Beach, road and golden mile.
Estepona East to Marbella West. A long dull plod along "golden miles". The worst bit was Puerto Banus. At this pretentious port we struggled through crowds admiring the millionaires on their gin palaces. We nearly bought a gold lamé suit from Armani!
I ask for a ticket to McDonald's on the Marbella bus - much to my chagrin (Line 2 doesn't run on Sundays.) The cossack lady asked me to repeat it which I did and she gave me the ticket. It said Chimenea on it which was a great improvement and I wish that's what I had asked for.
We all have a McDonald's phobia and mine is particularly acute since a visit to Middlesex University (where I was working at the time) by a group of education students from Ball State University in the United States. I was asked by one student if it was really true that a McDonald’s in the UK tasted exactly the same as a McDonald’s in the States. I was only to able to say that I had never had a McDonalds in the States and what was more had never had one here either. I’m sure the visit did them good. They were mortified, for example, that their local base-ball matches would not be featuring in our TV programmes. The world is bigger than they had thought.
We had a bit of a lie-in to make sure it was light when we started the walk. There was a rosy-fingered dawn as we alighted and made our way swiftly from McDonald's to the beach. We saw small white cistus flowers in bloom.
The walk today is characterised by a succession of river mouths some of which are wider than others but none requiring the removal of trousers. We just about got our feet and socks dry before reaching the next stream.
Today we see some algarves algarving (agaves beginning to send up a flower shoot. Some had been truncated and this had generated subsidiary flower shoots already beginning to branch and bloom which we had never seen before.
By the time we stopped for our first break at 8.45, we had already crossed four rivers. We reach the Playa El Saladillo (El Prato) by 9.00. I look up saladillo as a number places seem to be called this. It cannot truly be a small salad which is our own personal interim translation. But it will have to remain our translation for the time being as even my large dictionary does not feature it. Next we pass the Torre Velerin. These look-out posts are a reminder of the hazards faced in the past of incursions by Moors from across the Straits. We have our second break at 9.50 just before the eighth river crossing. We decide to have the break first and cross afterwards so our feet are warm while we are stopped.
We pass the Torre Guadalmansa and our tenth river before our third break at Atalaya Isdabe and our twelfth before we reach the Torre de las Boradas. We see some yellow rock roses on one of our detours from the beach on to a pecuaria running alongside it. Even at such a short distance from the sea, there is a big change in habitat and a wide range of common spring flowers.
We are entering a zone of gentility. The children are wearing T shirts without either writing or pictures on them and they are getting suitably filthy in the mud. Not all the girls are wearing pink. We see a large tupperware boat. "There goes Elaine". (Elaine was a colleague who had a boat and I always imagined it as a gin palace as she was quite flamboyant – I was disappointed to discover it was just a little boat after all but the term has stuck). The boat was coming to a stop, belching out black smoke and then going about to limp back to port.
We have lunch at 12.00 and then continue past the Torre Guadalmina, over our fourteenth river and on to Playa Lindavista. A sign here says Estepona 15km and Marbella 10km so we are more than half way. We passed one short stretch of unspoiled woodland. The whole of the rest of the route was more or less built up.
By 13.45, we reach San Pedro which is a nice little town where we might have liked to have stayed if only we had known, although Estepona is equally nice and nearer to La Linea (if we hadn't made it to Gibraltar last time. One year, one of us is sure to get flu or break a leg making progress slow or impossible so we are always conservative when we book our next accommodation.
Our next beach is Playa de Cortijo Blanco and we cross our fifteenth river. All the Union flags in this part of Spain are upside down. Neil maintains that this is a deliberate statement because of Gibraltar. As few British people know which way up their flag should go or even that there is a right way up, the statement falls on deaf ears. We understand these things having been brought up for a time in military camps where children were expected to know and value their flag. I know about it but the experience of living in a number of countries has left me with no sense of nationality or belonging to a particular country or location - thank goodness. I use my passport for travel and that's about it.
We cross the Playa de Nueva Andalucia and enter Puerto Banus. We did look up some accommodation here as it is very central but thank goodness we didn't choose anywhere (we couldn't afford it !) The sea front was heaving and the shops full of gold lamé suits for both men and women. Mind you it would have been fun to buy ourselves one of these suits and to wear them for Mini. It was like hell on earth. It is now only 6km to Marbella. As we are now getting further away from our base, we consider getting the 6.15 bus tomorrow so that we can get further before the day heats up and so that it is dark while we go through the bright lights of Marbella but decide against it. 7am is early enough.
We pass the Playa del Ancon and Puente Romano before heading inland to the main road through Marbella to get the bus back. An Estepona bus fails to stop at our bus stop and the diver waves us on ahead. We carry on a few hundred yards to a bus stop where our number is designated and catch the next one. Luckily these buses are frequent and we only have to wait about fifteen minutes.
Parts of today's walk were heavy going as the sand on the beach is frequently soft even where the tide has washed over it. A few sections of the beach were lined with unsurfaced pecuarias (unmade up tracks) which were ideal for making up time, and parts were tiled or paved marine parades. We knew when we had got to Marbella because the marine parade here was marble rather than concrete and even the electricity installations were housed in marble casings. Still, I preferred Marbella to Puerto Banus, as many of the boats were sailing rather than gin palaces - just what I should buy myself if I were able to afford it.