We left Mojacar in bright sunlight and decided we’d crack on along the motorway for an hour or so. The next 50-60 miles are amongst the most tedious anywhere as we’re still in a desert so it’s bare earth, scrub and jagged rocks on all sides. That can be beautiful and often is, but not when plastic sheeting covers every square inch between here and Motril, many miles to the south.
If you ever wondered how the likes of Tesco can offer exotic fruits, plus all the normal staples of the fruit and veg larder all year round, it’s all down to this method of cultivation. It’s hot here, never freezes or even gets particularly cold, so it’s horticultural nirvana. Cover everything in plastic sheeting, pump water from way, way underground and virtually anything will thrive. It’s a vast industry, provides many jobs and the constant stream of lorries are testament to the demand of a rapacious consumer base. Pity it looks so awful.
Summer temperatures in this area are in the 40s. Over 100 degrees, and underneath the plastic it goes way beyond that. Most of the workers originate from equatorial Africa as they tolerate the fierce heat. We often pass them walking or cycling to work, invariably smiling and, certainly when compared to my own lamentable standards, very well dressed.
Not for the first time, we wish we could pop into the Foreign Legion base, stuck out in the middle of nowhere here until they built the motorway. They look a tough bunch though, as they undoubtedly are and would be unlikely to welcome our inquisitive selves.
We scoot past Almeria with its massive Arabic fortress and bustling port area without stopping but then turn off the main road and head for the coast, just off to the left. A sign for the exotically named El Lance de la Virgin catches my eye and we spend the next three hours trundling along the coastline visiting a range of fishing villages, the best being probably La Mamola which is charming and very, very Spanish.
Further along we come across a new marina, the name of it escapes me, and we call for a drink. Marinas are usually worth a visit. They cater to relatively well off boat owners who expect and indeed demand decent facilities and places to eat, drink and in so many cases, pose. We pose, glass in hand, looking gorgeous, well one of us anyway and watch the world go by.
We’re sitting in what is supposedly a Bedouin tent, surrounded by artefacts. Marigold and I have sat in a few Bedouin tents, the real ones, and none of them looked like this. It’s clean though and the people are lovely so we don’t take them to task. The water in the harbour is clear and we watch a long necked black bird – look, I’m not Bill Oddie - repeatedly diving underwater and coming up with a fish. I walk to the edge and look down. The water is teeming with fish so our feathered diver friend won’t be going hungry today.
I once played shove- hapenny against Bill Oddie in a pub in Richmond. Eric Sykes played too. See, I’m no stranger to the world of celebrity. Both of us have yet to meet even a single Kardashian though.
As we got up to leave, the man sitting next to me sidled over. 'you English, then?' he hissed in approved prison inmate style. I said I was.
'You wanna check yer change here, mate,' he said, glaring at the perfectly civil and innocuous waiter. ' funny money built this place and they're out to rip you off any way they can.'
I thanked him for his wise council and we left, sharply.
'Funny money, eh' said Marigold.
'Taking our life in our hands then, having a coffee here.'
We checked for wise guys, hit men and anyone carrying a bag marked swag, but all seemed well so we drove off.
Wedding anniversary imminent so special (surprise) day arranged. Marigold is not a fan of secrets and has spent the entire day attempting to guess where we are going. Annoyingly, some of her guesses I wish I had arranged. Oh well, hope for the best.
We bypass Nerja, carry on along for a mile or two and will spend the night at Torrox Costa. Great promenade, everything spotlessly clean as it’s very much a town dominated by German expats. We like it here.
I drive inland a little before we stop for the night as there was a major gas bottle fire in Velez Malaga - it was on the news channel in the bar we were in earlier – but all seems calm. We both say the name Zafarraya together as we see the pass between the mountains. The old road from Granada to the coast goes through this splendidly named rocky defile. One of our favourite stories of the Moorish settlement of Andalucia is that of the final expulsion of the last Moors from Spain, Granada being their final stronghold. This happened in 1492, same year that Columbus ‘discovered’ America,
Sultan Muhammad was thrown out of his fabulous palace, the Alhambra, and sent into exile. Supposedly, he stopped at the Pass of Zafarraya looked back towards Granada and wept. His mother was distinctly unimpressed.
‘Do not weep like a woman for that which you could not defend as a man,’ she said. A formidable lady indeed. Maybe she should have been in charge of the army. The Moors ruled Andalucia, along with much of Europe, for over 700 years. Perhaps that would still be the case if Sultan Mohammed had listened to his mum a little more.