Stage 1.9: La Línea de la Concepción – Castillo de la Duquesa, Spain

In which I fight my map, get chased by a security guard, indulge in a little scrabbling, and meet a dog called Norman.



It is time to leave the vicinity of Gibraltar, and head north. From the start, I’m able to run parallel to the beach. For once, I have some company on the path; it’s a nice day for a walk. But I’m not feeling at my best, today; already a kilometre or so in, I’m feeling the weight of my backpack. I’ve reconfigured it again, and have added more water, but still, it’s not a good sign.

In the spirit of scientific enquiry, I decide to try out the voice navigation system. Normally, I have this turned off, since I find it disruptive. To my surprise, though, I find I don’t hate it. However, just a couple of kilometres in, and the routing is already trying to send me up a rocky trail. After an uncertain moment starting at it, I opt to ignore the route, and keep to the sea. The voice becomes very irritating, telling me I’ve deviated. I rejoin the route and run to the end of the path, only to find my way barred by a locked gate. I have to go all the way around.
I am instructed to go up a hill. But this appears to be some kind of residential area with security. I take a photo, check my map, and then give decide to follow it. Part-way up the hill, I see a portly security-guard chasing me. I stop when I see them, and they simply say ‘no’. I’m like, what? And they just say ‘no’ again, and turn around even though metres behind me, and start to walk back down the hill. I shout after them, ‘private?’. And they’re like, ‘yes’. Still no more help forthcoming, in either Spanish or English. I ask in Spanish for the road, and they somewhat grumpily point to the parallel road. My voice-navigation whinges at me. I find part of this road very quiet, and find out the reason why. It’s not exactly in a drivable state…
At last, a downhill. Given the craziness of the paths I’ve taken recently, I really don’t mind at all that this is along the road, and I coast down quite happily.
My map guides me into another private residential area. I try to avoid it, but realise I can’t. I run past security, and this time, no one tries to stop me. This one’s just letting all the cars through, anyway. But then my map tells me to run through a golf-course. This clearly isn’t going to happen, even without the locked gate, and I have to double-back and once again make up my own route. I do get to run down a pleasantly-flowery lane, however.
This place is crazily-huge. After a kilometre or more, I’m still inside the compound. My feet aren’t partying today, and I’m really feeling the hardness of the tarmac. I alternate with some walking, feeling rising stress each time a security-car drives past me, but no one says anything. But there’s not really any nice route round, either. Villa after villa is passed by, and the road curves round slowly. I dread to think how much it costs to live here…
Finally, I escape the compound, passing an empty sentry-box. Over the bridge, I am met by a glorious view.
With an equally-glorious view on the other side of the bridge. Lovely. 🙂
Some distance later, I cut down rightwards towards the beach. Somebody’s getting changed for swimming; I don’t envy them. It’s really not my feet’s day, today; I’m simply too tired.
I round one part of the coast, and the views get nicer and nicer. The surface is too soft to run on comfortably, though; with my backpack, I just sink into the sand.
A stream makes its way to the sea. Overhead, the main road—super busy, with no footpaths or parallel roads, so far as I can tell. I haven’t come the right way. I was supposed to go kilometres away from the coast, wrap all the way around, and then rejoin later. But I’m just not in the mood for such a long diversion. I continue to attempt to make my own, more direct, way.
Most of the beaches are empty. Sometimes, I pass a person or two, but always walking; it appears despite the 17°C+, it’s not regarded as warm enough for sun-bathing. It’s funny, compared to the city, this is basically deserted. But compared to some of the stages I’ve run recently, even just a handful of people around feels quite busy! 😛
And I discover the main reason for the map telling me to run literally kilometres in a different direction; the beach ends, and there are just rocks. At this point, I have no idea if it’s even passable. But as is often the case with these routes, it’s not simply a case of walking back, and then up some path and around. Often there are no cliff paths, and the few steps or slopes seen lead right into people’s sea-view abodes.
I decide to undertake a little scrabbling. Part-way around, I find a use for discarded glasses-frames.
I am most definitely on my own, now; I can’t see anyone along the route I’ve come, and the way ahead is shrouded in feasibility mysteries. Above me, villas perch on top as I make my way around.
Most of it isn’t too tricky, but I tighten my backpack to stabilise my centre of gravity. Some parts of trickier than others—but I love the colours and shapes of the rocks.
At last I’m around. Turns out that way is possible, after all. At this tide, at least… A long beach opens up ahead of me. I’m not proud to admit it, but I’m walking most of this; I simply don’t have the strength left for a beach-run this late in the stage and day. And yes, perhaps I should’ve eaten something again…
Birds perch on the water’s edge, presumably fishing. My approach startles them, and they rotate in a three-dimensional wave in air.
Others pass overhead. There a more people in sight again; the odd human dotted here and there, somebody on the rocks in a meditation pose.
I near the end of my journey, as the river heads to the sea. I summon up enough energy to break into a jog, and then stop again quickly, because of someone’s dog. Really, dogs are one of the banes of a runner’s existence. Not only are they constantly setting off a beaconesque series of warning barks (and I could barely sleep the other night, what with a dog which barked seemingly for hours), but they have a habit of running at you. Most are in play, but that’s not the point. One followed me the other day for hundreds of metres, constantly threatening to trip me up. It turns out this dog’s name is Norman, and I ponder just what sort of a name for a dog that is. And so, even over the space of the last couple of weeks, I find myself much preferring cats to dogs; I have never, never been unwelcomely chased by a cat when running.
I finally get to my goal, just before Castillo de la Duquesa. I’ve seen some lovely views, but it’s been a surprisingly tough day, and I’m so absolutely exhausted I can barely walk. Checkpoint. 31.4 km (stage) / 239.1 km (total)