30 October (Spanish autoroute) – 8 November (Granada)
I’m strolling around on a gasstation somewhere in Spain. It’s late afternoon and weekend so there’s not much traffic around. Then a truck sounds it’s horn and as I look in it’s direction I see the driver waving at me. When I get back to his truck the German driver tells me he has changed his mind about taking me; “I haven’t done a good deed yet for today”. After I get in he tells me, in German, how much he loves Spain; “With this truck I drive refuse any destinations but Spain”. When I ask about his vacation plans he replies; “I always go to Spain, my second house is located at the coast, at Malaga”. Well, that’s one person in love with Spain. I’m wondering what impression this country will leave on me. I’ve visited it once before, but that was a different time (10 years ago) and a different setting, namely canyoning with a group of Dutch people in the mountains.
Here in Spain it’s quite funny, whenever I get a ride with local people we communicate for about two sentences in Spanish, and afterwards the drivers changes to whatever foreign language he or she knows – English, German, French and once even Italian, which to my own suprise was even somewhat understandble. But I also often get rides from foreigners and the person who took me into Spain was also a German trucker. For three weeks in a row he would continously be driving to and from Spain. He tells me that on these trips he always takes some audio entertainment with him. Once he took the entire Harry Potter collection in spoken form with him – and no other entertainment! That’s 16 hours of wizardry and going by his story he didn’t get enough of this even after 3 weeks…
Today, we’re driving for a while through the beautiful Spanish coastal landscape and there are views of the mountains, of the Mediterrean sea, of outstretched valleys and I even start noticing the first palm trees along the road. As we slowly drive on for some long hours through the night I start feeling somewhat homesick. I do meet a lot of interesting people and just the previous lift was from a very nice person, a professor of philosphy who invited me to drop by his house near Barcelona sometime. Still, these contacts are no substitute for real, longtime friends and family. We pass by the “Las Vegas of Spain” as my driver calls Benidorm and five kilometers later I get out the truck. It’s a gasstation with rocks and sand where I normally would expect some grass cover. And there are palm trees! And not just carefully planted and taken care of, they’re scattered about randomly. There are no autumn colors here, and I’m really in a different world. Again I notice how far I’m away from home. It might be just two hours flying, but for me it has been 2 months of travelling and the distance feels huge.
A little bit later I start looking for a place to sleep and climb up the hill on the eastside of the gasstation. There’s a small house without any lights on. Abandoned perhaps? As I get closer I notice that the chimney has collapsed and left a hole in the side of the building. I peek my head through it and see a table with some forks on it, a closet, a matress and something hanging from the ceiling which could be a birdcage. There’s some debris scattered about, and everything is covered with a small layer of dust. The house looks like somebody has been living in it not to long ago. This lone run-down house somehow reminds me of the movie “The Blair Witch project”. I gather some courage and wring myself through the hole. I walk through the livingroom to the next chamber, the former bedroom. There I see another matras and two broken beds. Then something moves in a corner – I’ve barely realised that it’s just a bird when it comes straight at my head. He’s clearly not happy that I’ve invaded his home so I quickly get back out. Outside I look around, find a nice rocky ditch and unroll my matrass there. It looks like it’s going to be yet another night with an excellent view of the night sky.
Monday; I slowly wake up with first light. The first thing I’m aware of is a noisy truck passing by. It’s already my fourth day on the road and no matter if I sleep, drink or eat, the highway is never far away. This may be one of the reasons why I’m not feeling so happy. On the other side, I’m relaxing a lot and usually just hitching for a couple of hours a day. There are always lakes, mountains and cities to admire along the road and besides that I enjoy doing some reading or writing in the sunshine – and there’s a lot of sun! Nonetheless it might be nice to get somewhere. I try to wake up slowly, but then some raindrops fall on my face. Three minutes later I’ve got my bag packed, but the rain has already stopped. The last days all rain I’ve seen was like this; just a couple of raindrops. The land too looks like it’s used to getting not much more rain than this.
Later that day I meet Kamil from Czech and Janelle from Australia, both living in Brighton in England at the moment. They’ve been driving around in their camper for 2 months now and are happy to take me although they’re not sure where they are going. They seem good company, so I just take my chances. The trip turns out to go inland, right into my direction, up into the Sierra Nevada’s. The mountains get higher, the air feels hotter and the land starts looking dryer. Kamil says we’ve entered the semi-desert. I’ve no reason to think otherwise. They invite me to camp with them and even offer me a tent! What a good timing – one reason I’ve travelled along the Spanish coast was that I wanted to avoid sleeping in the cold mountains. And even as now it’s quite comfortable in sandals and a t-shirt just before sunset, I’m sure that the night will be as chilly as the day was hot. We put up the tent, I put my stuff in and inside this little piece of nylon I feel very comfortable; it’s like living in a home! The next day Kamil tells me they don’t need the tent and he offers it to me for ten euros. Well, I know they’re living on a tight budget like me and I’ve been eating their food, so I give him twenty. Now I’m the proud owner of a tent and that means no more sleeping in strange places and no more romantic views of the stars for me! But I’ve been doing that for a long enough time now, and although a tent is not essential, I welcome the comfort.
As we’re driving on towards Granada, Kamil tells us about a hot spring just near that town. He proposes to go there today. I find out that my appointment in Granada has just cancelled, so of course I go with them. After Granada we go through the small town of Santa Fe, drive down some old and bumpy country roads and after a while find a hill with lots of campers and tents scattered between the olive trees which grow there. The well is close and it’s as good as I imagined – the water is steaming hot and in the small canyon that runs down the hill there are lot of pools for bathing!
As we’re staying near the hot water well, there some campfires, a lot of people to meet (mostly locals or hippies), sunny days which sometimes are to hot for even a t-shirt and nights which sometimes are way to cold even in a tent. There are farmers going to the well in their tractors, naked, mud-covered people drying up in the sun, some Maroccans barbequeing their food directly in the fire and travellers having tales of being on the road for sometimes as much as twelve years. As the days zoom by it’s suddenly a week later and Kamil and Janelle move on. Instead of going with them I go to Granada the day after. There I meet up with Hugo, a hitchhiker I met at the hot water source; he then told me that he lived in a cave and I just had to see this! As I get to the cave on Monday it’s not at all what I expected. It’s a beautiful white walled, four room cave with windows, a door and an even stone floor. Apparently many caves have been dug out many centuries ago by the people living here then. In this wonderful place, this civilised cave, I’ll be staying till Friday, while I’m exploring Granada and starting to learn Spanish. In the meantime I’m down to about my last 100 to 200 euros, while some investments in travelling gear would be really useful. Some of my clothes are starting to get beyond repairing. Already in September, while hiking in England, I tore apart one broken pair of trousers to repair another one with the salvaged pieces of cloth. Well, I just keep looking for a job and might perhaps try the tip Kamil gave me about working on a crocodile farm near Faro. Another thing I’m wondering about is where I’ll spend my birthday, I’ll turn a year older at the 17th of November. Normally an excellent day to spend with people who are important to me I’ve now not got the faintest clue where and how I’ll be spending it.