Around the point to another discovery.
If you want get the most out of travel, you must be prepared to get lost. Not dangerously lost, as in “OMG! Where am I? I’m in the seediest part of town where the muggers, smackos and white traders lurk!” More the, “Geez, this isn’t where we meant to be… Oh, wow! Look at that!” type of “lost”. Being prepared to get lost is how you find those unexpected discoveries that make travel so rewarding.
That’s how we found Our Secret Spot. We were driving along the Costa Brava, the Spanish coast between Barcelona and the border with France, looking for a beach that had been recommended to us by both locals and a Tweep (Twitter cobber), when we realised we’d come too far. But we weren’t sure by how far, so neither were we sure how to get back to where we were meant to be going. So we started looking down side streets and watching where passing pedestrians who looked as though they were dressed for the beach were headed.
We found a stairway, a narrow stairway, squashed between the walls of two big villas. It dropped steeply down the hill, and at the bottom, peering from the top, we could see the Mediterranean Sea, glistening and sparkling in the unconstrained late morning, mid-summer sunlight. It was blue, the sea, oh, so blue. As blue as the sea reflects the sky, which was very blue this day. There were no clouds in any direction, and the air was clear, though filtering the sunlight through that haze that makes the light in Europe that much softer than we know it in the antipodes.
We descended the stairs, burdened only lightly with our cossies, goggles, sun cream, towel, for we never intended this to be anything more than a quick swim, a partly for-the-sake-of-it swim on our way from our base in Palamos to Figueres, in the north of Catalonia. We didn’t wish to be too late arriving at our next pub, but we felt we should try another beach along the way, just to improve our knowledge.
At the bottom of the stairs, we still were 20m or so above the sea. There was a landing. We stopped, and we peered out over the vista of one of the most beautiful coves we’d ever seen. It was breathtaking: a composite of a series of small beaches separated by rocks, nestled beneath high cliffs, with the sea stretching out along a long point to the south which sheltered the water and the beaches. We turned right, following a concrete and rocky pathway, down some more stairs, across another landing, through an archway under the rock, and down more stairs onto the rocks, smooth rocks, large stones half-buried in the sand and weathered by centuries of exposure to the Mediterranean. The sea was calling us downwards, with the sun sparkling on the water and almost imperceptible swells lapping at the edges of the beach. What we could see looking down was the typical crystalline clarity of the Costa Brava. Is it like this all the time? Our only other experience on the Costa Brava, the previous October on another beach, we’d found the water to be the clearest in which we’d ever swum, surprisingly so given our experience much farther along the coast in France a few years earlier. The French water, around Marseille, had not been dirty or murky, but it just hadn’t been as clear as we’d found it on the Costa Brava. Farther along still, around Cap Ferrat, it was clear, but not crystalline.
Cerbére. In Fronce.
The beach broke into two, divided by a monolith that thrust out of the sand, half in the water, half on the beach, half protruding, half buried. It offered shade, protection from the sun that would be at its zenith in an hour or two. Cooler sand and shelter. We passed by onto the main beach, where a couple of hundred holidaymakers spread over the sand, mainly families, many of them with little children running about with buckets and spades. European fellows wallowed on the edge alongside topless ladies. Many lay spread-eagled on the sand in supplication to the sun, so glorious at this time of the year. The beach was about 100 metres long and about 25 metres wide, narrowing at each end, with rock walls rising vertically 50 metres to the lower walls of the manicured and landscaped gardens of villas lining the clifftop behind and at the far end. The villas offered privacy to this beach. It couldn’t be seen from the roadway or from any footpath, save the one down which we’d come from the street. And that was so long, so steep, that only committed beachgoers – perhaps also committed voyeurs – would venture down them. Most wouldn’t think to look; many even would miss the stairway; some would pass on, lazily. You really had to know it was there to find it. It was a treasure of a little beach, facing east into the Mediterranean, Israel and Lebanon at the other end, interrupted only by Malta and Italy and Greece along the way, the sea sparkling and glistening to the horizon.
There were four of us, and we found a space up the back, at the foot of the cliff. One of us was happy to sit in the sun and mind our clothes, so the other three of us were free to dive in and swim. Just for a few minutes, we thought, as we said to our clothes-watcher. Just a few minutes would do.
In the mouth of the sea cave.
We picked our way through the crowd. We dipped our toes into the sea, we spat in our goggles – whilst we and our goggles still were dry – we swished the saliva around the inside of the lenses, we rinsed the goggles in the sea, we fitted the lenses to our eye sockets, and we pulled the strap back over our heads, separating the two strings of the strap to provide that much better grip and stability while we swam. And we stood there, ankle-deep in the edge of the Mediterranean, our American Girls budgy smugglers – branded Budgy Smugglers – our camera stuffed down our front, gazing out over the beckoning, wine-dark sea.
And we plunged in. We have a particular plunge into new water, our signature plunge. We dive gently, torpedo position, our arms straight out in front and either side of our head, and we glide down into the water and through it, inspecting the bottom and dodging any rocks and weed we might find by twisting and gliding in nuances before we rise gently, kicking our our right foot as we break the surface so that it makes a plop in the sea – a kerplunk! -- shooting the splash, we imagine, a metre into the air behind us, our right arms easing over in our first stroke, catching our left arm still in streamline mode, easing us through the break into the deeper water. Do you know, you can propel yourself forward in this position without taking a stroke? In full torpedo, imagine your body shooting out of the tube, and you stretch, stretch, easily and supply, and you relax as you stretch, exhale, and you can feel your body ease through the water, accelerating. It’s almost imperceptible, but it’s there; you can feel it. And it makes you feel at one with the sea, using the sea and joining it.
We imagine ourselves in these situations as immoderately graceful. A bronzed, Aussie ocean swimming pioneer, a man’s man and a ladies’ man, easing himself insouciantly into the forbidding ocean as the most natural and effortless thing a fearless man can do. Devil-may-care. Heroic. That’s in our dreams. But every so often, we dive into a sea that lives up to our dreams. And at Our Secret Spot, that was it.
Our Secret Spot.
Sometimes, you dive into the sea, you see little through the murky water, you surface, and you swim off through the chop, mechanically, because it’s what you’re there to do. Sometimes, you dive in, you surface, and you loll there, as if wondering what to do, the water lifeless around you, not beckoning, not unpleasant, even temperature, nothing out of the ordinary. But sometimes, you dive in, you glide wide-eyed through the wonder of an unfamiliar bottom laid before you with absolute clarity, the rocks, the pebbles, the waving weed, the shifting sand in the swell, grains of sand wafting over the corrugations, little close-in fish darting out of your way, the gently cooling water pumping energy into your soul. Your streamline stretches, your body extends and accelerates, your right arm hangs, poised for its first stroke, but holding off a little to get the most from the streamline. The bottom greets you with a cheery wave, as if to say, “Welcome to our world!” And you pull, right arm after left, right after left, easily and powerfully into the deeper water away from shore.
The degustation menu at La Placa, Madremanya. Lunch.
This is how it is at Our Secret Spot. How could we tell before we dived in how good this would be? How could we have known that this would be the most beautiful, refreshing, soulful dive we’ve ever done? So good that as we stroked into the deeper water, towards the line of booees marking the limit of where swimmers are supposed to go, we swam faster, our arms stronger, and we crossed the line of booees breezily. They marked not our limit, but the start of our swim. You can’t “ocean swim” inside a line of booees. A line of booees marks only the start of where you really want to go. Every stroke up to that is a warm-up.
In this case, where we wanted to go was out to the point, about 400 metres out, past rocks, coves and a bay. We figured we’d make for the point and reassess. We didn’t know what we’d find around it. It was a secret even from us. The cliff-line dropped precipitously into the sea, a jagged cliff-line, the shore jutting out then back in a series of coves and fjords, and we ticked them off as we swam, farther out, dodging moored boats and more adventurous holidaymakers on moulded kayaks. A pod of adolescent lads climbed gingerly up a craggy outcrop, to plummet back into the sea. Loving couples nuzzled coyly on the foredecks of moored pleasure craft. A bevvy of bright young things cavorted carelessly on daddy’s yacht.
Underneath, the cliff kept falling beneath the waterline. Looking beneath, our View Fully Sick goggles (click here to purchase yours) provided us with a perfect view through water of absolute clarity, certainly absolute clarity as sea water goes. The wall kept dropping down, way down to a bottom of sand sprinkled with rocks. It was hard to tell how deep it was. Really clear water plays tricks on the perceptions. It was hard to see how such a rocky shore could give way to such a smooth bottom, but then time has been filling and smoothing those cracks and holes for millennia. There seemed to be unlimited visibility down here, limited only by our dodgy vision.
As we approached the point, there was more swell. But not much, just a gentle roll, enough to give the water life. Swimming in lively water – water that’s alive – is much easier than swimming in water that’s dead. Is it currents? Swell? Buoyancy? What makes water come alive? Something does; some water is; some ain’t. It’s gotta be moving. Swimming in live water is different.
At the point, we stopped and looked back. Mrs Sparkle and @Mojitono9 were splashing away in the distance, still only half way out. We thought, we could wait, or we could go on. From the point, we could see around it, and we could see that the bluff squared off for 50 metres before dipping in to another fjord. Then the coast came back out again, and we could see two beaches another half a kilometre or so to the south. A speedboat was moored off one of them. More bright young things?
We ploughed on.
We swam to the other side of the point, another 150 metres, from where our choice was whether to go into the fjord, with a couple of coves, past it to the first of the two beaches, or whether to turn back. We felt very clever being so far in advance of the other members of our pelotonette. But not being sure how much farther we might have to swim, and the quality of the reward at the end of it, and conscious of our original plan – a swim of a few minutes – we stayed there treading water, taking in the coast as far as we could see, wild with scrub down to the beach and no sign of life apart from the anchored speedboat. By now, Mrs Sparkle was catching up. Yelling at us, in fact. She hates being left behind. She worries she’s missing out on something. She was. We were a fair way out from the beach and around the point. Maybe you wouldn’t do that normally in unfamiliar water. But in this water, you just felt good; you felt you belonged here. We chatted off the point, weighing our options. But we turned our heads for home.
On the first point on the way back, we stopped to take pitchers of Mrs Sparkle and @Mojitono9, who’d also caught up by then. Mrs Sparkle holds such good body position that we figured, in this water from below, she’d make a triffic pitcher. After she swam backwards and forwards past us, then back again a few times, and @Mojitono9 swam backwards and forwards past us, both bright in their red and yellow striped Catalan cossies, our touring cossies. By the way, do you know, the patron saint of Catalonia is Sant Jordi, and he’s famous for slaying a dragon, just like the English St George. But the dragon got Sant Jordi back. And as he lay there, wounded mortally, Sant Jordi reached out for the Catalan flag, then plain yellow, and his fingers, smeared with blood, dragged across it as he grasped his last, so the Catalan flag became yellow with four red stripes across it. They’re Sant Jordi’s bloody fingertips. Perhaps there’s a dramatic story to the English St George, too. Maybe it’s a version of the same story. Maybe the English St George, slashing at the dragon with a bloody sabre, slashed a red cross on the white flag…
We got Mrs Sparkle and @Mojitono9 to swim back towards the beach, a context shot. In the end, they were specks– speckled specks – disappearing towards the beach in the distance. We were alone out there again, bobbing around in the sea under the sun, now about at its zenith. It was warm in a fresh sea.
We started back back, trailing a l’arriére du peloton.
The Latté Pontoon. Rather, the Café con leche Pontoon.
We swam a few strokes, then something came over us. We stopped. We looked around. We thought about it, our situation, for a few seconds. Milliseconds, really. And we thought, we’ll never get such a great opportunity… And we dropped our cossies over our feet. Our camera, tied to the cossie string by a coil and cord, dangling a couple of metres below us towards the bottom, a metaphor, perhaps. We bobbed around in the water out by the point for a few moments, then we pulled the cossies by the leghole over our heads, so they sat like a collar, our camera still dangling below us. Which was lower? And we began to swim…
We’d always wanted to do something like this. Hey, there’s lots of this goes on in Europe, we thought. That’s the kind of thought we had as we stroked through the sea back towards the beach. The water seemed clearer, somehow. We wondered whether our backside would burn, and we thought of Tomato Bum, a rotund, mature gent we’d spotted on the beach in Bandol, on the French Riviera, who’d been there all day, apparently, and by the time we saw him near day’s end, he had two very red cheeks. We wondered whether the bright young things cavorting on daddy’s yacht would notice anything, if they looked up from their party; whether the young couple nuzzling coyly on the foredeck of their “pleasure” craft would see…
We steered a course, using our rudder, our deep keel, mid-point between those two boats and a little away from the adolescents climbing gingerly up the rocky outcrop to plunge into the sea. It was a pleasant sensation, the salty seawater washing all around us, flushing out our nooks and crannies, forming eddies and leaving swirls behind our outermost points as we swaggled through the sea. We felt exposed. Anyone looking underwater from anywhere within a 30km radius was sure to see everything, such as it was. Or maybe they wouldn’t. But we kept going, past the boats, past the plunging rock, and towards the line of booees beyond which we weren’t supposed to swim.
We stopped short of those booees, a modest distance short of them, and we pulled out cossies back over our head, back over our feet, up around our waist, and we tucked our camera back down our front. And we set out again for the beach.
We came in at the far end from where our sunning cobber had been sitting guard over our clothes, and we mooched through the knee-depth water, scouring the punters for interesting people – topless ones – before stumbling out onto the beach and picking our way through the crowd to the back of the beach. Our guard punter was gone. As soon as Mrs Sparkle and @Mojitono9 had returned, she was off, into the sea, by that time sensing there was something special about this place, about this water. Mrs Sparkle said to us, suspiciously and indignantly , “Did you swim back newd?” And we said, “Yep”. And she said, “You rotter!”, or something to that effect. “Why didn’t you tell us? “ she demanded. “Why couldn’t we do it?” And we said, “You swam off…”
And we decided there and then, we would call this place Our Secret Spot. Just like surfers won’t tell you where they got that special wave, we’re not going to tell you where we had that very special swim. We’re happy to take you there, but we’re not telling the world. The last thing Our Secret Spot needs is crowds of bald, fat gits swimming backwards and forwards with their cossies around their necks. Especially if Tomato Bum finds out.
Half-way there at the Café con Leche Pontoon.
We had another glorious swim on Spain’s Costa Brava. Indeed, we had several glorious swims, and the water all the way along the coast was as clear, as clean, and as spiritual as at Our Secret Spot. No room to go into all the details about all of them, but very special was the TransFrontera Swim, around the headland from France to Spain. We’ve never swum from one country to another before. The Dardanelles swim links continents, but it’s within the one country. This swim was different. It linked countries and it linked languages and it linked cultures.
Swim registration was in Portbou, the last town before France heading north on the Spanish Mediterranean coast. Portbou nestles at the end of a long, narrow bay, facing nor’-east thus protected from the weather from the south. It’s surrounded by big hills. By “big hills”, we mean by mountains. And by mountains, we mean, mountains. Portbou sits in a narrowing gully that runs back from the narrowing fjord, the town squashed between the steep slopes either side. Curiously, just back from the town, the gully opens out into a sprawling railway yards. The train from Barcelona terminates at Portbou, although some services go through the mountain to Cerbere in France. Look at the satellite photo: you’ll see where the tracks merge into the mountain and emerge on the other side.
So we check in on the promenade behind the beach and, eventually, we’re bussed over the mountain to Cerbere. This swim is worth it for the bus trip alone, for the spectacular vistas it offers south towards Cap de Creus and Barcelona, and north towards Perpignan and beyond. Mrs Sparkle and @Mojitono9 buried their heads in their armpits during this trip. They’d showered that morning. They don’t like heights. And we certainly had heights. How high were we as we crossed the mountain? Maybe a thousand feet. It was high. It was a big mountain to be so close to the coast, but this is where the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean.
Cerbere was almost a mirror image of Portbou, in a similarly narrow cove with a long, narrow bay, widening as it headed out to sea but heading sou’-east rather than nor’-east. The peloton gathered on the stony beach and suited up. Wandering amongst the crowd – we had plenty of spare time, since “suiting up” to us was taking off our t-shirt – we were surprised to see a young Spaniard wearing a Bondi BRATs singlet. We introduced ourselves, and we’re sorry we can’t remember the chap’s name. But he told us he spent a few months in Sydney and he swam, rode and ran with the BRATs. We have his pitcher on this page somewhere. Someone must know him.
Portbou, from the Pyrenees.
We also introduced ourselves to Francesc Granada, because we saw Francesc “suiting up” with his GPS watch strapped over his head. We used to do this, too, although we simply sandwiched it on our heads between two swim caps. Francesc was taking no chances: he had it laterally across his noggin and strapped under his chin, then under his swim cap. Francesc probably had the right idea. Our GPS, held on by just a swim cap, no strap, was lost by someone whom we’d thought was our very best friend -- Glistening Dave -- in the break at Whale Beach.
The water was almost as clear as at Our Secret Spot, but deeper, and bouncier. There was a stiff breeze blowing around Cap Cerbere, the headland, whipping up chop and swell, which bounced off the rocks and made those who swam close in bob around with a broken stroke. The reach out to the point grew more difficult as the point drew near, for it was straight into the chop and into the wind, and both of them strengthened as we neared the point and emerged from the lee of the cape.
Until nearing the point, the reach out from Cerbere, almost a kilometre, was relatively sheltered. Cap Cerbere is a blocky bluff that rises steeply from the sea: from the first point, the shoreline jags in and out a little until the second point, after which the chop and the backwash ease as we move past the point, where the chop is crashing into cliff at a different, less difficult angle. Like Our Secret Spot, the cliff kept dropping steeply below the water line, which meant that, while there was backwash, the sea wasn’t breaking, and you could swim quite close in, much like Little Head on the way from Palm Beach to Whale Beach. Atop the cape at the point where the border hits the sea and France meets Spain, there’s a marker which looks little more than a mound of stones. We posed @Mojitono9 astride the border, in the sea, for her portrait. It was the second in a series: last year, in Switzerland, we’d posed Mrs Sparkle astride the Swiss-German border outside Basel. She was on dry land. We’ll mount an exhibition one day. Just a few more frontiers to go.
The course from Fronce to Spain, 3.8km as swum by Francesc Granada.
One of our dreams has been to persuade a friendly organiser to moor a pontoon half way through a swim from which to dispense lattés to tiring swimmers. They did this around Cap Cerbere. But when we asked for un café amb llet (in Catalan), they shook their heads and offered water and an orange instead. So we asked again, in Spanish, un café con leche. But they didn’t have lattés. Still, it was a nice thought, and we and @Mojitono9 bantered with them for a bit – their English was good, just not our Catalan – and we ploughed on, our dream partly fulfilled. We had the pontoon; we’re still aiming for the latté. They were anchored about 100m off the cliff on the Catalan side of the border. We’d crossed from France to Catalonia. Did you know, by the way, that one of the most avid overseas markets for Australia fillums is Catalonia? We know this because one of our party, Lea Hill, the feminine half of LeaRoy from Swan Hill, used to work for Hoyts, and she told us. Catalonia prides itself on being the engine room of Spain. They have little truck with flamenco, for example, because flamenco comes from down south, around Andalucia, where they’re lazy, one Catalonian sniffed at us. Industrious Catalonians have no time to make up dances and songs and to play the guitar. Neither do Andalucians, was the implication, but they do, anyway, rather than work. We don’t endorse this view, by the way. We don’t know. But it’s what we were told, and we are mere reporters.
It was a glorious day, Sunday, July 8. Despite the stiff breeze from the south, there was little cloud about and the sun was warm. The water, absolutely clear, which we learned later was par for the course on the Costa Brava -- at least, it was on this trip. It was around 21 degrees Celsius. Certainly not wettie conditions, not for us, anyway. Even so, a bit of cool doesn’t bother us. We can afford to be snooty about wetties, because we carry our wettie built in. But most of the swimmers wore wetties, and whilst we found that bizarre, it was not all that surprising since we’d just come from swimming in France, where they embrace every gadget under the sun, even double wetties in high summer on the Riviera. We kid you not.
Victorians love wetties. We don’t reckon they really need them there, either, but everyone wears a wettie there so, the thinking goes, anyone who doesn’t wear one is uncompetitive. But who really cares about being competitive? Real ocean swimmers don’t. Indeed, we loved the TransFrontera Swim partly because there was no competition. There was no timing, there were no times, there were no positions recorded, no prizes awarded, and no skiting about how well you did. Everyone did it just for the experience. But we skate ahead of ourselves…
Strange to find up here that, in such an heavily populated part of the world, urbanisation is pretty thin. It’s rugged country, to be sure, and not easy for your average suburban house builder to access to pop up a block of units, although they manage them in some pretty precarious places in established towns. But rounding Cap Cerbere, you felt like you were swimming through a wilderness.
Past the latté pontoon, you entered the long fjord that leads up to Portbou. This is a long reach, almost half the swim at 1.5km (the swim was 3.8km all up). The finish seems to hold off forever. But the farther into the fjord you go, the smoother the water becomes, and faster. We finish on the stony beach, a small welcoming committee – one caballero, the announcer -- there to embrace every swimmer who crosses the line. This is where we found there were no times recorded, no age categories, no divisions, and no winners. This was a swim run purely for the experience. How wonderful! How refreshing to find that punters still do this stuff purely for the experience.
Then the next best thing: lunch in Las Ramblas. And a tip: head into Las Ramblas for your café; don’t stop in one of those restaurants on the beachfront. The beachfront establishments are for tourists, and while there aren’t that many in this part of the world compared with the French Riviera or lower down the Costa Brava, all things are relative, and there still are restaurants aiming for that trade, with prices and food to match. But simply by walking 50 metres away from the beach, the prices drop and the quality rises in inverse proportion.
You can come with us to the TransFrontera Swim in 2013, if you like. We’ll have packages available very soon on oceanswimsafaris.com and oceanswims.com.
What else did we do in Spain? Lots of stuff. Lots of Dali… We visited Salvador Dali’s home on the beach at Port Lligat, and later his museum up the road in Figueres, a museum we’d visited with Mrs Sparkle last October. The museum in Figueres is stunning, and if you go there, don’t miss the jewelry annex, which is a separate entry off the same ticket. It’s only by visiting places like the Dali museum and Casa Dali at Port Lligat that you start to acquire an appreciation of how prolific was Dali, and how diverse was his art. The surrealism was just part of it.
But the Dali house at Port Lligat was best, because it was smaller and more personal. Dali built the house in his surreal, bizarre style. For a planner or a designer, it seems to defy grids: rooms led to other rooms in different directions and on different levels. No two rooms seemed to be on the same level; the flow through the house seemed continually to halt and change direction; the rooms sizes and shapes changed abruptly. Some rooms had corners, others had curves, and they flowed from one to the other without any rationale. One room was a sound room: if you stand in the centre, right in the centre, every sound comes back at you in stereo. Perhaps it made sense only if you imagined the planning grid as three dimensional, not just length and width, but length and width together with elevation, and the house a jagged Rubic’s cube. But all that made it fascinating. It is what you should expect from someone with Dali’s imagination.
Casa Dalí, Port Lligat
Dali lived at Port Lligat with his Russian wife, Gala, from 1930 until Gala’s death in 1982. When Gala died, Dali left and never went back. He moved to the castle of Pubol, near Girona, where he buried Gala. He also spent time in Figueres, his birthplace to the north, where he supervised the construction of his museum. He’s interred in a vault in the basement. Why is he not with Gala?
the corner there is another micro-museum honouring Dali that doesn’t appear on the tourist guides. It’s in the dining room of the Hotel Duran: an annex of the dining room where Dali entertained. You wouldn’t know about this shrine unless you’d dined at the Hotel Duran, which is how we found out about it. Another unexpected discovery. Off to the bac of the Hotel Duran’s dining room, there’s a long, narrow annex with a mezzanine down the end, with two dining tables set as Dali had them set, one on the mezzanine, as if Dali himself might arrive at any moment for dinner with his guests. The walls are covered in Dali photos, many of them taken in that dining room.
Hotel Duran has some long serving staff. One of the waiters in the dining room, it’s said, served Dali, which is not unreasonable given that Dali died only in 1989. We think the waiter who served Dali was the same chap who served us with Mrs Sparkle, when we stayed at the Duran last October. But the house – the casa – on the beach apparently is pretty much as Dali left it when Gala, his muse, died.
The other good thing about Casa Dali is that they allow the rank and file in to inspect it in groups of up to eight, and it’s not until one sub-peloton of eight has passed from one section to the next that they let the next group in. You can spend hours in Casa Dali, soaking up the feel of the place, discovering its myriad eccentricities, its nuances, and gazing at the views that Dali gazed at every day. Do you know, Dali had a mirror on the opposite wall in his bedroom that was positioned so that he could watch the sun rise each morning without getting out of bed.
Thoughtful cove, Dali.
You can come, too...
Come with us to the Costa Brava in September, 2015... Click here
Francesc Granada with his GPS-on-a-rubber_bag.