Conil to El Palmar swim

The sea has calmed down so finally I’m starting to get some open water time in. Rafa and I arranged to meet up but then he was delayed for some reason so I decided to go it alone. Gloves and hat on I went in starting under the bridge in Conil. I enjoy open water swimming on my own but frankly all swimming one does is on one’s own. Even if you are in a huge group as when doing a triathlon once your head is under the water all the focus is on breathing and surviving, everything around you pales into insignificance.

I’ve come to the conclusion swimming is lonely, whether you’re in a pool or in the sea, while doing distance the distance is in your head.

There is a big square tower about 2km. into this swim, this is the Torre de Castilnovo dating from the early 16th. century. When in 1295 King Sancho X wanted to reward the heroic Guzman el Bueno for his sacrificial defence of Tarifa (more of which in another post) he gave him the rights to the lucrative tuna fishing along this stretch of coastline. Tuna in medieval times had such a high value that this coastline was heavily defended against the frequent attacks of the Barbary pirates who would sail across from their North African ports to pillage the coastal villages. As time moved on the defences grew more elaborate and a string of watch towers were built all along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coast from Huelva to Nerja beyond Malaga. This is one of the few square towers equidistant between the Torre de El Palmar and the one on the cliffs of Roche.

Torre de Castilnovo ©Tripkay

As I swam the tower never seemed to get closer. 20 minutes in and I didn’t seem to have moved at all making me think that I was trapped in a current. As the minutes ticked I realised that the lack of landmarks close by (this coast is really just fields of wheat or sunflowers running almost to the high tide line) meant I had no markers and the tower was approaching but incredibly slowly. 40 minutes in I came up parallel and took a minutes breather. The sea was almost flat calm, the bottom a murky 10m. below me with the occasional dark patch of seaweed tricking my mind into thinking something gruesome and dangerous might be lurking down there.

A couple of terns swooped past their wings millimetres away from touching the water, I admired their skill wishing I was in flight rather encumbered in neoprene in somebody else’s element. I resumed my swim and within what seemed short minutes I was floundering on the shore trying to break through the backwards suck of the waves riding up the sand. Clicking my Suunto I was happy to see the time – 3200m. in just over an hour. If I could keep that up I might just make the big swim to Africa.