Mid August 2014, I decided that since there was a national fiesta immediately before a weekend a touring trip was in order. Not much planning would be done as I only decided to go three days before. After about 10 minutes on Google Maps the decision was made to head north east up the Costa Blanca coastline towards Benicàssim before turning inland and stopping somewhere near Albocàsser for the night. Where would I stay? Maybe a nice hotel, or dig out the old tent and give camping a go, what could possibly go wrong.
The first hurdle would be managing to set off on Friday morning as I had planned, this was missed by a good margin and a post lunch departure was eventually achieved, no matter really as the plan was fluid. Riding up the N332 the BMW F650 ran perfectly. riding with a big grin on my face towards and then past Valencia onto the N340 towards Benicàssim.
Stopping along the N340 to pull the old map out, to check for the inland turn, the first issue raised its head. Being a rider of a certain age it is sometimes necessary to wear reading glasses for smaller text, my reading glasses were resting peacefully on the bedside cabinet at home. No problem go with my trusty phone/satnav and headphone arrangement used on previous trips. Now where did I put the headphones? They would be in the magnetic tank bag left on the shelf at home as the BMW has a plastic tank. Hmm navigation may be an issue on this trip.
The simple answer, as the weather was turning a bit colder would be to head for Benicàssim for the night and do a bit of planning for the next day. Arriving in Benicàssim I spotted signs for Camping Florida and followed them to a nice campsite only about 200m or so back from the sea. Check in was easy and at only €18.50 for the night not too expensive either.
Pitching my old dome tent took a bit of thinking about, as other than a very brief check over the previous day, it hadn't been out of the packet for about 15 years. The third issue of the trip was the lack of hammer for the tent pegs, maybe a list would be useful for next time.
Finally with the tent pitched and the riding gear stowed in the top box I ventured out onto the seafront for a walk and to find something nice to eat. Sleeping in a tent is one thing, balancing a tin of Irish stew on a wobbly camping stove would have to wait for the next adventure. A superb pizza was consumed along with a beer in a nice bar overlooking the beach, bliss. After a brief detour to buy some fruit for pudding, I wandered back to Camping Florida to find it was only 9pm, a little early for sleeping especially as the rest of the sites occupants had awoken from their afternoon siestas and were now partying.
A cold beer in the small bar with my map book and satnav for company would take up a further hour or so and hopefully help with the navigation for the next day. Plans were made, beer was drunk and off I went to bed at 10:30 ish just as the rain started to fall. Rain! in August! what was going on? No problem, once tucked up in my cosy tent and sleeping bag nothing was going to rouse me until day break, well that was the plan anyway.
At around midnight the light rain turned into a downpour and the door zip on the tent sprang a leak, turning one end into a paddling pool. Shuffling all my belongings around I managed to keep most things dry and drifted back off to sleep, until the lightning that is. Great big flashes, probably miles away and followed by thunder claps that seemed to make the ground shake, what the hell am I doing in a tent I thought. After 10 minutes or so it all started to subside and sleep returned until the beer decided it was time to leave and I had to get dressed and run through the rain trying to miss the puddles and tent pegs to find a toilet. At least the facilities where clean and well lit, note to self camp nearer the facilities next time or drink less beer.
Day two finally came around and I awoke to sunshine, this was more like it, a short walk later I found a small bakery serving fresh orange juice, coffee and a selection of fresh pastries for breakfast, delicious. The day had started well and the trauma of the night before was fading fast, that is until the tent was being dismantled.
The area of Camping Florida allocated to me was like many sites in Spain, just a soil base, not the lush fields of North Yorkshire that I grew up near. Grass doesn't like the climate on the Costa Blanca. As it was still early the soil wasn't completely dry so juggling of tent poles, outer and inner tent and all its contents was probably an interesting site for the other inhabitants as they awoke. Breakfast with a show no less, mostly it went well with only a few things landing in puddles, the inner tent and ground sheet was another story though.
The nice clean inner tent and ground sheet combination had to be folded into thirds to be rolled up, so a third of it would end up muddy. A bit of head scratching ensued, it became obvious that however I did it the inner tent would suffer, at one point considering the night I'd had it was tempting just to throw the whole lot in a bin and use a hotel for the second night.
Eventually I was ready for the off with a rather soggy tent bag containing all of the components and what seemed like half of the campsite.
During the previous evenings route planning/beer drinking session a few alterations had been made and I set off towards Peñiscola as relatives and friends had said it would be worth a look. It's a bit touristy but the old town and castle make it worth the journey and it wasn't too far up the road. Travelling by motorcycle again you soon forget about leaky tents and puddle hopping to the toilet, it's just a pleasure to be out in the open air.
Heading into Peñiscola on the Saturday morning was a little busy at first then ridiculous, it was a holiday weekend after all and the place was packed. I did a short loop down through the town towards the castle snapped a couple of pictures and then headed along the coast road a little and back out of town towards the N340. Stopping once back on the main road to get by bearings again it transpired that the two pictures had cost me about 2.5hrs of fighting with tourist trains and avoiding the bucket and spade brigade meandering in the road. To make matters worse the pictures were awful.
Time to regroup and check the plan again I headed north for a few miles to a McDonalds we have stopped at before to have an early lunch. The trip wasn't going exactly to plan, but that's part of the fun of touring and it was supposed to be an adventure.
Setting off again back the way I'd come from I found the right turn for the CV-135 towards Calig and the nice riding began proper, much smiling. At the turn for Sant Mateu I decided to miss the town as the holiday celebrations meant closed roads through the centre. this was a shame as the place looked interesting but maybe next time.
Through another couple of small places and finally onto the CV-170 to Vistabella del Maestrat, this is a small village on top of a big hill. The road twists and turns before starting the climb into the mountains.
The road becomes a little rough in places although whilst I was there a road widening and improvement scheme was underway, with a bit of luck the nice bends will remain just with a better surface to play on.
At one point the road heads downhill and through a good sized tunnel, on the far side the road is in poorer condition as it climbs again above the tree line. It is a bit open in places and barren but the views are great. After a few more kilometers I started to worry about fuel as all the small local petrol stations had been closed as I came through the villages, national fiestas are like that.
My plans of stopping the night in one of the villages was now replaced by a desire to find petrol before I ran out as leaving it to Sunday morning would be a really bad idea. Passing by the turning for the ski resort of Valdelinares, I decided to take the safe option and head straight to Rubielos de Mora as it was a bigger town and hopefully the station would be open.
Arriving at Rubielos I went straight through past the town square to the garage and filled up, phew job done. I then returned to the square and sat enjoying the late afternoon sunshine tucking into a rather nice tuna and mayo bocadillo. The town is really nice and well worth a visit as is this whole area.
Having had a poor camping experience the night before and now only being a couple of hours from home I decided to cut the trip short and head back. I wish now that I had just booked into a hotel and spent the evening in the square with the locals but I will have to save that for another day.
Despite all of the small issues the trip was a great success, i managed to see another part of Spain, ate great food, drank cold beer, talked to some locals, gave the BMW a good run out and used a tent for the first time in a very long time. Was I put off by camping? no I don't think so but a bit more planning wouldn't go a miss and I may even cook myself next time.
Day 1 215km
Day 2 507km
Enjoy the slideshow and scroll down for the map.