3 June 2011

Gibraltar to Marbella, España

It’s a climactic day for everyone today.

We have not actually been to any beach yet, so we correct our wrongs and squeeze into English Simon’s little car and potter on down through the grey, rusty, military Gibraltar to the beach. On the way, there’s a waterfall several hundred metres high shooting out of The Rock, like a puncture on a gargantuan scale.

The beach is right around the back of The Rock, facing away from Spain. It looms over us, just to remind us that we’ve got another thing looming: departure.

Today is Simon’s last day of living an easy life that isn’t determined by the weather for some time. He has let the money run dry, but does not know where any more will come from when he gets back to the UK. ‘It’s just been two years of this’, he sighs as he lays down his towel.’Oh look! There’s that lighter from a few days ago!

The sound of the waves is really something. I was never so interested in the wave and surf culture in Australia, but the crashing and tumbling strikes a bit of an undiscovered nerve. So, I convince someone to come in with me, but am laughed at when I warn everyone of the huge rip; I wouldn’t be surprised if it pulled the unknowing out to Africa. The waves here are nothing like at home; you can imagine someone has combined clothes and dish washing machines and let them run wild here. Every wave you’catch’ you do a tumble, catching a glimpse of the cliff, then thrown back out.

And all the while the cliff faces of The Rock watch over you. Walking out from the water, you look down, exhausted, as if it’s given a warning.

English Aiden clambers over the rocks, picks up things then discards them soon afterwards like a twelve year old. He knew that if he found somewhere that he liked, he would move there and work, and I couldn’t imagine him not living and working here. A perfect Gibraltarian, fresh off the European mainland boat.

The sun comes and goes, and they’re all desperate to get a few last rays before the inevitable happens. I guess I’m not so bothered because I’ve got months of this to come.

That takes my thoughts to Laura, as her first real trip out of the UK is coming to an anticlimactic end. She thought it would end more suddenly, but it’s just like any other day backpacking. Now she’s afraid of something like a culture shock: a lifesty shock. Her boyfriend of seven years isn’t coming back either.

Nevertheless, I daren’t think about what I’m going to feel like after what is six times the amount of travel.

The dorm is emptier. Laura would have walked across the airstrip by now. The old lady’s bag – in fact, everything to do with the old lady has disappeared. We wonder whether she ever existed at all.

I’m looking at all the photos I’ve taken because I still haven’t had a proper look at them after five months. Then I check my watch and see I’ve got twenty minutes to go into another country and catch the last bus of the day to my next place.

I don’t explain why I’m rushing around until I’ve packed up everything extremely badly. Say goodbye, and rush through a place where nobody rushes. I notice heaps of cigarette packaging on the floor, and recall how Gibraltar’s cigarettes are so cheap that they are constantly smuggled over the border. Here I am, running and sweating, with a big backpack. I look more Spanish than English. Great.

All works out as I run over the runway, through police, passport out and waved through customs. Run all the way to the bus stop, grab a ticket… And wait… Wait…

There’s a guy about my age standing next to me, with about eight pairs of shoes in plastic bags. Start talking, and continue on the bus. Admits early on that he is a typical rich kid from Kent, London who didn’t do anything in school because he knew his parents had money. Nonetheless, he decided to live the good life in Gibraltar, going back to visit his girlfriend somewhere near Marbella every two days. ‘But if there’s one thing I can say to you for your twavels – don’t let a girl rwun your life or change your aspiwations’ And with that he was off, hopping off the bus in the famously expensive port outside Marbella. Birds of a feather… I laugh to myself.

An American guy with a backpack overhears the English, so asks me if this is his stop. Turns out we’re headed for the same place, so he sits next to me. We’re of no help to each other because we both know nothing, but it’s cool to have some moral support.’Oh man, I really gotta pee!’ he states as he holds his crotch like a five year old. Every second thing he complains about. Right now he’s complaining about how all Spanish people can’t seem to get jobs because they’re so lazy. I explain that even university graduates can’t get work here. All the way to his hotel he makes non-sensical statements and complains about how late it is. He asks if I would go for a drink with him somewhere, to which I say yes, but I soon realise I can’t as I become terribly terribly lost.

I’ve gone the way I’ve been told, and have asked a couple of other people who have told me all different things. I’m going around in circles, and the area is growing dodgier with each hour that passes. I make it to a nicely lit bridge and call the hostel for directions. ‘Hola, hablas ingles?’ ‘no’ Fuck. I spit out some random Spanish statements, but get the fastest spoken language I’ve ever heard back. Hang up, and sit with hands in head for a while – it’s about 1:30am, and I’ve been lost since 9pm.

In the distance I see a father with pram, and eventually get directions. from him. I thank him as much as I can and set off, finally making it to a huge, prison-like building, which isn’t exactly what I was expecting but at this point I’m taking whatever. Do sign language for thirty minutes and somehow work out payment and room. The corridoor I walk down is lit with bright white lights that are as harsh as the bright white marble corridors. It’s not like a hostel at all; it’s more like an enormous four star hotel. Though relaxing, it’s also really unnerving, as all the lights are automatic, so you walk around silent, pitch-black hallways that light up and turn off as you go through. My echoing footsteps break the loud hum of the vending machines, and every so often there’s a loud click, and it’s pitch black again.

I get to my room, and find that it’s actually a room. An entire room to myself, with air conditioning, ensuite, desk… I’ve never been so relieved to be awake at 5am.