5pm Sat 11th July
I had had some trouble in Pamplona while trying to book a bus ticket from Madrid to the Spanish southern port town of Algeceras. I had found a great website, that offered tickets at very competitive prices, and tried to make my booking to depart at 9pm from Madrid, travelling overnight, and arriving in Algeceras Port the next morning, my intended destination. This had the double advantage of costing only 28 Euros, and saving the cost of overnight accomodation. My Euros are running very low, and my UK money has run out, my bank account there now in the red!
But the website would only let me get as far as choosing my seat, then told me there had been an error, and to try again later. I tried many times throughout Thursday, and eventually gave up and rang the company direct. No, I couldn’t book on the phone, I was told, use the website. Not working? Try a different computer.
I went to the local internet cafe, but had exactly the same trouble there. I tried both Firefox and Internet Explorer. I tried both the English and the Spanish versions of the website. No use. I tried all combinations on my laptop again, and still no luck.
Eventually I called back, and a very helpful chap tried to make the booking for me on his system, but we got to the credit card section, and my payment was rejected. No wonder, my account is in the red already! I gave up, and was convinced by the tele-agent that there would still be plenty of seats left when I got to Madrid on Saturday afternoon. I could phone the bus company direct, he suggested, but he didn’t think anyone there would speak English, or I could just buy my ticket when I got to Madrid. I decided to take a gamble, and just catch my bus for Madrid on Saturday morning, and sort things out there. Surely there would be that many people heading south?
So things went well this morning, and after watching my final bull run from the balcony, I made my way to the bus station, and caught my planned bus without any dramas, arriving in Madrid mid afternoon, six hours before the departure of my bus. There was a huge queue at the ticket counter, and people were coming away looking very disappointed. I finally reached the front of the line. Sold out! No tickets left until tomorrow night. But if I am to achieve this next goal I have to be in Algrceras tomorrow morning! A typically-Spanish shrug of the shoulders was the helpful response I got. No other bus companies run an Algeceras service. Train? Not today, I was told, I was too late.
The battery was almost flat on the computer, and there was no wi-fi access to be found anywhere. I decided to head for the train station anyway, and see what I could find. After endless return visits to the information desk, I decided to take the train to Malaga on the south coast, and hope to find a bus from there, but time would be against me on the Sunday morning.
The train fare was a ghastly 82 Euros, three times the cost of the bus, and it still doesn’t get me to where I want to be. It is fast though, arriving early evening, so I might still find a bus tonight. Once again my UK bank card was rejected, no funds available, so I had to pay using most of the last of my cash. As I write this I am on the train, no idea how to get from Malaga to Algeceras, nowhere planned to stay tonight, and 15 Euros in my pocket! Oh dear!
But I am trying to look on the bright side! At least there is power on the train, and I can recharge the laptop!
UPDATE – 10.30pm Sat 11th July
Well things have taken a bit of a turn for the better since I wrote the last blog entry, and as I often seem to do, I have landed on my feet again, without too much of a financial impact. I arrived in Malaga in expensive comfort on the train, and found the bus station nearby. Buses were still running, and I bought a ticket to Algeciras, which left me with about 4 Euros.
I had a quick scrabble around in the pockets of both pairs of shorts, and in the side pockets of my rucsac, and came up with a couple of small notes, and a fistful of coins, and after buying a meal and coffee at the seedy bus station cafe, I still had a grand total of around 19 Euros left.
Believe it or not, about 100 metres from the bus station in Algeciras, where I arrived at 10pm, I spotted a hostel, which has a lovely single room for 14 Euros, leaving me just enough to get a coffee and half an hour online at the cafe next door.
I am now practically penniless for the moment, but believe I have everything in place to be able to achieve goal #50 tomorrow. I will worry about the next few days after that. More to follow…