February 06, 2006

Sixth Journal entry

Day 6: Madrid to Marbella (18/03/05, Friday)

Dave woke me up at around 10am. After breakfast, we pack our stuff and lounge around, waiting for my Dad to show up. I gave Greg a tour of the garden and chat with Leah and Aks until my Dad showed up at around 11:30. I left behind all my U.S. documentation, since getting flogged in Morocco was not a tourist trap I wanted to experience. We headed for the service station outside of Ciudalcampo, where the day before Bas and Giuseppe had left from. We restarted the hitch by walking around the station, asking truckers and drivers to give us a lift south. But the truckers as well as the drivers were all either stopping in Madrid, going different directions, or were full to the brim. At this point, Dad ferried in Greg, Aks and Leah. We were now 5 hitchhikers looking for rides. Damn. Nonetheless, we pissed about, took some photos and played around with the hackey sack.

There we were, asking passers-by where they were headed, and generally receiving a curt “No”, until Rocio appeared. She arrived in a small, dark-red Peugeot, and I asked her where she was headed. “Me voy a Marbella” she said, “I’m headed for Marbella”, to which I replied “Oh mother of God PLEASE take me and my friend with you!”. Surprisingly, she accepts to harbour 2 complete, foreign strangers in her tiny car for the next 7 hours. She reminded me of a mouse; small glasses, dark hair, always carried her purse around with her, I got the impression that she secretly nibbled at table corners and bits of cheese wrapped in a napkin when no one was looking. All in all, she was a nice woman. We waited for her outside the service station with the unfortunate Aks, Leah and Greg (who would later end up getting a ride to Ciudad Real, via Toledo) and then pile into her small, cramped car. She was moving homes, sold a hotel she and a her Chef husband had in Vitoria and was starting a new life in Marbella, where her husband was now working as head Chef in a 5 star hotel. Word.

We drive off, heading south, getting stuck in the Madrid congestion (of course I would have to suffer a final bout of familiarity with the home city), but heading decisively for Andalucia. Rocio, as it turned out, spoke some English, so she and Dave could communicate and I could rest my brain from bi/trilingualisms. She was originally from la Palma, Canary islands, but had lived in Seville and San Sebastian, receiving a degree in tourism, even though she would have enjoyed marine biology a tad more. That’s life for you. It was not a particularly interesting drive, she studied English in Brighton, so Dave and her conversed on that note for a while. A lack of sleep was hitting us both pretty hard after our first pit stop though. We found out the main reason for picking us up, the unspoken contract; “I’ll help you two by taking you down south, and you two help me by keeping an eye on my stuff during the pit stops”. it was a fair deal. To be honest though, I would have though she would have been considerably more tired, after driving through half of the Iberian peninsula already. Dave took the back seat for sleep and I was relegated to being kept awake by Rocio’s chit chat, mainly on Seville, it’s beauty, and about the wonders of the 1992 Expo in that fair city, which I saw at the ripe age of 6. I couldn’t remember jack, but she filled me in on the details that my fuzzy memory decided to oust.

After about 3 hours of driving, we go through the paso de despeñaperros (or better said, the mountain pass of dogs being thrown over a cliff, you have to love Spanish bluntness) where I roused Dave from his slumber to take in the scenery, which was, of course, definitely worth it. We rested for another pit stop, whereupon we tried to coax blood into our asses, Rocio’s seats are uncomfortable as hell. There was also copious exampled of Spanish Chavalry, a mere 30 kilometres north of Granada. Not exactly the most comfortable smoking and leg stretching environment when you have 20 “malotes” shouting, sneering and jeering around you. We switched seats so that Dave was on the receiving end of mouse woman and her prattle.

Puerto de Despeñaperros
Puerto de Despeñaperros, heading into Andalucia

It was the last leg of the drive. For some reason the names of trees was a prominent moment of our getting to know Rocio. Names of trees in English and in Spanish. How should I know! Going past Granada, I could just make out the Alhambra, and enter we did la Sierra Malagueña, where the weather turned foul. Some amazing cloud formations, and the Mediterranean was a steel horizon of metallic ondulations. The coast was the Spanish coast, the concrete coast, cranes and concrete as far as the eye could see. Rocio also mentioned that Malaga airport is the busiest in Spain, to which an image of the average British holiday family popped into my head: All sun burnt and on a constant binge, the kids too. Rocio also explained to us why she decided to pick us up in the first place. “It’s all a matter of the first impression” she said. She trusted us because of our T-shirts (she assumed that we were indeed a legitimate charity hitchhike) and how I spoke (I was very educated and oh so English).

We finally arrived in Marbella, well after nightfall, in the old quarter of town. We clambered out quickly, and I nearly forgot my hoodie, since Rocio was in such a rush, trying to get home to her husband who had no idea that she had just travelled through most of Spain with a couple of strangers. Maybe she told him… We landed in Marbella at 8:15pm and we immediately searched for a hostel. The second one we saw gave us a prize; 2 beds, a bathroom and shower, all for €35 in total. It could have been far worse. We dropped off our possessions and went in search for some place to eat. Our good patron the hostel manager gave us some directions, and I gave Dave a genuine window of opportunity to lavish in the tapas tradition, in a nice terraza on the beach. After good food and good conversation, we got some coffee and postcards, and decided to go swimming. We headed back to the hostel, put in some trunks and towels in a bag and enter a couple of 4 star hotels in search of their pools. To no avail, the security was too tight or the pools were closed. We thought of the sea, but it was too cold and dark and Jaws kept jumping into my mind. I think there was even a buoy out at sea, and a naked woman on it too… We gave up, headed back to the hostel, I took a shower, watched some TV and went to sleep.

End of Day 6, 64 kilometres from our destination.

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