Published: September 29th 2004September 29th 2004
Cognition on the Costa Del Sol:
Adapted from a much longer version especially for TravelBlog.org
It's nearly Monday afternoon by the time we get started and there isn’t much time left. Trying to film Dennis Mckenna isn’t easy because he keeps making me laugh, and to make things worse my arm muscles have locked up after hours of filming without a tripod and I’m oxygen starved because I’ve slowed my breathing to get smoother takes so when Dennis eventually decides to give it a break I’m relieved enough to offer him a ride to Gibraltar to see the Pillars of Hercules, even though it’s already after 3.00 PM. Fortunately, it’s light till after 10.00PM on the Costa Del Sol, so this is not a problem. The
Digging up my passport, which I haven’t seen for nearly two months, I check my visa to make sure it allows me multiple entries to Spain but can’t make it out for sure. As a last resort I warn Dennis that, if I get stuck on Gibraltar, he’ll have to cancel his flight back to the USA until it all gets sorted. Although he readily agrees, I know he thinks I’m paranoid,
but none of this matters as we head west towards Gibraltar with the top down and the music up.
On the Toll Road, we approach speeds that remind me of our dash to Ibiza, except we’re not in a hurry because signs tell us that, at these speeds, the drive should take us less than an hour. We’ve got the music turned up so loud that echoes of Loggins and Messina, Pathway to Glory, howl back at us from the tunnel walls. I’ve heard this old tune a number of times recently because this is still the only audio CD we have in the car. Amazingly, it’s like the best I’ve ever heard it, so this in itself is truly amazing.
Fortunately, the tunnel is a long one, so the violin gets to play right through and by the time we hit daylight we’re heading downhill towards an outline in the distance that can only be ‘The Rock’. Being the historian and scholar that he is, Dennis probably derives more satisfaction from coming here than I, who sees an outline that looks nearly as cool as Cape Point, back home in Cape Town, South Africa but it’s all
good as we cruise into Algeciras, the adjoining Spanish town.
I’m more relaxed about leaving Spain, which over the last few months has become home-base, in fact I’m feeling too good for formal parking, so I decide to leave the car with the roof down in the parking lot of a McDonald’s, conveniently situated just across the road from the border. Dennis doesn’t feel good about leaving the car with McDonald’s. He thinks we’ll get clamped or towed, but I assure him that Mc Donald's is a good place to draw the line. Whatever. Leaving the car to its fate, we march over to the border with passports in hand. Dennis is let through immediately. I’m an invisible South African, an oddity hardly worth noting. (This is not the droid you’re looking for….) The guard motions me on with a suitably numbed look, or is it just my imagio?
Gibraltar. With the border post only receding at walking pace, I’m already missing the car. Thus, it is with some relief that we soon come to topless double-decker bus with the engine running. Figuring there isn’t much space to get lost on Gibraltar, we climb to the upper deck
and wait for it to leave. It takes nearly 15 minutes for it to do this, during which time we soak it all in. The bus eventually begins to move and immediately the air smells different. Looking around, I see this isn’t as surprising because the bus is busy crossing a major runway. I snap a picture of Dennis with sunlight coming down from the Rock for good measure but he hardly notices. He’s in another world and I wonder if he’s having a flashback to ’71 from his days in the Amazon. Hell, he’s just spent the whole day reading me his long forgotten diary, written in ’71 in the Amazon. With a shiver, I can’t help but remember what he’d told me; “We all went nuts for two weeks”. But what does that mean nearly 25 years later if time is always in the present?
I know that back in ’71, Terence, Dennis and three other shroom pilots had tried to utter the cosmic tone, a new language which would somehow bridge shamanism and science. I look down at my watch in confusion. It’s exactly 6.00 PM but what else do I know? Timestamps can be unreliable,
ask any sci-fi writer.
The bus drops us off somewhere suitable incongruous, meaning we don’t know where we are but this in itself is nothing novel so we walk until we see shops at which point Dennis surprises me by diving into one shop after another on a mission only he can relate to, because every time I try and point out something I like he just shakes his head and looks at me in a manner that suggests; “Are you serious?”, so I dawdle in the narrow cobbled street, amusing myself by trying to spot the natives, of which there can’t be that many. Not too much later we’re investigating a handy graveyard because there seems to be nothing else to do. We note several graves dating back to the Battle of Trafalgar and are suitably impressed. Dennis smokes his pipe and I take pictures, but where to now? Walking towards what looks like a dead end, I spy cables leading up the mountainside towards the top of the rock. At least we’ve found the cable car. It’s only a short walk but even this would have probably been in vain if we weren’t picked up by a bored taxi driver who literally insists on giving us a quick tour of the rock because the cable way has been closed since 5.00 PM. Don’t we know that it’s already 7.00 PM? Inclined to give the pushy driver, who wants 70 euro for a quick tour, a miss, Dennis somehow convinces me to bargain him down to 50 Euro, which includes a ride to the border when we're done, so we board the air-conditioned minibus and before long we’re being asked to step out and take pictures of the coastline of Morocco, which is easily visible.
Like Joey once said; “This is better than the real thing”. Viewed from Gibraltar, the straits separating Africa and Europe, the Pillars of Hercules, is an awesome spot. The weather is hot. We’re traveling light, so light I run out of memory on the cam and I have to hustle back to the cab to locate a spare in the bag I’d trustingly left behind on the back seat. Anyways, I know the cabby thinks we’re tourist scum, so why should he steal our stuff? The cabbie also pretends to be patient but I read minds and get to remember that it’s not fun being telepathic.
We don’t rush back to the cab, hanging around taking pictures and stretching the moment as far as we can, but after a while we saunter back the cab and he heads on up the back of the Rock over a narrow, windy road while proudly telling us how NATO stockpiles atomic weaponry for their nuclear subs ‘there’ and ‘there’, plus other, presumably declassified information. I wonder whether he thinks we’re Russian spies or something. Do you want to know more?
Of course, sci-fi is alive because I’m surrounded by surrealism and nuclear weapons so it’s difficult to keep my mouth shut but I do my best impersonation of a dumb tourist and let him continue his rap because we’re making our way up the back of the Rock of Gibraltar and I don’t want to confuse him into thinking he can scare us by driving badly, or some other cabbie trick reserved for tourist scum like us. According to our cabbie, Gibraltar is ‘Independent’, although Britain ‘controls’ its independence, which Spain wants. We nod sagely, taking it all in, like everything else.
Fortunately, Dennis doesn’t like heights either. This makes me feel better about my own dislike of falling big distances onto hard rock. It’s all good as we come to a stop near the top.
To his credit, our cabbie does seem to enjoy being at the top of the rock. He tells us to take our time looking around. To make sure we understand, he pulls out a newspaper and lights a fag. We hike up the last hundred meters to the lookout. From here the view is intense and we get a great few of the sheer side of the Rock dropping harshly into the smooth ocean some thousand feet below. You can get vertigo here and like I've already said, I’m no birdman, so after shooting off most of the cam’s memory chip I make my way down from the lookout, wondering how many times it had been strafed by Messerschmitt 109’s in WW2, and how many soldiers had been killed here. I’m no historian, but things like that still worry me. Dennis isn’t far behind, held up by an examination of some plant specie he finds interesting. I like his T-shirt, which tells you what you need to know about the ayahuasca experience, so I ask him to pose for a picture at the bottom of the medieval stone stairway leading up to the WW11 gun emplacements and lookout we’d just come from. I’ve only got two shots left. I’m making sure I get a good pic but the instant I hit the trigger a monkey jumps onto Dennis’s head. Given the nature of Dennis’s ayahuasca hallucination back on Ibiza, when he’d told us that the plants had once told him; “You monkeys just think you’re running things”, the monkey freaks us both out, but doesn’t get away with Dennis’s hat, which seemed to be its primary mission -or is it part of something deeper? I look around for signs of the ultra-natural but am quickly forced to conclude that we’re on our own. Jamming his baseball cap firmly onto his head, Dennis re-lights his pipe of Captain Black. It’s a coincidence, nothing more, but this caper has been full of them.
The cabbie drops us off at the border post. We pay him only what we'd previously agreed on and he doesn’t bother hassling us for a tip. I guess maybe he’s telepathic too?
Getting back into Spain isn’t as difficult as I’d thought; “This is not the droid you’re looking for”, and the drive back is uneventful, but I could get used to driving fast on the wrong side of the road in the middle of the night with the roof down and the music up.
Costa Del Sol
9th August 2004
© All Media. 9th August 2004. Mythmaking and Legend by Schwann