Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Feb 01 2009

The Sunless Coast

It was raining yet again when I opened my balcony doors in Malaga. I’d been awakened by singing downstairs that was either remarkably drunk people sounding like cats in heat, or just cats in heat. I hadn’t even unpacked, so hauling stuff back downstairs and into the car was quick work despite the rain. We drove to the harbor and found exactly one (1) restaurant open for breakfast, and it was missing a door. “This is one of the two days a year they actually need one,” Gordon remarked. The cold wind whistled and howled through the place, but they at least had the Federer vs. Nadal tennis match on the TV.

After breakfast we headed out of the city and down the coast towards the very southern tip of Spain, passing a closed-up Catholic school, its brown walls splattered with graffiti.

This was the Costa del Sol, the Sun Coast, minus the sun; we strained to hear the Spanish radio commentary on the match over the patter of the heavy rain as we drove. The hotels, restaurants and bungalows we passed seemed ill-equipped to deal with the weather. For me, buildings should welcome people in bad weather, but these just seemed embarrassed, like an amusement park stripped of its facade.

We made our way to Algeciras, close to Gibraltar, choosing an especially swank hotel to make up for the previous night’s experiences. The décor is all glass and steel, black leather and dark wood, straight out of The Sharper Image Going Out of Business Sale Catalogue, with a view of the Rock over the shipyards.

After a cheap and filling lunch at a nearby restaurant, we headed to Gibraltar, but after being cleared by the Spanish side, we were told by the British side that Ray and I couldn’t enter because we didn’t have the special Gibraltar visa for our Taiwan passports. We ended up instead at a parking lot by the water taking pictures of the huge half-mountain. The bay was filled with all kinds of ships, including a large liner.

With nothing else to do, we decided to drive down to the very southern tip of Spain at Tarifa. The mountain roads were dangerous enough without the heavy rain and lightning, but Gordon, apparently liking a challenge, conducted a cell phone conversation throughout. It was not a relaxing drive.

We passed by more banks of windmills as we descended into the small town, known for its surf shops and nightlife, through the narrow alleys of the town to a small island connected to what appeared to be an old military fort in the sea. On one side of the bridge was a sign that said “Mediterranean” and on the other one that read “Atlantic”. Cats roamed the area, dodging the crashing surf as the blue-gray deepened into full-on night.

Back in town, we stopped by a cathedral full of murmuring worshipers and a café next door that was host to a group of middle-aged Spanish woman singing along to the songs of a man with a guitar at their table. It felt like a cheery place despite the weather.

But it was getting late, and the long road back to the hotel beckoned. The drive back wasn’t as scary as the ride there, but the road was dark due to the lack of streetlamps along the way. I was glad, though, because as we sped along the top of the hill through the rain and lightning, I could see the lights of Africa gleaming through the fog across the water below.

posted by Poagao at 7:14 pm  

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