I first came across Manu Chao late, in 2000 actually, whilst travelling to San Pedro in the province of Almeria, Andalucia, Espana. Sue, Ellie, Ruby and I were in a small Fiat van driven by a recently met Robert, with Manu Chao`s album, Clandestino, booming out of the Fiat's souped up stereo.
A week or two earlier we had parked up our 'home' near Mojacar. The head gasket had melted whilst red lining down the N341, somewhere near Huercal Overa. We had parked at a campsite run by an old German hippie and his friends and were awaiting the local garage to send a mechanic down (as agreed, fingers crossed) to sort the van. It was our home, so, we couldn't leave it at the garage to be fixed. It also meant we had to slow down the pace of travelling in Spain. The mechanic was a lovely cigar-smoking fella, who leisurely completed the job in 7 weeks, or so. We'd wanted some hash, and, Robert offered to take us to San Pedro to score. He took the N340, through dry desert interspersed with small pueblo's and dusty bars. Manu lifted our spirits and heightened my awareness of the influence of our last joints worth of good hash.
We eventually turned off and headed towards Las Negras, through the breathtaking Natural Park of Cabo De Gata, towards the coast.
We eventually parked the van and embarked on an 8km hike, It was very hot. Although we stopped frequently to take on water, Ellie and Ruby didn't enjoy it much. Once we reached the coastal cliffs, we made coffee on Robert's gas stove, and ate sausage and fruit. Soon we navigated the tricky coastal footpath, merely inches from a 150m drop into the sparkling and clear Mediterranean sea below, where fishing boats bobbed and inched their was to places I'd previously known nothing of.
San Pedro is accessible only by foot, helicopter or boat. A group of old ruins situated in a large cove. The sun shone like a bastard; the path down into San Pedro was very steep.
Everyone we met in San Pedro had a story. They seemed to come from all parts of the world. Many, hiding from someone or something and if that was their intention, they'd found a good hiding place. Living self-sufficiently, in relative isolation, in caves, tents or in reclaimed squatted ruins. There were no shops, buses, taxis, or electricity. No queues or TV. No advertising. It was beautiful.
We sat on the beach, swam, talked, gazed, smelt, tasted and felt. And, after a short while talking with the locals, scored some hash from a naked, curly haired fella from Germany. Robert and Sue went back to his old mini castle style cave ruin, tucked into the cliffs. Robert spoke German with him and left Sue with this fella, whose face was covered in tattoos. Sue got out of there as soon as... The hash was good.
The walk back was hard, but such a fantastic trigger to meditate on previous cultures, history and the past lives of the inhabitants of this area. Very stoned in the van on the return journey, we listened to Manu Chao singing about the desperation of African people and their attempts to cross into Andalucia for work. His album Clandestino is full of such stories. Almeria was only 35k down the N340. There, a daily boat to Melilla, Morocco was only 8 hrs away from the people Manu sang about, as well as the good, pure North African hash. Those thoughts stayed in my head for a long time, and still resonate now whenever I hear Clandestino, or, anything associated with our time spent living in Southern Spain.