Overnight we lurched and rolled west across the Ibiza Channel, with no wind and a lumpy beam swell from the north. Not un-tedious. But it was a gorgeous night and with, for me, an unusual absence of seasickness.
On the Spanish mainland our planned landfall was Alicante, the loom of which had become visible by midnight. At dawn however, when the city declared itself, Eric Idle’s spiel about Costa del Sol rang in my ears and we decided to bypass the town and sail on. Alicante looked dreadful – row upon row of white, high-rise dominoes just like those coastal Brazilian towns.
So we set course for Cartagena and a large school of dolphins showed us the way.
We were not disappointed by Cartagena, 50 miles south. It is an all weather harbour of historical significance. After Gibraltar it is the safest and most accessible port in the SW Mediterranean, currently the base for the Spanish Navy. The marina, in the centre of town, is 200 metres from the archaeological museum and the Roman arena. Our berth was quiet, cheap and secure. There was a gentle, cool breeze and a satisfying absence of tourists. We couldn’t’ve done better.
Cartagena has some pleasing baroque and art deco architecture, good food and wines. It was the perfect place for me to begin the lengthy business of my telephone replacement. I will not bore you with the details, except to say that it took a whole day’s travel out to Murcia and was book-ended by two 70 euro taxi fares. We saw a good bit of Spain in the process.
From here the dreadful, legendary Costas (del Sol and Blanca) stretch 250 miles SW to Gibraltar. There are places to stop en route but very little to see, I fear. The coast is dry, rocky and barren, punctuated by intensive and ugly tourist development and orchards covered with acre upon acre of plastic sheeting. Before the Spanish economy went pear-shaped there had obviously been wild speculative investment along the shore, some of it quite illegal.
The Sierra Nevadas do make an impressive backdrop to all this, however.