Boat hitchhiking (take one)Nov 012016
In the morning, after being protected by the Juan the forest elf, we walk to the harbor of Málaga. There are hardly any people on the sailboats and the few that we meet tell us to go searching in another city. Most of the boats here are not going to go further than the Mediterranean Sea. So we hitchhike further south-west.
Since ages I am hitchhiking together with someone else again. I've kind of get to get used to that. Luisa seems to be much less patient. No wonder, because as a girl you usually get picked up pretty quickly, whereas I already know the feeling of a long wait. We even get sent away from a petrol station, because the employee didn't like us to ask his customers if they could give us a lift. A few hours get past and there is less and less hope. But then a Hungarian guy stops. He is on his way to Marbella, a small coastal town between Málaga and Gibraltar. He says, he can drop us off at a safe and calm beach close to the town, where we could easily spend the night. He owns two nice restaurants and invites us to either of them for breakfast tomorrow. He gives us a signed business card, which we can use to order anything we fancy.
In the evening, we are sitting on the breakwater stones when an Irish wanderer comes along. He sees our big backpacks and greets us: "Hey, hippies!" He has been walking through Spain for a few months already, has got no savings and doesn't work on his way. There is one thing that I really want to know:
"How do you eat?" - "With my hands and my mouth."
"Yeah, but when and what do you eat?" - "Everything I can get and quite regularly. The body doesn't actually need that much."
"And how do you pay for it?" - "Not at all. If you use money, you represent money."
"Okay, so how do you get your meals?" - "I pull on some more or less ordinary clothes, take my tupperware and go to a restaurant before they close. And hen I ask them if they have something for me."
"Uhm, so the customer's leftovers?" - "No! What do you think? That I would eat the rubbish that someone else leaves on his plate? No, I ask directly in the kitchen and if they don't have anything, I go to the next restaurant. One time, I spent several days at the same beach. Every evening there was one waiter coming to my hammock and told me that I can pick up some meals. That was way too much. I would have spoiled my stomach with all the food. The more you eat, the more you need."
So it is that easy? Why did I not think about it earlier? Especially restaurants have to throw away a lot of good stuff at the end of the day. But anyway, we already have a great invitation for the next morning. So we hitchhike back from the beach to Marbella. The café is situated right in the beautiful town center. The waiter already greets us with a warm welcome. We order tea, hot chocolate, porridge, a cheese plate and vegetarian paella. What a feast!
Feeling well fed we meet up with Rafa, whom I already met in Granada. He is currently visiting his friend Paco in Marbella and spends a few weeks here, before he travels further to Corsica. Paco is living with his two brothers and parents at the coast. His brothers Antoño and Jesús are playing in a reggae band. The invite us to a public rehearsal tonight.
Unfortunately, the house is already full. So we have to look for a place at the beach to sleep. Paco recommends us a canopied chiringuito (beach bar). He is terribly sorry, that he can't host us, but we can leave our backpacks at his place and only have to take mattresses and sleeping backs to the beach. The small terrace is empty and looks quite inviting. It feels a bit weird, because the bar is located directly at the promenade, so people are still strolling around here at night. Still, the calm rushing of the ocean rocks us to sleep eventually. But a few hours later I wake up, startled. Someone just ran over my feet! That hurt. But he immediately runs around the next corner, so I can't make out his face - being still half asleep. I look around. The light of the street lanterns definitely reaches our place, so he could not have overlooked us. Luisa woke up as well and both of us can't go back to sleep for some time. We can see the man, running around aimlessly. He seems rather nervous. I mean, it is 02:00 am... After we make sure, that he doesn't approach the chiringuito and stays awa, we can lie down to sleep again. My dreams get interrupted every few minutes by a lot of evil mosquitos, sucking at my face. So it's not always as romantic to sleep outside in the summer.
The next day we hitchhike further towards Gibraltar. We get dropped off in a small coastal town and were just thinking about what to eat when we remember of the words of the Irish wanderer. So Luisa takes her tupperware to a restaurant and I ask at a bakery. She returns with a vegetable soup and I with two rolls in my hands. That's more than enough! And we didn't have to pay for it. With the rucksack on my back I was telling the employee that I'm a traveler and if they had some bread for me that they can't sell anymore. So I got two perfectly fine rolls from the day before. Even during the next few days we rarely get dismissed with empty hands. A Czech woman, who is working in a paella bar, offers me to come by every day around 08:00 pm. She will always have some food for me. She tells me, that she has been in the exact same situation, when she was walking through Spain for several weeks without money. without asking the restaurants she would not have been able to survive, so she is happy to be able to pay the favour forward. And anyway, there is always a lot of food leftover at the end of the day, she says.
Reaching La Línea, we are looking for a place to sleep. There are not many possibilities in the town. A local couple recommends us to climb the school yard's wall. There is a woman watching the place at night but she stays in her house. If we pitch our tent close to the big tree she shouldn't be able to see us. That sounds like a plan, but seriously, I don't feel very comfortable with it. To climb walls... that doesn't seem terribly legal to me. So we walk a bit through the town. Not just aimlessly but also very slowly, because I stepped into a sea urchin the other day and every step hurts now. And so Adrian approaches us. He is from Romania, lives in La Línea and works in Gibraltar. When he sees our big backpacks he asks us what are our plans for tonight. We tell him, that we are looking for a park to pitch our tent. He invites us straightaway to spend the night in his flat, offers us food and a shower. As he sees me limping up the stairs, he searches for every kind of possible remedy for the wound to heal quicker. He is such a gentleman!
The next day, Luisa and me are going to the harbour to ask at the pontoons, who is on his way to the Canary Islands. A French Catamaran is going, but it's already full. And then there is Stefan coming down the pontoon on his bike. He has to squish past us and our baggage on the narrow pontoon, so we get into conversation. He actually goes to the Canaries with his 12 m sail yacht "Carabao" and he invites us to come with him. He says, it's OK that we don't have any experience, since it's quite a short trip. If we got really seasick, we could just be using pills or pure ginger for six days. The weather should stay relatively calm, maybe even too calm, so that we would have to motor a fair bit. But I'd prefer that over some heavy storms. Well, that was easy. We didn't have to search for long!
In the morning, we meet at his boat and figure out what we will need for the journey. Luisa and I take care about the food and our part of the drinking water. Furthermore, we buy a cheap pair of sneakers with a white sole. Stefan is an extremely relaxed man, born in 1960 and he has been sailing since he was 15 years old. This May he started sailing around the Mediterranean Sea. He has never been on the Atlantic Ocean before, so it is going to be a big adventure for all us. But I realize from the first moment, that I can trust Stefan blindly.
In the evening we arrive to the boat, carrying the shopping in our big backpacks. There are already a few people hanging around on Stefan's boat to say goodbye. Sonja and Michel have been sailing on their "Pantera" for quite some months now and Paul has sailed his boat down to here all the way from Norway. The three of them wish us good luck for tomorrow and a little more wind than the weather forecast, because we can't tank up enough diesel for six days...
16.10.2016 - We're leaving! We depart relatively late at 11:00, because Stefan ordered a new life raft, that he has to pick up at the gas station in Gibraltar. We motor out of the harbour until we are close to Tarifa. Then the wind increases and we canhoist the sails earlier than expected. The waves are very uneasy and make the boat pitch and toss a lot. "Keep your eyes on the horizon, eat raw ginger and distract yourself with positive thoughts" - This is the captain's advice against seasickness.
As soon as we are further away from the coastline, out on the Atlantic, the waves calm down and there are no freighters anymore, which were crossing our course. Actually, these enormous vessels are one of the biggest dangers for sailing boats on the ocean. Now I become less nauseous and can enjoy the beautiful silence. The only thing I hear is the rushing of wind and water and the flapping of the sails every now and again. The sun is blazing, but the wind cools down our bodies. And this is how a guy from the mountains in Southern Germany shows a Northern German coastal boy how to sail.
Sometimes the current doesn't permit you to go for a swim. So you have to help yourself with a bucket to stay clean.
The galley is very well equipped. We are cooking rice with fresh vegetables, drink coffee and tea and don't have to kill the time with anything else than holding the course, taking in sails and adjusting the wind vane, since these waters are unknown for our captain. In the evening the wind decreases hour after hour, so we have to turn on the engine, unfortunately. After dinner, we organize the shifts for the night watch. I go to bed at 09:00 pm and Stefan steers until midnight. I get up to relieve him at 03:00 am and wake up Luisa at 06:00 am for the start of her shift. This way we can all have enough time to sleep and everyone can enjoy watching out for other ships at full moon. Indeed, we have to motor through the whole night, since there is no wind at all, but it just feels magical to be on the big sea underneath the stars.
The wind increases during the following days and we keep sailing in sunshine and starlit nights. After a wholesome breakfast consisting of scrambled eggs, self-made bread, porridge and fresh mango, we jump into the water. It is beautifully clear and has got the perfect temperature to cool us down. After that, we go on steadily at five knots and roll over very long and calm waves. The minimal movement of the boat allows me even to write in my diary, without having to vomit every ten minutes.
We have quickly found the perfect game for three people to kill the time on board. Stefan and Luisa didn't know it, but they got hooked after a few test rounds and the illustration of thousands of rules. Fortunately, my grandpa told me how to play it when I was younger. We are talking about Skat!
After four days and twelve hours we can spot land! We reach the small island La Graciosa, north of Lanzarote. There is a nice sheltered bay in front of the island, where we can anchor over night. In the morning we get up with a stunning view of the island's volcanoes. The landscape is spectacularly beautiful and barren. A nice contrast to so many days of viewing only water until the horizon.
Playa Montaña Amarilla on La Graciosa.
Luisa discovers the unique crag formations. It looks like a well sheltered place to sleep!
We take the chance to climb one of the small volcanoes. There is only one village with a very small harbour on the island. The other places you can only reach by foot, walking over the hills to the opposite coast. In the background you can see the anchorage with the "Carabao" and the north facing cliffs of Lanzarote.
The next day, we set course for Lanzarote. Reaching the port, we wait for the bad weather to pass and explore the island. It is obviously way bigger than La Graciosa, but similarly calm, because the tourists gather only on the coast. The further you go in to the mountains, the less people you will find hiking through the seas of lava.
Lanzarote is full of volcano craters. Some of them are overgrown with a light green lichen. In contrast to the black lava sea it makes the place appear like a landscape on the moon.
Finally we sail down to Tenerife with Stefan. We say farewell to him, because he has to fly back to Germany and won't be back before December to cross the Atlantic. Unfortunately, he has already got a crew for the crossing. It was a beautiful, harmonic, funny and interesting first sailing experience for me. We were really lucky with having Stefan as our first captain!