The waves pounding the sand beach woke me from my dream soaked sleep, the sea air had kept the temperature up in the camper that night so I was out of bed, without the pre-heat. Opening the curtains, an 8 ft beach break was the joy of the morning, so surf was off for the moment, I would have to find a new plan for the day.
The next morning with the sun rising over the lake, I put the camper into gear and continued on my journey with the forests still holding the darkness of the night, the sun to low to penetrate its canopy of vegetation. This is a time to relax and enjoy Les Landes. A flash to my left on the edge of the forest materialises into four legs and a body, the stag jumps the drainage ditch and the road in two bounds, it startles me as it passes fifty metres in front of the van, you’ve better watch out in a fast car.
Arriving on the N10 after the lazy back roads through Andernos-les-Bains and Arcachon wakes up the nervous system with its endless line of lorries stretching out into the horizon, the thought of having to overtake brings a cold sweat to my forehead so I take the easy option and settle down to the steady 60 mph to grind up the miles. The style of driving an old camper is easy, drop into the lorry lane. Drive and eat, what more can I do? I watch the forever moving wide screen television my mind drifts, its time for a break so its pull in and kettle on.
With the shantytowns of the Madrid drifting into the background as the sun was setting, it was time to find a place for the night. The light dusting of snow on the sides of the road gave me the impression that I was off to the mountains for another winter season. Finding the next lorry park on my side of the road was the best option at this time of night.
A 500bhp diesel cold start up at 6.30am was the wake-up call to stop all dreams. Checking outside the widow all was green again, the snow from last night had moved on. After a cup of coffee and a mouthful of toast it’s back into the big armchair for the day.
While driving down the side of the River Genial I got my first views of Africa and Morocco on the other side of the Straits of Gibraltar. The Rif Mountains could be seen hiding in the low cloud as I dropped onto the coastal road of the Costa Brava. On this side of the water, it was blowing 50 mph and the camper was taking her time, struggling into the head wind that makes Tarifa famous for windsurfing.
With the sun setting in my eyes, I pulled up in to the Port of Algercias. Below the customs and policemen could be seen surveying the arena for the immigrates determined to get to Europe across the thin stretch of water that separates the two continents. Over 100 people each day try to across illegally, only to be collected up on the Spanish shores by the local police. I set off along the beach away from the port by foot to stretch my legs after the days driving. Sitting on the high tide line, I found the remains of their passage; the rubber and plastic of a deflated inflatable compacted against the rocks, showing me a solid token of their passage.
Looking out to sea, I see a fast inflatable cutting the swell line as it makes for the shore. There’s no slowing of the engines as the boat carves through the calm water leading up to the shoreline. The pilot lifts the engine at the last second leaving the solid hull of the rib to ride up the sand beach. Waiting are two cars and a 4x4 hidden from the view of a casual observer by the line of trees. The crew from the rib throw bulging sacs to the shore while at the same time jumping into the water to push the boat away from the shallow beach before it heads off in the now darkening sky. The 4x4 with 3 men inside accelerates towards the bags, a hand reaches out to grab them as the vehicle makes a fast turn. The two cars start their engines as the 4x4 powers its way off the beach joining the convoy to disappear in the forest behind. The whole operation unrolling before me must have taken one minute from start to finish, a import from Africa which will not be seen by the customs officers standing at the other end of the beach! So with free guarded parking and a deserved rest, it was back to the job of getting to Morocco.
The last few moments of Europe passed from my feet as the ferry left Algercias, the port slipping away into the armada of super tankers, which dominate the horizon as they pass through the Straights of Gibraltar.