Wednesday, January 11, 2012

moving sands

It must be blowing some 70 mph, son’t you think? I say this as we finally turn away from the beach. I wouldn’t open my mouth before that. I’d get the grit of sand if I did.
More like 28 or 30, Ed responds.

Ed and I are prone to exaggerations. In opposite directions.

I remember encountering strong winds before, ones that caused me to cling to a tree, thinking that I’d otherwise fly off the mountain. This isn’t like that, but it’s poweful nonetheless.

The woman at the tourist office tells us that the birds are waiting for the wind to die down before they resume to their great migrations. Well okay, go ahead and wait. To me, it seems that the wind has no intention of stopping. Or even taking a pause.

Chicago should relinquish its claim to being the windy one. Tarifa, you win.

In the morning, we go to the market. Actually, we first stop at this little gem of a store just around the corner.

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Ed buys five oranges – assorted types – and I speculate why, back home, we tend to favor only one variety (navel) in our stores. When I do spot something different, it most often will be imported. From Spain.

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As Ed tells me about the advantages of marketing just one type, he peels the oranges, one by one. We finish every last piece. He loves oranges possibly as much as I love...hmmm, a good cup of espresso? A summer breakfast on the farmhouse porch?

The market proper in Tarifa is especially busy around the fish vendors.


This guy weighs his fish by the fistful. Elsewhere, street vendors are selling snails and urchins. People pause in the marketplace entrance to talk. Always talking. Animated.


Okay, noses filled with fish aromas, we proceed to a café – a con leche for me and a toast with goat cheese off the tapas menu to share (we’re eating breakfast so late that they’re brining out the lunch menu).


And now comes the complicated part of the day. We want a hike that would include some time near the ocean. The tourist agent assures us that we can walk the distance from Tarifa to Bolonia along the shore.
How far?
Oh, maybe twenty kilometers.
And is there a bus back?
No buses from there. Maybe you should take the bus halfway, then walk the beach to Bolonia. It’s a pretty little place with Roman ruins.
And will there be dry sand all the way there?
Yes, yes, of course, but if the tide is too high, just scramble up a bit – it’s not hard. And you can return by bus from the same place where you’re dropped off.

One statement, three mistakes in it. Ed later says – it’s not their fault... They live here. They don’t do these walks. That’s for visitors like you and me. When I lived in New York, I never went up the Empire State Building.

We’re okay on taking the bus to the drop off point. The driver obligingly pulls over and drops us off just before turning inland.
On the return, can we pick up the bus on the other side of the road?
The driver shrugs. Maybe. Sometimes they stop, sometimes they don’t.
Well now. I look at Ed: what if today they feel like a “don’t”? There are only two late return buses and one of them is very very late.
Then we thumb our way back.

I like confidence, even if, in this case, I don’t share it.

We meander over to the beach. Ah, my, but it’s windy. In our backs. So that’s a good thing. It’s like biking downhill. Even if part of you remembers that what goes down must, on the return, go up.

It’s a pretty stretch of beach and to the right, at the curve of the land, there are large dunes, accumulating more and more sand by the second.


We’re supposed to go around the cliffs at the tip there and there will be other cliffs too, but the agent was reassuring. There’ll be sand at the base! We continue. Behind us, Tarifa is a speck of white, nothing more.


And the wind blows and blows, even as the sun is quite warm. Very quickly I shed my jacket. It’s in the low sixties, but walking makes it feel significantly more toasty.

Initially we’re able to find sandy spots that separate the cliffs from the ocean waters. But soon the water is hitting the rocks in a way that makes it impossible to pass. We scramble up the sandy hills, then down again...


...but eventually the strips of sand disappear. Waves crash against the now rocky coast. No more beach.


On the bluffs, we look for a dirt road that we know from the map will eventually turn into a hiking trail. We have no choice but to stay on it now.

It’s pretty up here. Warmer, too. Flowers appear now and again...



And when the road ends, there's a sandy trail, through Spanish pine and coastal shrubs that are hard for me to identify. The going is a bit tougher. Soft sand slows us down.



We see monarch butterflies and it all feels so spring-like – as if we were allowed to skip winter this one time.

In this idyllic walk, I look at my watch and notice that we’ve been at it for nearly two hours.
We need to turn around and head back soon or we’ll be missing the (next to the last) bus.
We haven’t reached Bolonia! We could take the last bus!
It’ll be dark then! No.

It’s nice to have veto power.

Just as the path leaves the forest and shows us the coast ahead, I say to Ed – that’s it for us. .


We turn around and start the walk back. Because of the wind, we stay off the beach almost the whole way. Sand in your face for several hours seems a tad unpleasant.

We have a very lovely path, then road, and it’s all rather delightful (forgive me for another shot of these -- the light is different now!)...



...until we come to the back of the dunes. The piling of sand has clearly taken its toll – on the road, on the trees on both sides.


Many of the firs are already buried. It seems nothing can arrest the moving sands here.


So what becomes of the small community just up the road? How long before this road is completely smothered in sand?

After a while, we’re forced to resume the beach walk (the road veers in the wrong direction). It’s brutal out there and I hate to take out my camera. One photo. Just one.


And now we finally emerge at the bus drop off point where, conveniently, we find a café and bake shop. I indulge myself.

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Ed asks the woman behind the counter if the bus will stop if we flag it down. It’s scheduled to pass in five or ten minutes.
Same answer: Maybe. Or maybe not. It depends.

We should try to get a ride then. Ed’s out with his thumb up. I hover to the side, lending credibility, I suppose.
We’re lucky. The second car pulls up with a double honk. Two boisterous local men. Get in, get in and give us some coins for a coffee!

The driver is chatty and looks back at us when he has something especially funny to recount (I’m guessing here – we don’t understand most of what he says). It takes a lot to get Ed thinking about road safety, but he’s thinking of it now as he motions to our guy to keep the car on the road!


Grabbing a ride is always a good adventure – Ed tells me as we get out of the car in Tarifa. Now that we’re safely in Tarifa I’ll agree.

Late in the evening, very late in the evening, we go out in search of dinner. We’re in for a night of tapas at the bar. It just sort of happens this way. One place (recommended by our landlords) serves us a plate of fantastic wild cactus and eggs and because I know they specialize in pork dishes (they go to some trouble describing where and how their pigs live), I order their jamon as well...

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Finally, in the bar next to our little apartment, this one -- we can see it out our little balcony:


...we share a dish of shrimp pel pel. It could not be better.

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We watch the TV screen as we mop up the garlicy oil with slices of bread. It’s about sports and weather though for us, the content hardly matters. We guess at various possible interpretations of what it all could mean. It’s what you’re away from home. You guess as to what’s going on and what it could all mean. You may be off, but if you’re generous, probably you can come pretty close.