As well timed as any industrial action by French air traffic controllers, the Portillo bus company employees went on strike today, bringing coastal bus services to a halt and stranding thousands of tourists and working folk alike up and down the coast.
I went up to the Marbella bus station this morning to check it all out and noted the police cars parked at the entrance, the demonstration banner and the very serious looking local policemen inside watching carefully for any problems from the picketers.
As I left I spoke to a woman next to her suitcase hop¡ng to catch the Malaga airport shuttle bus.
"How are we meant to find out if there will be a bus to the airport at 11am if they don't tell us anything?"
I assured her there would be no bus at 11am and she went off to the nearest cash point at the petrol service station next to the bus station for money for a taxi.
I went back again this afternoon and found these three pleasant Canadian fellows you see in the picture to pose for me. They had been trying to get some sense out of the monolingual sales clerk and get tickets to the Prado de San Sebastian bus station in Seville.
"Take a taxi from here to Fuengirola to the train station, a train to Malaga station and then a bus or a train to Sevilla. " I advised them.
I asked them to check in later to see their picture, it didn't seem right at the time to ask them to smile.
Stop Press Thursday 7th August: This morning on the way up to Ronda to take photos and add to my gomarbella information winding my way up the curves I got stuck behind one of the yellow Los Amarillos buses which operate services from Sevilla down to the Costa del Sol stopping at Ronda bus station and which would still have been operating on the day of the strike. After looking at the back of the bus for about 10 minutes before I could overtake, I realised I had forgotten to mention this option to our Canadian visitors. Really sorry about that guys. How did you get on?
Good News Wednesday 13th August: The weeklong strike finished today. The Portillo bus company employees have got a pay rise, two consecutive days off every week, a break between trips to go to the loo and a promise from their employers to renew the Portillo bus fleet - that's actually good news for all of us.
I went up to the Marbella bus station today again to check things out and the atmosphere was a lot happier. There still wasn't any paper in the gents loo however, that's just one of my measure of passenger care!
PS: You can now do online bus ticket reservations through the gomarbella reservation system.