Tuesday the 19th
An air of caution kept our group quite tense as we carried our bags to the bus. The contiki coach had been locked up in an undisclosed secure location overnight to prevent unwanted hitch-hikers from finding refuge in the undercarriage. It was surprisingly quiet on the street which was not uncommon for the late lifestyle practiced across Europe and Marocco, however I had suspected an entourage to try their luck at hiding in the nooks and crannies of the vehicle once more. Considering the spectacle from last night, this morning operated quite smoothly and we were on the road to the docks promptly on schedule. Our agreeable beginning was a misleading outlook for the rest of the morning for as soon as we arrived at Tarifa we were turned away due to windy weather. A larger vessel would be required to transport us across international waters hence we took to the highway and sped to the next port. We chatted happily and danced to Adam’s portable speakers when suddenly a loud banging sounded from below our feet. Confused glances were exchanged, and then we heard it again. The indignant realisation that there were stowaways in the bus below our feet was expressed across everyones countenances, along with gasps of disbelief. Then, we heard it again. The bus pulled to the side of the road and our driver, trip manager and local guide stepped out to investigate the situation. The first individual rolled out from under the bus covered in soot and took off his shirt to reveal his back grazed from coming in contact with the ground below – a moment longer and there might have been much less left to see. Yelling and shouting ensued, for it was clear he was not alone. A second and then a third individual eventually emerged from the bus in similar condition, and finally a fourth. I recognised the latter as one of the runners from yesterday, a boy of approximately twelve years old. His companions were surprisingly older, possibly even approaching my age and they raised their fingers at us as we left their sooty figures on the sidewalk.
Another ferry ride took us back to Europe, and I must say it was a relief to return to Western normality. After all, when overseas, it is the little things that you miss and learn to appreciate. A stable toilet seat with complementary toilet paper. Drinkable tap water. The ability to dress as I please and act as I please free from the hungry eyes of judgemental misogynists. We entered our second country for the day: Gibraltar. This municipality is a colony of the Commonwealth connected to Spain by a small appendage in the form of a very large rock. The independent government and connectivity to the UK originated at the time of the War of Spanish Succession when a multinational conquest for the state took place. It was a little bit of Britain, with red telephone boxes posited at every street corner. This protectorate consisting of 6.5 square kilometres and 29,000 people was entitled to its own currency, national language and government. We stopped at the lighthouse lookout which was the most eastern point in Europe. The guided tour took us to Saint Michael’s Cave. A natural rock formation of impressive stalagmites and stalactites which had once served as a wartime hospital was now a major tourist attraction and occasionally hosted concerts. After wandering around the cool caves we returned to the breezy cliffside to meet some monkeys! The significance of these monkeys in Gibraltar as a link to the prehistoric origins of humanity was so significant, they had been granted identification tags and passports by the municipal government! The tame beasts sat contently in the nooks of trees as they picked flees from each others manes and even posed for our photos!
Three countries in one day! Who thought it possible? The hype for Seville had been building over the course of the contiki and our time in this passionate city had finally arrived. We had become familiar with the architectural style of Morocco hence the potent arabic influence was instantly recognisable by our learned group. Many of the buildings had been appropriated from their origin in the moorish empire at the time of the Christian conquering, therefore the city is manifest in modern history. Due to its central location, Seville was a monopoly of trade through which all imported goods had to pass before distribution. It was a prominent and illustrious city until the black plague, and later became the first city in which the purge of non-Christian citizens occurred in the form of public burnings throughout the Spanish Inquisition. The city is brimming with tradition, even more so than Madrid. Home to bullfighting and flamenco dancing, there was much to do in Seville!
Dinner. Was. Amazing. We were in a glass-walled restaurant on the water wherein linen bedecked tables were illuminated by art-deco chandeliers made of an arrangement of round bulbs. The ceiling was curved like the deck of a boat and this subtle nautical theme was maintained in the bar and outdoor dining area. Our shabby bunch looked something out of place in this fine-dining restaurant, but this could be attributed to the two hour delay from the weather and stowaway situation this morning which had eliminated any time to freshen up. Entree: scrambled asparagus with battered fish bites topped with jamon. Main: saffron paella with seafood and vegetables. Dessert: marzipan praline cake drizzled in custard. HEAVEN!! After the intensities of the day I have a heightened awareness of the luxury in which we live and I appreciate this now more than ever! Both the dinner and our accommodation this evening was a treat – looks like the party is about to begin in Seville!