Carnaval was splendid in Málaga. It was as if the whole town dressed up. There was a magnificent fashion parade and then the extravagant procession for the symbolic burial of the sardine which marks the end of the festivities before the austere season of Lent begins. Many Spanish communities have this or a similar ceremony. It is a kind of "out with the old and in with the new" event symbolising the end of the old year and the time of feasting before the penitential season of Lent which ends with Easter the most important celebration of new life in the Christian calander.
I didn't bury any sardines but I did meet up with the Big Man and two other Scottish friends for our own Fat Tuesday lunch. Wine food and conversation flowed although I suspect with our Glasgow accents the waiters thought we were from another planet.
But all good things must come to an end and on Ash Wednesday we donned our pilgrim gear, pulled on our boots and rucksacks to begin walking from La Línea de la Concepción to Sevilla via the magnificent Andalucian town of Ronda.
We boarded a packed bus and just short of three hours later the Rock of Gibraltar loomed large as we entered La Línea, the Spanish town on the frontier with the controversially British Gibraltar. La Línea is almost literally in the shadow of the Rock and a great percentage of the residents work in Gibraltar.
We checked into our hostal and made our way to Mass at the Church of Santiago where the route called the Via Serrana begins. Defined and well marked by the local amigos the route takes two weeks to walk and joins the Via de la Plata in Sevilla. My friend Alan Sykes told me about it last year. He said that one or two of the stages have the finest scenery of all of his caminos. Irresistible!
The church of Santiago in La Línea is disappointing in its modern architecture. However what it lacked in design it made up for in enthusiasm. The place was packed. Standing room only. At the end when everyone had been given their ashes a band appeared and the medal wearing brotherhood assembled to process through the streets with a statue of a very solemn looking figure of Jesus. Not being into all of this falderal we beat a hasty retreat to supper and an early night.
The walking today has been hard work but with great rewards in terms of the peaceful paths and great scenery. This is a route full of promise. I'll tell you more as the days pass.
For now we have rooms with private bath and heating for 15 euros each! Supper awaits downstairs.
A lasting memory of the day was the security guard at the tourist office in the little town of San Roque some 8kms from La Línea. Still in sight of Gibraltar he asked "English?" When we replied "no Scottish" his smile said it all.