Stage 1.4: Conil de la Frontera – Barbate, Spain

Permit me to be a little honest: I wasn’t in the highest of spirits when I left Conil de la Frontera this morning. That is not because I was loathe to leave; it’s a lovely place, pocket-sized yet big enough, with stunning views—I’d certainly recommend it for a romantic weekend. Nor was it because I was minded to echo the opinion of a resident when I told them that I was was going to Barbate: in a nutshell, that it wasn’t the pleasantest of places, and that its close proximity to Morocco makes it a haven for, well, how shall we say it, extra-curricular trading. Instead, I’d taken a bit of a mood-dip, for a number of reasons, one of which being that I got stuck in a brain-loop about the weight of my backpack. Clocking it at around 15% of my bodyweight, before water or food, and having rested the previous day, I began to feel increasingly intimidated by it—the same sort of feeling when you know you can do some run because you’ve done it however many times before, but somehow, this time it’s really hard to start. Nevertheless, I bid my host farewell, got my first reference to Forrest Gump (I’ve been waiting for this :P ), and set off. And what a stunning start to the run!

The path is sandy, although not so much as to lose too much grip, and I run my most comfortable starting kilometres yet. Before long, I realise I have somewhat strayed, and I either have to double-back, or find my way through the shallow water. Mindful of blisters, I find the shallowest part, wade through, and continue on my way. (Note from future self: considering that my blisters got much worse after this, if I had my time again—I’d do exactly the same. :P )
Pretty soon I come to a road, but this is the sort of quiet, inoffensive, cousin-much-removed version of many of the roads I’ve seen to-date, barely related to the motorways of peril I’ve been so anxious to avoid. To the right pretty much throughout, I can see the sea and the beach. This is a surfing area, and an assortment of shacks and campers pass me by on the left.
There is something incongruous about the Tibetan prayer flags I pass, strung up outside a protected villa. I confess myself no expert in prayer flags, but I’m pretty sure they’re not meant to be attached to barbed wire…
Soon enough, it’s familiar territory of the path-through-field kind. I wonder to myself whether this is indeed a valid path, and whether I’m even allowed here. But a moped passes me from in front, and I see a gas station on the left (yes, I said gas, not petrol), so I figure everything’s probably alright.
Rejoining the road, I amuse myself by heeding the stop sign, as a tractor goes round the roundabout. The road lasts for quite a while, until I take a brief detour from the direct route—I am going to see Faro de Cabo Trafalgar, on Cape Trafalgar.
This is it! This is where the Battle of Trafalgar happened! I feel something akin to Clarkson’s mood as he talks about the River Kwai.
And upon my ascent, I am not disappointed with the view. I overlook the bay, and decide to rest. It’s got hotter, and I’ve run 16 km already. Time for breakfast. :)
Continuing my journey, I am time-after-time overwhelmed with the splendour of it all. Looking behind me, I see the cliff drop onto the beach stretching behind, the warm blue of the Mediterranean, the clear, clear sky. I know as I’m looking at it: this is why I’m here; this is why I’m doing this run.
The road begins to climb. And climb. And climb. I will confess, I don’t have the strength left, and I walk most of the way up. Trees line either side; a natural park of some sorts. There isn’t really anywhere safe to run, as the road is elevated. For the next few kilometres, I run (or sometimes walk) along the road where I can, and jump off when vehicles are coming that can’t overtake safely. Most people overtake safely, and most at least slow down. One driver looks right at me, and doesn’t move aside at all, keeping their speed as they drive towards me. I have to step off the road to avoid being hit. I am not best pleased.
And at last, the road rolls downhill. And downhill. And downhill. Running with renewed energy, I see the blue of the sea up ahead. It is worth running towards.
As the road descends to Brabate, the view opens up, and I see the town to the left, and the sea stretching right across the right. This is truly a wonderful moment, and I’m very, very pleased to be running this stage. Almost there; just a couple of kilometres left to go. :)
As I run through the town, I am elated by the run. Tired, sure; I’ve been out for hours, in the heat of the day. I started the run feeling anxious and not at all at peace. And yet, not only did I get there, but I detoured to inspect Cape Trafalgar, breakfasted overlooking the cliffs, and took mile after mile of tree-lined road. And I feel much better. Checkpoint. 28.0 km (stage) / 90.9 km (total)