Cloud banks descend from mountain ridges as the yellow of dawn turns white then pewter. Distant horizons emphasise an unappreciated reality: that Spain is huge, and that our 470-kilometre journey will make little impression on its vastness.
Signposts to strange places slip past in blurs of blue: Guadix, Baza, Lorca, Murcia, Cartagena, Alicante. Ancient churches and Moorish castles; green fields and olive groves; dull bands of desert and harsh barren hills; provincial towns and upland wilderness – all are interlocked in an unrolling ribbon of changing landscape.
Inconsequential thoughts drift through your mind on a journey like this. Who owns that white cortijo on the hill? Do families really live in those caves above Guadix? Are wild boar peering from that forest at my rattly old van? What dramas unfolded in that ruined hacienda? Who works in that roadside workshop and what do they make? Who built that hilltop fortress? Why are all cities besieged by the same dreary and dispiriting industrial estates?
At 1pm we behold a new and unexpected sight: a panorama of skyscrapers. This is our destination – a place of glass and concrete called Benidorm.
Why would a man who seeks peace and high mountains spend nearly seven hours driving a beat-up Volkswagen T4 campervan to Benidorm? . . . Only to meet someone he hasn’t seen since leaving England nearly sixteen months ago . . .