Waiting for Africa......

Trip Start Oct 01, 2002
Trip End Aug 08, 2005

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Flag of Spain and Canary Islands  ,
Monday, November 25, 2002

We expected Paul to be picking us up on Wed 20th Nov, but then we discovered that they had only just left Toulouse that morning and they planned to take the longer route via Barcelona. We arranged to call him again the next day at 5p.m as they thought they would be with us late that evening. When we called back on Thursday, Paul explained they had got lost in Barcelona and this had further delayed him by another 5 hours. The upshot of this was that they agreed to collect us that night but it would probably be around midnight. We were to be collected at the airport as it was out of the city centre and on the road we would need to take south. The tourist information assured us the airport was open 24 hours - aha not so! We became just a tad concerned when the airport emptied and the cleaners came out at 8.30 p.m. We inquired and yes, the airport shuts up completely at 10p.m. To top things off, the airport really is in the middle of nowhere without even a telephone nearby. We quickly phoned Paul and told him to hurry up! We sat outside in the cold at 10p.m and waited. Thankfully it was the mildest night we had had in ages and it (only) reached a low of about 1 degree centigrade. At 00.55 we heard the sound of an approaching truck. We leapt about with glee and flagged it down, alas it was a dustbin lorry. We forgot they empty the bins in Spain in the middle of the night! And so we sat and waited some more. Finally the truck did eventually turn up at 01.55 a.m. We drove about a mile down the road and parked up in a layby. The toilet was down the side of the truck and we slept in out clothes - trucklife! Everyone else on the truck had not showered for 5 days since they left the UK. Our truckmates are of course Paul (driver), Tijn (quiet Dutch guy), Will (chilled out Dutch guy who also happens to be an explosives expert who plans to rearrange some dunes in the Sahara), John (older ex navy guy who's spent most of his life on nuclear submarines), and Sophie (young Australian girl who giggles constantly). Two more will be joining us in December and maybe three more in Gibraltar.

We headed south to Gibraltar on Friday morning and Sian was navigating. Instead she spent the whole time catching up on the events of the past few weeks and didn't pay enough attention to her navigating duties. This meant that the truck went through the centre of Malaga which wasn't a major problem and to which she explained that the ring road was hidden under a 'yellow blob' on the map and hence it was difficult to see. However, she then missed the main road through La Ligna (the customs town which takes you to Gibraltar). This turned out to be a bit more troublesome as we ended up taking the truck down some very narrow streets trying to avoid the overhanging balconies, very low power cables and a row of parked cars down one side. This then turned into a one way system which we couldn't get out of......

We eventually got to Gibraltar and met Peter, a guy who was planning to do the same trip himself but unfortunately managed to write off his Land rover in northern Spain. He and his two passengers were thinking of joining our truck but Peter had found another fully equipped Land rover for sale in Gibraltar. We had only come to Gibraltar to collect him but instead Paul ended up testing out his new car for him. We had waited through customs on the way in, to be turned back at a low bridge and queue back out through customs a little more nervously as Will had his Sahara dune moving chemicals on board...

We found a campsite in Tarifa, not far from the ferry port in Algeciras from which we would be leaving en route to Morocco. The campsite had hot showers - bonus. We planned to stay there and do some work on the truck as there were a few bits and pieces still not finished. When we woke up on Sat morning it was pouring with rain. It has been so long since we have had even dry weather let alone hot as it was raining hard the whole time we were in Granada. Saturday night brought probably the most spectacular electrical storms we have ever seen. They lasted a couple of hours and could be seen on the horizon for a while after. The rain continued non-stop and by Sunday the truck had sunk right into the mud on the campsite. Two cattle grates and two sand mats later and we eventually got the truck unstuck. Kev did an excellent returfing job with some grass he 'borrowed' from the next field.

Later that day we headed back to Gibraltar and this time we left Paul watching the truck whilst we walked across the border. We met up with Peter again who offered to show us around Gibraltar as he had spent a few months there studying the monkeys. Four of us got a taxi up to the nature reserve to see them. The first one we saw, the alpha male, was so surprisingly fluffy! We could see the rest of the group running along the wall towards us. We fed them chick peas and soon Peter had a baby on his back. Sian was taken by surprise when a not so small adolescent male leapt straight off a rock onto her head. It was still raining and so we headed quickly to St Michael's cave, which was amazing and beautiful. We were the only ones there. The stalactites were spectacular and the atmosphere in the cave, the way they had the lighting and the water trickling down onto us all added to the whole thing. There's even a small 'concert hall' (just a few rows of concrete steps). It would be amazing to listen to a classical music concert there, apparently there is one there about once a month. Just listening to the recorded flute music in there was enough to know the acoustics would be great. Peter then led the way on a very unofficial tour of the MOD tunnels deep in the rock itself. It was a very convoluted route to get to the entrance and the final entry point into the rock itself required slithering on your belly through a very narrow lookout post window half way up a wall. Inside was fantastic with the tunnels, old generators and WW II equipment, and the whole experience felt like something out of an action adventure movie or actually probably more like something out of Enid Blyton's Famous Five.

Bye for now,
Kev and Sian
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