Thursday 22 March 2018 - Day 18
Is it us? We’ve come to a conclusion…and not everyone will like it. But I don’t write for a newspaper, travel magazine or any other publication, so we can only upset our blog readers. This part of Spain is badly broken - in fact the whole of southern Spain is broken. It’s about as authentically Spanish as Disneyworld. We’ve tried to give it the benefit of the doubt. We’ve tried to see beyond the rubbish dumped everywhere, the destruction of the land and the soil, the exploitation of the migrant workers, the blinkered view of those in massive motorhomes who park here for months on end. But, we really can’t see the attraction. The inland areas are different - cleaner, better-managed, a sense of community - we’ve already seen and enjoyed this. But tourism and commercialism have killed the south coast. - it should be called the Costa del Dodo.
It hasn’t helped that we walked down into the village this evening to find something to eat and everywhere was shut - proper shut. It hasn’t helped that the wind has blown constantly at gale force, day and night and the wind is cold, really cold. I spoke to the British couple ‘guarding’ this ‘aire’ - they’re here for three months - three frigging months! They say they love it and the views are great. There’s nothing for miles except plastic and beaches full of builders’ rubble that’s been dumped over the years. They think it’s wonderful - I think they’re mad! It feels like there’s a real impression of “The Emperor’s New Clothes’ here - if I don’t say it as it is, nobody will see it.
This part of the trip is getting us down. I guess it started yesterday, driving past huge plastic-covered fields and stopping off at a small shop run by a migrant, who could not have been more helpful and charming. It really got us thinking about how the migrant workers in this area have been used and abused to provide us with fruit and veg all year round. My sister-in-law sent us a link to an article that pretty much sums it up: Europe’s Dirty Little Secret - Moroccan Slaves and a sea of Plastic. I tried to put a positive spin on this place yesterday, but I wasn’t being truthful to myself…or you.
I went for a bike ride this morning. It was chilly in the wind, so I wore my UK cycling kit, including a warm jacket. I followed the coastal road, into a strong headwind. I thought perhaps I could escape the plastic, but it wasn’t to be. As I pedalled, the smell of plastic and chemicals just grew stronger. The vast farms are an amalgamation of plastic, metal and concrete. There was hardly a soul to be seen but I’m sure the migrant workers were toiling in this plastic hell - we heard the 0730 ‘air raid’ siren call to start work this morning; I cannot imagine what the working conditions must be like in the height of summer. As I cycled, the plastic never stopped. Even the areas of soil not covered were just piles of dead dust, blowing away in the strong wind. The soil here is dead - brain-stem dead. It’s on a life-support system of chemicals and sparse water, now being drained from the ever-diminishing underground aquifers. It’s only a matter of time until this area becomes a poisoned desert. As I cycled along, the roadside was littered with tons of abandoned plastic sheeting, bottles (plastic and glass) and tin cans. In my two hours on the road, I only came across one small grocery store.
Back at the aire, I looked around at the massive motorhomes, some the size of single-decker coaches, generators humming and satellite dishes all pointing in the same direction so they could watch their soaps, or football, or the lottery. I’m sorry, but this is not why we travel. We travel to experience the life of the locals, to embrace the diversity of language and culture, to try out our language skills, with much pointing and a smile. This area reminds me of the many places I’ve seen around the world - tourists in ‘all-inclusive’ resorts, cosseted, locked away, ‘protected’ from the country they’re in, spending not a single dollar/peso/euro in the local community, just feeding the hungry corporates who own these modern day holiday prison camps. I feel desperately sad for those toiling this doomed land, but no empathy with the owner who drove past me at speed in his new black Range Rover.
We move on tomorrow, following the coast. After this experience, if we don’t like what we see, we’ll keep on moving until we find somewhere that feels real and authentic, where we can move amongst the local people, share a smile and a wave (even if it means we’ll be back in Anglesey in a couple of weeks). I’m not sure any part of southern Spain can give us this, but hopefully the northern areas of Portugal and Spain will restore our faith. But would we over-winter in Spain - no, never.
That’s it, I’ve stepped off my soap box. Hopefully normal service will be resumed tomorrow. I’ve put the kettle on now to make a cup of tea to warm up! In the meantime, waiting for the incoming abuse about this post......