Daddy, is it very far?

So where are we now? We’ve baled out of the Africa swim until May or June next year as COVID-19 quarantine has had its effect on fitness and morale. I feel as though I’m catching up now though having just completed my first 6,000m. swim and staying within the 1,000m. per 20 minutes (3km/h) margin that we need to qualify for the Africa crossing. However that needs to be stretched out to a potential 17,000m. swim, a very different prospect. Technique, breathing, technique. That will be the focus for the next few months, gaining that tiny advantage by curling the hand in the correct fashion, by minimising drag, maximising power. But that’s the boring stuff. This is the fun stuff – the local swims have been such fun as this little video of a swim from Los Caños to Barbate shows.

And if you think its bizarrely raining under the deep blue sky – no, it’s a waterfall that drops in to the sea from the cliffs of the Nature Reserve above. If you want to see it you’ll have to swim there!

We are so lucky to have the Parque Natural de La Breña on our doorstep. Over a 1,000 hectares is marine reserve and the remaining 4,000 hectares is pine forest and eco important marsh land that runs up to the foot of Vejer. The acantilado (cliffs) run for about 4km. forming a formidable wall of sandstone. If you get tired on this swim there is no option but to carry on. Climbing up to the forest 100m. above is not an option even for Alex Honnold as it’s a crumbly, fractious rock whose detritus fill the sea bed creating a protective home for the myriad marine life.

The Marine and Park reserve with the ‘Torre del Tajo’ visible in the centre. Photo – Junta de Andalucia.

The ‘Torre del Tajo’ is a 16th. century tower of which there are several hundred dotted along the coastline from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic coastline. The first were built in the 1520’s in Almeria as warning towers for the regular ‘pirate’ attacks propitiated by the Turks who had settled in Algeria and raided the Spanish coastline plundering the towns and villages. The towers were invariably in communication with one another, using fire and smoke as a means of warning the local population of imminent attacks. In this area the tuna factories were particularly vulnerable for the value of the cured tuna. In our Conil to Tarifa swim so far we have swum past the Torre Guzman (Conil), Torre Castilnovo (El Palmar), Torre Nueva (El Palmar), Torre Trafalgar, Torre de Meca (Los Caños de Meca) and the Torre del Tajo. Other than the Torre Trafalgar all are in remarkably good condition although impenetrable as any access to them has long since eroded.

The ‘Acantialdo’ with Barbate and the Sierra Retin in the distance. Photo – Junta de Andalucía

So far we’ve swum lineally 25,000m. to get to the Playa Hierbabuena on our Conil to Tarifa swim. We’ve swum much more countless training km. just getting this far through the winter cold and the summer warmth ( the spring – what happened to that?). And now before the autumn storms (never forget this is the Atlantic, it may look like the Med in the summer but it all changes with the seasons) the big push to get to Tarifa. Much longer sessions ahead through potentially complicated waters – 42,800m. on the horizon. Gulp!