The walls of travel agents.

The sea really is like a mirror.

25th July 2021

Cala Xaracca, Ibiza – Roquetas de Mar, Spain via Sant Antoni, Cala Comte, & Cala Tarida, Ibiza

In times gone by, if you wandered into a Travel Agent* the walls would be adorned with pictures selling experiences from all around the world. There would be photos of sandy beaches kissed by turquoise waters, shots of historic monuments erected in memory of sacrifice, or snaps of cultural melting pots. In moving from the Balearics to the mainland of Spain we could supply a Travel Agency will all the posters they would need.

As we got ready to head offshore from Ibiza the first of the posters was snapped. After filling Ruffian’s lockers with food and her tanks with diesel (ready to head offshore) it became apparent that millions of others had also been drawn to the posters. Anchorages that weeks ago had been deserted were so busy boats had fenders out and beaches that were once desolate were now covered with sun loungers and tourists lathered in sun-cream. The water was however blue, the sand did gleam and we managed to find isolation by getting off the beaten track.

As we slipped along the path less travelled and as the sun was setting, we spied an Ibizan version of Stonehenge. Stones stood high above the cliffs facing the sea casting long shadows on a bleak landscape. This looked like a great destination for a dawn hike.

Following our noses along the coastline we followed a path where only goats dared walk and happened across a wall. We could see the path we were following continue on the other side, complete with stones clearly positioned to help climbing over. We, reasoned that goat’s cant climb (apart from climbing goats obviously) and they don’t move rocks, so this was a route that others had taken.

Scaling the wall, it suddenly felt like we’d moved from a public scrubland to a private manicured garden. This feeling was confirmed as we heard hurried footsteps and a security guard skidded around the corner. He was as unimpressed with our wall scaling, as he was that we’d taken him away from his morning coffee. We explained our predicament and were summarily ejected, but left with smiles and laughs and the hope that his coffee would still be hot on his return.

Taking a different goat path Stonehenge rose above us. The dawn sun created shadows that cascaded down the cliffs and into the crashing waves far below. Our imaginations ran wild as we envisioned druids casting magical incantations while mythical creatures flew overhead (even though Druids have never been here as it transpired this was an art installation from 1984!). With this cultural highlight bagged we had yet another picture for that travel agency.

Bidding a fond farewell to the Balearics we headed offshore bound for the mainland, destination unknown, we just knew we were heading west. Trying every sail configuration available to Ruffian the miles slipped by and the busy anchorages gave way to a deserted ocean.

For days the radio had been alive with stories of migrant boats and navigation warnings so we were on high alert. Then right on que, in the middle of the ocean, far from land, far from safety there was a tiny boat, bobbing away on the waves and without a soul in sight.

Reporting the boat into the authorities, we were told to leave it and leave the area, but as we moved on our hearts dropped as we saw a floating orange object nearby. Could this be a migrant or worse still could this be a body?

Turning Ruffian around we went straight into our man overboard procedure. The nearer we got the more like a lifejacket the object looked and as we closed in on it our hearts rose and relief flowed. It was nothing more sinister than a long line bouy. Leaving the area, our minds raced on where did this boat come from, what was its story and what horrors could it tell? This is the downside of drawing people to Europe (but while Europe’s prosperity is at the door of Africa’s and the middle east’s unrest, people will always look for escape).

Darkness decended upon Ruffian, but this didn’t bring peace. Far in the distance we could hear throbbing engines being run at flat chat, then from over the horizon we saw a searchlight trained on a high speed rib. A chase was on and this chase was dangerous. Showing no lights they zoomed past our bow and disappeared into the night and over the opposite horizon. Once again our minds raced, who was on the rib, who was being chased, what was being delivered?

With the wind turning east we sought shelter and resolved ourselves that we’d not have another ‘travel agency’ moment. How wrong we were.

Venturing by bus into Almeria the opportunities for covering the travel agency’s walls in cultural, historic and religious images were everywhere. Long tree lined boulevards complete with fountains cooling the air framed huge memorials and works of art, while memorials to industrial heritage and the sacrifice of man sat in unassuming corners. Not enough to give is these sights the town then explored the history in free museums that came thick and fast.

Wandering around one of these museums we were enthralled by the views it gave high above the city and the artifacts bought to life all we had seen. We were amazed that such a great museum was so quiet as not a soul stirred. Filled with knowledge and wanting to leave we found that even the staff had disappeared, closed up and left us to it; iesta time was upon us. We simply opened the huge doors slipped out and closed them behind us.

Above all of this sat one of the oldest castles in Spain and this too was within our price range, free. The steps leading up had been polished smooth by 1000’s of years of footsteps and inside the water gardens cooled the air that had once been breathed by kings. The historic and cultural images that could be taken here could have filled a travel agency all on their own.

As we have left the Balearics, we have a bag full of images for every travel agency, but the clue is in the title of the travel agency is; travel. The relentless push west out of the Mediterranean continues as once again the wind is blowing us out.

* A travel agent is an antiquated shop where people used to go to ‘buy’ holidays.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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