After that wonderful sandy shower we were ready to drive to an old abandoned gold mine in Rodalquilar, a small village area located within the Cabo de Gata National Park. There was a small museum right before the mine which had a model inside which showed the mine during operation. You couldn’t enter the mine itself but could explore the whole washing area, which was pretty huge. Too bad that already a lot of vandalism happened, but overall it was still pretty impressive. If you got a decent 4x4 car you can even drive behind it up the hill and explore further, which we didn’t do since we wanted to see more of Cabo de Gata itself.
So we drove back down to the coast and stopped for a few pictures at viewpoints we were passing by. The beaches itself were full. Probably because people still had off for the holidays. We don’t enjoy big crowds, so we just enjoyed the beautiful scenery while driving up to Tabernas, the only desert in Europe. Tabernas itself is a small beautiful town with a big castle on sitting on top of the hill. Our hotel room was a big upgrade from the last one and there was not even sand coming out of the shower, considering that we were now in the middle of the desert. Deserts get quite cold in the evening and Tabernas was no different, so after some nice Tapas and a beer we went back to our hotel room.
Early to bed was key for me since I had an important project the next day. Before we drove to the mine of Rodalquilar we stopped at 4x4 Workshop and asked if they could lift the rear of our CR-V. Our CR-V got pretty low with all the load in the back, which I didn’t like because we needed some off road capabilities. The workshop was owned by two brothers Serafin & Paco which were really helpful. Serafin could even speak a little English which is pretty rare in remote areas of Spain, so that made it a lot easier to explain my problem. He said it is no problem and that it’s possible, I just have to come tomorrow morning to bring the car and in one day it’s lifted. I was skeptical at first but okay, let’s give it a try. That’s why I needed to go to bed early that evening because I had to drive back one hour to the workshop in the morning.
The next morning, I got up and enjoyed the nice drive in the cool morning to the workshop. I explained the two brothers that I was a mechanic myself and would like to help and see how they do it, because every experience working on our car will be an experience we might need in future travels. They started right away, I could barely get my wallet out of the car and she was already high on the car lift, with the two brothers already removing the rear wheels. In literally no time at all both shock absorbers where out and got loaded up into the truck of Paco one of the brothers. He owns a really nice Range Rover which they use for towing people that get stuck off-road and even for rally racing, which is the biggest passion of them both.
So Serafin explained to me that I should go with Paco to their friend who is a metal manufacturer. After a 20-minute drive we arrived at his friend who has a nice workshop that had a turning lathe, a milling machine, a band saw, a drilling machine and a small welding corner. Actually everything you need. I am very familiar with those machines and the smell of the workshop reminded me immediately of work. Even though we couldn’t communicate properly because of the language barrier we had a fun couple of hours with me showing pictures of different kinds of work I did the last couple of years, and they were pretty amazed about it.
What really amazed me the most was that they manufactured the lift spacer themselves with Paco measuring the car out before we left. I googled the night before a lot, about how much you could lift the car with keeping everything like the struts original.
He measured a little with the tape measure after the shocks were out and said around 40mm to 50mm could be possible, and that was exactly the 2” inch I googled the night before. Impressive how he could measure that out of the geometry of the suspension.
So the friend of Paco turned and drilled me two perfect spacers out of Teflon in no time. He even made me bolt extensions so I can keep the shock absorbers original. We drove back to the workshop and half an hour later I was standing in front of my lifted CR-V.
I’ll do a separate in depth blog post about the lift with all the technicality behind it.
I didn’t trust the Spanish mechanics at first, but after seeing them for five minutes I knew they were professionals and loved what they were doing. I was super happy about the job they did too. We exchanged our social media accounts so they can follow us on our trip. We said our goodbyes and I was back on my way to Anna at around 2pm already!
While I was gone Anna had a nice day off at in Tabernas. She went to the bakery in the morning and got some nice baked goods and wrote later in her diary which these blog posts are based on.
Arriving at 3pm we had more than enough time to test our CR-V in the desert of Tabernas. We went off-roading and exploring the beautiful desert till the sun slowly started to set and my stomach was telling me to find something to eat, since I didn’t eat properly the whole day. At the roadside we found a place called Route 66 with nice American trucks outside and overall a beautiful American themed place. Of course I had to order the Steak and Anna had some skewers. Back at the hotel I was pretty tired from the whole experience and fell asleep early.
The next morning, we were pumped and ready to go to Oaysis Mini Hollywood a theme park themed after the wild west. The park was really cool and authentic looking, you could also enter a few old houses which were decorated accordingly. Walking around the main square you really thought you were back in the wild west, especially with the desert surrounding. There was also a show, but the show was really bad. I expected more, but it was straight boring and the story didn’t make sense and the stunts were forgettable. We have seen way better shows at other amusement parks.
In the back of the western city, you could enter the zoo. It was quite big we certainly didn’t expect that. You had all kinds of animals there, from Tigers to Giraffes until Crocodiles and other reptiles. The only thing missing were Elephants, but considering the size of the cages sometimes we were happy that they didn’t held Elephants in small cages. The cages were actually really nice decorated and we definitely have seen smaller and worse cages, but still it just wasn’t big enough for some animals. On the way back after the park we went to a shopping mall where we did groceries in Carrefour. That shop is huge you could find anything you needed for at home.
For the next couple of days, we decided to book an apartment to chill out, do our laundry and just have a break from driving so much. We found a beautiful apartment in Vélez de Benaudalla near Motril. The drive there was really beautiful and we even stopped for late breakfast on a viewpoint, overseeing the beautiful mountainscape. At around 2pm we arrived at the apartment and the owner gave us a little tour around, with a voice command translator since she couldn’t speak any English at all.
After that we were ready to do just nothing.
The next morning, we roamed around the small town and found a good bakery and a small shop to get our groceries for the next few days. We really like to cook ourselves especially because we didn’t find the Spanish cuisine to be that good. The village even had a small botanic garden which we checked out, just to see absolutely nothing because it was winter of course. They also had a tiny cave to explore and for 3 Euros entry fee for both, we were satisfied enough with it.
The day after we visited the beautiful castle Alhambra. We had to book tickets with a fixed time to enter. It said you have to be there one hour before your time on the ticket. So we had to leave early at 8:00am. At the entrance there were already a lot of people. And by the castle entrance itself we had to wait again. We waited around 20 minutes to enter the castle. It was beautiful and stunning, but also a lot of people. We could almost not enjoy it because of the people, now imagine it during high season. The castle also had a huge garden, but since it’s winter nothing is growing. In summer it must be wonderful. 1,5 hour later we already went back to the car and payed our parking ticket. Very expensive parking, almost Switzerland prices. We paid 6 euro for 1,5 hours. They charge you per minute.
We were now in Malaga and it was still early. So we decided to make a detour up to Sierra Nevada, the most southern ski area in Europe. What we didn’t realized until we were up there was, that it was Saturday and it felt like whole Spain wanted to go up to Sierra Nevada. It was crazy, we both have never seen something like this. People started to park on the streets heading up to die the mountain village, literary like almost a kilometer away from it. We had no chance of entering the village with our car because they closed it down and there was so much chaos on the streets, because people just parked everywhere. Police was constantly out giving tickets to everyone parking on the road. After that disappointment my Garmin suggested a shortcut down to Malaga, since we just wanted to get out of that chaos we followed it. On the way to the road we found an empty spot so park and grab a few pictures of the mountain. Arriving at the shortcut we had sadly had to discover that it was one way for coming up traffic. So back into the chaos again. After that tiring descent we drove straight back to the apartment, with a quick stop at the bakery. We had to learn it the hard way. Do not plan anything on a weekend in Spain, everything is crowded and that even in low season.
On Sunday we decided to head back to the coast and start camping again. We drove to Marbella and stayed at pretty nice campground with good facilities. The road noise was a bit loud but that’s everywhere in that area. On the way there we stumbled across a cave: Cueva de Nerja. I have seen a few caves in my life but this one tops all. It was huge! Five teenagers which were searching for bats in 1959 stumbled across that huge cave which is around 5km long! To our luck we left the cave just before the weekend crowds were entering.
As you can see, Vy our car got some upgrades on the roof, more on that soon!