The Travel Chronicles – week 1

Cádiz – La Oliva (Vejer), 77,5 km, 393m.

Never thought so many of my friends would show up at 10AM on a bank holiday to say goodbye.

I had invited all of them to meet up for coffee in the morning, and to join me for a bike ride – as far as they were okay with. They turned back, one by one, so by Chiclana I was alone, moved and heartbroken at the same time.

The cycling went well until, as usual, it was 2 pm and I still had more than 30 kms to go. Then I got stuck in deep sand, lost my way several times, and took what my host named  “the scenic road” up and across the hill, arriving several hours later than I thought.

Maybe close to 80 kms on a first day is slightly over the top, especially while sick and on a heavily loaded bike with a messed-up transmission.

I did have lots of fun with the local members of the Write Stuff group and their friends.

La Oliva (Vejer) – Tarifa

It should have been about 50 kms. Except my host and his friends were right, you don’t mess with the Levante wind. I never admitted it to him, nor was I willing to take him up on his offer to drive me back in case I was blocked. There’s no going back, ever.

The problem with a 40 km/h wind isn’t simple that it slows you down – that might have been manageable. It also pushes you sideways repeatedly yet unexpectedly, so you enver know when you end up under a car.

So when I saw another cyclist by the road, I stopped, and he was  kind enough to include me in his hitchhiking attempts. I’ve never hitchhiked before, definitely not alone, definitely not with the bike. We got lucky: the driver of a small van stopped in less than half an hour after I arrived, and came back for both of us after he unloaded. He was only going to drop us at the nearet village, but after some deliberation, he offered to take us to Tarifa – I still have the impression we paid him at least twice if not three times the price for gas, but I’ll call it compensation for his time and be very glad I got there.

Tanger

I met a young Scottish woman, Tara, on the ferry: she lost her father last August, like me, and part of her motivation to travel was to honour his memory as a traveller and adventurous spirit. The same way I cycled through the North of Spain last Autumn thinking about how much my dad would have loved to bike on those mountains. The same way I keep thinking about him on pretty much every uphill slope – the last time we cycled together, in 2018, he could still cycle up with more ease than I ever will.

I spent two and a half days in Tanger with my partner’s sister, who’s been living there for over twenty years. She showed me around all the cool parts of town: the old city centre, cafés both hip and traditional, the chic brunch place and the beautiful, almost entire untouched beaches jut outside the city, through the neighbourhoods of the the super-rich.

If it weren’t for how people dress – and the language of public signs and ads – you could never tell it’s on the other side of the Mediterranean.

Tarifa

On Friday, I took the ferry back to Tarifa. I’m afraid the castle was closed by the time I got there, but I did walk around a bit, and it’s a beauiful old town.

I’d heard a lot about it being a surfers’ paradise, and for all I never went to the beaches around, it shows: the town is full of shops selling surfing gear, and even more of concept stores and hipser coffee places. The fact that I reserved the night in a digital nomads’ hostel and co-working place that, coincidentally, had it’s 9th birthday celebration with a live concert on the rooftop, didn’t help to dispel the stereotype.

(Also, the party was a lot of fun.)

Tarifa – La Línea de la Concepción, 67,1 km, 582 m.

Any experienced biker would tell me I should go over the mountains: less traffic, better views and everything. Except, between my physical condition, my load and my bike, even discounting the problems it has, I simply cannot. So I keep the sea close to my right for the most part.

Even so, I did cross the hill with relative ease – only to find myself on the almost literal highway just out of Algeciras, on a bridge with no other on within a distance of 10-15 kms. I pushed the bike through the narrow walkway-of-sorts between two barriers, having to unload it at a certain point so it would fit through next to a lamppost, carrying the luggage after the bike; then continued on the outside of the barrier until a roundabout where the road, technically, wasn’t the highway anymore, unloaded and lifted the bike over, cycled to a train station that theoretically didn’t have an entry on my side bit that did have an opening on the fence, crossed the railways there and managed ton avoid the highway until the next bridge. That one had a proper walkway though.

The cable car in Gibraltar was closed – whether truly because of the strong winds, as they said, or because of the coronation, we’ll never know, so instead of climbing the rock, I cycled around it (which, in hindsight, was probably at least as exhausting but nevermind).

And then I heard the sound of a spoke breaking – I know it well, I lost a bunch of them in Portugal.

La Línea / Gibraltar

Nothing happens in a village like La Línea on Sunday, and it turns out that I lost ntwo spokes, not one, and I lost or forgot the spoke wrench tht was supposed to be in my toolbox.

I met my tent-neighbour, a young guy who was really nice and very helpful, yet gave me the absolute creeps, for reasons I can only partly explain.

So I was somwhat relieved when I got another neighbour, an Italian man on hist first, but rather long and quite adventurous cycle trip.

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Posted in Blog.

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