Day 5 – this blog up date is taken from Gary’s diaries
A cool night sleep with the alarm set to 6am.
We had breakfast in the room of a nutty cereal and yogurt with water, no kettle so just warm water to drink.
Set off in the dark but it was still 20 degrees. Stopped for a coffee after sunrise.
Trying to find towns with accommodation or campsites down route N502 on the map last night showed as an issue, so we have now plotted a different route which does go into the hills a bit but has more villages, we plotted to go to Mohedas de la Java. This is the only place we could find in a reasonable distance with some where to stay.
Wild camping is not a good idea whilst Net is still suffering from heat stroke.
The route today has been lovely, we have gone onto smaller roads with more small villages to stop in for rest and cold drinks. We travelled through a hilly area with loads of strange rocks just laying in odd positions like a giants game of pile on stones.
The place we are staying in is a bit expensive at €70 but is really nice.
Along the route today an old lady had a long one-sided Spanish with the odd English conversation. She was lovely to listen to, we think she was telling us that she lives in Madrid but this village is her family home and she and her mother both grew up here, this was in a village called Aldeanueva de Barbarroya.
Ginette is coping a bit better with the heat now, and the early start has meant we can eat up some miles before it gets too hot
Another 6am alarm call so we can beat the heat.
Breakfast in the room of a nutty cereal and water
20 degrees and dark when we set off, it was really quiet this time apart from the dogs that welcomed us from nearby farms. We didn’t see a single car for the first half hour.
Riding in the dark we could still make out the hill ranges either side and we had the treat of several fantastic sunrise views due to the sun getting blocked by the hills of various heights, k e was particularly memorable with sun beams spreading across the sky.
We had a really relaxing ride, even with a couple of steep climbs to slow us down.
We climbed and dropped and climbed again through an area of natural beauty with green fields most of Spain to date is scorched yellow) trees all around. We had a few encounters with deer and plenty of photo shoots. Net coped really well, the temp didn’t go over 26 degrees as we were also blessed with some cloud cover.
We found a shady campsite at €8.50 near Gaudalope and pitched up at 10.30am, cycling day done.
Tent up we walked up to Guadalupe, a very touristy area, lovely little town and a pilgrimage site to see the “Gaudalope virgin ”. We had a nice few hours in the town, Net struggled with the heat so I bought her a large umbrella so we could walk back to camp with a bit of shade
All in all a chilled easy day
We managed to be up at 6 am and set off in the cool 18 degrees C and dark trying to be really quiet so as not to disturb the few other campers.
We have 64k to do today to reach a campsite which is marked on the map. We are still cycling in an area called “Extremadura” which is a great area with loads of hills and scenic views.
There must have been a cycling event on as there were a lot of cars and vans going by cheering and waving at us, some shouting and filming, you could see they had cycle tops on and bikes on the racks.
Today was cycling by a large reservoir, showing the signs of the drought with undulating terrain, we reached the campsite fairly early so spent the rest of the day chilling and taking dips in the pool. Spain tends to shut from 2 to 5 the pool did the same but unusually the bars stayed open so it was Siesta time.
Dinner was cooked on the camping stoves, vegetables, and pasta.
Another early start, however getting up at 6 is still a lie in as on work days my alarm is set to 5.15am. We are getting Better at this early start packing away in the dark and hopefully not making too much noise.
Today’s ride had some good moments of pretty views and some long stretches of burnt yellow land, we had a long day today and was blessed with cloud cover until 12 then 2 hours cycling in the heat of the day. At one stop there was no shade so I put the umbrella up for Net to shade under. She is still suffering when the full sun is on her but she has improved greatly.
Bumped into 3 British cyclists today, they are going from Madrid to Malaga, they are travelling far lighter than us, and have booked accommodation, how organised.
We, however, reached Belacazar having aimed here as it half way between the marked campsites, it was 2pm 35 degrees and we wanted to find somewhere to stay.
After having no joy after asking in my worst Spanish at one bar, another bar proved more useful and we have now planted ourselves in Bar Auberge for the night.
It looks like a hostel for travellers and pilgrims as we have a bunk room for 6 people, we are hoping to have this to ourselves.? Fortunately, we did but it was a very hot night with only a poor fan to keep us cool
Another early start, much easier when you don’t have to pack away the tent, on the road by 6.45. Cold and dark, around 12 degrees. when the sun did come up we had cloud cover so we both wore a long-sleeved top till around 11 when the temp started to climb rapidly as the cloud was burnt away.
Today we ended up cycling on the N502 again, this is no fun as there are too many big lorries on this road, we did try to divert a couple of times but need back on this road our break we had to have by the side of the road this is another set back to this main road it doesn’t pass through enough towns. But we were entertained watching an army of ants dispose of our crumbs.
Our last stretch of road was down and up a valley which was at the end of another large lake, we cycled over the dam onto a short uphill to our campsite.
We have a pool, a bar and restaurant and we have been on a short walk by a fast running river, of which we have not had many due to the dry river beds.
The ride today was in two sections, the morning through a mountain nature reserve the afternoon through rolling farmland.
I really enjoyed both sections, but the morning was the best. We had a lot of steep up and downs with switch back roads but all on a single track sealed road so it was hard going but the area was beautiful. Ginette spotted a couple of snakes sunning themselves and we had what we think where Eagles flying overhead, hence the ABBA song was on repeat in my head.
The rolling farm land had cotton, pepper, limes and lemons as crops and the road again was quiet so this ride was pleasant and we hade up the time we lost in the hills in the morning.
We have booked a hotel in a town we picked from the map called Ecija ( pronounced Etheka) and what a treat this little town is. It has narrow cobbled streets, several tourist places of interest and looks like a lot of people come to see this town.
It is famous for its Easter parades.
Ginette suffered a major hangry session as we couldn’t find anywhere that would do food until 9pm even though all there bars where open, even the take away didn’t cook till 9.
She got frustrated and ended up with no dinner. I was too greedy to be able to skip a meal so waited for the pizza place to open. Then spent the evening chatting with the 3 cyclists we met a couple of days ago, they not only happened to be stopping in this town, they are also in our hotel, small world.
6th Sept Day 11, El Penon, Algamitas.
A flat start to the day through the rolling countryside, the fruit plantations now replaced with grain which has already been harvested so the fields are barren and dry.
We had a 30k stretch with no towns so was ready for the break when it came.
Osuna is a pretty town and has some historic buildings that have been built on the top of a hill so you get some great views over the plains all around.
The latter part of the ride we knew meant some climbing to get to the campsite, but boy oh boy I didn’t expect the last 2K to be as steep, we had some 33% climbing to do which is not easy with a bike and kit at 40 kg, and at the end of a hot day of 33 degrees. Then to top it off once signed in at reception we still had more steep climbing to do and then the camping area was up a set of steps. So this afternoon has been quite a challenge.
The site however now we are here is well kitted out, the WiFi is superb and the views to die for. This day is a typical Stuart Patten-Lawrence route where the final destination is at the top of a hill, although I may have surpassed Stu this time as we have been also told that this is the highest mountain in this area.
We are both pretty tired today and looking forward to a break, but as we are only 2 days ride from Gibralter we plan to plough on and take our rest days down on the Rock.
I have changed tomorrow’s route to shorten it and reduce the climbing, it won’t be as pretty but it will save our weary bodies.
Awoke with our heads above the clouds, a fantastic view over the cloud-laden valley with just the highest hilltops showing. We had to ride back down the valley so ended up in riding under the cloud cover.
I was very tired today but Nette has found her mountain legs and was riding strong.
We had a very hilly ride today, we are most definitely in a mountain area, one ride in the afternoon was like an Alpine climb with a long slow climb up to 1005m, we stopped a few times but the last stop had a wow moments as we went into a cafe to find all its back windows looked over the valley.
Then the last winding switchback narrow road to the accommodation we had booked in ………. this was a lovely little town but the hotel was shut. We waited from about 4.30 till just after 7 knocking on the door, we even fed ourselves cooking on the stoves. In the end, when 7 pm past we gave up, we had seen a sign for a campsite further down the road so we set off and camped. We would have done this earlier but we had booked the room.
Sat 8th Sept
Rubbish ride today, drizzled all morning, rained all afternoon then drizzled for the evening, felt cold and had to wear waterproof even at 20 degrees.
A hilly start to the day up and down, the views dramatic with the black clouds over the hills, at least Net had no issues with heatstroke today.
I had a few navigation issues today and we had to stop 3 times to replan the route.
As we got nearer to Gibralter the area became more industrial with gas and oil and scrap steel works all around us.
My bike slid from under me on a roundabout due to the wet roads and Diesel spillage, we were in an industrial estate. I managed to somehow stay on my feet while also slip-sliding over the slippery road. No damage to me, the bike needed the front wheel and handlebars realigning as the wheel was at an odd angle.
The approach to this Spanish town across the border from Gibralter is most uninspiring, it felt like I was going to work as there was so much heavy industry around.
When we finally saw the sea, again it was a disappointment as the view we had of Gibralter and the Mediterranean was also of oil tankers and refineries intermixed with sandy beaches (empty as it was still raining).
Our hotel was booked in an earlier stop in frustration, it cost more than we would prefer and our first reaction is that is not worth it, this town in our first impressions is the worst we have been to on this trip, unfortunately, we had already chosen this for our rest day.
On the plus side, we have just had a nice Chinese meal.
All of this section was taken from Gary’s diaries. I have had an up and down week. Firstly suffering from heat stroke and struggling to have any energy in the afternoon.
We have covered 500 miles since starting out 12 days ago, which is not bad given how poorly I have felt. We have cycled through some really pretty towns, unfortunately, the photos do not do them justice.
Gary has not mentioned the various bike issues but there have been plenty of stops for minor repairs. We need to find a bike shop to complete some of the more major ones like a broken stand (Gary’s not mine).
Gary’s Spanish has been very impressive, although I can understand slightly more than he can, he definitely has more confidence in using the language.
Other than the heat one of my main issues has been food. The Spanish do not eat until late and it is difficult buying anything before 8.30 – 9.00pm. I am used to eating much earlier and need a couple of hours to digest my food before sleeping. This has meant we have been living on pasta and rice dishes. Gary has been great but this limited choice can be a little repetitive.
I have also got really bad saddles sores! Which has made cycling painful, especially in the heat.
Gary has suffered from mosquito bites, he is covered in them.
It is surprising how poor the wifi connections have been in Spain, on several days we had no access at all. Now that I am starting to feel like myself again I will start to contribute to the diaries next week and aim to update the blog more frequently.