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West to Portugal: Comporta

Noisy dogs and some sort of industrial clatter disturbed the peace on occasions beside the disused railway at Espiel, but it was OK as an interesting, free, overnight stop. Leaving mid-morning we explored the town to find a panaderia, fuel and the road out again! It seems that Espiel is the centre of an old coal mining area and there’s still some industry. We finally find the old N-432, a deserted, fairly rutted road winding through a wide dry valley with olives, wild flowers, huge swathes of red poppies and umbrella pine. Passing the hilltop castle at Bélmez we lose our way again at Peñarroya-Pueblonuevo, trying to find the scenic  route, A-447 to Alanis in Sierra de Seville. There were warning road signs and the map marked it as an ‘unmade’ road, but we persevered until it dejenerated into a steep rutted winding track – likely to continue for 40km! We found a great spot to turn round, have a coffee stop and noticed it was 37 degrees in the shade!

Retracing our steps we crossed Rio Bembezar at a fine bridge with water flowing and nightingales in full voice. Finally returning to the N-432 we headed for Jerez de la Caballeros with the promise of a town camper van parking area, crossing a huge plain with sheep, horses and arable farming dotted with olives, fruit trees and endless carpets of wild flowers. Arriving at in Jerez le los Caballeros at 1900 we were lucky to sneak in by the wall as all eight spaces were already taken. We wandered round in search of a restaurant for supper and found the excellent Il Meson, run by an Italian and his Spanish wife who met at a Michelin starred restaurant in London. Perfect fusion of Italian and Spanish cuisine with a great atmosphere. We’d driven 233 km today and it was mostly much too hot!

Sadly, as it was Friday night, there was a disco in town until 0500, so we didn’t get much sleep! After a shopping trip to the cash and carry recommended by our host at Il Meson we set off for Portugal in search of some cooler weather on the Atlantic coast. Our route, almost due west, took us through changing scenes of cattle, sheep, cork and storks with perhaps more water in the rivers and reservoirs. We finally arrived at the free camper ground at Comporta, part of the Sado Estuary surrounded by rice paddy fields, the sea, silvery-white sand dunes and pine forests. We remember to change our clocks back to the London/Lisbon timezone and after 228 km have reached the Atlantic coast.