Stage 1.6: Zahara de los Atunes – Tarifa, Spain



For the past few days, I’ve been grounded in Zahara de los Atunes. Admittedly, there are far worse places to be stuck in; most days, the weather is hot and sunny, and the beach is right on my doorstep. On arriving, I found that my feet had blistered and bruised so much, I could barely walk, never mind run. Now rested, I set out south-eastwards, across the beach.

An advantage of running is being able to take shortcuts. By running across the beach, I avoid having to rejoin the road. Besides, this is more fun. :) For the first time in this series of runs, the weather is cloudy, with the temperature at 16°C. After a couple of kilometres of sand, I climb the many steps up to the top of the cliff, and rejoin the road.
With the cliff falling away to the right, the sea breaks over the rocks, and the bay stretches out. All along, villas perch at the top, with clear lines of sight for kilometres around. Imagine eating your breakfast overlooking views such as this…
The road looks oddly familiar, and I keep rechecking my compass as I run. Surely the road must double-back sometime soon… After a while, I realise what has happened; simply following the road, I have somehow got caught in a loop, running an extra kilometre or two in a circle. There go any gains made by my short-cut. :)
Finally having untangled myself from the loop, I reach another lighthouse, Faro de Camarinal. Being the cusp of my path, I take a hairpin-left and continue north-eastwards.
Into the misty mountains. Or so it feels; there is a constant threat of rain, and the clouds hang around the tops of the jagged hills. This is a beautiful path, full of trees, hills, and horned beasts… I really enjoy this path, with no traffic, few pedestrians, and occasional dwellings. I slow down and pass as far away as possible from the animals, glad they don’t seem interested in me.
In the interests of a shorter distance and a quieter route, I have elected to ignore the Google Maps routing for walkers and cyclists, instead passing through Bolonia on the coast, rather than taking the road more to the north. A brief moment of sun as I take a rest and inspect my feet. They’re a bit sore, but not too bad, and all is well (relatively speaking ;) ).
After a steep climb, I pass by an old tomb cut out of the rock, and then get to a viewpoint overlooking the valley. Here I take breakfast, whilst a few hundred metres from me, a farmer and dog go about their business. Being higher up, the mist feels really quite cold, and the windchill is freezing me. I stay here longer than is comfortable, simply because my feet are pretty sore again, and in need of a first-aid break. :)
The route down is pleasant, and I descend metres quickly. Above me, the clouds are somewhat dark, and it begins to rain gently. Either the rain or sweat gets into the handsfree on my earphones, and for the rest of the run I am plagued by a poltergeistlich stopping and skipping of my music tracks. I try in vain to disable the functionality; to be honest, I didn’t even know my earphones could do that anyway. Finishing my descent, I rejoin the main road. I have come to realise this is my least favourite type of running, and my heart sinks a little knowing I have kilometres of this stretching ahead of me. There is no path, no alternative road that I can find, and no pavement. I am grateful for the few cars which actually slow down when passing me.
Looking back over the countryside to the hills beyond, the darkened clouds hang around to create a dramatic vista. A country path through here would be perfect, especially one without rough stones. I realise this must be one reason why my feet bruised so badly in the days before.
By this point mixing a fair amount of walking, I eventually arrive in Tarifa. Overall, everything’s gone smoothly, but the enjoyment has been marred somewhat by the shoetastic discomfort. I again promise myself to look into getting some replacements, once I get to somewhere large enough to have a running shop. (It turns out that despite Tarifa being a popular windsports resort, it cannot fulfil this, either; I am given the address of a running shop over 20 km away…)
Again battling the final couple of kilometres, I arrive in the centre of town. I’ve been out for hours, and have enjoyed the day. It’s been 33 km, which I conclude is too far for comfort with my backpack and feetish condition. Nevertheless, it’s been a good day, and I feel a sense of achievement. Checkpoint. 33.0 km (stage) / 138.1 km (total)