Surfing the Wave

Waves come in sets and if you catch a good one, you can ride it all the way to heaven.


This medieval image from Carcassonne sums up our feelings as we were waved through Spain and then France. They wanted all foreigners gone.

Today we travelled up through Spain to Ampolla. It was clear that our plans of a slow journey, taking in some of the country’s best wildlife areas, was in jeopardy because of the CoronaVirus. 

All packed up and ready to roll.


Our first morning, and we knew we would have to make a decision whether to dash for home, or hang on and hope for the best. The Spanish President was to make a speech at 4pm and the rumour was that the country would be going into lockdown. He had issued a warning the day before. A great idea as it caused the mass exodus of people who rushed off to their second homes, or out shopping for all the things they might need for month of house arrest, or both. I cannot imagine what they were stocking up on, as shelves had been empty for days. Not a single loo roll could be found throughout the land. Sadly that was not the case for the virus which had undoubtably been spread further by the 24 hour forewarning.

The loos at our Ampolla campsite. Can you see any shop? NO? Hand sanitiser? NO? Not very encouraging in a pandemic?

We decided that we would spend the day riding our mountain bikes around the salt marshes and paddy fields of the area, taking in the wildlife and the stunning scenery. Why not? Then we would see what the great man had to say.

Sand cycling. Great fun!


This morning the campsite asked everyone to leave. They had to close down as they were not a ‘long term’ site. Spain is now in Lockdown.

So, what to do?

Italy locked down seven days ago and France was also teetering. France would lockdown within the week, with the UK within two weeks. That was our guess. We needed to get a squirt on.

We decided to head up through France and switch our ferry from Bilbao, Spain, to Caen, France. We had no guarantee that our Spanish ferry would be sailing in a weeks time. We did not want to get there and find we were stranded, with no ferry and the borders to France shut. As wonderful as the north Spanish coast is, we didn’t want to be wild camping, in winter there. Barri does not enjoy the cold.

Roughly translated, this sign says, ‘restrict movement, stay home’.

Then we started to hear reports from our friends and the BBC that France was closing their borders at some point between midnight and 8am. I do not want to be too pedantic here, but schengen has meant the removal of all border paraphernalia throughout inland Europe. France has no ‘borders’ to close, apart from it’s coastal ports, but it can put up road blocks, and the police have guns. I wont argue. 

The ever shifting news was that all hospitality in Spain was closed. France was enforcing the lockdown the following day, although both countries had made their pronouncements on the 17th of March. We had a tiny window of opportunity to get over the border, after which there were no guarantees. Ampolla’s local Spar had everything we might need to eat for four or five days. There was no hint of a panic buying here. It was surreal; no shortages, no empty shelves, no queues.

Everything normal here, Ampolla Spar

We set off on a steady drive along the stunning Mediterranean Sea. We had to shun Barcelona and it’s environs as it was a CoronaVirus hotspot. Garages had no loos open and we did not want to handle pumps without good hand washing facilities. Yes, we do carry sanitiser, always, but there is no substitute for good hand washing. We were reminded, trapped as we were, between the sea on one side and a wall of death on the other, of a journey we made up through California. Somehow we managed to get trapped in a forest fire and had to outrun it. As it thundered north west, the fire finally caught us, forcing us along the 101 coast road. We had the fire behind us and alongside us, with the sea as a potential escape route. At least with the fire, we could see, feel and taste how close it was. Worryingly, none of that applies to this invisible killer.

California forest fire, we only just managed to outrun it, it took us 8 hours!


It was just after midnight when we crossed the Spanish French border. We had ridden the Spanish wave and come skimming down it’s gorgeous green face plummeting into France, jubilant that we had not dropped off once.

The French customs officials massed at the motorway services. We counted at least 50 of them. We guessed they were being deployed to the borders.

We headed to the first town over the border, Le Boulou, with campervan parking, an aire, and found it completely packed. Road after road of vans of all descriptions, parked in every possible location. Hundreds of them had washed up here on the crest of that wave. It was one of the most remarkable things I have ever seen. We found a small space with a scrubby woodland just outside the door, need I go into detail?

Nice, simple brekky to set us up for the day.

In the morning we headed off. The little town was awash with motorhomes travelling in every direction and seemingly, coming and going up and down every street. It was probably the world’s most valuable ever gridlock. 

We managed to get away and drove north towards Bordeaux, hoping our chosen campsite would take us in. The news, as it came in was dire. France was locking down, we were on that wave again and running coast to coast, rolling up and down the hilly landscape and carving around sweeping rivers. What a delight this route is.

Carcassone came and went and our destination was soon hoving into view. And there it was, our campsite. We booked in and found a perfect lakeside pitch.


We have transferred our ferry ticket and will be leaving from Caen tomorrow morning, unless they can fit us in tonight. Off we went, determined to get to the port before tonight’s sailing, just in case they can squeeze us onto the boat and take us to the UK. France is locking down tightly. In the services vending machine drinks and loos are available for the weary traveller. 

At last the sea appeared in front of us, along with migrants, dashing along the roads looking for a lift to a new life. All of them, young, fit men, some little more than boys, living their groundhog days in this unforgiving climate. There was no boat out of town for us, so we headed for the aire a short walk from the ferry terminal and it’s loos and hot water.

Caen aire.

This evening as we sat in our van twiddling our thumbs, the van shook noticeably. And again. And again. We investigated and found a lovely young guy, thin, kindly and gentle, hiding behind our trailer. I asked him to leave. No. I told him to leave. No. He kept pointing at something and trying to walk between our van and our neighbours. Our side door was open and he could have popped in and locked the door behind him. I held him back, telling him that he must leave by the other route, but no, he would not do that. Wally caught a glimpse of something dark, on the tarmac, under the neighbours van. It was the lads winter jacket. We helped him put it on and wished him good luck as he left. I felt so sorry for him and his predicament.


We are on the ferry bright and early. Happy day. We have made it.

All Aboard! The majority of vehicles aboard the ferry were motorhomes, which we have never experienced before.

On the ferry, our neighbour from the night before stopped me for a chat. He was a rather curmudgeonly chap, but pleasant enough, so I stayed on my feet as he talked away. He had a shock this morning because his motorhome had been checked by the immigration team at the ferry port and they had found the lad from the night before hiding in his spare wheel hanger, under the chassis. The sweet kid had almost made it. 

The view from the ferry.


Today the UK went into lockdown. We had ridden that wave all the way home and it is heaven.

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Our Camping Pitch Wildlife

At the end of this piece there is a video, lasting just over 2 minutes. It showcases some of the wildlife you might come across here. Please do not expect wandering herds of Wildebeests, or a David Attenborough commentary. Do expect all participating creatures to have been filmed on, or near, the campsite and not in a zoo ….

What a luxury it is to lie in bed in the morning, cup of tea in hand and watch the wildlife parade before your bedside window. Some mornings, almost nothing happens. Other mornings,we are treated to a panoply of creatures, doing what ever it is they do, as we slurp our brew.

This winter, we have added more ‘rarities’ to our list of visitors. We have also crept about the site at night, like a couple of weirdo’s, seeking out the shy and/or nocturnal; slugs,snails, cats and geckos.

Campsite cats; probably the top predator here.

The results are a host of critters, all dropping by to forage and feed, or hanging out in their favourite places, waiting for a meal to wander past.

Long Tailed Tits

To be honest, most of what we see will be familiar to you, so we wont bore you with long descriptions of the obvious. Instead we will add a few notes on those unusual characters that brighten our day, or force us to consult Dr Google for more information. The numbers below, should match those on the picture at the top.

Red Squirrel

1. We are very fortunate to have a Red Squirrel colony on site. Many of the squirrels can be hand fed and are very fussy eaters, refusing all offerings except nuts. Each squirrel is identifiable by it’s colouration and damage. There are no black coloured Red Squirrels here. The squirrels feature heavily in our little video.

Sardinian Warbler

5. Sardinian Warbler. Yes, you knew it was a bird, but not one we see much of in the UK, unless you are a bit of a twitcher. It is cute, often holding it’s tail up like a Wren. It has a bright red eye and it is very common on site. Males are black headed and grey backed and the females are ….. need we paint a picture? Generally it does not migrate, it nests in low shrubs, although here it would lose it’s young to the many cats on site. I cannot explain why I constantly call it a Siberian Warbler; old age getting the better of me?

Blackbird with a lot of white feathers.

7. Blackbirds are not a rarity, except that here, they have a gene that gives rise to some birds having white markings (leucism). Ours has an almost entirely white head and is disputing the pitch boundary with a very ordinary Blackbird. Some short footage of one of their typical battles is included on the video. At home we have a similar gene in our garden’s Blackbird population, giving us the lovely Roger Moore, he had one white ‘eyebrow’ permanently raised and was the son of whitey.

Decollate Snail

13. The snails here are a revelation. So many new ones to us. All you need do is look out for the ‘dead’ shells during the day, or head out at night with a torch. 11o’clock onwards is the best time to go hunting; what else would you be doing at that time of night? Our favourite, the Decollate snail, lovely shell.

Mediterranean Gecko

16. Gecko’s are plentiful on the campsite. They emerge, year round on warm evenings, clinging impossibly to walls and waiting for food to pass by. Generally, they seem to be territorial; if you find one, it will be there every time you pass. They try to stay out of reach and here they keep within range of a light fitting so that they can catch and eat the insects that are drawn to them. They like to have a cable, or roof tile, or loose bark to slip behind and out of sight.The wash house has a good sized specimen where we have placed the number 16 in the picture. The most easily seen type of Gecko we have seen here (January – June) is the Moroccan or Crocodile Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica). The hugely common, Mediterranean Gecko (Hemidactylis turcicus) does hang out at this campsite, but all we ever find are babies. The Mediterranean Gecko has colonised huge swathes of the world.

22. Mediterranean Pale Glow-Worms are to be found glowing, in our experience, low down in the shrubby areas beside the seafront promenade. We saw them in mid March, at about 2am as we walked back from the Fallas shenanigans. In January this year, in the middle of the day, we also picked up this beauty on the path to the lighthouse. It was crossing the gravel track. A clumsy mover, it made it’s way caterpillar style at the back end, whilst using it’s legs, all at the front end, to haul itself forward. Like the proverbial chicken, we guessed it was probably trying to get to the other side. These are unmistakeable creatures and it was great to help it cross it’s road.

Mammoth Wasp

23. We wandered past the biggest wasp we have ever seen, and although it was sipping nectar from a plant beside the path, outside the campsite, we have included it. It is a Mammoth Wasp (Megascolia maculata), Males have a black head and the much larger females have a yellow head. Females can be 6cm/2.4ins long. Only the females have a sting and venom, which they use to paralyse the host grub for their young. They lay an egg in the pre-paralysed grub of the Rhinoceros Beetle and the rest you are welcome to imagine.

Hummingbird Hawk-Moths

24. Humming Bird Hawk-Moths (Macroglossum stellatarum) are common around here, once the weather warms up. One balmy evening, here on the campsite, we enjoyed watching one as we drank a beer in the bar. Despite being two a penny, they look so exotic that, whenever we see them, we get far too excited for our own good health. The very best place to see them locally, is where the sandy beach starts, just as you leave Denia. The plant borders alongside the boardwalk thrum with them when the temperature is up around the high twenties, we saw them in June. Often seen in the UK too.

Processionary Moth

28. This campsite has no problem with the infamous Pine Processionary Moth, because it has a regime of spraying in place in order to prevent infestation. Despite this, we have one colony on site, next to us, which will be ‘dealt with’ very soon (now gone). The colony I am shaking up in the movie was off site, but nearby. The life cycle is straight forward; eggs laid in pine trees in the summer by the parent moth that has one day to complete the task before dying. The hatchlings emerge in the Autumn, and feed on pine needles. In January the caterpillars get together and form the distinctive nest which becomes home for the winter. They sleep by day in their nest and forage in their pine tree for needles to eat by night. In the spring, they leave their nest and their host tree to find somewhere suitable to pupate, often, but not always soil. This is when they can be seen processing along the ground, nose to tail.

Why the concern over a moth? It is all because when the caterpillars come out of their spidery nursery cocoon, high in trees, to wriggle along the ground, in single file, they look very sweet. Pets and young children are fascinated by them and love to investigate anything new. However, if the caterpillars are touched, their hairs can cause an allergic reaction, fatal in some cases.

27. The Black Redstart is a nice enough looking bird until it flies off. Then you get a flash of it’s red tail; all very flamenco.

Whilst here on site, we have seen or heard everything, from the tiny and yet complex Ant up to the top predator, the Tawny Owl. All this in an area no bigger than our courtyard garden at home. It is remarkable what is out there waiting to be admired.

We hope the little movie was to your liking. Let us know if there are other must see creatures here on the Costa Blanca and what you think of this article, by clicking on the reply box below and leaving a message. If you would like an automatic email whenever we post articles, click the ‘follow’ box below on the right.