Day 22, 25th Jan – Nearly lost, newly found

Waking up at Altea, we had another bout of ‘Camper-Smugness’.  

Ours was the only home-made van in the car park of maybe 10 vehicles set up overnight. Which meant that, because M had taken the trouble to reverse in to our slot, late after the flicks yesterday, we could open the back doors and have our own private window on a delicately hued sunrise reflecting onto turquoise seas, framed by lush new growth on the pine trees. 

While M slurped tea and slowly came back to consciousness, I walked Stan down to the beach and turned left.  We had to be in Calp (pronounced Calpey for those who don’t know – I didn’t) for 12:45 for M’s eye test to get new specs.  So, I was looking for a potential back road route that I could run from our spot. It looked like I could start on the coast and then move inland for a bit, before moving back out to the sea shore once more.  Should be gorgeous.

A little housekeeping later and I confidently jogged off into the distance. M was following the dual carriageway and then going to find somewhere to park up and wait for me.  I shouldn’t be far behind him.  The first route Google offered said it would be 7 miles, the second offering gave the mileage at 4 miles.  4 was a bit short, but better than 7, so I dropped the destination in Google maps and the opened up Sports tracker.  The former would tell me where to go and how far I had left, the latter how far I’d done and at what miniscule pace.  All good.

Ha!

Three annoying miles later, where I had twice run from the road down to the beach, looking pointlessly for a coastal route and then had to run back (up) to the road again and the dual carriageway was my only option.   I thought I’d just check the Map, in case…

Bummer – another 5 miles to go?  Really? 

I rang M, just to make sure I’d got the correct end point.  He sent me a new pin for where he was, some additional few hundred meters away from where I was heading.

Bummer again.  

It was now 11:30am and I was concerned that I’d be too late for M and risk him not getting to his appointment.  Google thinks it’s going to take me an hour and 24 minutes to walk it.  Obviously, I’m running, or trying to, but even so…

One of the things I admire about the Spanish is there absolute commitment to hills. They do loooooong ups, punctuated with short, sharp, interval-training-type-really?- ups, before they return to the looooong steep slopes.  They’re equally conscientious about coming down, there’s just as much ‘whooah’ pointing to the bottom of their not inconsiderable hummocks.  

It was after two more miles of these undulations when the path turned to rubble, which turned to a footpath through the bushes (oh-oh, watch out for the dark patches) and I, now at the mercy of a map-app, was running blind.  To my consolation, the postie on his yellow ‘Correos’ moped appeared round the corner of my foot trail.  At least one other human being must know about the route, perhaps I wasn’t completely lost.  

Hurrah! Tarmac!  Civilization!

And eventually, down a side street, was the camper.  Keys were where we’d arranged for them to be and I had, ooh, maybe an hour for the most leisurely shower of the trip.  Not lost, not longer sweaty, and getting ready to meet up with Gary and Lesley in a couple of hours time.

Have you ever known someone, a little, for a long time?  Circumstances mean that you don’t have the conversations you might like.  You get the sense of a person, but not the opportunity to properly connect.

I’ve known Gary, a bit, for 24 years and Lesley less well, for 23 of those.   

It was Gary, in January 1995, who arranged for M and I to meet.  He’d sold M to me on the basis of him being a copper, but not like a normal copper, he was a really nice bloke.  I’ve never known the details on which I was marketed.  It was Gary, who on my visit up North, met me and V from the station and extolled M’s virtues all the way home.  And three weeks later, it was M who accompanied Gary on an evening at the local club, where he met Lesley who was on a work’s night out and not on the market for a bloke at all.  

Our paths have crossed occasionally but through no fault of either side, we’ve never really had a ‘get to know you’ chat.   Today put that right.

And, it has been lovely.

Gary’s unchanged.  Funny, daft, warm, inviting, glad to have us there.  

Lesley’s a little more shy to start with, makes a lot of effort to ask questions, find out things.  

We met up in the town of Jalon (which has a car park where, for €3 you can exchange grey/black water for drinking H20, or for €5 you can also stay the night). Our group of 4 chatted on, Lesley and I gave Stan a quick trip round the park before picking up a few provisions from the local supermarket.  Then we followed them back to theirs for the evening, where, despite being vegetarian, Lesley’s prepared a meat feast for supper.

The route was maybe 10 miles.  It moves inland, past the village of Pinos, a tiny collection of houses and cottages , and then through a lost valley to their home set in its own almond and olive groves.  They have a slice of heaven.

When I tell Lesley how lovely I think it is, she’s genuinely surprised and I seems, pleased.  They have had less enthusiastic visitors.  It’s easy to understand how the relative distance of the cottage from a town or village might appear isolated, but that’s not their experience. I remember reading about life in the Scottish Highlands; homes are separated by valleys and mountains, but because of this, the community ties are stronger.   Gary and Lesley have received more invitations and care and concern than any of us might expect from city dwelling.  And they clearly love it.

So, without being slushy or overly sentimental, I want to say ‘Hello’’ to a pair of kindred spirits, who love the great outdoors and want a simpler, soul-friendly lifestyle.  It’s been lovely to meet them properly at last, I feel like we’ve found ‘new’, ‘old friends’.

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