Restricted by wild camping ‘rules’ in built-up Europe we frequently succumbed to regimented official campgrounds. We discovered our single-night ‘touring’ system left us in the minority. Dominating these expanses of enclosed sandy lanes and numbered plots were row upon row of permanent pitches inhabited by holidaying locals. Fiesta and Siesta Shanty style.
Every inch of an 80m² plot is utilised and fortified; gazebo poles, AstroTurf, wooden trellis and coloured gravel marking strict boundaries. Caravans, sheds, tents, Portakabins and even buses form the central homestead with extensions of shade netting, garden furniture and zipped canvas kitchen cubicles maximising the allotted space.
Makeshift lanes of tarpaulin, vinyl, canvas, plywood and fibreglass form a haphazard, yet systematic miniature city. Yet there are touches of pride and homely detail adorning many of these temporary, den-like dwellings. Cerise geraniums in hand-painted pots arranged dotingly on wire fences. White ornate gates with ‘house’ name plaques. Lovingly tended hanging baskets, garden gnomes, candle lamps and even water features bring a touch of care and individuality. These personal ornamentations are, however, only a slight distraction to the rows of neglected pitches. Unloved plots of rusting caravans, torn green shade netting, ripped gazebos, corroding barbeques and broken plastic toys.
What brings these hordes of Spanish tourists to what essentially is a shanty town camp ground aesthetically resembling a seaside refugee camp? Over-crowded, recurrently unkempt and at times visibly depressing in their cramped, repetitive narrow lanes.
Perhaps an economical holiday home away from the crammed urban tower blocks of Spanish cities, this is comparably spacious and a much-needed outdoor escape. Nestled between gleaming 5 star hotels of Marbella and Malaga, this is a budget break. A seasonal pitch in ‘Camping Toremolinos’ costing roughly the equivalent of a fortnight family holiday in a nearby 3 star Beach Club Hotel. Same beach. Maybe less isolated. A united kinship and more chance of a friendly chat at the communal sinks than a silent brush past a stranger on a fancy carpeted corridor.
Possibly a temporary immersion into a buzzing resort away from a sleepy remote village, swapping cobbles and echoing church bells for beach bars and night clubs. A safe, leafy enclosure where kids can cycle and play, whilst fellow fugitive neighbours congregate seasonally.
Refugees from an everyday repetitive reality. Or a back-to-basics, fuss-free vacation where true values of family, friendship and communal living override the modern trend of fast-paced, fancy holidaying. Whatever the case, we head off to the nearest remote forest to escape both.