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 Walk Across Europe

2005-02-17 - Trip 3 - Leg 21

Spain, Andalucia and Huelva

Sanlucar to Matalascanas

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30.4 km today.
3.1 km/h average today.
9 hours 49 mins walking time.
116.1 km this trip.
389.1 km from start.
0 metres minimum height.
23 metres maximum height.
25 metres ascent.
11 metres descent.
 Track Log: Logged.
 Travel: Park ATV bus.

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Beach and dunes

The Doñana National Park only allows visitors on guided tours using four wheel drive buses. Walking along the beach is allowed. We took the bus tour but got out at the furthest point and walked home between the dunes and the sea.

This walk was done in the wrong direction!

To comply with local laws, regulations or customs, or to pass some geographical obstacle (Rio Guadalquivir), sometimes it's necessary to modify the route.

To protect the wildlife, the Doñana reserve is closed to all but licensed all-terrain-buses which do tours. Wardens will arrest anyone breaking this rule. Walking along the beach is allowed but not camping. During the winter, no ferry boats cross the Guadalquivir river. To do the walk at all we needed the assistance and agreement of the park authorities. We could not walk in the right direction because the buses were not prepared to pick us up (what if we were late for the rendezvous?). Nor could we cross the river. The buses were prepared to drop us off at the furthest point. We had no choice but to do the route in the wrong direction.

So we booked on a tour and got out at the far end. Our driver was mortified because if he had known he would have taken us through the dunes first to see the animals rather than along the beach. He was somewhat placated when I said I had been on the whole tour already the previous week.

We have taken emergency rations and extra clothes today. It is not that this walk is substantially longer than others but that it doesn't start until 10.30 which means we may run out of daylight and come home in the dark and freezing cold. There is also no way to abort the walk and get a bus or taxi back. We feared soft sand which is very tiring to walk through.

The bus dropped us at the far end of the beach opposite San Lucar. It was 9.45. The driver thinks we are completely nuts - most people so far this year have not been surprised. Two young couple in the back of our jeep seemed to wish they were doing the same. The driver told us we were under no circumstances to go into the park and that if we did the guards would come and get us. We knew this and any way the walk is far enough without forays in to soft sand. In any case, we were glad the animals had somewhere undisturbed to live.

We walked back along the beach and soon reached the mouth of the Guadalquivir and the end of the summer beach day trip dustbins. We kept putting up a gray heron. Out to sea there was a wreck in two halves. We think it may be being dismantled. We saw little terns which seemed very hungry because they couldn't eat yesterday when the sea was very rough. Today it was calmer although the wind was strong and now in our faces - not a common direction but right on cue for our walk.

We had our first break after 4Km - only 25 to go! In the distance we can see some high ground and we are wondering if it could even be Portugal as there is no high ground between here and the border. On the next stretch we see common and lesser black-backed gulls about 50 - 50)

Neil has put on his cagoule and I have put on my woolly hat. The wind is very strong and cold.

We had our second break after 8km. Our average speed was 4.9kph.

We've been going into the teeth of the gale. The white horses would suggest force 4 to 5 but what we are walking into feels much more though not so much as yesterday which was nearly storm force.

Neil could see the moon which came up at noon and set at midnight. As we were on neaps, we expected hard inter-tidal sand all the way. Even the sand above the high tide line was not that soft unlike the camino verde sand.

Normally we took breaks to get get cool. On this trip we went into the dunes to get warm. You just get warm and then you have to set off again into the wind and cold.

We reached Matalascañas at sunset just before the street lights came on. We got home at dusk. Mini was happy because she feared we would be benighted. We feared it too.

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