There are many things in this world that scare me, even terrify me to tears, and let me tell you the wonders dear reader of the Spanish coast. Somewhere between Torremolinos and Banalmadena sandwiched between the cruel salty sea and the dusty red mountains lays the real Wild West. These are frontier towns where the Spanish are rarely seen and proud English refuse to acknowledge siesta. They sit in their rented castles barely bigger than my front room and proudly stand by their choice to name their bar O’riely’s or Best of British Bills. Behind the bar they sweat through their England football shirt red in the face and portly of stature whilst their bleached blonde prematurely wrinkled wives complain about how hot it is. The floors are dark and confusing in the heat and the walls seemingly designed to keep heat in do nothing to ease the confusion. The faint odour of sweat gets stronger as your flushed waiter brings you the English version of sangria.
A few glasses of this do nothing to ease the weirdness. Before you know it your screeching swing low sweet chariot with the other patrons, namely pre teen mums and the kind of British tourist with faded and green tattoo’s that you’re sure used to mean something. After a few nights of this I can tell you I began to dread the sunset not least because the mornings usually heralded the obligatory trip to the beach. Only once did I attempt this trip feeling that if so many others make the pilgrimage everyday without fail that there must be something in it. My head was fuzzy from the sangria binge of the past few nights and already the heat was near insane. I’m a warm blooded creature and have always done better with the cold. The streets leading to the beach were a maze of all inclusive hotels and troops of wandering inflatable madness. Lilo’s and dingies mixed with a huge variety of regional English accents; already I doubted the constitution of this trip.
Down at the beach my fears were confirmed. The cattle were lowing and all manner of secret wobbling flesh was on display. Beaches bring out the worst in people. Children were happily kicking sand at pensioners and parents were defending their deck chairs with the tenacity and tactics of wild animals. The smell of urine was unbearable and the growling ominous. I kept my eyes on the baking sand as we foraged for space to set up camp. Soon we were huddled under the woefully inept sun umbrella. This was the fortress and soon it seemed the effect of the beach was in the mix, any child wandering too near would incite a low rumble from my throat before I even knew what I was doing, those that camped to close warranted disproving looks and sighs. I began to dislike what I was becoming, besides which I was caked in sand thanks to the enormous amounts of sun cream sloshed all over me as a result of being the most notoriously pale member of the party. I felt some sort of venture must be undertaken to break the hideous atmosphere. A jaunt to the sea was thrown up by someone at the back and before I knew it we were tramping down through the camped families towards the loud rough looking sea.
Here is where I nearly died. I am by no means the best swimmer but I am certainly not the worst. The waves were rough that day and big. As I plunged out into the surf the first I met hit me with full force, I was down and taking on water. The salt in this sea, so near to Africa, has enough salt in it to kill you in one pint full. I seemed to be under for a long time, which way was up? All I can remember was the salt. The taste overwhelmed my brain and made it impossible to think of anything else by luck I surfaced. I was facing the beach but by now it was a good 300 metres away. I new that I had to negotiate swimming back whilst simultaneously taking on air rhythmically so that I floated over the waves rather than floundering underneath them, a mean feat even for the most experienced yogi master. So I did all I could do and flipped on to my back so I could see the waves coming and kicked like hell hoping I was heading for land. The waves were about two to three metres high and once I got the hang of it they helped propel me towards land. Soon I reached the beach never have I been so glad to be on land, looking around it seemed that other members of my party had had a similar experience. They hauled themselves out of the sea bedraggled and breathing hard, I screamed to them that the sea could go fuck itself I was never going back in it, and whoever had suggested it in the first place was a heathen, a few parents were aghast and growling but by this point I was in no mood to play by the rules of a bunch of savage animalistic tourists. We tramped back to the apartment ignoring the painstakingly erected borders of the beach and drank. It took me at least two days to get the salt out of my sinuses. After this we wrote off the beach and decided to stick to the culture of the locals, if we could find it.
Find it we did, but this is a more different story that warrants its own space so it shall be in Spain and the Sea | Part Two.