Saturday, July 12, 2008

A tale of two travellers

Summer is well and truly here now. The temperatures in Spain are well into the thirties and the beaches are packed with holidaymakers - Spaniards and foreigners alike.

Anyway because of the heat it is easier travelling in the late afternoon, and arriving in Spain/Gib in the evening.

So, I left Algeciras on the 17.45 bus. Estimated journey time, according to the timetable booklet, is 1hr 45 mins. I don't think it has ever done it in that time, it is nearer 1 hr 50 or 55. Anyway five or ten minutes doesn't make much difference to me.

The bus set off five minutes late and it didn't seem to be going quite as fast as they usually do. We got to Marbella after about an hour.

Just opposite me were a couple of English-speaking travellers. They had been chomping on their apples and chattering away all the way up.

When the bus stopped in the bus station, they asked someone getting off if we were in Málaga. He hesitated for a split second. He was Spanish but I don't think he had any trouble understanding. I think, a bit like me, he was more surprised that they had no idea where they were.

"No, Marbella," he answered. And got off the bus.

Maybe they didn't have any idea how long the journey was going to take. Maybe they didn't have a map and didn't know that Marbella was approximately half-way. Or that a bus would have to be seriously flying to travel the 140kms from Algeciras to Málaga in an hour.

They had clearly also missed the large lettering over the bus station that said ESTACION AUTOBUSES MARBELLA and CIUDAD DE MARBELLA. Always helpful to keep an eye on your surroundings I find.

As we set off again they leaned over to speak to me. Did I know where the train station was in Málaga, and was it near the bus station? Could they walk to the train station?

Yes, I did, and they were right next door to each other. Of course they could walk, it would probably be faster than taking a taxi. And cheaper obviously. I told them Málaga was the next stop and we would be there in about 50 minutes or so. I said I would point out the train station and show them where to go.

As we came into Málaga, one of them leaned over again, pointed at a shopping centre and asked if it was the train station. I suppose these days shopping centres and train stations can look similar, but in Spain, train stations (like bus stations) usually have the word ESTACION in fairly prominent letters somewhere on the outside. A useful word to learn when travelling around Spain and not too difficult or dissimilar to station.

"No, we're nearly there, I'll show you where it is," says me. "Oh, what time is your train?'

"Eight o'clock." Well, hahahahaha, how I did not laugh there and then I do not know. (It was now 7.50pm).

I tried very hard to think of a polite and not too upsetting way to tell them they weren't going to catch their train.

One of them said "She's going to tell us we're not going to catch our train."

I think I need to practise not displaying what I am thinking quite so obviously.

Turned out they were going to Madrid and missing this train would screw up all their connections.

"Have you got your ticket?"

Well, they had their EuroRail pass or whatever it is called, but they needed to go and get their reservation.

A couple of weeks ago, I was busy closing down the computer prior to leaving for the bus when an email came in, so I foolishly read it. And because of that, I nearly missed the bus.

The sender of the culpable email later patronisingly sent me a Top Tip - always expect the worst and leave sufficient time for unforeseen delays!

It sprung to mind immediately with the two travellers. And I thought about adding my own Top Tip. Always arrive at a bus/train station in Spain with at least half an hour to spare (assuming you haven't bought your ticket/reservation in advance), and if you don't know where you are going, make it an hour to spare.

I hope they got their train although the truth is, I would be very surprised if they did.

Travelling is not what it was. More people are doing it and there are so many delays for whatever reason. Best to enjoy it and not stress yourself out by setting an impossible itinerary.

1 comment:

Anastasia said...

I am a very nervous public transport user because I do not use it very often, and when I do it lets me down usually.

So I am one of those people who plan to the 'enth degree and set off far too early, not trusting any information on offer.

An "Impossible Itinerary" would never be contemplated by me I am afraid!

Especially after reading this tale!