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'ARROZ CUBANA' Costa Brava, july 2001
It's been a stifling hot day and I have been stalling in the house. It seems to be always difficult to just lock the door and go. No, there´s still a few pages to write, dishes to wash, plants to give water, windows to be locked and my Mac away to hide away...... So it is late afternoon before I close the gate. Not bad timing because it can be hot as hell here, siesta seems to be a must. And only than, once I glide down the dried riverbed to the train, I feel the joy of away from home. The house lost its grip on me.....
I take the 5 o´clock train to Costa Brava.The train population makes a colourful mixture of Northern and Southern man. A lot of red burned fair skin and blond hair between the Mediterranean characters and some black migrant workers. I hear Scandinavians and many Dutch. Most return from a day trip to Barcelona, some carry labelled suitcases, after just having landed in Barcelona Airport. The train stops in Blanes, one of the few mega tourist hot spots. I go straight to my favourite coast ride, between Tossa and S.Feliu de Guichols, a 24 km winding strip of smooth and winding tarmac. This is the heartland of the Costa Brava, where spectaculair rockformations cascade down into the big blue. Amazingly little traffic consisting of most French and Dutch families. I stop at a few viewpoints looking drastically in the sea and showing the dented rocky coastline. The sun hides behind the ridges, and the strip of shade turns more and more azure into black. I find a remote cala, a little horseshoed niche in the mountains. There are a few, some fenced and private, some just to steep to clunk down with a bike. But I make a good choice, this old dirt road, partly washed away by floods, partly overgrown by the bush brings me to paradise. Feeling like a mountainbiker I make it close to sea level in one go. I am surprised to see squatting like tents. Could there be some tribe living here?. It reminds me a little of Central Africa. The same cluster of tents, scattered under the pine trees and cork oaks, all made with a great respect for the evironment. Most tents are covered with protective tarps, green from mosses. It seems this camp is permanent, but there is nobody around. I walk into one family unit and call. The inhabitants must all like walking a lot because there is no way to come down by car. It is getting twilight when my view is opening up and trees make way for sea and sky. There are some six people sitting on the pebbled beach. The mountains seem untouched, virgin green and the water is crystal clear. In the middle of the cala lays a little island, all in orange reddish rock. I ask a family if I am disturbing. 'Not at all, this place is open to people for 30 years, you are free to stay here as long as you like!'. For a moment I feel I entered Utopia. The water feels soft and I can see sea creatures just with my open eye. I swim away and when I look back, the violet in the sky just makes me shiver. I feel like on a beach on the West coast of New Zealands' Southern Island. How is it possible that such a untouched place exists so close to the mega tourism?. I get the answer a few hours later. In the middle of the beach stands the only firm roof. It is a beach bar and 'Edu' has rebuilt it after the previous roof was washed away by an angry sea. He lives here permanent now for the last 3 years. 'I had to leave my 'piso', my flat in Granollers if I wanted to stay with my dogs. So I moved here'. Edu is a man in his fifties. He loves the sea, his 2 dogs and the remoteness, 'the sea, like dogs are more predictable than people, especially when the latter live in such great numbers in one area. In this Cala, all kind of people come, but mostly families with children. Most are naturalists and have a great love for nature'.
The sea breathes out a salty seaweedy smell. I hear the pebbles hussling against the shoreline. The dried palmleaves whisper in the wind. A few lights of fishermen in the distance. Edu carresses his pitt bull and 'Blondie', his little teckel. Apart from them, there is 'Niam', a teenager from Badalona, a working town near Barcelona. He is funny. He prefers to stay here the entire summer and takes a little care of the place. With two bended and rusted nails, they hang a little medicine cabinet on the wall.
The old sticker of the Red Cross still shows. Second hand, like everything around us. It looks like everything is made from a shipwreck. Edu has a solarpanel on the roof and plays a radio and a fluorescent bulb illuminates.Both are quite politically involved. For the first time, I meet Catalans who openly talk about the Franco years. Niam from what he read and heard and Edu from first hand experience. He thinks that after all, there was less corruption during Franco. He thinks that there is too much freedom now. 'Mucho corrupcion, demansiado!'. But than we wouldn't have this Naturalist beach. Franco was strongly opposed against it. In the seventies, there has been a revolt of Naturalists against a brigade of police. Than the women showed there buttocks and men made an obscene gesture with their arms.
Edu used to work 'contrabanda', he smuggled sigarettes from Andorra. He knows the tricks of the trade. 'We had to pay the police some money, they would than tell the press they confiscated 100 boxes, but we would bring 2000 illegal into Spain. Nowadays with the drugs it goes all the same. Than they find somany kilo's they burn half and sell the rest to fill their own pocket....'
The unusual couple start to mobilise the kitchen at midnight. They want me to share. 'Arroz Cubano', muy buono!', encourages Naim. I bring them my can opener. The meal excells in simplicity. Edu piles up 3 plates with rice and tops it with a can of 'tomato frito', fried tomatoes. An egg over it and 'ya esta'. Thats it. I have to apologize for my little appetite. I just stuffed myself with bread when I was told not to light a fire. When police finds you they will give you a 3.000$ fine, life imprisonment if your fire causes a forest fire...
They are allowed to camp here by the grace of the owner who doesn't seem to mind as long as it stays clean and relatively untouched.
Next time I come Edu will give me a place. 'It is perfect to write your book here', he added. He would like me to come in the winter as well. He is very lonely and if it wasn't for his dogs he would have moved out.. He works in a village a few cala's further. If the sea is quiet tomorrow, he will go there in his little boat.
With a light heart I walk over the pebbles to my tent. Such a familiar act, how many times have I walked like this?. Meeting people and staying in the nature, brushing my teeth while gazing the stars, I love it!
Maarten Haentjens Dekker, july 2001
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