Goodbye Tarifa – hoofprints in the sand

I am really sad to be leaving Tarifa. Today I go to Cordoba and will spend most of the day on buses, but it looks like the route goes along the Costa del Sol so hopefully some nice views. Plus being on the bus is relaxing because you don’t have to think about a single thing.

But where else is there a little beach town quite like Tarifa?   Where else do horses exercise on the beach, dogs run free, nature is at its best, you can see Africa over the water, and everyone minds their own business.  The town itself has signs of a long history.

There are a number of important person statues in town dating from about 1000 years ago. There is a large statue of Jesus at the entrance of the port.  It is a bit smaller than the huge ferries we have these days but 1000 years ago would have towered over the incoming ships.   I can imagine in older times the religious identity of a Mediterranean port would have been an important thing for sailors to know.  There are also some homages in town to a fellow called Sancho the Brave who had a pet lion.  Here is a photo of Sancho the Brave.

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There is a new part of the town but the old quarter was very cute with the little winding alleyways which I find so fascinating, and in one of these little alleyways I noticed a pub advertising Guiness!

I am told that the wind which hurt my ear drums was called the ‘Pontiente’.  It comes from the west and is ‘no problem’.  The wind to watch out for is the ‘Levante’ which comes from the east, is stronger, and carries dust.  Glad I missed that!  Yesterday the wind stopped and the weather became perfect.   Bunny was able to get in some beach hours which were so relaxing that she fell asleep and got sunburned.  Now she is a bright red bunny.

With no wind the sea flattened out like a big bath tub and we ambled over the waves to see the whales and dolphins.  It was really magical because they came over and played and spurted and swam while we bobbed around on our boat and there was something about it that was infinite luxury.   The tour was run by enthusiastic young marine scientists so it was very educational and we all got little charts showing us how to identify the different types of whales and dolphins.  It seems this bit of ocean is scientifically special in lots of ways.  I also found out why there is that the funny little gap in the hills (the “gateway to the Mediterranean”).  It is because two tectonic plates join there, the Europe plate and the Africa plate.  It is 900 km deep and the waters are rich in nutrients, hence the abundant sea life. The surface water is cold and comes from the Atlantic.  Underneath the water  is heavier and more saline, and comes from the Mediterranean.  On the way home we passed by Gibralter, which really is a big old rock in the sea covered with buildings, and what I didn’t know is that it is actually the United Kingdom.

I thought I might walk home along the beach instead of getting a taxi. Well the good news is that I made it home in that post sunset glow where you can still see, but it took at least 3 times longer than I expected.   However it was a stunning walk into the sunset and I will remember it forever.  On the way I was passed by an extraordinary dappled-grey horse, perfectly proportioned with mane and tail all knotted up, and such a presence of royalty. It was being exercised on the beach in a specialised gait with the obligatory a little dog scampering alongside supervising.

Here in Tarifa the sounds are horses whinnying, ocean waves, and the wind.

23 May 2012, Tarifa Spain

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