'Have you had a good day?' I ask Victor as he squeezes the juice out of a bowl of oranges.
That’s what I like about this place. Despite southern Spain experiencing increasing economic hardship the definition of a good day to the owners of this young business has no instant relevance to their takings or how busy they are.
I found El Ultimo Mono on my second day in Malaga, exactly one week ago. I would have walked straight by were it not for the words scrawled on the window: ‘Happiness Available 7 Days a Week.’ In the corner was a table painted with a Union Jack. A sign.
The name translates as ‘The Last Monkey’ but it means more than that. ‘The last option’, perhaps? Brave, to call a new company that, especially when there’s no shortage of other cafes in Malaga. But I read more into it,completely exchanging formal translation for
the story Victor and Sergio shared with me. Once there is no other option you are freed to do the thing you want to do.
A man with friendly eyes and a well-trimmed grey-white beard dashed slides past my right side. ‘I am sorry for my English, it is very poor,’ he says, introducing himself as Sergio’s father-in-law.
'Your English is better than my Spanish, I am the sorry one,' I reply, hand on my heart. The man nods towards Sergio, who is busy creating some Cinnamon and Muffins,
'He tells me your story, I want to say thank you for coming here.'
They change the Wi-Fi code every morning, today it is ‘DOITWITHPASSION.’ Yesterday it was ‘HELLOMRSUNDAY’. From the furniture (no two items are the same) to the music to the lego bricks in the wall to the messages of motivation stamped on the coffee straps, this place is my paradise. I have found a temporary soul mate in a cafe. Unexpected.
I don’t need to ask for coffee any more. Sergio places it on the counter with a smile, my liquid happiness, my fuel, my energy. ’It is our honour that you are here,’ Sergio tells me. ‘We will look after some of the cost…’ He waves a thin hand at the drink between us, we fist pump.
That first day one week ago Sergio and Victor told every customer about me, eyes burned into the side of my head endlessly. My business card was made available for photographs. The upshot of this has been an invite to a surprisingly delicious Vegan breakfast by the lovely Emma Fry, and an interview with a local culture magazine named Staf. ‘There is a TV show in Spain that you would be perfect for,’ Sergio tells me, ‘do you mind if we call them?!’
Beyond everything, after almost two years of drought, I am writing again. I have found my place on a table beneath a lamp, words flow each day by the thousands. The book I began writing has turned into something else entirely. I have found my peace. Two years of almost non-stop movement has led to these ten weeks in southern Spain. I’ve had little time to process my last five expeditions and each meeting, project, train ride and decision in between. I’m a different Dave to the one who turned 30 on the Murray River in 2009 and I’m only just realising why, right here in El Ultimo Mono, Malaga.
My writing desk.
I’ll leave you with a post the boys posted on their Facebook page last week. Thank goodness for Facebook translation!
Priscilla, 4 wheels, several thousands miles under the hood (pedals), well-travelled, very friendly, makes a great city runaround and is very much a head-turner! Needs good home.
Currently available for viewing in Coconut Grove, Miami.
Size: 5 foot 7 wide x 8 foot long
Price: will listen to any offers
Comes complete and ready to pedal for one or two people. Tools. 2 x deckchairs. Cooler box. Cushions. Groundsheet for tent. Other bits and bobs.
History: British Adventure and Author Dave Cornthwaite has just completed a 1000-mile journey on Priscilla the Bikecar between Memphis, TN and Miami, FL, adding another expedition to Priscilla’s history with Paul Everitt, who built the Bikecar and took her across Europe and Canada.
If interested please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 760-453-3059
Videos of Priscilla’s ride to Miami can be seen on www.davecornthwaite.com
It’s a novelty writing this from within a solid structure in Miami, Florida. Bar the odd night here and there with strangers who saw fit to welcome a 4-wheeling sweaty, tired and British man into their homes I have spent many of April and May’s night snuggled up tight in my Sky Tent.
If you didn’t see my post and video about the Hammock Bliss Sky Tent written during last year’s Mississippi River SUP Expedition, here’s an update on the product and a variety of images showing just how versatile I find it on my expeditions.
In summary, the Sky Tent itself is a rainfly with a mosquito net sewn into it, effectively a cosy, spacious bug-protected cocoon. Primarily designed to allow a hammock to hang inside, now and then when trees don’t make themselves available I fling aside the hammock and set the Sky Tent up as a tent. Particularly in hot, humid climates, the mosquito net rather than canvas walls allows a more comfortable night.
I was delighted to hear from Hammock Bliss that my regular use of the Sky Tent on the ground means that they’ve developed an upgraded model with durable ripstop nylon on the underside rather than parachute. There’s also a new adjustable ridge line and two new openings allowing a second hammock to hang inside.
Over the past seven weeks the Sky Tent has protected me through freezing nights on the sandbanks of Tennessee’s Wolf River, in violent storms ripping through Florida, windy nights in Mississippi, heavy dewfall in Alabama and a bunch of other conditions, mainly involving the words hot, muggy and a humid. I’ve rigged it up mainly as a tent in parking lots, swamps, forest, roadside ditches, river sandbars, campsites, muddy banks and even on a gravel road just off a highway.
Riding a 4-wheeled Bikecar across America always meant I had at least one fastening point, therefore I just needed one more to set up camp for the night. Perfect!