Le Cala de Mijas has served us well. At ‘our end’ of the town, the boardwalks stretch and pull their way through and across the dune conservation area, wick with birdsong, flowers of all colours and prickled thorn bushes sprouting between the dune grasses. The houses at this end are more local, less urbanization, sleepy in a ‘keep your coat and sunnies on’ while you drink your café con leche, watching the morning slip away.
We’ve had three days in a car park by the sea, close to ‘amenities’ in which to wait for V to slowly recuperate from her London routines of ‘5am triathlon training sessions, followed by 14 hour days, and an hour’s commute before she eats. Many of the planned activities have been abandoned in favour of watching the colour come back to her cheeks and the sparkle (that never actually goes) take less of an effort to appear.
Time to wander down the coast though and see what we can sea. The aim, by the end of the week is to do a mini triathlon so V gets the experience of running out of water in a soggy wetsuit, ripping that off and climbing on a bike, before staggering of that and jogging up hill with her mother. Surprisingly, the day on which we plan to do this keeps moving backwards!
We’ve had a right-old-chew finding somewhere else for V to stay. The offer either to use an airbed in the space between the camper sofas or to have a sleeping bag beside us, received the briefest of of horrified glances. The idea was then summarily dismissed. The range of accommodation has been more expensive and less attractive here than we hoped, so we’ve looked further afield. Eventually, with the help of an old-fashioned map-book and Google Satellites, we found somewhere reasonably rural but with things to do, further down the coast. Far enough, in fact to take us past Gibraltar, to the very tip of the Spanish mainland, to Tarifa.
A stop-off point for lunch sees us at a tiny port you’d never find by accident – we had a recommendation from a friend, Puerto de la Duquesa. It’s Castille, is a proud, burnt-sandstone sentinel, central to the village, and set in lush lawns, surrounded by seafood restaurants to the left, and the beach on the right. We opt for a beach picnic, English Style; M gets the table and chairs, V and I take down food, plates and cutlery. We forgot the napkins…
Stan is in his element, wandering around, picking up plastic bottles discarded at the edges, trotting into the shallow waves and then coming back to us in case there are crumbs or tidbits.
He keeps returning to one spot at the corner of the beach.
There is a big, black, open-mouthed pipe pouring onto the sand’s edge…
Me: “Where’s the dog?”
M: “Over there… Stan, Stan”
V: “What’s he eating?”
Me: “Oh, no…”
M: “Stan! Come here, Now!”
V: “Oh God…”
M: “Stan!” Stan takes his time, then wanders back, licking his lips, making wide, happy sweeps of his tail – a canine equivalent of the cat that got the…
Me: “What’s he been eating?”
I’m incredibly brave, I lean down and sniff.
There’s a chorus of “Urgh” as we leap to our feet as if to run away from him.
V: “That dog is DISGUSTING”
We pack up lunch and get off the beach, the dog is tied up in the van. M wants to get out of the bright Spanish sun, so V and I wander off for coffee at one of the cafes. Stan gets a bowl of water liberally laced with the green tea mixture – revolting animal – oblivious to his disgrace he’s still sweeping round his mouth with satisfied wipes of his tongue.
When we set off again to Tarifa, V opts to change vehicles and comes in with me. Conversation hovers around a number of topics before resting on my blog – and it’s name – Dare2Say.
When I started writing and blogging, ‘Dare2Say’ felt very appropriate. You try writing down your innermost thoughts and then sending them out into the void for the world to admonish, snicker at, or ignore. Daring in its truest form.
We hunt together for adjectives so that V can explain in detail why the name is just – well – wrong. As it turns out, I’m probably the only person who ever really liked it. So, we play with ideas, V looks up the most popular travel blog titles (the worst being “Blonde in a van”) and we laugh at different sounds. Manchego Trails, Olive Wanders, Wonder Trails. The possibilities are endless…
Tarifa looks like it’s doubling in size every time you glance out the window. There’s a lot of crane activity and concrete construction. But if you turn your back to the mainland and follow white-gold sands out to where the cobalt sea is interrupted by vegitinous mountainsides that push up into the clear Mediterranean skies, then, it’s breathtakingly beautiful. This is where we’ll be for a few days, for V to swim (there are at least 5 places to hire a wetsuit), she and I to run, and M to join us on hired bikes.
There don’t appear to be any big black pipes leading out onto the sea and the land here is flat, limiting the opportunity for humans to give Stan an impromptu feast. Even better.