull onto the motorway, plus there isn’t too much traffic anyway.

Another observation, the tunnels on the toll road are so much better lit. How bizarre.

It was pretty scenery and a great bit of road. Naturally, less traffic, as we all want to save two euros and 55 cents. Not any more. We’ll be using it again.


Around 350 kms


Around £23 for diesel and €5.10 in tolls

As a comparison the bus trip is around €26 for one person (both ways), before you even think about getting something to eat, and takes around twice as long.


Anonymous said…
again lovely pics. I envy you the sunshine. When is our summer here in the UK going to start?
20 JUNE 2009 14:02