07/10/22 – 13/11/22 253 km
Even though I’d taken the Monday off, I was seriously lacking in motivation at the start of Week 11. I had worked so hard to arrive in Tarifa, towards that one specific goal, that I hadn’t taken time to consider what would come next. It was only when I started to plan the route to Sevilla that it really dawned on me, just how much I had left. I was mentally and physically knackered. More than anything I was missing some of the comforts that come with being at home.
I allowed myself thirty minutes to dwell on these thoughts. Nothing changed, so I set off towards the lighthouse that marked the most southerly point in Spain. The gate leading to Isla de las Palomas (Pigeon Island) was locked. I never made it to the lighthouse. After this minor disappointment, I had no choice but to turn and head north.
I followed the promenade out of Tarifa which then spat me out into the dunes. The path quickly changed to soft sand and each step was like trudging through treacle. I felt like I was back on the beaches of Catalunya. I was missing my poles. After about twenty kilometers I came to a quiet surfing town called Bolonia. I checked myself into a hotel and gave up.
When I awoke on Day 70 it was clear that I needed to pull myself together. There was no way I could carry on like this. I started to think about the positives that this new section would bring and everything I had already achieved. I had to focus on the next week, I just needed to get to Sevilla!
The morning was overcast and temperatures had dropped significantly as I was now on the Atlantic coast. It was a well-needed respite from the previous week’s gruelling heat. I followed the coast for the next two hours as the path gently ascended through a pine forest and then wound its way down to the coastal town of Zahara de los Atunes. The highlight of the morning was a cyclist giving me a high five as he sped past in the opposite direction.
After leaving the town I skirted around the edge of a military base, gunshots cracking in the distance, before walking along a never-ending cycle path for the rest of the day. I stopped around 7pm as the sun was setting.
After a quick breakfast the next morning I continued along the coast before passing an enormous golf complex. The area was a hive of activity as builders and contractors worked frantically to complete renovations before next year’s tourist season. I then made my way inland and headed toward the town of Chiclana de la Frontera. As I moved away from the coast the scenery became less interesting and I was extremely relieved to arrive in Puerto Real just as the sun was setting.
I had booked myself into an apartment which I would share with the owner Juanlu. I was really grateful for the company and we spent the whole evening sharing stories of our lives as we munched our way through an enormous salad that he had prepared.
The next morning I woke up feeling like a new man. Human contact really does make a difference! I was 150 km from Sevilla now and determined to arrive by the end of the week. That meant three days of 50 km in a row, something I had not done since Week 5.
After sharing breakfast with Juanlu I left Puerto Real before 9am. The first few hours were spent walking through a salt marsh which allowed for spectacular views back to Cadiz. It was flat ground and I made fantastic progress. After about twenty five kilometers I arrived in Jerez de la Frontera where I stopped for a very quick lunch. Then I followed the motorway north for a further twenty kilometers before turning west towards the small village of El Cuervo.
Prior to leaving that morning I had spotted a small observation hut where local twitchers would hideout. It was there that I planned to sleep – and what a sleep. I was so happy to be in the bivvy again! I woke to my alarm at 6.30am the next morning and walked the remaining five kilometers to the village where I warmed up over a cup of coffee. Everyone else was drinking spirits!
I had under 100km left now until I reached Sevilla. The remainder of the day was spent following minor roads until I arrived in Utrera, again as the sun was setting. I could not find anywhere within my budget to sleep so I decided to find myself a park bench and hang around before completing the final section to Sevilla. I was 37 km away now.
After filling up my bottles in a bar I made camp on a concrete bench that flanked a roundabout. It was 7pm. I sat there for five hours as the temperature slowly dropped, eventually wrapping myself in my bivvy bag. Around 11pm I tried to sleep however I found it to be much more difficult to relax in an urban area with so many people around. At 2am I gave up, packed up my bag and decided to start walking.
I left town along a path following the train track using the light from my headtorch. After about thirty minutes I was passed by a car full of drunks who scared me senseless!
Eventually, the farmhouses petered out and I was alone, walking into the obscurity of night. The path became increasingly more narrow however with a mixture of my light and the map on my phone I was able to navigate. Everything was going well until I realised that two Caminos had intersected and I started to follow the wrong one! Despite it being 5am there were waste disposal trucks everywhere and they were driving like lunatics.
I retraced my steps to the point where I had gone wrong and then followed the other road which took me through a solar farm until I arrived at Dos Hermanas – the final town before Sevilla. It was still dark and around 6.30am but fortunately, I found an open bar. It was full of hunters, some of them had their shotguns slung over their shoulders. I had a coffee, they were on the spirits!
The remainder of the walk to Sevilla was a slog. I spent the morning navigating some of the major motorway junctions trying not to be killed by those driving home from the previous night. At one point a car screeched to a standstill right next to me. As I prepared myself for the passenger to jump out and attack, the door swung open and a young chap ejected the contents of his stomach into the gutter. City life!
I arrived at my hostel at around 11am. God only knows how I walked that final hour but it didn’t matter, I was in Sevilla now. I had done 91 km in under 30 hours!
Next week I would become a pilgrim. Bring on the Via de la Plata!