We’ve arrived safe and sound. A big thank you to Shaw for ensuring we got to the airport in one piece.
We decided rather than cycling from the airport we’d jump in a taxi. I fear we may have been ripped off a little, the meter read 20 euros but the driver demanded 28 euros. Fortunately, We felt chilled, it was the right choice even if a little expensive.
We arrived at 5.30pm and by the time we’d carted our gear to the campsite, unpacked and put the bikes together I was ravenous. However, the shops were a further 2 miles away! by the time we got there I was Hangry, Gary insisted I take his wallet and buy food and drink whilst he shopped. We’d made the mistake of going into a hypermarket and I couldn’t find a cold drink for love or money, and believe me, I’d have given anything for a cold fizzy drink.
Failing to find anything that wasn’t packaged for a family of 6, I went in search of Gary. I rushed him around the store so I could consume a cold pizza slice and lemon juice from a 1-litre bottle. Very classy.
The campsite was very noisy, mainly road, train and aeroplanes but it made it difficult to sleep especially as it is very hot here. During the day the temp is about 37c not sure about the evenings but it feels very warm.
Madrid – we took the metro. I could spend all day people watching on the metro, people of all ages and nationalities couped together in one little box. We had a religious man trying to convert everyone, musicians who hopped from carriage to carriage, sat next to me was a young American male trying to teach his Spanish friend English using God as his topic of choice. It was interesting listening to his views. A stroppy older man scolded a young lady for sitting in a seat reserved for the elderly, I think she responded she was pregnant but he didn’t seem to care. An older lady gave up her seat for the ‘pregnant’ young girl. On the return journey, a youngish couple spent a good 10 minutes kissing the face off of each other, slurp, slurp – gross!!
We really enjoyed Madrid, the flea market was taking place and it was huge, sprawling out along street after street. I especially liked the antique section. There was a really good, family vibe. We tried some local food, from a small shop – salted sardines, squid and pickles washed down with beer – yummy.
Later we purchased some cold cans of beer and sat in a square and watched the world go by. It was a great start to our adventure. Before heading back we walked to the Playor Mayor and the Palace. By the time we got back, we were both knackered and our feet and legs ached.
When we returned to the camp we spotted some fellow tourers, Gary stopped smiled but got very little response. We figured they were probably foreigners, later we realised why the English have such a bad name abroad. It turned out they were from Liverpool, had done loads of cycle touring but did not like company. They left the following morning with only a reluctant wave. Their loss, meeting people in new places is part of the excitement of touring.
After another restless night, we rose early and packed up camp. It was during this process I heard Gary shout ‘Numpty’ I went to see what he was referring to and he confessed he’d left his Garmin carrier at home! We didn’t seriously think we’d find another but we trekked back to the hypermarket we’d visited the previous evening and much to our surprise they had one in stock. This shouldn’t have been such a surprise the store was about 8 stories high and had everything you could possibly need including a charging cable for a galaxy phone, which we don’t have but Gary purchased thinking it would fit my iPhone.
The day did not improve and at several points, I had to ask myself why I’d let myself in for this type of punishment. To summarise, we were both very nervous on the bikes, it has been 3 years since we have ridden them with all the panniers so naturally there were a few wobbles. I somehow managed to scratch the skin off my knee. No sympathy needed as I only realised this when I spotted blood and broken skin when we arrived at the campsite.
During the course of the day, we rode long stretches off-road, several times the Garmin sent us in the wrong direction. We cycled through the middle of Madrid in temperatures in the early 40’s centigrade. Due to traffic lights positioned every 50 meters we spent the best part of the morning practising hill starts in the stop, start traffic.
I didn’t like the off-road sections, mainly because I had no confidence in the fact we were going in the right direction and secondly because it slowed our speed down to 6 miles an hour which was really challenging in the heat. I tried to stay positive but a big part of me was saying never again. To keep sane I kept reminding myself that I always struggle the first couple of days. Compared to last time I am doing really well, just struggling with the heat and itching to get out on the country lanes and make some distance.
2nd day on the bikes – heat exhaustion
Why didn’t anyone stop me?? I hated the first few weeks of cycling and I am beginning to hate this adventure just as much! We had hoped to be on the road early but didn’t leave the campsite until 9.30am. We then struggled to find anywhere with wifi so that we could reset the route. The Garmin was set on bike mode which meant off road cycling. We finally hit the road at about 10.00am and by 3.00pm I was totally flagging. I desperately needed the shade, my heart was beating out of my skin, my head was throbbing and I felt feint and queasy. We thought it might be game over for the day but after an hour in the shade I picked up again so we decided to push on. This was a mistake and it took us 2 – 3 hours to reach the next town. Gary was a saint, even walking his bike alongside mine. I don’t know what time we stopped at the hotel, but all I wanted to do was sleep. I slept fitfully all night but woke feeling a bit better. I can see from my wee that I’m dehydrated so I will make more effort to drink more and stay out of the sun.
Best laid plans of man and beast, again we didn’t set off until 9.00am. The room had shutter blinds and we didn’t set an alarm. We had dried cornflakes for breakfast yuk and warm water. Not the best preparation for a day on the bike. We stopped 5 miles into the trip for some proper breakfast but with very poor Spanish all we managed was tomato and bread. The next 10 miles were quite enjoyable, undulating countryside, quiet roads but then my chain broke. Gary changed it for a spare but this turned out to be too short and we had to stop at the next town for a new chain. We were really lucky finding a bike shop and the owner was really helpful but by the time he’d finished, we’d lost another hour or two. We set off in the sun and again I was hit with heat exhaustion, my blood feels like it is boiling, on top of this I am saddle sore and have blisters on my feet. We pulled over in a garage so that I could cool down and decided to find a campsite. Fortunately, there was one only 7km away.
The campsite is fantastic it is like wild camping, there is a small stream below the campsite, which we chilled in before we pitched the tent in the shade. As I write this blog we are the only campers.
We have decided tomorrow we will set off much earlier, we’ve also decided to give Portugal a miss and head straight for Gibralter. In 3 day days we have only covered 80 miles, if we keep plodding along at the speed we will not make Morocco until Christmas. Gary is feeling fine, he really enjoyed today, he is finding it much easier than me.
Last night was very noisy, above our quiet, secluded campsite sat several bungalows with noisy children. One had a baby that cried on and off to 2.00am. We woke at 7.30, the sun clearly rises a little later here, we will set an alarm tomorrow. We managed to leave the site by 8.30am, with only a coffee for breakfast. We quickly found the road heading south and started our long journey down to Gibralter. We stopped at about 10 miles for cornflakes, served with cold water and blueberries and warm water. Gary had several chocolate doughnuts but I didn’t fancy anything with chocolate. I feel constantly queazy in the sun. Gary was concerned I was not eating enough so kindly ate the chocolate from the top of the doughnuts, which I thought was a very sweet gesture (even if they were not gluten free doughnuts).
We stopped at the next village for brunch, the sun was high and I was struggling again. It feels like I’ve taken a huge dose of antihistimine. As soon as the sun hits me, I feel drained and slightly out of it. Gary spent the break fixing my ipod connection as I had dropped it on route and adjusting my handlebars, I dozed on a local bench.
We stopped for the day at 1.30pm, no camp site in the vicinity so we stayed in a hostal, fingers crossed we get a better nights sleep.
The update didn’t stay in the hostel the cheeky buggers wanted to charge us 5 Euros each for the bikes. We ended up staying in a very comfortable 4-star hotel.
Later in the day, we took a walk around the town, it had some interesting features including, an old nunnery, a Roman bridge and old ceramic works. Gary bought himself a Spanish guitar to replace his Ukelue which he broke en route.
It is interesting to note that the Spanish smoke far more than we do and no correlation there are not as many overweight people.
As I laid in bed, I had a little giggle as I remembered eating our sandwiches earlier in the week. We had sat in a park, I was out of it, really dozy, Gary was doing an excellent job of looking after me, making sure I drank lots and was preparing our lunch when the water system turned itself on and drowned him. If I hadn’t been so dozy I am sure I would have been in stitches he did look funny. The gardener was amused I’m sure he didn’t do it deliberately and quickly re-directed the sprinkler to another area.
Bike route – sandy and difficult to cycle
On planned trip to a bull ring
Net resting in the shade, heat exhaustion is horrible