Last night my mum, step-dad and I went on a Moonlight safari which we booked through Marco Polo expeditions and it certainly turned out to be an adventure! Having met our hapless and eccentric driver Ricardo who had a penchant for cigars and a wealth of knowledge on the area, we picked up the other passengers (a young couple called Jess and Phil who also happened to be from Northern Ireland) and set off in a Jeep to began our journey into the wilderness, far away from the tourist Metropolis which is Benidorm.
We drove through the quaint towns of Altea and Albir and then far up into the mountains where the scenery was breathtaking. I couldn’t believe that such beautiful and untouched natural landscape could exist so close to the high rise buildings and bars of Benidorm. After we stopped to take photos we continued on to the waterfalls of Algar where we had a swim in the refreshingly cold waters. Ricardo dived straight in with a mask and snorkel, cigar still in mouth and encouraged the rest of us to join him. I felt as though I was in an Indiana Jones film as I tried to swim under the main waterfall, battling against the current and edging along the rocky outcrops.
After this we drove on to a small restaurant, hidden away in the mountains where we had a barbecue (I’m veggie so they made me an omelette) and some beer. The food was delicious and we were lucky enough to be able to sample a fruit called nispero which is native to Spain and a bit like an apricot.
On the way back to Benidorm we drove through a very authentic Spanish town called Bolulla. As the church chimes struck eleven, Bright eyes by Simon and Garfunkel was playing on the radio and the stars were out in all of their glory. I felt as though I was dreaming.
The final part of the trip included a drive through a bamboo jungle which was really exciting. Large green fronds whipped the jeep as Ricardo drove at full speed whilst feigning terror with comical “ahhhs” and “oh nos” but then….we broke down. At first we all thought Ricardo was just joking around but unfortunately he wasn’t.
We were completely stranded, in the middle of bamboo, in the pitch dark with no other living beings in sight. Ricardo tried to phone for help but no one was answering and Jess started to panic and cry. At the time I thought this was just because she was worried about how we were going to get home but it later transpired that she thought Ricardo was some sort of serial killer or worse and had lured us into the middle of nowhere under false pretences- had this thought crossed my mind, I probably would have been crying as well. Ricardo did seem unnaturally calm about the whole affair and appeared to be more interested in giving us an astronomy lesson and pointing out the North Star than actually phoning for back-up. After a while he managed to get the jeep working again, but he had to hold the key in the ignition with one hand and steer with the other and we were on the road again with “We can work it out” by the Beatles aptly playing on the Radio. Unfortunately we broke down again just outside Altea and then waited around 40 mins for some more Marco Polo employees to come and pick us up so it was 1am before we got back to the hotel.
I think we were very unlucky and I don’t imagine that this sort of thing happens often but the good experiences I had before things went wrong are now a bit tainted by the moments of panic and the seemingly never ending wait for help. This was a great excursion but for £65 euro each there should definitely be better back-up plans in place!
But in the words of Ricardo- “Shit Happens”