Last bus

The other day, we visited the villages and citrus groves of the Lecrin Valley. To do this, we walked down to Orgiva, and got a bus to Talera. From there, we reckoned on a pleasant enough ten to fifteen kilometre stroll along little used roads and footpaths to take in three or four villages, before retracing oursteps in time for the last bus, which left at 6.30.

Having already experienced the readiness of the local buses to arrive and depart before the advertised hour, we got to the bus stop well in advance. It had been a warm day, but there was a nip in the air, which made me regret not bringing a fleece. As it was, dressed in shorts and light shirt, I was looking forward to sitting in an agreeably warm vehicle, being propelled homeward at speed.

Our limbs were aching a little, and I remarked to my companion how I felt my hip joints had had just about the right amount of stretching for one day. Because we knew we wouldn’t have to carry it further than the kilometre and a half back up the track from Orgiva, we bought a seven kilo bolsa of tangerines, to add to our already heavy bag of clutter.

We spent some time agonising which side of the road the bus would stop on. As it happened, we needn’t have worried, as it didn’t turn up at all. I kept having increasingly disbelieving looks at my timetable, but to no avail. It was a little after seven when we finally acknowledged this was not to be relied on.

We debated what to do. Night had fallen and it was getting colder. For some reason, there are no taxis in this part of the world. Nor were there any hostels or hotels in the town we were in.

There didn’t seem likely to be any more buses, going in any direction. We trudged to one end of town, to try our hand at hitching, but there were no cars, so we trudged to the other end, but there were no cars there either. Eventually, we decided to walk the 4km to the next village, which was in our direction home. The total distance to Orgiva, via Lanjaron, was around 25km. I reasoned that we could walk some of that way, hitching as we went, and maybe find a place to stay in Lanjaron.

Reckoning on 4km an hour – the roads are hily, and it was dark – I thought the absolute worst case scenario would be arriving back at our cave around three in the morning; but that this was hardly likely to happen!

I impressed upon my companion the fact that our situation could have been a lot worse. It could have been raining. We might not have had provisions in the form of tangerines, whose weight was beginning to dwell on me. We might have been prisoners, being force marched to our execution. All in all, when looked at squarely, ours was almost an enviable situation to be in.

We arrived at the next village at 9pm. My hips were complaining, but I ignored them. Only two cars had passed us, and neither had slowed down. There were no taxis, hostels or evidence of people in this village, so we walked on a further 2km to a large roundabout. There we could either try hitching a ride on the motorway to Grenada or the Coast, with their abundance of places to stay, or we could wend our way through the testing mountain road towards Lanjaron, another 8km distant, hitching as we went.

I looked up at the moon and sighed. Despite it not raining and us not being prisoners, this wasn’t a situation I relished. The best of a bad set of alternatives seemed to be to head towards Lanjaron.

We fetched up there at 11.30, and sank onto the first bench we saw. It had been a gruelling climb, made worse by the cars roaring past us at regular intervals, flattening us up against the safety barrier separating the road from an often sheer precipice. Although we continued wafting our thumbs at them, it had seemed futile. Who, after all, would want to let two cold strangers into their warm car interior at dead of night?

Although we were aching all over, the prospect of getting back to our familiar abode and sliding into bed, albeit at a late hour, seemed much more alluring than staying in one of Lanjaron’s fine hotels. We enquired about prices, but frankly, by this time the adrenaline was surging in me to such an extent that they could have offered to pay me to stay in their ludicrously overvalued dosshouse and I would still have spurned them. My companion was at one with me on this – I took considerable pains to establish this was the case – and so we set off on the last but one leg of the night, to Orgiva, a mere 10km away.

Somehow, we acquired en route a small Scottie dog, scurrying twenty or so yards behind us. It was black, and we could only see it when a car passed by and illuminated the road. We tried everything to get it to go back: the dog dazer, stones, menacing gestures; but still it advanced, like a loathsome automatum.

We stopped to eat tangerines at each kilometre marker. Around one in the morning, we finally got rid of our attendant dog, when it attached itself to another couple, who slipped by in the night, apparently in a similar predicament to us, but heading in the opposite direction, for Lanjaron. We let out a muted ‘Hola’, wondering if they might be brigands, with rusty knives, after our valuables.

The second half of the journey was mostly downhill, but this didn’t make it any easier. I became worried that my companion was finding the going hard, since she seemed to be lurching from one side of the road to another. It turned out she couldn’t see, on account of the moon having disappeared behind cloud. Rather more worrying was when she had been walking in a straight line for a while, and I asked her a question, but got no response. After closer examination, I discovered she was asleep on her feet!

I felt pretty wrecked on arriving in Orgiva at 2.30am. I was chilled to the bone and my feet seemed jellified. The ache in my hips resembled that which I imagine a couple of freshly heated pokers inserted at right angles into the sides of the pelvis and waggled about a bit would produce. However, luckily, a degree of disassociation had set in, and the pain seemed to be happening to a different body than the one my brain presided over.

We came at last to the track we had descended so gaily some seventeen hours earlier. This climbs a couple of hundred metres in a steady, unremitting way that gives no chance of a breather unless you stop and rest. I felt it would be fatal to do that. In fact, I issued strict instructions to both of us to not even think of sitting down when we eventually did make it home or we would probably never get up again.

Grappling in my overladen bag amongst the kilos of uneaten tangerines to find the house key and then to insert it in the dark with my palsied, feverish fingers grappling for the tiny slot almost made me cry out in despair. Finally, I flung the door open, we stumbled inside, and in pre-agreed order of precedence, I lurched towards the shower room, ripping the few clothes I had on from my shivering body, sluicing myself clean and drying myself fitfully, before sinking into the inexpressible luxury of bed.

The sensation of moving from standing, bearing my own raddled weight, to lying down, being supported, was extraordinary. One entire gamut of pain receded like a chimera, with the most intense relief imaginable, but it was only to be replaced, moments later, by a new pain, deep inside my muscular tissues. It felt like rigor mortis setting in. However I positioned myself, an intolerable, racking ague resulted. Was this cramp, I wondered?

Luckily, my companion of the night, who I feel I must pay tribute to for her fortitude in adversity, had the good sense to feed me some granules of arnica. Wondrous as it is to relate, as the grains melted in my mouth, I felt the pain dissipate. By the time all trace of the arnica was gone, so was the pain.

It took longer to get warm, but when I did, I slept like a baby. The following morning, I found I could barely walk. I estimate we covered 45km in all, at least half of it uphill, on mostly tarmac roads, a feat of unintended endurance I have no desire to ever do again.

The moral of this story is that there’s a lot to be said for living near a station where, if the last train fails to get you home, they provide a taxi. As it is, I keep asking myself, what sort of place is it that has no taxis?

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