We’re back on familiar territory just now and, on a whim, decided we’d check out a spot we used to rough camp a couple of years ago, on a beach just outside Mojacar with a café/bar where the owner was happy to offer showers and snacks to a variety of itinerant motor-homers.
There were a dozen or vans parked up so we left the car and wandered along the beach to take a closer look. The vans ranged from a rather plush twin axle Hymer to an ancient single decker bus which looked incapable of movement. That was the one we coveted. We’re a little strange, it has been said.
The café was open so we ordered a drink and sat ourselves down looking at the sparkling sea a few paces away. Marigold went for a paddle and I closed my eyes for a few moments. Just resting my eyes, not dozing, as nodding off on a hot day is a vice reserved for those at risk of being thought ‘elderly’. Marigold has her own views on this subject.
‘Would you mind giving me a hand for a minute?’
The voice from behind me was cultured. Not young. Female. Three clues, but nothing prepared me for the person behind the voice when I turned around. Women in their mid-sixties rarely wear miniskirts. Leather miniskirts. A cropped tee-shirt, no bra, braided purple hair and matching Doc Martin boots. Quite an outfit and I had to admit it looked good on her.
‘What’s the problem?’
‘Can’t get the bloody door open and the dog’s inside, dying for a pee.’
I followed her across the beach to where the old converted bus was parked. It was a Dennis bus, dating from the 1950s at a guess, rounded edges, cream paintwork and quite lovely. The driver’s side door only allowed access to the cab and the rear sliding door was obviously the entry to the living quarters.
‘I bumped it on the way in and only realised it wouldn’t open when I came round to let the dog out. I saw your English registration when you were parking up. The poor dog’s pretty desperate .’
As if on cue the squashed features of an English bull terrier crossed wit pot-bellied pig appeared at the window and demonstrated in no uncertain manner that if we wouldn’t mind opening the door he’d quite like to go out. Please. It was one of those doors that had to be swung open about three inches and then slid along on metal runners. The first part was easy enough, but the sliding aspect was somewhat more awkward. The recent ‘bump’ had bent the frame out of shape, enough to make sliding virtually impossible.
I’m a man. I’m supposed to be able to solve problems like this. Further analysis of the problem would have to be brief as the poor dog had his legs crossed and a desperate expression on his face. I resorted to brute force, heaving on the door with every ounce of strength I possessed. Nothing moved apart from a few ligaments in my back. Marigold had joined us and I’m sure I heard her frowning at my puny efforts. Can one hear a frown? Oh yes, if it’s Marigold doing the frowning.
Okay then, I just wasn’t trying hard enough. I took a fresh grip and heaved again. Nothing at first, then a faint creak escalating into a grinding scream of tortured metal. It may have been the discs of my spine protesting loudly, but something was happening somewhere.
With a dramatic screech the door finally slid open and the released prisoner leapt across my prostrate body and relieved himself, impressively, against the wheel arch.
A sturdily built man, okay a fat bloke with tattoos on most of his face and body, wandered over, brought some tools from his van and between us we repaired the slide mechanism. It didn’t look pretty, but it worked. My fellow mechanic, picked up his tools and went away again not having uttered a word.
By now Marigold and the dog’s owner were deep in conversation.
‘I’m Lois,’ the woman said, extending a slender hand. ‘Thank you so much. Ben’s very grateful too.’ Ben was showing his appreciation by grabbing my shoe in his jaws and attempting to remove both shoe and the foot it enclosed, but I’m a dog fan so I wasn’t unduly put out.
By now Lois and Marigold were chatting away as if they’d known each other for years. Ben was a real character, but it was his owner who fascinated us. Lois was 66, had been on the road for nine years and used to be a futures trader.
‘Husband carted off, house mortgaged to the hilt, so I thought, stuff it, why bother any more? That was nine years ago. I handed the house keys over to the building society, told my line manager to stick his job up his fat backside and went on the road. Been travelling ever since. Sorry about bothering you, but when I saw the English number plate I thought you’d be a better bet than the bloke in the café and some of this lot are a bit rough. Looks like the big lad with the tattoos was okay though.’
‘No problem. Glad I could help.’
‘I try to manage on my own when I can. Most blokes assume I’m looking for a bunk-up when they see I’m on my own. That’s why I got Ben.’
Ben was busy digging a hole deep enough to hide him from view and didn’t look particularly threatening. I said as much.
‘Nah, he’s a real softie, but they don’t know that. Kept me out of trouble once or twice. In Turkey he earned his keep a couple of times.’
‘Where’ve you been to?’ I asked. That old stand-by of strangers meeting on the road. Lois reeled off a list of every country I’d ever heard of and a fair few I hadn’t.
‘Well, I’ve been on the road, full-time, non stop, for nine years. Work a week or so, now and again. Bar work, waitressing, a bit of translating if I can get it. I speak a few languages so that helps.’
By now I was feeling fairly inadequate. Not something I enjoy.
‘Where’ve you liked best? Marigold enquired. Lois pursed her lips. ‘Albania was good. India, Vietnam, and Nepal – all the usual hippy trail places when I was just backpacking. I got this bus five years ago. It’s home now. I’m hoping to get to the Cape. I got as far as Timbuktu last year, but had malaria pretty badly and had to head back again.’
We had a meal together, the cafe owner even provided a free meal for Ben, and passed a couple of hours with not a single awkward pause as the conversation runs out. I told Lois I’ll put her in our blog and she promised to make a start on one of her own. Now, that I’ll want to read.
Mojacar is as lovely as ever. We explored old haunts, had a mutual laughing fit in the car at one point and had to park up. Marigold was crying, complaining she had ‘jelly legs’ and I could scarcely breathe for laughing. As I write this I ask Marigold what we were laughing at and she couldn’t remember either. This happens a lot. Laughing like hyenas, not the inability to remember stuff, although now I mention it…
We went to neighbouring Vera where there’s a vast naturist beach – no pics taken – and observed, not for the first time, how much better most of the people there would look with their clothes on. One man, doing exercises facing away from us, appeared to be of a different species, especially when touching his toes. Marigold suggested he was on a nudist beach as he would have difficulty in finding swimwear to fit him.
Our anniversary is coming up in a couple of days and we’re due elsewhere. Can’t give details as it’s a surprise, but need to move on. Probably be in Nerja and Torrox soon, but other than that plans are pretty fluid. Maybe have a break for a while after 4,000 plus miles so far this trip and then go to Morocco. Maybe not. Neither of us are fond of long term plans. Take each day as it comes.