I'd have got
hopelessly lost as I'm now driving without maps, but fortunately a German
couple on their way back from India gave me a spare ADAC map just in time to
save me a long detour. I'd hoped to visit Italy, but with a map in hand it
was clearly out of my way by a few hundred kilometres, so I decided to drive
straight to the border - I guess I was also worried about all the stories
I'd heard about thieves (and these sound scarier when you are hearing them
from hardened travellers in places like Khartoum)
By the evening I'd got to the border with Switzerland - my
plan was to visit Steven in Zurich as well as Chantal and Michael in Basel -
but first it was time for an often-postponed visit to Lugano.
First I had to find somewhere to stay - campsites were
everywhere, but all seemed to be deserted. Eventually a local directed me
through the drizzle to a beautifully located car park on the lake shore
where I camped next to a no camping sign. I fully expected to be woken in
the night told to move - I even mentally composed my essay on the ethics of
hospitality - "Switzerland and the traditions of Islam: Compare (20 marks)".
maybe it was because this was Italian Switzerland, but
whatever the reason, to my horror I was left to defile the car park for a
whole peaceful night, and arrived in Basel that morning. How small
Switzerland seemed to have become since I lived there - I suppose that's
just the effect of driving so far across such a vast continent.
After meeting up with Chantal and seeing the old sites I
nipped down to rainy Zurich for a day to catch up with Steven, who I'd last
seen in Gonder. His broken pelvis was still causing him to limp, but it was
good to see him walking again - and a relief not to have to carry him to the
toilet... He was about to return to Nairobi to recuperate before picking up
his bike and continuing his journey.
And so I end this entry in Chantal's apartment in Basel,
drinking good fresh coffee, and eating boring Swiss food. Some things never
chance - even the street entertainers are the same...
After a relaxing week I drove across France, stopping near
Montpellier where i was blessed with a night's camping in torrential rain
and hurricane strength winds which tested my tent to the full, and also
managed to soak half of my mattress. After Switzerland where €30 buys you
your road tolls for a year, it was a shock to find the same amount just
about gets you to the Spanish border when you are in France.
I was heading for Barcelona - a city which I've stopped at
several time, but never once had a chance to explore, but first I took a
detour through the Pyrenees to Andorra for a bit of cheap fuel, whisky, and
a look around - it mostly seems to be about duty free shopping...
Barcelona, on the other hand, was a fantastic city -
despite the zillions of tourists (like me, I suppose) clogging up the place.
I've always enjoyed Guadi, and it was a great experience to be able to
wander around his cathedral, visit his house, and get lost in his park.
I also checked out the museum which is mostly underground
- you can explore the Roman and medieval ruins which was just as well as the
above-ground section was closed. And at grave risk of this becoming
something like a very long web-based a post card, I popped in to the Picasso
museum - some good stuff there even for somebody who isn't a great Picasso
Best of all is a great night life, especially around Las
Ramblas in the centre of town - and I managed to find a surprisingly good
and cheap restaurant just around the corner - we were the only tourists in
there which was a definite score.
I took a pretty expensive room in an amazing youth hostel
in town, but with six to a dorm my tent (which I'd left open to dry) was
just too tempting, so I snuck out and had a restful night there instead.
I was now two easy days away from Gibraltar, and the urge
to get on with it was getting stronger and stronger, so on my third day I
packed up and hit the road - I drove through Valencia and Alicante before
finding a small town with a great little camp site run by a German family -
there were a few travellers there taking refuge from the winter - and the
temptation to loiter was only reluctantly overcome. So I set out - my lat
real day of travelling - On to Granada, roads I'm familiar with again.
Malaga, and the motorway West, and to my delight the road now runs straight
through without the slow stretch through Estapona. Then as I crest a hill I
see my destination - the distinctive outline of Gibraltar lies floating
above a light sea mist, the familiar Levanter cloud streaming from her peak.
The Camel is home.