Routes and stats for the 16 and 17 July below:
- 16 July part 1: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/835245738
- 16 July part 2: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/835245781
- 17 July: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/836181998
Bit of a blog catch up in order; I’ll try to be succinct, however there’s been lots to see!
–> 16 July – to Seville and Dos Hermanas
I didn’t want to get up today, but the fear of cycling later in the day, when it gets really hot, eventually forced me out of my tent and into the pre-dawn gloom. I say gloom, it wasn’t really gloomy, the sun just hadn’t risen over the mountains yet.
The descent from Monesterio was punctuated by climbs, as the mountains did their best to remind me they weren’t quite done yet. Trees made more of a regular appearance, and I found myself cycling through beautiful woodland at one point, a nice chance from the arid plains higher up.
I made fairly good time, averaging 20km an hour, despite a 700 foot steep climb prior to finally getting out of the mountains, that left me very hot and two water bottles down. On the way up I passed a lot of road cyclists going the other way, who all shouted encouragement which was nice; I love the bond between cyclists on the road, everyone looks out for one another and is generally friendly. I was welcomed to Andalusia by a herd of horses that galloped alongside me for a bit, pretty cool.
I stopped in Las Pajanosas for a break, buying a drink and pastry from a small supermarket; 1.5 litres of cold milk didn’t last very long. It felt a bit like I was back in civilisation as I started to pass through more modern looking towns, with more cars and people. The road flattened out as I approached Seville, and got steadily busier and harder to navigate as I finally bid the N630 farewell, and tried to find the cycle path into the city; I did, but after a few wrong turnings.
After locating a Tourist Information office, and picking up a map, I took a slow walk around the city taking in its various sights and sounds (and smells, not all pleasant). My walk was punctuated every few hundred yards to stop to buy a can of cold drink; this got a bit expensive, but I was beyond caring due to the heat – my internal thermostat was sending out warning signals. At least Seville has lots of shady spots (not shady as in risqué, shady as in cool) to pause in before the next sunny bit. I found the Cathedral, the old Arabic Palace – the Alcazar, and several lovely plazas, before coming upon a Costa which pushed aside sight-seeing motivations for a bit. I don’t often frequent coffee shops, however they do fruit coolers, which felt like a fitting reward for reaching Seville, so I stopped for lunch and used their free wifi. It reminded me a bit of coffee stops with Lu, and I know she would have loved the city with all its old buildings and history; when we visited Cyprus she dragged me round most of the archeological sites on the Greek side of the island – you can get a bit bored of holes in the ground and mosaic remains after a while!
On my way out of Seville I visited the Plaza De Espana, a square built in the 1920’s, and pretty spectacular. It’s situated in the Parque de María Luisa, has a large fountain, boating canals, and is enclosed on one side by a large continuous building; town hall and government buildings. The half circle of buildings represents the four kingdoms of Spain, with tiled alcoves for each of the provinces; a nice place to pause and cool down in the fountain, even if you do have to pay a 50 cents premium on a can of drink. Lots of other people were also taking advantage of the fountain, which regularly sprays large clouds of fine water droplets over the surrounding area, blown by the wind, and was very refreshing.
After the delights of Seville, well worth a visit, it was back on the busy road to find the campsite in Dos Hermanos; Villsom camping. I cycled through the rest of the Parque de María Luisa, a lovely spot to chill out in, then joined a cycle path alongside the main road for the first 10km out of Seville. I missed a turning at one point, and had to double back and cross over a couple of motorways, but made it after 15km of very hot riding.
Villsom camping did the job for an overnight stay, but I wouldn’t want to stay there for any longer. Reception weren’t friendly, always a bad sign when they seem put out to have customers, the wifi was rubbish, and the pitches a bit bad for tents. It did however have shade, and a swimming pool, which helped alleviate the extreme conditions somewhat.
I cycled to a nearby Hypermercado to get some supplies, and was somewhat dumbstruck by the sheer size of the place, and selection of goods on offer; the air-con was also very pleasant. After that it was back to the campsite, a couple of beers, and a chat with a Dutch couple who have toured extensively; by camper van not bike. He used to work for the EU and had some interesting stories about mediating between rival factions in Sudan, and told me about the cisterns in Istanbul which sound like a must visit. I went to sleep listenimg to a group of French ‘kids’ playing guitar in the pitch next to mine, lovely.
-> 17 July – to El Puerto de Santo Maria
Today won’t go down in my touring annals as a particularly noteworthy day. I covered 114km yesterday, and 101km today, however the latter were definitely duller, and smellier, the highlight being reaching the coast again.
I set off early from Dos Hermanos and Villsom camping, keen to be away from a not particularly great overnight stop; it had been far too hot all night, not going below 30 degrees Celsius. I joined the NIV heading South, but after a few kilometres turned off to follow smaller roads through farm and marsh land; this is where the smelliness came from. I think there were a lot of peppers and tomatoes being grown. There was lots of interesting birdlife to watch out for, but I couldn’t tell you what most of them were; Egrets maybe.
After a while I rejoined the NIV and headed to Jerez de la Frontera, on a very busy road that luckily has a wide hard shoulder. It was mostly pretty dull and hot. Close to Jerez the NIV turned into an Autovia, that apparently I’m allowed to cycle on, and I did so to get into the city; if anything it was quieter than the NIV. I passed the airfield where my brother learn’t to fly aeroplanes, watching a light aircraft doing circuits; must have been a student learning the ropes.
I had a walk around Jerez, taking some time to cool off in the hot and slightly humid conditions. I visited the city several years ago, during a short break to see my brother, but couldn’t really remember much about it aside from its the centre of a lot of sherry production.
After some fruit and a few cold drinks I pressed on to El Puerto de Santa Maria, down on the coast, and was rewarded by my first sight of the sea after several weeks. Back in France I’d assumed the next sea I’d get to would be the Mediterranean, however it’s still the Atlantic to the West of Tarifa. It was lovely to reach the sea again, and several degrees cooler down by the coast; I stopped at the Playa Las Dunas campsite for the night.
The rest of the day involved a siesta, planning the route into Cadiz and the next couple of days, and shaving my beard off! It felt like the right time for it, as it was getting slightly irritating in the heat, not to mention unkempt. I would not however recommended doing this with just a slightly blunt razor; I feel much better for it, with the wind on my face, but it took ages. I also had to ditch my icebreaker cycling top which had developed holes, and appeared to be disintegrating slightly. It was sad to see it go, but I really couldn’t warrant it’s continuing existence; I probably should have burnt it for health and safety reasons.
Quick mention to the Playa Las Dunas campsite, a good stop-over even if the wifi wasn’t working. Good pool, and nice little bar close to my tent, and great can of Heinz Baked Beans to round off the day. Tomorrow it’s on to Conil de la Frontera, the last stop before reaching Tarifa!