Thankfully, the weekend ride was still on. Lyndon had elected to still come down and enjoy the warmer weather, but would now just be forced to watch from the sidelines and endure bad peg-leg jokes. With nothing more that could be done, I rolled off the ramp in Tarifa and started the ride north along the freeway back to Malaga. The sun was setting, the sea breeze gently buffeting the bike ... only I was in a tunnel. Suddenly it was no longer gentle, but insistent. A strong push kicked my rear wheel wide to the right, catapulting me into the beginnings of a 120 kph tank-slapper. To my utter disbelief, I looked left to see a Range Rover, attempting to undertake me in the two-thirds of a lane between my bike and the tunnel wall. Kicking out with my left foot to stabilize the bike, I slowed as a large piece of plastic broke away from his bumper. Veering into the next lane, I watched him speed past – squinty eyes peering out of a fat face, resolutely pretending I hadn't been there, his wife staring at me, blanch-faced and open mouthed in horror. It took me a good 10 seconds or so to realize that this had indeed just happened, at which point I noticed his two children in the back seat grinning and giving me the finger – no doubt a skill they had learned off their soon-to-be late father.
This is what happens to a Wolfman pannier upon impact with a Range Rover.
The Range Rover had be moving fast, but I moved faster. His wife managed to somehow become even whiter when I pulled up alongside her window, but the fat face of the driver stayed resolutely fixed upon the road ahead, ignoring her imploring tugs on his sleeve. Even when I shot forward and pulled around in front of him, those eyes still somehow seemed to find somewhere, anywhere to look but at me, obstinate in his refusal to acknowledge the reality of the situation he'd caused, despite my gestures leaving very little doubt about my intentions. Betting that if he hadn't the courage to look at me, he wouldn't have the stomach to deliberately run me down, I tapped the brakes and slowly forced him to slow, but I misjudged. With a sudden dive of his fender that sent his wife lurching forward, he swerved off, down an exit ramp, and was gone before I could follow.
As I toyed briefly with the idea of taking the next exit and seeing if I could intercept him, I heard shouting from a Renault next to me. An agitated man in painters overalls was waving at me frantically out of his window. Fearing the scrape had inflicted some unnoticed damage, I pulled over, and no sooner than had I removed my helmet, the man was out, babbling in Spanish and waving at the road behind us. Unable to say more than “Lo siento, no hablo Espanol”, he soon calmed down and it became clear he wasn't upset at me, but rather as furious with the FatRover as I had been, having almost copped the piece of plastic I kicked off it. Miming his heart pounding in his chest and shaking his head, he made it clear he thought I was a dead man, as it started to dawn on me how very nearly I had been. Relieved I was OK, he gave me a brief continental hug and took off. Adrenaline exhausted, I took a moment to calm myself down, and despite the anger having etched that fat, squinty face into my memory, I let it go. I stayed in the slow lane the rest of the way to Malaga, eyes fixated on my rear view mirrors.
Arriving late at the Motoadventours workshop, Hana was as horrified as the painter had been, and barely concerned about the scuffs on the pannier. Before long, the bike was away safe and I was packing my backpack, a crowded van pulled up outside. The clatter of crutches and several raucous pommy accents left no doubt as to who was inside: out piled Lyndon, followed by Shaun, Rick and Baz, our local expert/bus driver/ride leader/mad bloke. Introductions out of the way, Shaun was the first to ask me how the trip went. Simultaneously wired and tired from the last hour, the best I could answer was “I don't remember...”.
“So! You went to Ketama after all!” he said, bringing laughter all round.
Despite Ketama's fame for sale of cannabis by the cubic foot, my memory loss was more exhaustion and reverse culture shock than purple daze. Intent on beer and seafood, they piled me into the van and we took off, winding up steeper and steeper roads into tower-like hills. Baz threw the laden van around like a rally driver, obviously intimately acquainted with each curve, and before long we all piled out into a BBQ-seafood restaurant with a view to die for (or at least I hope the shrimp felt that way).
Thankfully there was no real dress-code, and as the lads ordered beer I took a moment to myself. Staring down the coast the way I'd come that day, I realized this jaded state of confusion I'd been struggling with for much of the trip wasn't going to disappear with some epiphany - but that was the whole point. I'd gone away on this trip with my head full of tales from uni students or their gap year, bragging of the cultural revelations they'd experienced between pub-hopping their way along whatever tourist route they'd chosen. But this was different – there was no filter for me, no guide, no real plan. I saw whatever I ran into, good or bad, and the confusion was simply the result of unfiltered exposure to a world I didn't understand. In a way, the confusion was actually the most valuable aspect of the trip, and the best thing I could do now was stop trying to rationalize or understand it, and go eat some chilli prawns.