22 November 2016
What a change from yesterday morning, waking to sun and the sound of waves gently caressing the shore. Commando was off for a Social run with Mike, Yolanda and Sue, so I had a leisurely shower and sat on the balcony looking out over the bay and trying to work out where the lights I saw last night had come from. The possibilities seemed to be the small building about half way along the outer curve of the bay, or behind it and slightly westward a white block of some kind with a fluttering flag close by.
Commando came back full of his run. Yesterday, when Eddie, one of the people we met at the airport, told him the 2:09 in 2:09 Events was Mike’s PB time, we’d assumed he meant for the half marathon. This and the fact Commando was one of the youngest in the group meant he’d set out expecting a fairly leisurely pace. In actual fact they’d been running nine minute miles, far faster than he’d expected. Mike, it turns out, is an ex London Marathon winner and 2:09 is his Marathon PB! Even Sue, despite being on the wrong side of seventy and so small and frail looking you’d give her your seat on the bus, seemed quite content with nine minute miles!
Yolanda had suggested I could walk some of the events if I liked. We talked about it on the way to breakfast. Apparently, Eddie also walks the events. He’s an ex runner though so probably way out of my league when it comes to speed. Much as I liked the idea I didn’t want to be out of my depth, or the person everyone was waiting for at the end. Serendipitously, we bumped into Eddie and Sue as we were leaving the restaurant after breakfast. Eddie seemed quite keen to have a walking companion.
We discussed it more beside the pool. I was still slightly unconvinced, especially about the mountain 11k. As Commando has so often pointed out, I’m not designed to be a mountain goat and my poor sore Achilles’ tendon is unlikely to thank me for trying to be. After a while Commando fell asleep. A few chapters into my book I was feeling fairly sleepy too. It was time to take myself off to explore.
When we were last in Coral Bay we hired a car and explored far and wide but never to the north around the little bay. It wasn’t clear from the map if you could even get around the shore line in that direction but curiosity about the lights I’d seen led me that way. Leaving our own beach behind I walked down a narrow path lined with oleander and little red daisies on succulent leaves towards the next rocky bay.
For a moment or two I stopped to watch the waves lapping at the shore and the little boats bobbing on the water. Then I carried on across some rickety metal steps, until I reached the beach fronting the next hotel. By the time I made the far side my shoes were dusty and filled with fine white sand. There was a road of sorts, more a track really, leading inland beside a banana plantation. Was this the banana plantation mentioned in the running routes I wondered and was it the end of the shore trail?
Then I spied a narrow track running behind the bananas, to one side scrubby, died out plants, to the other a wire fence and banana plants the fruits wrapped in blue plastic. It wasn’t exactly inviting but it hugged the coast so, with some trepidation, I headed along it. After a short, slightly rocky climb, the path opened out onto an expanse of rocky sandiness with a flattened path hugging the shore. Ahead was an interesting looking ruin. Was this the source of the light? It seemed much too far inland.
For a while the path, such as it was, took me away from the ruin and gave me instead, views across the sea and back the way I’d come. There was the beach I’d just crossed and I was now part of the landscape I’d looked out at from my hotel balcony. Somewhere back there Commando was asleep on a sunlounger by a hotel pool.
The ruin, when I reached it, turned out to be far larger than I’d thought, a huge barn of a place made of ochre coloured stone, crumbling in places, with two large arched doors at the front. Cautiously I peeped inside. The wooden slats of the roof were open to the sky in places, creating bars of light and shade. Behind a row of internal arches, perhaps once dividing it into rooms, the large arched windows on the far wall beautifully framed a view of palms, the hills beyond and the blue sky above. What it once was, was a mystery but I loved its crumbling delapidation.
Tearing myself away from the ancient Greek ruin, I carried on towards the little house whose roof I’d seen from my balcony. Ahead now was a large building site, surrounded by hoardings with diggers and men inside. No doubt this will soon be a fancy new hotel but now it’s a scar on the arid, dusty, rock strewn landscape. The men paid me scant attention as I passed.
A few steps further and the little building with the terracotta tiled roof I’d seen on the edge of the cliff was right in front of me. Rather than the house I’d expected it turned out to be a shrine of some kind. Four pillars made of white blocks, held up the tiled roof. Each was filled with names written by a multitude of different hands. Under the roof a large rock sat in the centre of the building and a small, roughly made box with a tin roof and glass doors held a burning candle. Everywhere there were offerings, flowers, plants, cups, little statues, a religious painting and piles and piles of stones, most with written messages, oddly, mainly in English.
For a while I stood, drinking in the atmosphere of the place. Such tranquility and sadness, despite the building working going on behind. It seemed I should add to the pile and, looking around, I found a large smooth stone. For a moment or two I held it in my hand, feeling the weight of it, the warmth where it had been sitting in the sun. There was no pen in my bag to write a message so I kissed the stone four times, once for each of our lost parents, and gently laid it beside all the others.
Wondering who had left all the other offerings, why the place had been built and who kept the candle burning, I carried on along the dusty path. Wider now, perhaps for the builders vehicles, it carried me around the furthest corner of the bay between the mounds of prickly bushes with succulent leaves. The hotel, the beach and the pool where Commando slept were now far in the distance and hard to make out. Here and there, growing straight out of the arid ground, I stepped over small white flowers with yellow centres. What they were I couldn’t be sure but they looked a little like narcissus and their tenaciousness in the face of such conditions made me smile.
A minute of two later I spied two clear rock pools, the water a beautiful green, far below at the base of the cliff. Perhaps someone hardier than I could have clambered down and swam in the crystal water through the narrow gap between the two. It was shallow and no doubt warm from the sun.
The coast ahead looked as if a giant had taken a bite from it, leaving a wavy edged line of teeth marks. The cliffs were pure white and as smooth as poured concrete tumbling down towards the darker rocks and the sea in a series of shelves. Above was a small white shack with a blue and white striped awning and a tattered flag, blue with a white cross. The country of origin was a mystery. The Greek flag, I knew, was blue with a white cross but there were also blue and white stripes like the awning. My best guess was Iceland, but it seemed an odd place to be flying an Icelandic flag. Perhaps it was a Greek after all and I was missing something vital?
Around the next curve I came upon a flattened finger of rock sticking out into the sea with a row of tide washed arches beneath. It reminded me of Durdle Door in Dorset. Hoping to get a picture through the largest arch, I cautiously stepped towards the edge. What I actually got was far more than I bargained for. At the precise moment I raised my camera to take the shot I spotted a man on the rocks below. He had spotted me too. The man was naked, perhaps a swimmer. He didn’t seem in the least embarrassed, in fact he seemed extremely pleased to see me. The photograph went untaken and I hurried along the path, feeling as if somehow I was the one who’d been caught out.
The photograph I hastily snapped from the other side of the the arches, once I’d scuttled far enough away from the naked man, was not the one I wanted but it would have to do. The cliff here was far shallower, more slope than cliff really and probably the way the man had got down to the sea. It looked a little like a series of foot worn, wavy steps carved by the sea into the white rock, or an extension of the tide line, white rock waves lapping at the cliff edge. At the top was a red car, pointing seawards, behind it the little house with the flag. Did these belong to the man I’d seen?
The hotels of Coral Bay seemed a long way off. A little boat was towing a windsurfer and I wondered if it came from the jetty beside our hotel. Onwards I went, around the next toothmark in the cliff. Here the strata in the white rock was clearly visible and huge grey boulders seemed to be piled upon it. Another finger of rock stretched out to sea on the far side, at the tip a large dark rock seemed like a fossilised sunken ship to me.
It wasn’t clear how much further I could get this way but I’d seen green arrows now and then painted on the rocks so I kept going forwards, heading for the fossil ship. As I got slowly closer I half expected the rock to look less ship like but it didn’t. By the time I was standing right in front of it it seemed even more like a wrecked ship turned to stone than ever. Somewhere I’d read there was a shipwreck along the coast here and part of me wondered if what I’d been reading was a joke based on this strange rock formation.
Ahead in the distance I could see two women walking towards me. Obviously there was still a way forward along the coast but a look at my watch told me this should probably be my turning point. It was almost midday and I’d been walking for almost an hour, Commando had no idea where I was and would probably soon be getting hungry, plus there was a strange naked man somewhere in the vacinity. Briefly, I thought of waiting for the two women to reach me and warning them about the man but decided against it. He may well have been quite legitimately swimming in the nude in this beautifully secluded spot and any feeling of unease could have been my overactive imagination. Besides, I had no idea if these women in the distance would understand English.
In the end I turned and began my walk back across the dusty landscape strewn with large, volcanic looking rocks. Before I’d gone very far a dark haired man, sitting amongst the rocks beside the trail called out to me, “Hello.” He was a few yards away but looked suspiciously like the naked man I’d seen but clothed now in a red and black striped shirt and trousers. I nodded back but didn’t speak and hurried on.
“I would like to speak with you,” the man shouted. His accent sounded Greek. Alarmed, I hurried on faster still. I most certainly did not wish to speak to him. The row of hotels were barely visible beyond the cliff edge. They seemed an awfully long way away and the women I’d seen a long way behind. For the first time the loneliness of the cliff top didn’t seem such a good thing. “Where are you from?” He shouted after my retreating form, “I would like to speak to you. Come back.”
Feeling bad about not stopping to warn the women behind now, I rushed ahead, looking back once or twice to make sure he wasn’t following me. Now he was on the trail where I had been, watching me scurry away but, to my relief, he didn’t seem to be moving towards me. Even so I kept up a speedy walk until I’d rounded the bend and couldn’t see him any more.
When I came to the arches in the rocks I finally stopped. Cautiously, I approached the cliff edge and peered down to make sure there was no one down there. There wasn’t so I took the photo I’d meant to take earlier, although from a little further away. The women behind were now rounding the bend where the man had been and I hoped he wouldn’t bother them too much. Although I knew there was no chance of the man catching me now unless he was a very speedy runner I kept up my fast pace until I reached the little shrine again. After that I began to feel a little safer and slowed to a normal walk.
By the time I’d reached the hotel again, I was sure I’d blown the whole thing out of proportion and could see the comical side. In fact I was half inclined not to even mention it to Commando. As it was, he was still fast asleep on the sunbed, totally unaware of all the adventures I’d had.
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