Words and pics: Tati CoCo
Have you ever dreamt of blue skies and water so clear it begs you to dive right in? Have you ever had the vision of bright white sand, palm trees swaying and the smell of tantalizing food wafting on the breeze? Empty your mind, open your eyes, feel the sun – this is Andalucía, Spain.
I am known as ‘Tati CoCo Adventure’. It seems a funny name but it has a long story behind it that can only be told with strong coffee or by joining me on a SUP adventure. Andalucia covers the southern region of Spain and is known for its vibrant colours, passionate Flamenco, good food, rich historical heritage and friendly people. This is one of those adventures.
I’ve travelled all around the world and lived among various cultures. I’ve witnessed incredible scenes but if you ask me to choose one place in the world my heart lies it would be Andalucía. I’m not being biased but I genuinely yearn for my homeland. It’s quite easy to understand why I choose it. We have an average of 11 sunny months a year, the food is extremely yummy and healthy, the way of life is not expensive (for Europe) and above all the people are funny, always positive and so friendly. Added to all these facts the variety of scenery is vast. If you wish to find snow I head to Granada and climb up Sierra Nevada. There you can hike, ski, MTB or paddle at 3000m altitude. But if it’s desert you are looking for you just have to travel to the east and Almeria. In Andalucía you can find rivers, lakes, reservoirs and more than 1000km of outstanding beaches. There are opportunities for the adventurer to endlessly lose themselves amongst white water, surf or flat water spots – it’s all here.
I like to go out and discover new places and lose myself. I actually love solitude. It can sound strange when everybody looks for company but I’m very good at being disconnected and I do a lot of disappearing. My parents and friends gave up on tracking me a long time ago!
I have no words to describe what I felt in Andalucía. I was paddling in isolation and loneliness. I felt free but also vulnerable. I truly embrace my own company. When I looked around in many spots there was no life except nature but I was aware of the fullness of my own presence rather than the absence of others. I think that solitude is something of an achievement as it always helps me connect with intense emotion. It is like the light of the sun that was able to penetrate my skin and the smell of the olive and pine trees were able to go through all the branches of my lungs. I can even tell you the colour of the water in each place. It was an intense fusion of my board, the ocean and nature. It was like I blended into the background and I was part of it.
A particular case in point was when paddling the dam at La Puebla de Cazalla. I was completely defenseless as I had only one safe entry and exit point. I tried three times before I was mentally ready to cross it. People in the village didn’t stop to tell me not to paddle there but caution was a top priority. My cousin kept an eye on me. I was able to hear her shouting every five minutes asking if I was fine and when I would come back to shore. She actually stressed me out but I appreciated her worry…
Bornos in Cadiz was another impressive spot and typically Andalusian. The colours of the water were a unique mix between the blue of the sky’s reflection and the dark green of a lake. I was surrounded by one of the most stunning views of my whole life. In the distance I had the mountains of Algodonales where I used to go paragliding while on the shore of the lake were wild bulls and beautiful horses. In the lower section migratory birds such as the Flamingos and Storks were washing their bodies and behind me the white houses of the village were becoming smaller and smaller. These magical moments are the ones which teach me the highest appreciation for life.
I realised quite soon in my SUP life I was more suited to adventure than racing. I’ve participated in a quite few races but I didn’t find any type of excitement even when coming home with a trophy. Adventure paddling is the best way to discover myself, nature and people. Enjoying what Mother Nature gives you is the reward.
Andalusia has certainly given me a thirst for more. It is a land of warm people and incredible scenery. I want to go back and explore further; discover new areas, beaches, dams, lakes and rivers. I have the feeling that it is impossible to see everything the region has to offer but it is tempting to try.
I settled close to Malaga for 14 days. I don’t really know what I was doing wrong but I was permanently pursued by the coastguard, the port police and the county guards. It was like being a fugitive in the middle of the sea. It was exciting and fun not to get caught by them. A friend was helping me avoid getting fined. He was sending messages about their position so I was able to change my route and miss them. It became a really fun game that I was looking forward to every morning. I forgot about the heat, the wind and the waves. In my mind I was playing at being a little fish trying not to get eaten by some big ugly shark. We all became friends in the end as they just wanted to keep me safe.
I didn’t expect Malaga waters would be so clear and clean – full of life over and under it. I paddled up to El Rincon de la Victoria and down to Benalmadena many times. I had the chance to enjoy an amazing sunset in Matalascanas, Huelva. I spent a lovely time with my friend from Argentina Fiori who loves to take pictures – she snapped some beauties during our time together.
I don’t know if it was the smell of the fresh cooked fish from the ‘chiringuitos’, the general atmosphere or just the beauty of the land and the sea which attracted me to Andalusia. Sometimes, especially when I went to Matalascanas, people appeared so happy. Friends chatting, kids trying to snare crabs from rock pools, others drinking cold beers and laughing. Families eating massive watermelons and others just tanning and resting. I was looking and observing everything and everybody but as much as I wanted to stay the Atlantic was calling me – it was time to go.
Hasta pronto amigos!