We’ve seen a lot since we got here. Our use of weekend time has been ambitious and efficient in our rush to realise the wish-list we had compiled in Ireland – in our imaginations – as we strained and waited and held our breath, hoping that it all might happen.
It’s happening – we have walked beneath the striped arcades of the Mezquita in Cordoba’s Juderia, shielded our eyes from the sun to make out snow on the Sierra Nevada as they rose over the red walls of the Alhambra, evaded peddlars in the network of arteries that is the medina of Tangier, ducked from dark shadow to the white, white light of Malaga‘s streets, ambled the boulevards of Cadiz.
In Sevilla the blue green tile work of the Alcazar has burned its detail into us along with the gridded plan of its gardens; another Alcazar in Jerez, with its patina of shabby elegance and its teeming sunday market. In Antequera we were surprised and in Vejer we weren’t – a text book pueblo blanco.
And so many bars. So many beautiful bars. I’m no more privy to life’s larger truth than the next man but I seem to have spent an awful lot of time looking for it in bars. Many people search in synagogues, churches, laboratories or bed. I’m betting on bars. Haven’t found it yet but in a tapas bar I feel like I might be getting close.
All of the above a rapid-fire succession, a sensory flood springing from…what?
A need to break out. An unravelling series of stimuli borne along by the momentum we created as we waited, curled and coiled.
The word suggests itself; escape. To throw off whatever it is that passes for a shackle in your life, cast the die, redefine possibility. And yet, insistent though it is, the idea of escape is unsatisfactory. What does the liberated prisoner do but run away and hide – a fugitive? Someone else’s prison swapped for one’s own.
We can’t just run away forever – at some point there has to be something we’re running towards. At the end of so many departures there has to be an arrival.
We just get out.
Near the port, behind the castle in a quiet corner, a dirt track leads out of town – it would have been the road to Algeciras when people still travelled on foot or pony but now it’s just a track that meanders along the coastline for a little and then twists inland over the rolling farmland that surrounds Tarifa.
It’s still public – a designated walk – and as we turn away from the sea we pass a goatherd and his little flock as they graze by the side of a whitewashed finca. As the goats graze that is – the goatherd is having a sandwich. We ascend through tall rushes along a shaded creek into more open country and higher ground.
This is pasture. The only noise the now distant sea – a view of the Mediterranean to our left and of the Atlantic to our right – the crunch of our boots on the track and the gentle but insistent peel of a cowbell as its owner chews. The day is filled with brilliant light and although Tarifa is hidden from view we have vistas, blue skies and green meadows dotted with the multicolours of early Spring. From this angle the water sparkles all the way to the Atlas mountains of Morocco.
We take some turns, reach some dead ends, find our way back to the track past more fincas and farmyards. We pass an old man who has perched himself on a grass bank at the side of the road with no other apparent purpose than to observe whoever passes by and let time do the same. He chuckles at us when we smile at him in greeting.
Further on we reach the highest point of our walk and stop for our own sandwich and a beer. We can see Tarifa from here, the old town squeezed between shining water and green hinterland . It is instantly my favourite view of the town because we earned it by coming up here. I haven’t seen it before in photos or web pages.
We had to get out of it to see it like this but as we look down on it the notion of another departure doesn’t even occur. We have a bird’s eye view of a place we are becoming embedded in. We down our beers and head back at an easy pace. This is our neighbourhood now.
For the time being, we’re not going anywhere.