The Med

In The Groove

The irritating beep of the alarm clock signalled the end of our winter break. Ready or not, we had to leave. I rolled over and flicked on the light. Through tired eyes I read the time: six a.m. This ungodly hour was once a familiar foe. It’s now reserved for long drives home or early morning airport runs. Yesterday, we’d lovingly coerced an irregular assortment of carefully-packed baggage into the car. The inevitable surplus was then bullied into the remaining space. All we had to do in the morning was wash, dress and go. Every drawer had been checked and cupboard scrutinised. As usual, nagging doubts led to one final inspection.

Melanie lifted our reluctant quadruped onto the back seat and securely fastened her in. Slowly, I rolled out of the underground car park and into the early morning darkness: time, seven a.m.

We drove down the coast road, past La Cala de Mijas and on towards El Faro. My eyes were drawn to the sea. Dark shades of Imperial-blue fringed with lacy-white, gently lapped the Mediterranean coastline. Far out at sea, a sunburst of deep mandarin edged with rosewood-red linked the dark heavens to our earthly domain.

With a heavy heart we turned inland, circumventing Fuengirola and heading up the Calamorro Mountain. High on the mountain we stared down on the high-rise resorts of Benalmádena and Torremolinos; in the distance, Malaga’s streetlights brightened the dark sky.

By 7:30 the cloak of darkness had lifted and we were deep into olive country. Up hill and down dale, for as far as the eye can see, are row upon orderly row of olive trees. Growers were hard at work, harvesting their precious fruits.

Daffodil

Within two hours we’d reached the ancient city of Cordoba. From here we headed towards the wine region of Valdepeñas. The route is lined with many small towns. El Carpio and Almuradiel: ancient Moorish names bearing witness to previous rulers. A further two hours passed before we reached the M50: Madrid’s outer ring road.

After five and a half hours driving, I was in the groove: a magical time when man and machine work as one. In under an hour, we’d raced our way around Madrid and were driving through the Tunel de Guadarrama. Emerging on the far side felt like driving into a different world. The temperature had dropped five degrees and remnants of snow gripped mountain hollows. Once through the peaks we made a quick pit stop, topped up with fuel and quickly continued on.

By the time we’d reached Medina del Campo and the stunning Castle of La Mota, we’d been on the road for seven hours. An hour later we were passing Benevente and onward to Astorga. Two hours from home, the day’s first rain spots crashed into the windscreen. As we climbed into the mountains, rain turned to sleet and then into snow. With fingers crossed we reached the summit and began our descent into Ponferrada. This time, Lady Luck had been with us. As quickly as it had come, the snow disappeared, replaced once more with torrential rain. The A6 had carried us all the way from Madrid; at junction 400, we bade it farewell. We were now on familiar tarmac: the N120. After 1115 kilometres and ten and a half hours’ driving, we had finally arrived home: safe and sound.

For the time being, the sun has deserted us but Mother Nature kindly trumpeted our arrival.

Copyright © 2014 Craig Briggs

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Canabal in March

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