Garrucha reconsidered

Garrucha reconsidered

I changed my mind about Garrucha. I struggled with it last year (see the blogpost of 5 February – Garrucha: one town, two worlds). From the little rented cortijo where we’re staying, we look at it across the scrubby coastal plain, and beyond it the sea. It’s unattractive this land in between, so unlike the majority of coastal strips that are, if not attractive, at least interesting, put to use with their relentlessly regimented rows of crops open to the elements or cloaked in plastic tents. Its hinterland certainly doesn’t do Garrucha any favours.

Gradually, I did start to like Garrucha and now, on a second visit, I’m really getting hooked. Of course, Uncle Juan helped. Characters make places more accessible, help you get beyond the bricks and mortar, the sad bars and shuttered shops, the half-finished apartment blocks. Today we walked along the seafront from the northern end of the town to the southern where it almost joins up with Mojacar Playa, the next resort. The sandy beaches to the north give way to Garrucha’s small but busy port. A Panama-registered container ship, The Zeus, is docked there ready to load cargo, four white cranes on its deck standing out against its ferrous-red hulk. Alongside, a compact marina full of crafts: yachts, ketches, launches, dinghies – so many names and I haven’t a clue which is which. And, as if in homage to the cliché of an old harbour town, a rusty sloop lies hard against the sea wall, abandoned to its decay.

The seafront is laid with generous pavements and planted with palm trees; the occasional café is doing very little trade on this cool mid-January day. We pass a busier one, where a group of men converses in accents too thick for me to understand. Fishermen, maybe, but some of them seemed older, looked like men who come here every day at the same hour, to the same café to meet and talk to the same amigos, perhaps about the same things. To put the world in order.

At the end of the port, the sandy beach reasserts itself and we walk to the far edge of the town then turn back. One block back we find the ‘high street’ with its shoe shops and hairdressers, shops selling women’s clothes, farmacias, ferreterias and a few mostly unwelcoming bars.

But the thing about Garrucha, as we get past first impressions, is that it’s got some real life going on. It’s a working town. You can hear Spanish spoken in the streets. You get a sense of a community that you don’t seem to find in some of the other coastal towns where tourism is the lifeblood and English is the majority language and chips are on the Menu del Dia.