Day 21, 24th Jan – Demons (not to be read at mealtimes…)

We all have them: some big, small, noisy, quiet.  But I’m yet to meet anyone/thing that doesn’t have a weakness.

Stan’s weakness (sorry, but this is actually really relevant if you’re camper-vanning in Europe with a Labrador), is human poo.

“Why?” You understandably wonder, am I talking about such a revolting subject?  Because sadly, it’s become horribly relevant.

Take last night’s stop, Guadalest.  This tiny tourist spot has three car parks.  The nearest to the centre of town is for locals only and houses the very well kept public loos.  The next-closest is also only for locals and is across the road from the WCs.  The third car parking opportunity is down a steep hill, on two levels and contains public bins, circular skid marks where the locals have shaved off layers of tyre rubber and gives access to one set of climbing routes that rise out of the bushes.  It does not contain a public loo.

“Seriously, you’re complaining about walking up hill to get to the loo?”

Nope. Not at all.  I’m commenting on the effects of all the other people who don’t walk up the hill to find the loo.  Instead they’ve nestled in said bushes, and left deposits sometimes covered with leaves, often not covered at all, for unsuspecting human feet and eagerly searching Labrador noses to find.

It’s not nice!  And Stan is super sneaky.  He’ll pick up his ball, ask you to throw it a couple of times and on maybe the third or fourth go (never the first or second, he’s far too canny for that) he’ll go to retrieve the ball but not come back.  Just as I turn my head to say “Yes, a cuppa sounds like a great idea”  or “Hang on, I think it’s in the front cab”  the little sod disappears, through a break in the car park wall, onto a sure thing.  

The clue to what he’s found is when he comes back licking his chops, in the way that you would if you’d just eaten a large mouthful of peanut butter.  His breath is unbearable and he’s then confined and leashed outdoors for a period of time.  Thankfully, we have a green-tea additive for his water that helps keep his teeth clean and eventually helps clean him up.  

The dog is now on the lead for ALL walks and only when we’re on a beach and are absolutely certain that he’s not going to make a discovery do we let him run free. 

It’s not his only demon, Stan’s, I mean, but it is a particularly stomach-churning one and I’ve never encountered quite so much human “debris” as here in Spain. So… if you’re climbing/walking/hiking/or own a Labrador…

My demon’s came out unbidden this morning.

The weather started out very cold and windy.  Then for a brief spell, the wind pushed aside the clouds meaning that although it was still blowy, and below 100C, it really seemed worth picking our careful way through the undergrowth to do some of the shorter climbing routes nearby.

They were a gift.  Bolts in the rock (that you attach carabineers and your rope to as you ascend) were less sparsely placed than often in Spain, the hand and foot holds were abundant; sharp and unforgiving on soft skin, but plentiful none-the-less.  

First clip (8’ off the ground) was fine.  Second clip (another 6 feet away), similarly good.  Moving beyond this, I’m 18 or so feet off the ground, but I’m on secure foot placements and I can see where the next hand holds might be.  The third bolt is another 3’ beyond my reach, but no matter.  

The wind picks up.  Clouds have already covered the sunny patches and the area is dark and cool.  The air temperature drops and with it goes my confidence.  I reach up, find places from which to move , clip and secure my rope, but I’m unsettled.  

The fourth clip is further apart from the rest.  The handholds are less generous and as my fingers quickly tap the rock’s surface, hunting for a place from which to make the next push upwards, a particularly strong gust pushes me sideways.  I hold on, fingers and feet secure, but it’s not a good feeling. The rock itself is cold.  The frigid stone pulls the strength from my fingers that seem cloggy and slow to respond to commands.  More to the point, I no longer trust them.  

Finally, I find one handhold that suffices and a second that’s shallow, spiky and puts me out of balance.  The wind pushes at my frame again, fingers feel like they’re going to peel off of their own volition… and I’m done.

Not happening.

A route that ordinarily I would have cruised as a warm up, and I’ve backed off it. I’m on the ground feeling shamed and foolish.  Stupid for trying in these conditions.  More stupid for not just pushing through and finishing the route.  My demons are mocking and taunting me.  M’s relieved, he had quickly started to get really cold and isn’t used to me being so reticent.  If I ever back off something he’s normally only encouraging, this time he just got me down as quickly as he could.

Not sure if common sense or my demons won this morning.  I need to get back on rock and try again.  The route today should have been a breeze, instead, I’ve been undone by one.

This afternoon we parked up at the most stunning camper spot we’ve ever visited (and there have been a few beauties), just North East of Altea.  It’s on Park4Night and is near a grand villa, right by the beach.  From here its 20 minutes, South and inland to L’Alfas del Pi where Vice, as promised, is showing in English.

I won’t give anything about the film away – Christian Bale deserves his plaudits for the role and all supporting actors are just as convincing.  If ever you wanted to see demons in action, then see this movie and follow its reflections for modern politics in the US and beyond.  

Tomorrow, hopefully, we’ll get M an eye test and eventually a new pair of specs, then we catch up with the local residents of Benisa.  Hopefully a less troubled day.

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