9. Costa Brava…and Birds galore!! Llafranc to Tarragona

Friday September 4th

I woke up early and my first thought was the washing! Luckily it had remained ant free, but was not quite dry, so we decided to do all the jobs we need to do when on campsites…empty, clean and refill the loo,  empty our grey water tank; top up with fresh water and give the carpet a sweep. Then we walked down into Calella de Palafrugell and found 2 delightful coves. Nice enough to swim… anyone else would have been in like a shot, but this is Anne and Chris! We then found the coastal footpath – the Cami Ronda – and walked a few miles south,  passing really stunning rocky cliff scenery and clear blue water in sandy coves. They had even cut tunnels in the cliffs for the footpath!20150903_185718

If you think the Costa Brava is all cheap hotels and lager louts…Please think again! There are resorts like that, for sure, but so much is charming villages and small towns with gorgeous scenery and walks.20150903_132458

The coast around Calella is a Marine reserve, and snorkelling and diving are really popular.20150904_10552820150904_110143

Anyway, back to the campsite… and YES, most of the washing is dry and still ant free!

Van packed and off we go, heading south. The few bits of washing that were still damp – mainly Chris’ pants and thick socks- were each hung from a separate cupboard door, giving the impression that Boris was adorned with unusual bunting… and hopefully deterring would be burglars!

We had decided to visit Tossa de Mar, a coastal resort about 25 miles south because our first daytime rain was forecast from about 3pm, and we thought we could fit it in before that! We really weren’t sure what we would find because it is only a few miles north of places like Lloret de Mar which are to be avoided.

What a pleasant surprise. Tossa is busy and a bit touristy, but a friendly traffic warden told us where we should park… and then obviously decided we were totally inept, and sorted out the ticket machine for us! In Tossa, the mediaeval castle looking out over the sea is in great shape,. and the old town inside the walls was lovely. The cliff scenery around was great too…a worthwhile stop.

20150904_133745Back to Boris, off we set….heading towards Barcelona. Then the rain came! We drove through Barcelona on the autoroute in a haze of low cloud and road spray, and headed South to Sitges where we needed to find a place for the night, as we had a big day out planned for Saturday!

We had to meet Stephen Christopher at his house in a village in the Garraf mountains for a day birdwatching! I found an aire seemingly in the middle of nowhere, but when we got there it was a winery, but no one was around except one other ancient campervan from the Netherlands  with 2 bearded young men and 2 very lively large dogs who all seemed to squeeze inside somehow. We parked near the gate so we could be as discrete as possible when we left at 6am!

We set 3 alarms…just as well as we slept very well…. apart from the 1.30am firework display that sounded as if war had broken out, and made every dog for miles start barking! It must have been fun in the other campervan!

Saturday September 5th

Groan….when those 3 alarms went off, it was a struggle to get up. We were high up as well , so the early morning air was chilly. It was still dark when we arrived at Stephen’s house and he was there ready and waiting. We transferred into his 4×4 and set off!

To say Stephen was an expert is an understatement! He could spot a bird and recognise it from seemingly miles away, and heard the slightest tweet!

He took us to 3 very different locations, we did some great walks , and saw over 70 different species of bird, including  12 that we had never seen before.

We started at some sea cliffs at dawn. Initially there seemed to be nothing there at all. 20150905_075810

Then suddenly..’Blue rock thrush’ cried Stephen, and trained his telescope on it so we could see it in real close up. Pallid swifts overhead, Crag Martins whizzing by…the whole place came alive. Suddenly the mood changed as a Peregrine falcon swept majestically past and perched on a the cliff. It was later joined by another.

For me, one highlight here was when we spotted a skein of birds flying towards us in formation, much as geese do at home. As they got closer we realised they were flamingoes!

The next stop was high in the Garraf mountains. Here we walked up rugged dry limestone mountains with low shrubs and herbs growing. 2 men were rounding up wild goats and their clanging bells fitted the landscape perfectly. Then..there were the birds – amongst them, Sardinian warblers, Black Eyed wheatear and the Iberian grey Shrike were highlights for us. Finally we drovedown to the nature reserve on the Llobregat delta…right under the final approach to Barcelona airport.

Bearing in mind that summer is the worst possible time for birdwatching, we were really pleased to add ruff, zitting cisticola (fan – tailed warbler!), pied flycatcher and purple swamp hen to out haul.20150905_22260220150905_223200

We had already been birding non – stop for 8 hours – and I really mean non – stop.  We were in a hide and Stephen said… “you can have your lunch in here but keep looking  for birds!”

We thought the day was over but he decided to make one more stop. As we pulled into a space by a bridge he called “Iberian woodpecker” and stopped the car suddenly. As we turned to look we saw a little owl on a branch and then Chris saw a Hoopoe  behind us. A black winged stilt, and wood and green sandpiper made this a great extra stop!

We got back to Boris shattered but thrilled with everything we had seen. What a day!

But it was only 4pm and we had some decisions to make.

Our original plan was to spend the next 2 days visiting Barcelona by train, and then start to return north. Suddenly neither of us were in the mood for a city, so we decided to head south to spend 2 days on the Ebro delta…another birding and nature mecca…instead.  that is the real beauty of Boris.

We drove about 50 miles to Camping Las Palmyras just north of Tarragona. It was nothing like our usual choice of site, but it got great reviews!

We like small, peaceful, great loos!

This had 600 pitches! In addition, the Spanish schools do not start back until September 14th, so it was FULL of Spanish families! In this part of Spain the rhythm of the day is very different. Nothing much seems to happen until after 10.00am. Then there is a busy spell until lunchtime which seems to run from 1.30 until 4.30..including siesta time. Then it is very busy again until dinner which is often not started until 9.00 or even 10.00pm. That way you are avoiding the heat of the day.

Now…think for a moment of English campsites. Quiet by 9.30, silent  by 10.30!

On this campsite, at 10.30pm there were people eating, promenading, and chatting in a very animated way! And children EVERYWHERE! On bikes and scooters, carrying cats and dogs, playing ball.

Camping Spanish style... note the fridge freezer!!!
Camping Spanish style… note the fridge freezer!!!

It may sound awful…. but it wasn’t!  Everyone was friendly and well behaved. The loos and laundry facilities were superb (AND there was a tumble drier so all the bedding got washed and dried!). The site was very linear so it didn’t feel so big, and the whole length of it was on a gorgeous sandy beach. There were hardly any bugs, AND, most amazingly, by midnight it was silent…and we had a great night’s sleep!

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