The train is broken

“The train is broken” were the discouraging first words that greeted my travel buddy and I when we approached the ticket counter at the train station in Algeciras. We were scheduled to leave that afternoon on the Express train to Madrid and embark upon a five and a half hour rail journey.   Not comprehending what the ticket agent was saying to us in his broken English (obviously just as broken as the train) we couldn’t fathom that we were now stranded in Algeciras.  If we thought that our arrival by rail was arduous and challenging, nothing could prepare us for our impending departure from this Mediterranean port town.

Speaking minimal Spanish, the only two words that rolled effortlessly off my tongue were “vino tinto” (red wine) and “bolso” (handbag). Were there other words that I should have also added to my two word vocabulary?  Apparently so, as it would have been useful to at least have memorized the phrases “when is the train leaving?” and “why is the train broken?” A little bit of English, un peu de Français and some Espanol spoken by the other passengers helped us understand the complexity of the issue. There had been some type of industrial accident, resulting in the train tracks needing to be repaired, halting all incoming and outgoing trains. No one seemed to know exactly when the job would be completed, maybe sometime tomorrow or perhaps the next day or maybe even the following week?  Why hurry?  Are you in a rush to get somewhere?  Linger, stay a while, have a siesta, put your feet up, relax, don’t worry, take it easy, and if all else fails, have some more vino, in mass quantities, if need be.

Yikes!! I clearly should have clued in when it took us more than 12 hours to get to Algeciras on this old-fashioned now broken-down caboose that our departure journey would prove to be equally as gruelling and difficult.  Algeciras and train travel are two words that don’t bode well in my books.

The ticket counter had erupted into full-blown chaos, with disgruntled passengers screaming, crying and threatening the helpless ticket agents, who were clearly ill-prepared for a “catastrophe” of this magnitude.

On the bright side, the sun had dared to peek through the sky and opted to do battle with the rain gremlins and kicked the clouds to the curb. Was it mere coincidence that the sun had once again chosen to re-claim this Moroccan inspired enclave and give us a parting gift of a sunny send-off into a yet unknown abyss on the bus ride from hell? It would have been an even more fitting farewell to have been ushered out of town with gale force winds amidst a torrential downpour!!

Yup, you read that correctly, as we were to be herded onto a bus to the town of Ronda, where we would then catch the train to Madrid.  Little did we know that Ronda sits precariously on the precipice of the El Tajo gorge, nestled deep in the Serrania de Ronda mountain range. We were also unaware that the ravine was an impressive 730 metre drop  straight down into a bottomless pit.

The two hour journey to Ronda started out pleasantly enough. Feeling smug and content that I had snagged the window seat, I drank in the spectacular views of the magnificent lush tree-lined hills and ravines.  Weaving and winding our way up the mountains, our bus leaning perilously close to the edge of the curvaceous road, I tentatively dared to peek through the window to gage our whereabouts and was startled to see that the tree lined scenery had now been replaced by plunging cliffs and steep escarpments. Yikes!! 

Clutching my bronze limited edition Carolina Herrera handbag, I prayed that my pink-sneakered feet would not be the first to be hurled out of the window when the bus lurched over the ledge, having mistakenly navigated the depth of one of the numerous sharp hairpin curves.

 Had I not spent the remainder of the journey with my eyes squeezed tightly shut, bargaining for my life, I would have taken some digital snapshots of the incredible views but alas, I needed to keep sane and not see how perilously close to the edge of the world I was.

This explains why my blog does not have any pictures of the bus ride to Ronda.

 Perhaps you can look up Ronda in a picturesque travel book and check out the spectacular cliff-hanging scenery for yourself.  I’m certain that you would have done the same, huddling under a blanket, cradling your newly acquired designer handbag, praying that you survive the bus ride from hell, anxiously counting down the minutes until the bus screeches to a halt in Ronda.

Come experience a once in a lifetime roller-coaster ride on the bus with me and discover the peaks and valleys of Spanish bus travel with me...

0 Response to "The train is broken"

Post a Comment