by Lucía


5.15 in the morning; the alarm rings, which catches me with one eye already half-open. Nerves. The heat?

I go down to the restaurant, and I notice my Swim mates have already breakfasted. I wander round the circular table, as I just don’t know what to eat; my stomach is all screwed up. After going around three or four times, the lad on reception, watching me from the doorway, offers to help “Coffee. Perhaps you need some coffee?”

On the tables vacated by those whose tummy was full, I spot kiwi fruit and banana peel, tubs of jam opened, but not fully emptied, half- nibbled slices of bread and teeth marks on the boiled ham. Would that mean there other screwed-up stomachs?
Then, outside, we swimmers recognize each other and exchange greetings. At this unearthly hour and dressed like this, we are not out for fun, nor just out for the fresh air.
Hundreds of folk in front of the Tabarca ferries. Lots of male and female swimmers. Lively but nervous conversation. Volunteers and organizers. What a scenario! All wide awake and getting on with their job.
I get in the line relating to my bib. 332. ID. The girl scans down the list for my name and…. no problem. There I am. She marks down my details with yellow fluorescent highlighting. They mark me on my right arm, with just a bit more care than if I were a wild animal and I look for a space to get myself sorted.
People, back-packs. protective cream, loads of cream, nervous expressions smiling faces, more protective cream, so much on some that I start to wonder if I’ve put enough on myself (I left mine in the hotel) Chip on the heel (on which leg?) It’s all the same isn’t it? Was there anything about that in the rules?



Swimmers on their own, couples, threesomes, foursomes, groups, clubs, from near and far, top class swimmers, special vests, such as “Open sea”, “Triathlon” sounds of foreign languages . All ages figure there. I’m over the moon. Everybody here because we all like the same thing! I’m grateful there are people prepared to organize this type of event.

The mobile phone rings. How are you? Have you got a bad elbow? Will you be able to swim? Lots of questions, all giving me butterflies. Good Luck! We’ll see you at the Finish. “If I get there that is”, I muse. I must be crazy to do this, but of course. The family is keen on visiting Tabarca. Cheap excuses, really I want to just swim, I want to do this crossing, just for me. “The” crossing. I leave the backpack in the van and go towards the Tabarca ferry area.

When there is only one ferry left to sail, and the last but one gets ready to go, from the top area of a boat, a lad holding a loudspeaker unsettles us shouting a question:
“Who’s lost their chip?”

Everybody looked down their ankles to check it. The owner (female) appears very soon, got ankle and chip reunited again. and then, from the boat top deck, uses this chance to give us last instructions .
“Now then, to make it easier when boarding, get yellow cap in hand, number marked on your arm well displayed; because they’re your passport. Check in the little rucksack that you’ve got the whistle!”
Meanwhile. the last boat but one sets off. Those who are heading for the island wave goodbye to those who are still on dry land with a “See you soon”. Back- slapping, shoulder-hugging. How many will have downed a “biodramina” seasick pill?
With everybody’s attitude just as civic-minded as sporty, we board the last Tabarca ferryboat. And there, as if we are smugglers the vaseline operation starts; vaseline here, vaseline there. Just as well it’s cheap. Stretching exercises and more vaseline… I notice some lads put it under their armpits and I follow suit. (obviously those creases that you get there ( Oh dear, Lucia you’re a beginner. Others put it on their neck. So me too and then more stretching exercises.

I like the atmosphere and the westerly wind (Just for something to say because I don’t know which way the wind is blowing) We all chat, make comments, weigh things up, we know each other. Veronica and Ricardo are a couple I’ll always remember with
affection. They started swimming in September, normally getting to 3000 metres and have never done open waters. “Do you think we’ll make it there?” they ask me. “I think you’ll enjoy it” I tell them.
The sun is coming up. Everybody’s there, with all the formalities done and just staring at the sunrise. Orange coloured; today it comes up as a salmon-coloured orange I stay in my seat, admiring it, just like so many other swimmers.
At the bows of the boat, I recognise one of the Swim organisers from the photos and from yesterday’s talk.
The buoys are ready. They form a straight line from the island right to the mainland, or vice-versa, according to how you look at it. This is everybody’s destination. on the island , the signs should show “The 21st century invasion of Tabarca…”
“The Mediterranean is just a kid’s sea” a New Zealander once said to me. And so I felt like swimming”. But, really, it’s quite unpredictable, and today it seems not to be flat at all, keep calm girl, we’ll get some energy, I see little waves which hand you “galtaetes” little slaps. A few kayaks are churning them out; they head for Tabarca.

The island is getting bigger right before our eyes, we get there. We leave the harbour and head for the beach, I search around looking for a silent greeting from the legless lizards, inhabitants of the island. No sign of them. Shyness? Fear? Morning feeling-off syndrome? Perhaps hiding under the stones, maybe just thinking: what the heck are these doing?.
We hand the little rucksack to the “bag man” who will store them according to bib number and we head for the water.
Two swimmers help a third one, who is missing both legs, to get into the water. I smile inwardly.
“Get moving, Lucia. Come on!” Veronica says to me and gives a romantic kiss to her boyfriend. (Love is great isn’t it!). And at that very minute the Start siren sounds! I don’t know what like-sounding word to use to describe the horn blast but it’s a sound that says, “Now (starts the real business!! ”Get swimming!!
The water is really great and I don’t mean the taste, although I don’t take long in tasting it, but the temperature; nice and coolish, pleasant, perfect for doing the crawl comfortably.
Hundreds of tiny yellow heads in the sea; arms dancing to the splash of the waves…and the sea floor, mamma mia! What a beautiful sight!.



There is no elbowing, slapping, nor dragging on your legs, No one makes off with my goggles; nothing like that. Just slight rubbing. We all look for our own space.
I lose sight of my pal, and, magical comradeship, a lad invites me to swim with their group. I try to get a look at his bib number, 5 hundred and something. I don’t manage to see it clearly and I didn’t get to speak to him again. The people move and I go with them. I stop trying to be sociable, and get my head in the water. This is just peace.
I still can’t see the buoys, so I follow the others. Heads out of the water, with a body following under . Boats, with friends and families looking at us, cheering, how would we look from up there?
Kayaks, lots of kayaks or canoes (I don’t know much about boats), people standing up, rowing on a surf-board. What an impressive variety of back-up craft. Volunteers …..
We keep on swimming, I know we are turning right, skirting the islets. Where will the first ones be now?
We haven’t got to the half-kilometre mark and I’m already toying with the idea of pulling out… A bit further, Lucia!. I change my swim style and concentrate again on what I’ve got below me; what makes so attractive this crossing, an endless blanket of underwater prairie “Poseidonia Oceanica”, lung of the Mediterranean, which waves about by the water flow just as it does on land; like fields of young green wheat, swaying to and fro in the spring breeze.
Fish hide among this prairie, “alga de vidriers” crystal shine seaweed which serves them as a hiding place, as well as a nest for reproduction.

Silvery fish, coloured, striped, markings on the tail. They can be picked out when they turn their slim body. And as we get to deeper waters, then I can’t pick them out So, just follow the buoys . It’s easy, with their balloons floating in air, just like we do in the water. Red ones every 200. yellow ones at each kilometer mark. A life belt on each buoy.
On the left, loads of swimmers, on the right, the horizon (light blue, the sea a navy blue) and an ever-present kayak. Santa Pola ahead. Now and again I look back. I have no idea. I don’t know exactly how suitable my start has been, I look at the sea floor. What clarity! Crystalline waters which, oh dear! Lets me spot a jellyfish. Only one. Tiny. New-born, perhaps? A baby jellyfish. In the Adriatic, they’ve been studying them for 40 years, noting a ten-year cycle for lots of jellyfish and a four to five year cycle for a few. Have we got into the last cycle?
There’s a little more choppiness on one side. From the left? From the West?
We approach the 3 km mark. The swimmers swing to the left, towards a boat. I take off my goggles. I’d like to know “what’s going on” There is a give-away. Wow. Giving away what? Small bottles of water, for those who want to indulge I join in. “One, here! Me too!
Thanks! Great!”
Cool drinking water to counteract the gulps of salt water.
There’s a swimmer in the boat that had the water. Cramps? Or some injury has raised its head? From that minute, I see people hanging on to life- belts, for a rest or giving up. The first man I see, I want to ask him how he is, but a kayak gets there first.
Quite right. So….. just carry on!
I see my arm has warmed up, the pain goes away. I thrash my legs even faster. I enjoy it. Why not call a spade a spade? I realize how much I like swimming: It’s important to get to the finish, but even more, is enjoying every arm thrust. Wow!!! what a revelation. That’s what makes me get so, so very calm when I’m so, so nervous.
I start to make a note of the metre marks, 3200, 300, 600.. I’m going fast, I slow the rhythm down. I check on my arm. I’m feeling new sensations. And I have the feeling I’m swimming alone.
To the right. the horizon gives way to the Cape of Santa Pola area. You can still see the sea floor. Dark, but you can still see the underwater prairie. How many metres down? How a herd of goats equipped with diving helmet would enjoy this!
Km 4 .I feel better and I’m going to “give it some hammer…” Still 1900 to go. If it hurts again, not much left now, I’ll put up with it. My aim join the staggered super group that I see in front of me. I keep going and I get there.
I realize I have a kayak to the left. Have I strayed that far? I take off my goggles to see better and a lad at the side does too, his colleagues turn up and say to us “Come on, go, very little left” We’re at the 5 km mark, I ask “Are you the ones from the beginning?” sort of, “My adoptive family”. “Yes” answers bib 500 plus. “I’ve taken off my swimming suit and so you don’t recognised me” We’ve been together all through the swim. “Come on. Let’s reach the finish line together!!! I like that, my friends!!!”
No much left now. The kayak shouts across. We ‘re drifting to the right. “Hey, look here, The Finish arch is right there” “Where?” “There, in blue”. The body fills with sensations which are quite normal for getting close to the Finish point. You know they’re waiting for you; you’re going to complete something really important (at least for yourself). With longing, expectation and satisfaction. My folk will be pleased to see me get there; They must think I’ve given up. But then, I feel sorry that it’s all over. So long waiting for it. I don’t know if I really want to get there…. Sniffs.
When hands touch sand, we change from horizontal position and stand up straight. Shaking hands, satisfied grins, congrats; undisguised smiles. I see they’re delighted; I must have the same expression. And so we get to the Archway. the carpet and the showers. I hear my name called.
Cakes. One sweet and one savoury, with flour, oil and salt. Mmmmmmmmm, So good. which we find in the getting victuals area. Fruit, water, beer Coca-cola, lots of Aquarius and shade. Excitement, barefoot,
Great atmosphere, and in the massage queue,.. Conrad! My compatriot. Hundreds of blue bags, full of those things which will stay with us as reminders of this 8th of July.
Special prize for the disabled. I applaud the effort, the energy , the keenness, the courage, the excitement.
An unbeatable atmosphere. Impeccable organization.
This is the brief account of the manuscript written after Tabarca with my arm a bit swollen, and yet a burst of energy.
Next year, more and better still.
A greeting and thanks for the opportunity afforded me.

Note The humble translator enjoyed converting the story as best he could into his native language. He also hopes nothing of the
style and atmosphere has been lost as it would be a pity to lose
even a syllable or whisper of the delightful original….BE