Stage 1.3: Chiclana de la Frontera – Conil de la Frontera, Spain

The day dawns bright and sunny in Chiclana de la Frontera. Okay, according to my mobile; I can’t pretend I was up nearly enough to make such a judgement of my own accord. Regardless, when I set out mid-morning, the sun is shining brightly, starting at sunny 11°C.

Part of the reason I took so long to leave was that I’m still trying to optimise my bag-packing. And even more importantly, to solve the small-hands-punching problem of the airflow back. An initial attempt with a dry-bag fails; it’s comfortable, but all the air gets squished swiftly. My second attempt is a joy to behold; I fold my coat carefully, pocket zips facing the bag, and stuff it up between the netting and the plastic. Sooooooo comfy. Truly, a feat of engineering.
Soon out of the town, I am already confused. Just what is a pedestrian supposed to do in such a circumstance? Come to that, what’s a cyclist to do, either? The future me can tell the past me that’s talking to the present you that this is basically my recipe for the entire day…
I elect to run along the side of the road, as far from the passing traffic as possible, without falling too much into the concrete ditch. When the ditch flattens out, I run there, instead. Also a recipe for the day.
Hurrah! A bike path. :) This makes me happy, and I follow it. I also find the mini-crossings and mini-lanes amusing. (In case it’s unclear, this isn’t the entire reason I follow it.)
Um? I guess this is the end of the path. A little past the bike path, it goes goodness knows where. I continue for a few hundred metres along a grassy area in front of some builders’ stores, and then abruptly run out of road.
I spend a long, long time trying to solve this problem. I look at maps. I look around. I tentatively venture back across the dual-carriageway, and see that the best I can trade it for is a full-on motorway, complete with warning signs. I cross back, walking past the end of the fence. (Note to self: Fences keep pedestrians away from roads. But they also trap them in dangerous or unreasonable areas, especially when a bike path has simply vanished.) From my map I see there’s a quieter road running parallel. But there’s simply no way to get to it. Not even if I go back hundreds of metres. At long last, I give up, deciding the best solution is to retrace hundreds and metres—and then run in the wrong direction. At least here there’s a quiet road.
A few times over the past couple of days, I’ve found myself basically running down small roads at the back of people’s gardens. I wonder if they mind. I wonder what lives roll past, on four wheels, on two wheels, on two trainers… I admire their flower-display on the way past.
At least when running through the country, never let it be said that Spain is always dry. There’s mud. There’s puddles. (Mm, nice plural contraction.) There’s mini swimming-pools in the middle of the road. Not often, mind you—but just saying, the countryside has a lot in common, wherever you are. I feel at home in the fields… even if there are absolutely no cows. :|
A little while later, I take the most lovely road. Trees on either side, bumps and dirt all the way along. I enjoy myself immensely. By the way, if you’re wondering, my to-be-patented coat-up-the-backpack technique is holding out wonderfully. Sure, it’s wetter back there than I’d like—but no more beatings! :D Morale improves.
All-too-soon, I come to another human vs car situation. There’s not really anything for it but to run alongside the road, and hope that nobody’s asleep. I don’t like trusting others’ intake of coffee…
Bridge over the River Motorway! To be clear, the busy road I’ve had to run along isn’t the motorway; that’s the road alongside the motorway. The quiet road is still on the other side of the motorway, safely out of reach. I determine to take the bridge.
Except there’s no way on to the bridge. There’s no side-road. There’s no path. There’s very little except private land, and beautifully-scenic yet unhelpful you-shall-not-pass signs posted. #GetOrfMyLand
Up at the bridge, I find my own solution. I’m pretty sure this isn’t the way god intended humans to travel over major-road then motorways. I have to bend over and use my hands, near the top, because not only is there nowhere for a backpack-carrier to hold onto, I’m also rather scared of heights. ;)
Safely-up, I cross the bridge, and admire the view: a busy two-lane road where I’ve just come from, right next to an even busier four(?)-lane motorway, with this being the one opportunity to cross since kilometres ago.
And although the trees dare come no closer, what a difference can already be seen. A field of top-heavy trees, looking like something out of Avatar (but I don’t mean they’re blue…).
At last, the quieter road. It’s not pretty, and the sun is absolute baking, but I’m grateful for the relative quiet (quiet from the relatives?). There’s a large concrete wall on the right, motorway-side—not as big as the wall in Palestine, admittedly, but large none-the-less.
Time to rest. I’ve stopped at various parts along the way for a bit anyway, mostly whilst trying to navigate the concrete spaghetti, but now some water is deserved. I carefully drink part of it, thinking I’m not all that thirsty. And then drink most of the rest of it, realising I am. (Note to self: Bring more water! It’s heavy, but it’s kinda worth it…)
Getting going after this is rather harder. It’s not so much the problem of cooling down, since it’s really warm. But just having stopped properly for a few minutes, I remember what it feels like to not be running. :P By now I’m dipping a bit in energy, although thankfully nothing like yesterday. Today I have brought some biscuits, but I don’t really fancy them; a Kit Kat this morning for breakfast already made me feel a little iffy. But with good timing, I see a supermarket. And, it not being Sunday, it’s actually open! Hurrah. It’s hard to explain just how welcome the sight of a cuboid, supermarket building is, after these kilometres.
I decide to take a longer break, eat a properly breakfast, and drink orange-juice. Except… I then trigger my IBS-esque health problem. Thankfully, it isn’t too bad for me often, and it’s not usually painful—but it does play havoc with running, at times. (If you’re an IBS/Krohn’s long-distance runner, please get in touch! :D ) When I eventually get going, I decide to ignore Google Maps, which wants me to keep running down a busy road when there’s clearly a convenient side-road. This transpires to be leafy and picturesque.
Got your goat! Literally! I pass by the sweetest of goats, who come up to the fence to have their pictures taken. (I’m not naïve, they did probably want more, but there are limits…) And in their enclosure, just behind, there are two adorable baby-goats—in some sort of cage on wheels. I don’t understand it.
I reach a longer road, with what is apparently a two-way cycle-lane on my side. Really, it’s just about big enough to fit me. But compared to some of the roads I’ve seen today, I’m mostly content. For the last few minutes, I’ve been run-walking, since my IBS-esque-thingy is worsening. But then it gets too bad, and I have to simply walk. There’s simply no fighting that kind of problem.
As I’m coming down the road, I espy four horses galloping along. They run and run, streaking across the field. It’s a beautiful sight, and I wonder whether they’ll somehow cross the road. But they come to the end of their field, and stop. As I pass them up-close a little later, I see the four horses seemingly talking to two horses on the other side of the fence. Their conversation is clearly more interesting than me passing, and they go on uninterrupted.
Entering the town, there’s finally a proper-sized bike-path, clearly marked in red, and everything. I can’t decide whether this makes more or less sense: On the one hand, most people will probably cycle short distances, within the town itself. On the other hand, the speed-limit in the town is likely lower, so it already isn’t all that dangerous, whereas trying to take the route I’ve taken is, well… challenging…
At last, walking and wishing I hadn’t had breakfast and orange-juice after all, I arrive in Conil de la Frontera. With the exception of the last few kilometres, it’s been a good run, and despite the frequent busy roads, I’ve enjoyed myself in the sun. :) Checkpoint. 24.0 km (stage) / 62.9 km (total)