A thousand words
"Did you take any pictures?" asks my long-time friend Daniel Del Solar, who has blossomed as a photographer. (I linked to some of his shots a few blogs ago.) He wanted not just to hear about Spain, but to see it.

Well, no. With an explanation -- maybe not a good one, but here it is. After I lost my last camera (it was a nifty, pocket-size Japanese number I'd picked up in Tokyo, and I don't know what happened to it), I deliberately renounced photography. Stupid, you'll say, for someone who travels and reports. However it did make a kind of sense. I had decided that since words were my medium, I had to discipline myself to describe the scenes without depending on the camera. There are times when a thousand words are worth far more than a picture.

Also, Susana, my constant companion, usually had her camera, and my photography wasn't exactly brilliant, and I'd rather be a first-rate writer than a third-rate snapshooter. Anyway, I've worked my way through that phase, and now I think that as soon as I can afford one, I need to get a camera again, and take the trouble to learn how to take better and more memorable pictures. Meanwhile, I'm going to try to do what I set out to do: make you see some of what I saw and heard and felt, through words. We'll start with a pan shot:

It's hot, dry, dusty on the southeast coast of Spain, but the blue Mediterranean glistens just a few meters away from where we're standing. It's about 5 p.m., so the heat has let up enough so that we can consider hitting the beach, but first I want to take you up this hill. There, see that tower up there on the peak? That earth-colored cylinder sticking up jauntily on the edge of the bluff, looking out over the bay? There's a piece knocked out of its top, maybe that's why people call it the "Torre del Rayo," tower of the lightning bolt -- it must have been hit in one of the very infrequent, but very violent thunderstorms in this dry land. I can tell you things about that tower -- how it was originally built by the Moorish rulers some time in the 11th century, one of many they erected as lookouts against marauding Christians or rival Muslim raiders. But more on that later. We drive up a narrow highway winding up the hill -- fortunately, there's not a lot of traffic, because, here, wait, a sharp right, and we're at the back of the high bluff with the tower. It's a dirt road, or rather the dirt barely covers the rough stone. I have to drive slowly, gently, because these ruts are enormous. The trail -- to call it a road is perhaps too generous -- branches out here, that one to the left will take us to another beach, I'll show you later, it's great for snorkeling, and it's one of the few beaches with a some welcome shade in the afternoon, after the sun passes the peak of the bluff.

Instead we take this climbing branch of the trail. Maybe we'd better just leave the car here, and soldier on on foot. Have you got good sturdy shoes? Or sandals with tough treads? Good. Don't drink all the water yet, it's got to last us. That? Those thick stout leaves, like aloe vera? They call it "pita" here, it's what Mexicans call maguey, imported from Mexico long ago and now spread all over arid plains of southern Spain. There's not a lot of plant life here. Nopales, also imported from Mexico, manage to grow. Anything else needs a lot of irrigation.

OK, here we are. I know you're tired. It's been a steep climb. And up close, this tower isn't much to look at. It was probably always like this, solid about two thirds of its height, like almost all these look out towers. There's just a little open space on top, like a crow's next, for a sentinel or two. When the Christians finally took this area, they couldn't keep sentinels in the tower, because they kept getting kidnapped by Berber and Arab raiders from Africa. It's only a little ways away, a short sail from here to Tunis or Algiers. There's no stairway up to the top of the tower now -- we would have had to bring our own ladder. But that's all right. We're high enough. The sea stretches out to the northeast. Whitecaps now, you can feel the levante. That should mean an easterly, but actually the wind comes out from the north-northeast. They say the levante drives people crazy. When there's a strong poniente, the wind blowing from the opposite direction, it drives cold water into the bay, and jellyfish. Now look southwest, down on the town. There's Carboneras.

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