My latest adventure would never have happened if it weren’t for four solo travellers in Spain, coming together to create an epic and very impromptu adventure road trip to Portugal.
I firmly believe that when you travel solo you are a little more open to meeting new people or starting a conversation with random strangers. Travelling with companions can tend to make meeting new people less of a necessity I feel.
Travelling solo, you tend to make a concerted effort to make acquaintances, should you want someone to embark on travel adventures with. This theory of mine has proved itself before and my latest road trip adventure from Malaga is certainly no exception.
Last Sunday, I left Velez-Malaga and said goodbye to my travel writing mentors and digital marketing gurus, Ben and Pippa. I learnt an incredible amount in a short time with them and am truly grateful for all their help, hospitality and regular travel writing tips.
Hopefully, down the line I can learn to put theory into practice and make somewhat of a travel writing career for myself. In the meantime, I’ll just enjoy writing about my adventures and living life as best I can. I’m still trying to work out the right career path but taking comfort in meeting others that are feeling exactly the same.
Now, back to the latest Spanish adventure….after making the decision to leave Velez, I booked into a hostel in Malaga called Lights Out Hostel. On Monday morning, after breakfast, I got talking to a few fellow backpackers.
The initial plan was to head to the city beach in Malaga. I got my stuff together, headed up to the communal area to wait for one of the guys due to join me, sat at the table and began talking to a very smiley American girl- also travelling solo. I asked her what her plans were for the day. Her response? ‘I’m going on a road trip to Lisbon. Wanna come?’
I sat there for a moment with my beach bag all ready for a lazy day at the beach. I contemplated the offer. Without much thought, my ‘just say yes to every adventure’ mindset kicked in…I excitedly (and most likely very loudly) exclaimed that I was in!
I had just a few minutes to get my things together and then it was time to get on the road. There was one more space in the car. The very lovely Jake, who was originally going to join me at the beach arrived at the table. I then asked him if he wanted in on the adventure to Lisbon. After some, ‘will I, won’t I’ emotional conflict, he finally agreed to join us.
The plan had been devised. It was official. Four of us – myself, Shaina (from Colorado – check out her blog!), Jake (from L.A.) and Roy (from Israel/Italy) were about to embark on a very impromptu roadtrip from Malaga to Lisbon – 670km of roadtripping fun with total strangers!
Well, you’ve never seen such an excited bunch of people as the four of us. There was a lot of high pitched yelps, shrieks and whoops from all four of us. What a fun adventure with four random backpackers. We knew it was about to get epic!
The Beginning of out Adventure…
We all hopped in a taxi, headed to Malaga airport and did our best to flirt with the car rental agent to get a discount. It kind of worked – got a free extra driver (me!) on the agreement and a smile out the VERY serious car rental guy.
It was really happening. We were off on our roadtrip to Portugal. Roy drove. The rest of us were the roadtrip entertainment, singing along very enthusiastically to all the songs.
We made a quick detour to Decathalon to pick up some roll mats and cheap sleeping bags (€6.99!!) with the intention of wild camping somewhere…. forgetting about the ubiquitous presence of mosquitos and illegality of camping on beaches…it was fun nonetheless.
Finally, after much faffing, we left Malaga City and headed along the Andalucia coast road in the general Portugal direction. Within minutes, the boys started to hint at being hungry (okay, okay – us girls too) and I suggested jumping off the highway to Mijas Pueblo – a lovely little white-washed, Andalucian village built into a picturesque hillside, not far from Fuengirola.
We found a lovely little restaurant and were impressed at the music – a reggae version of Adele’s album! We enjoyed some local tapas, bought some supplies and after some tourist photos of the Spanish pueblo, resumed our roadtrip adventure.
Having been along this coast a few times in the past, studying Spanish a few years ago in Marbella, I remembered how beautiful Tarifa was. I knew we had to stop there so I suggested it. Everyone seemed on board. I was so excited. Seeing Gibraltar and then spotting Africa was very exciting for the team!!
Kitesurfing in Tarifa is huge. The constant winds where the two seas meet (Atlantic and Mediterranean) make it a mecca for watersports enthusiasts. In winter, the surf in Tarifa is pretty constant too so draws in the adventure sport crowds all year long.
I have also heard that the diving is pretty spectacular too. I can understand this after seeing just how clear the waters are there on the beaches. Visibility must be incredible.
The white-washed old town of Tarifa, with an alluring medina of narrow, winding, cobbled streets, is home to an impressive array of trendy bars and cafes. There is also a plethora of fantastic eateries – a great place for foodies! The relaxed beach vibe and hippie chic shops, bars and restaurants make Tarifa wonderfully enticing.
We got a tip off from some guys we met about a well-known local fish restaurant called La Pescaderia. We ordered a range of dishes – each one more impressive than the last. It was nothing short of incredible and not a bad price either. I highly recommend it to anyone who might be in the Tarifa direction and enjoys typical Spanish fish dishes.
Highlights of the evening were Calamar a la Plancha (grilled squid) and the croquetas. The dried tuna shavings were a fun addition to the seafood spaghetti dish, giving the illusion that the food was moving. Very entertaining.
Being high season, a lot of the backpacker hostels in Tarifa were either fully booked or completely over-priced, taking advantage of those like us who had arrived completely unorganised.
We realised this after calling in to Tarifa Kite Hostel, enquiring about beds for the night. The manager was quite condescending to us, when we suggested that €30 per person on a Monday night, in a large dorm room was perhaps a little pricey.
We finally found a pension (cheap hotel) called Pension Facundo. It was great value – €20 per person. Two to a room, but each room had three single beds. Friendly service, a communal kitchen, free wifi and clean rooms – ideal!
On our first night we made a meal of epic proportions. Roy, being a chef back in Israel volunteered to cook up over a kilo of fresh prawns we’d bought, laced in a tantalising garlic sauce. Shaina got on with making the delicious salad, I prepared the drinks and Jake kept the tunes coming. It felt so positive, all us solo travellers coming together to make a super team.
Tarifa certainly has no shortage of nightlife and we definitely made the most of it. A popular spot for after the bars have closed is Mombassa Bar in the old town. We, however, got a taxi to a large Tarifa nightclub just out of town with a great roof terrace bar. Unfortunately, the name escapes my memory.
The allure of Tarifa
Tarifa is a great place to people watch. The town is full of tanned, beautiful people enjoying the Tarifa surf beaches. Kite boarders and dread-locked surfers peruse the street, all exuding a subtle air of ‘cool’. There is a distinctive hippie vibe about the place and a warm, friendly ambiance. Tarifa seems to be all about the good life – sun, sea, surf and…salud!
A long story short, is that we all fell in love with Tarifa and as a result deferred our road trip to Portugal for another time, instead opting to stay for longer in this hippie, kitesurfing paradise.
Getting on the water in Tarifa
I would love to have tried kitesurfing in Tarifa but know from previous experience how much is involved and how expensive lessons are. However, it was awesome to head to Los Lances and catch a glimpse of the vast amount of kitesurfers on the water.
Lucky for us, the right winds were blowing just right, allowing for some nice surf at Bolonia Beach. Despite weary eyes from a few late nights before, we had the best day surfing Tarifa, paddle boarding out to sea, having a go at free diving (but realising it gets far too cold as you go deeper) and playing on the long board in the waves.
We met some lovely Spanish girls and shared the shade of their camper van for lunch, which Roy had very kindly organised for us. What a team! As a confessed dog perve, I was also in my element watching all kinds of dogs playing on the sand and in the waves – it being a dog-friendly beach. Could this place get any better?!
Time to leave paradise
Shaina changed her flight from Lisbon so that we could stay in Tarifa just that little bit longer, but it was soon time to leave. We dropped Roy back to Tarifa town after having a quick, healthy and VERY yummy dinner at Tarifa Eco Center.
He decided to continue on his solo adventure and headed over to Morocco by ferry – a stones’ throw away at 20 miles from Tarifa port. The rest of us made the drive back to Malaga city. We arrived at 1am, got up at 4am to drop Shaina to the airport and finally got to sleeeeeeep!
What a great adventure and what a great team. Sure, we never made it to Lisbon, but we had a hell of a fun time in Tarifa. I firmly believe that travelling solo made each one of us that more receptive to meeting new people and thus enabling this really fun adventure to have ever happened.
If you’re ever daunted by the prospect of travelling solo, especially in somewhere like Spain – don’t be! It can be the most rewarding and exciting experience of your life. You never know what adventures you might stumble across!