Malaga to Sevilla
Malaga to Lantejuela 176 km
We have had very little spare time in the last two days.
At least the first day was a mixed experience. There were difficult off-road sections, but to balance it out, we had spectacular mountain scenery and the sort of climbs that I would previously put a bike on a plane to experience.
There have also been challenging moments (particularly on day 2 of our Spanish journey), and so far, all has not been the easy relaxed Spanish cycling we were hoping for.
For more than a few moments in Spain we have felt that we would rather be back in Africa where things are more familiar, and easier to understand. For all there are problems cycling through Africa, there are always solutions; always someone to help.For long periods we have felt as if there is nobody to help us to understand some of the things we are supposed to know. We never felt that we would feel more at home in Africa!
We set off from Malaga, and decided on Google maps to navigate. It really didn't work out! To cut a long story short we have spent the majority of the last two days off road. We have pushed and struggled through mud, gravel, and steep stony paths. Frustratingly, when we have found blacktop, it has been some of the best cycling ever.
There has just not been enough of it.
This is great mountain biking country, and there were quite a few MTBers, but this sort of cycling was not meant to be done with a fully loaded tourer, for these long days in the saddle. Not at our time of life anyway. I really don't want to be pushing a bike, I want to be riding it!
The mountains through El Chorro, and the Col de Santa Ana, were spectacular and beautiful, but it was still hard work. Of course every kilometre was thoroughly worth it, I have no regrets about that stretch at all. Outside of the mountains though, our progress was painfully slow; yesterday we set off in darkness, and finished in darkness, and what should have been a routine flat 80km day, turned into 105km of hard work, on hot rough, loose and often steep tracks. For long stretches we were averaging 8kph. It is simply not fast enough. Luckily we made it to the Camping Sierracilla at Humilladero, where we ate and crashed. The people at Sierracilla were really helpful and it was pretty top notch.
On the second day, we baled at 71km to make a different plan. 6 hours in, and we still hadn’t made it halfway to our planned stop and we were thoroughly beaten up.
We have been sometimes slowed to walking pace... we decided that the following day we would try a different way of navigating. It seemed like only a matter of time before a really serious situation got the better of us. There was no water around, and we really needed to make it to water in order to camp.
I think it’s worth mention that It’s not Google maps fault, it’s simply the way the roads are built. The smaller roads seem to cut across the country diagonally, when we want to head west. This makes sense when the trunk roads go east to west, and the minor roads are just to access towns along the way. There’s a sort of logic to it, but it hasn't been convenient to our desired route. It’s also very difficult to tell from the map if you can use a road or not. Ironically, we were often alongside great roads, which were not open to bikes. We sometimes found out about this on the actual slip road.
The good thing is that we have spent many hours in peaceful olive groves, surrounded by wildlife; it’s been nice, but now we have to get on and make some ground, before our plan gets away from us.
So far, its been beautiful, but we knew at the end of day 2, that if we want to leave Spain in this lifetime, we need a different plan….and now!
Lantejuela to Dos Hermanas 90km
Today we tried an alternative approach. We took a big M shape, joining up towns not on the direct route. Instinctively, this is counter intuitive, but these are fast roads and we hoped it would work out better, or at least quicker and less stressful on the bikes and our bodies.
We ended up adding an extra 30 or so km to the day, but by my estimates of average speed, we saved at least two hours. Also, we were not feeling beaten up at the end of the day. All in all, it was a completely different experience; good riding, fast roads, beautiful wee towns and villages, and a totally relaxed experience.
Roads were mostly traffic-free, and we found interesting town centres to dawdle around. Shops were not easy to find open on a Sunday, but we managed to find some fresh food, and picnicked in a park with local people enjoying their Sunday.
The countryside was very different from the hills and mountains we had left behind, and the scale of industrial farming left us a wee bit awed by its enormity. This is where a lot of your food comes from Brexiters! Better get used to turnips... or in Scotland…battered, deep-fried turnips!
Be careful what you vote for!
There was a downside though; we passed what looked like a soya processing plant. Its plume of emissions hung in the air like a mushroom cloud, and downwind, the air was thick with it, as a sort of mist obscured the fields around us. I know I’ll remember it the next time I order a veggie burger.
Being Sunday, the countryside was crowded with local people busy killing animals and birds; hopefully for the pot, and not just for fun!
This was a curious experience for me in particular, as I personally find it a bit difficult to understand. From the outside looking in, it seems like the hunters are waging war on the very things that make the countryside so rewarding, the animals and birds. It probably makes lots of sense to them, and I'm probably ignorant of the thinking behind it, but you can only record your own thoughts.
We watched people hunting on foot, on horseback, with dogs, without dogs, mostly with guns, and often dressed like Rambo. Even the sports shops have weapons of mass destruction, next to the swimming caps and flippers.
If the zombie apocalypse happens, break into Decathlon, the undead wont stand a chance with the sort of weaponry on offer in there!
In the warm autumn sunshine, we covered kilometres effortlessly, and it was easy to relax.
We settled for a billet on the Villasom campsite, a site best suited to motor homes and insomniacs (the bar doesn't even open until 8.30!), but perfectly comfortable for a tent and bikes. We are still getting used to the seemingly universal availability of hot water for showers, I had a shower…then had another one. We are still getting Africa out of our system.
We were needing to replace some worn out clothes and get some bike kit. As I type, we are sitting on a bus en route to Sevilla. This is not an African bus. An overloaded 8-seater minibus, with 23 sweating people and bags of maize on it, being driven by a swivel eyed lunatic who doesn't understand the difference between reasonable road speed and terminal velocity; it is an air conditioned mobile heaven, with tinted windows, and a driver who at least looks like he has passed some sort of driving test. It has a bell you ring when you want to get off, and the doors all open and close. They stay closed without being tied closed.
The tyres also have tread on them…I checked.