Minutes to spare. Hours to wait.
The reappearance of employment for poor old working Partner meant the reappearance of the commute to Spain run for me. (Hop) On the bus.
Not only is he out of the house for 11 hours of the day Mon-Fri, he has to work Sats too.
So I did the usual check of bus times from La Linea to Málaga, and the direct ones from Algeciras to Málaga too, in case I missed the intended bus.
Plan: get up, sort self round, walk to La Linea, get 10.30 bus.
Reality: get up, sort self round,
get distracted with internet decide to tidy flat, mop out and leave place looking good for POWP.
Naturally, because buses are timed sensibly in Spain, the next one after the 10.30am is 4.30pm. That’s right. A whole six hours between them. Which is why I’d looked up the times from Algeciras because you might as well hop on the local bus to Alge and get the directo.
Anyway, I was so disorganised/idle/putting it off that I decided the 4.30 would do just fine. So off I goes to La Linea and arrived with five or ten mins to spare. Not good. It was full. Full???? It’s never full. Or at least it was never full when it left at 2.30 before they changed the times. Perhaps that’s why they changed the times.
Next bus? Seven o’clock. Now, there is stuff all to do in La Linea at the best of times, but hanging around for two and a half hours was not my idea of a good time.
Next bus to Alge? 4.45. I decided to take it, and with any luck would arrive in time to catch the 5.30 directo to Málaga. See, this is why I memorise bus times. Important to know your options.
I sat on the bench talking to a Moroccan woman (in Spanish), as you do while you wait for a bus. Go ask the driver if he’s got any spare seats and can let you on, she said.
Well, I would never have done that years ago in case he said no, but these days this is the woman who jumps out in the middle of the road and says STOP! if she wants a bus to stop. So nothing ventured, I walked up to the throng of people to collar the driver. Whereupon I discovered he was in the middle of telling two or three other people that NO, he did not have any seats left, at all.
I didn’t bother asking. Went back to chat to my new-found pal, who it turned out lived in Gib and was going to visit family in Algeciras.
Bus to Algeciras arrived. I sat opposite the exit door. Jumped out in Alge with five minutes to spare and dashed to the ticket office praying for no queue. Phew. Ticket to Málaga on the 5.30 please.
‘It’s full.’ Yet again.
In olden days when buses were full, they would sometimes put on a second one. Not any more.
I could have a seat on the 7.30. I didn’t have much choice did I? It would still get in before the La Linea one at 7pm because this was a directo, so ETA around 9.30pm. Could be home by 10.30pm.
I bought the ticket. Algeciras is not a bad bus station in which to while away two hours as it does good tortilla and cheap rioja so off I went to the bar. Another dilemma. There was a choice of tortilla (not normal in most bars but this one often has two or three). Potato one, or potato and peppers? I struggled to remember, one of the alternative ones was too moist, ahh, that was onion. I’ll have the pepper one, I said. Any chance of chips? I asked. Nope. Cookers closed down. Oh well.
Time goes relatively quickly with a glass of rioja or two and some tortilla.
Off to wait for the bus. Like many people, I sat on the floor.
And watched the goings on.
Once in Málaga, just before 9.30, I shot round to my local bus stand. Technically I think you are meant to buy a ticket, but plenty of people just get on and pay cash. Time was short and no time to queue at the ticket office. I arrived and saw the bus pulling out.
I went to buy a ticket after all. I had half an hour to kill. The rest of it was killed in the bar with a San Miguel.
So now I’m on the 10pm bus and it’s dark. ETA has been revised to around 11pm. When we pulled into the central Málaga bus stop the bus was nearly full. After that, the bus stopped at every single bus stop in the world for someone to get on or off or both.
This journey used to take 40 minutes. It now takes the best part of an hour. It took an hour and a half before I arrived at my village.
Would I wander around in the UK at 11.30 pm on a Friday night? No. Gib yes. Spain yes. Well, again, I had no choice.
Crickets chirping, frogs croaking, and as I walked up the approach to my pueblo, a horse waiting patiently for his rider to finish his drink at the bar. Very Clint Eastwood. I stroked and patted him. The horse, not Clint Eastwood, while the young lads swinging their legs on the wall ignored me.
I walked up my street, saw the neighbours’ light was on, and called that I was home. I went in and locked the door.
Door to door? Eight hours.
On the return journey I was slightly more organised. Left the house around 9.45am, said goodbye to the neighbours, and skipped off to the bus stop about ten minutes walk away. Just as I was approaching the main road down the dry stream bed (as you do) I saw a man appear with a bag. Not looking good. I reached the main road and saw the back end of the bus disappearing to Málaga. Oh, no. Not again.
I sat and waited for nearly half an hour. When the bus appeared the driver had already spotted me and had his indicator on. I jumped up in relief. Once on the bus I decided not to look at the clock. Either I’d get there in time, or it would be a few more hours wait at Málaga. Shut my eyes, although did take a few cheating peeks.
We rumbled along quite merrily until we started to hit the Málaga suburbs and people started getting on and off. More delays. The only bright spot was the Spanish radio phone-in about noise problems.
‘What noise annoys you, Javier, from Madrid?’ asked the presenter. What a top job to have, being a Spanish radio journalist on a phone-in prog. All you have to do is ask the question, give their name and location, and then sit back and occasionally say ‘Sí’ while they ramble on endlessly about some crap or other.
However at 11am we heard about Mariana Rajoy’s (Spanish prime minister) views on terroristas.
‘Rajoy is sick,’ erupted one woman opposite me. ‘I can’t bear the man, he talks a load of rubbish.’ etc etc etc so naturally the rest of the front of the bus joined in, including the driver.
And she missed her stop. I love Spanish rule-breaking though. She promptly asked the driver if he would let her out in the middle of the road and he did. Haha!
I started clock-watching again. We arrived in Málaga with eight minutes to spare for the 11.30. I could do it if there wasn’t a queue. I shot first off the bus and dashed around the concourse. Horrors!! Long queues. No. A mistake. That was for Tourist Infomation.
Portillo had two taquillas open. Only one person at one, and an empty one. I couldn’t believe my luck. Ticket for the 11.30 to La Linea, I gasped.
‘Hurry, it’s about to leave,’ he said, calmly printing it out. Well, he wasn’t the one who needed to dive on the bus. Because the next one was at 2pm.
‘Gracias, voy corriendo.’ Thanks, I’m running for it.
Bit of an exaggeration as there was a huge group of people hanging around the bus waiting to get on, so I fitted in a quick toilet visit. TMI, no.
Again, in olden days, longer journeys used to stop for coffee, food, and toilet. Now you are expected to sit with crossed legs and starving for three hours.
Luckily I had brought some left-over food with me, so by the time we arrived at Marbella, I decided to have some tapas. Some fake salami slices wrapped up in my garden lettuce with half a tomato. Yum.
I was busy concocting this rather neat little delicacy when I noticed a Bolivian woman standing by my seat. I’d moved into the window seat because the air-con was on and I had no shirt so my arms were getting cold. At least the sun through the window was warm.
‘Is this seat taken?
No. Well only by my bag. I moved it quickly.
‘No, no,’ she said. ‘Please finish your food.’
I’d been doing the time-old trick of trying to hog two seats by forcing people to ask you to move/wake up/move your bag/whatever. Guilty as charged.
At San Pedro she moved to another double empty seat. I don’t know why she picked me in the first place. There were other empty seats.
Anyway, I sat happily in the window seat until we got to Estepona. A middle-aged man got on. And decided to sit next to me. Shit! I should have gone back to the aisle seat. Oh well.
He deserved to pay for sitting next to me by providing information. ‘What’s happened to the bus station?’
We’d stopped at a new location with just a couple of bus stops. I was like the elephant’s child (kipling) and wanted to know.
The bus station had gone. It was crappy anyway and needed a revamp. But it was to be made into a kiddy park. What is with this obsession with kiddy parks? Either they should be playing football or faffing around on their computers. Why waste tax payers’ money on yet more asinine kiddy parks?
‘Where are you going? La Linea or Algeciras?’ La Linea, I replied.
‘Me too’. Well that’s great but if you think I’m talking to you all the way to La Linea you can think again. I looked out of the window. He fell asleep and then snored.
He cleverly woke up at La Linea. We chatted for a few more minutes and he invited me for a beer. Aww. That was nice. I declined, hopefully with some degree of grace. Apart from anything else he’d already rescued his dead cigarette out of his pocket desperate to light up once off the bus. And – I wanted to see my dog.
‘Well, if you decide to come, you know where I am,’ he said kindly, and let me off the bus before him, holding up everyone else. I sorted my passport and took the hike across the frontier, the runway, and a bus pulled up to take me home.
Top travel tips and prices
1. In my case I totally stuffed it up. DO NOT leave getting your bus ticket with a few minutes to spare. I ignored my own advice that I have given out frequently :D
2. At peak times, leave even more time, ie summer and weekends. I made a total FU by travelling Friday evening, I should have remembered this from before on Saturdays, but it was so long ago ….
3. ALWAYS have an alternative travel plan.
4. If you are a woman in your 40s or 50s and want to pick up a man, I recommend the direct bus between La Linea and Málaga. I joke not. I don’t know how it works for men.
5. Travel early. Eat and/or take something with you. Go to the toilet before the journey in case the one on the bus is locked, it frequently is. If there even is one.
6. Check out arrival times. Add some time on because it may well not arrive on time. Important if you doing a connection.
7. Check out where your bus is coming from – it may be delayed if it is coming from half-way across the country especially in bad weather. Rain delays everything in Spain.
8. If you wish to have two seats to yourself, sit in the aisle seat, don’t shower, have a drink, smell of cigarettes, eat something, and/or go to sleep and snore. You MUST look scruffy and intimidating. As ever, it’s easier for men than for women.
9. Do not trust anyone, and use max security for passports, cash and ID. But be polite, most people are actually nice. Just be aware.
10. Take something to cover your arms on the buses, the air-con is cold. Keep your luggage to a minimum, you don’t need to carry your baggage around with you.
That’s probably all you need to know in life and how to travel.
1. La Linea/Algecrias – €2.40 (usually every 45 mins, and same length of journey)
2. Algeciras/Málaga – €14.75 (takes around two hours)
3. La Linea/Málaga – €12.89 (three hours)
4. Málaga to my pueblo – €2.37
5. Two glasses of rioja plus tortilla – €4.70 (Algeciras)
6. San Miguel in Málaga – €1.40 (tap beer)
7. Bus home to Gib – nothing, free bus fare with Gib ID :)
Check portillo for the La Linea/Alge routes to Málaga.
And for the old Brits out there – White horses. I used to rush home from school to watch this. If you watch the vid, the singer, Jackie Lee, has actually taken the time to comment on the youtube post.