25 & 26 July 2015 – I need air conditioning (Mojacar & Los Madriles)

Routes and stats from a couple of fairly brutal days of riding:

–> 25 July – to Palomares, nr Mojacar
I think 08.30 is going to be my standard start time now. It’s hot all the time, so starting earlier doesn’t make an awful lot of difference, and I’m kinda used to the heat now; as used as you can be to cycling in temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius!

My first stop of the day was the Decathlon just outside Roquetas de Mar, however this proved to be shut, and I didn’t know when it was going to open, so I abandoned hammock plans for another day and pressed on. I’ll get a hammock at some point, and a beer cooling foldable bucket.

After Roquetas it was a nice stretch up the coast to Almeria, alongside the sea, passing a lot of cycling clubs and a few big pelicans pelotons out for a Saturday morning ride. It reminded me that we’re in the closing stages of the Tour de France now, go Froome, however I’m also following the Transcontinental Race to Istanbul, which is very hardcore; you can track the riders here: http://trackleaders.com/transconrace15

The Transcontinental Race might be one for future years, however I’d need to slim down my touring kit, and consider a lighter bike for the ride.

There weren’t a lot of options with regards to the route after Almeria, there being a big stretch with not many roads, in fact not much of anything at all. I decided, in my wisdom, that a challenge was in order, and turned inland to Nijar to cross the mountains, then down the other side to get back to the coast. This was also the route my helpful Garmin suggested, however perhaps I should have ignored it and stuck to map reading; sometimes Garmin discounts roads, such as Autovias, which are perfectly fine to cycle on. Check out part 1 of my route for the day via the link at the top of this post; it was challenging, to say the least.

I stopped in Nijar for a cold drinks break, then continued on up, and up, and then up some more; gotta love false summits. The road was very quiet, with only a handful of cars encountered all the way over to the N340. I ascended to about 2,000 feet before the road started to descend again down to Lucainena de Las Torres. Although it was a taxing ride the scenery was great, and perhaps gave me a taste of what it must be like cycling in parts of South America; I don’t know how people such as the The Wandering Nomads consistently tackle some of the passes in Bolivia and Peru, but their blog is great:

http://awanderingphoto.com/2015/07/21/commencing-the-great-peruvian-divide/

Maybe it isn’t quite as warm in the mountains of Peru? I did have a bit of a breeze today, especially during the higher bits, which provided much welcomed relief.

The road continued to be fairly challenging all the way to Mojacar, with continuous hills and the temperature in the 40’s. Despite all that I’d still recommend the route if you’re up for a challenge, just don’t underestimate it, and take lots of water; total ascent today was about 4,500 feet.

I reached Mojacar and the campsite for the night, only to find it was closed for July and August; not something you want to see after a hard ride. Shame really as it looked like a nice campsite, with the town of Mojacar perched on the hilltop above.

Thankfully there are quite a few campsites on this stretch of coastline, and I enjoyed a pleasant ride alongside beaches, via Garrucha, to Palomares near Vera, and the Cuevas Mar camping. I say it was pleasant, however there was one bit where a car decided to undertake me via a dusty road, throwing up great clouds of grime that thoroughly coated me and several people walking; we all swore at the driver!

Cuevas Mar camping proved to be another pitch with a gravel surface, which seems to just be the norm in Southern Spain. At least it had plenty of shade, and a campsite cat for company. The campsite is split in half, with the other half being ‘Nudista’; quite a few ‘Nudista’ sites along the coast, should you be inclined (I wasn’t, and apparently you need a pass anyway). Once set up, and having not cycled enough today, I took at 10km round trip to the supermarket to get some food. The whole area is packed with tourists, and looks like a big holiday spot for Spanish, Brits, Germans and French.

After a hard but very satisfying day’s ride it was good to relax and eat, whilst contemplating the route for tomorrow and mulling over today’s experiences and thoughts from the road. Here are a few of them:

  • Spain is pretty dirty away from the tourist spots, with rubbish strewn across the landscape in some areas. A shame really, and makes one realise how much waste we produce; not sustainable, and why do people just throw their litter anywhere?
  • Good to see in the news that Iberian Lynx numbers of on the rise, after being endangered for so long. There are some great conservation efforts going on across Europe at the moment, and species reintroduction programs. Got to keep the pressure on governments to keep up efforts and not let them get away with shelving green, sustainable or renewable energy initiatives.
  • Shame someone shot and killed Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, paying the princely sum of $55,000 for the privilege. Cecil made more than that in a few days for Zimbabwe by attracting tourists, and was a national icon. The culprit is allegedly Spanish, what a plonker and another ‘win’ for the human race; I despair at times.

After planning a shorter ride tomorrow I retired for the evening, but it was so hot in my tent it was hard to sleep, even with all the vents and door open; really need that hammock. I eventually did fall asleep, slightly concerned about Velociraptors; either someone was watching Jurassic Park in a nearby tent or I was in for a rending.

–> 26 July – to Los Madriles (Mazarron)
After yesterday’s 140km (+10km supermarket run) I’d decided on a shorter ride today, covering just 85km. Thankfully I hadn’t lost any limbs to dinosaurs overnight, although the campsite cat was regarding me hungrily in the morning; I fed it some leftover ham, which vanished at speeds a Velociraptor would be proud of.

The night had proved sweltering, thus it was relief to get on a road and generate a breeze in an effort to keep vaguely cool. My legs felt tired after yesterday’s ride, however I knew I had at least one big climb to tackle today; the hills and heat are beginning to take their toll, so a few shorter days are in order.

I pedalled along the coast, up and down several lumps and bumps, on my way to Aguilas; this part of the coast definitely isn’t flat, but makes for entertaining riding. Aguilas proved a nice town, and I paused to watch a swimming race in the sea next to the beach. The water looked very inviting, however I prefer a slightly less frantic pace to the swimmers, who were almost keeping up with me on my bike; was going pretty slowly enjoying the promenade.

From Aguilas I turned inland once more, climbing into the hills as a couple of mountain bikers hared down to the town on a dirt track; looked like a lot of fun. A moderate climb was followed by a plain, with more greenhouses, before arriving at today’s big climb up to 1,200 feet. These elevations might not sound a lot, but they’re challenging on already tired legs, with high temperatures and little in the way of a breeze. Thankfully I’d chosen to carry extra water today, which was all needed, however my arms got a bit singed again due to suncream just sweating off.

The ride was pretty standard after that, aside from a bit of dirt track joining two roads together, which proved a little dusty; washing cycling gear every day at the moment anyway. I made it to Mazarron, and then on to the campsite at Los Madriles, which entailed another small climb. Touch wood I’ve only got one more big ascent to complete tomorrow morning, before several hundred kilometres of fairly flat riding, which’ll be a good break before taking on the mountains near Barcelona and whatever happens over the Pyrenees; not sure how much Pyrenees there is on the Mediterranean coast?

I made it to the campsite for about 16.00, then had a siesta after chatting to a French family. They’d just arrived from inland, where they said it was even hotter; Seville and Granada were apparently unbearable so they’d come down to the coast where at least there’s a breeze. Los Madriles campsite is a good one, with a friendly atmosphere, and nice bar/restaurant/swimming pool area I could chill out in. The only downside is there wasn’t much shade in the camping area, and it was gravel again. I washed the dust and grime out of my cycling gear before heading to the restaurant for some dinner; the water went a very brown colour!

I got to watch the final couple of hours of the Tour de France from the campsite restaurant, which was fun and made for a nice break from planning/blogging etc. Congrats to Chris Froome and Team Sky, excellent work.

After dinner I did some route planning, and thought I’d have a go at checking the distance I have left on this tour. I think I’m over halfway, which is good news as means I have enough time to get to Istanbul and back to the UK, whilst including some time off in France to meet up with old friends; about 4,500 miles left I reckon, maybe a touch less depending on route.

Rough route for remaining tour

Rough route for remaining tour

Watching the TDF 2015 had got me thinking about climate change again; it was raining in Paris. I know the weather in the UK is bad at the moment, and probably won’t get any  better unless the Jet Stream shifts, and people are again telling how extreme the heat is down in Spain. Then I read an article in the Guardian about the government cancelling wind farms and other renewable energy initiatives/incentives, and reversing decisions on fracking in sites of special scientific interest; when are we going to wise up and start taking things seriously? It’ll be too late  once the sea levels have risen, or people have run out of water in some parts of the world; it’s probably too late even now to reverse the changes in progress. I guess everyone is just too comfortable with their modern lifestyles and ‘must have’ possessions to think about it too much. Anyway, enough of that lest it turn into a rant; however I’ll definitely be trying to live/consume much more responsibly once I’m back home – living on the road means the weather and climate is a lot more close and personal, so you can’t ignore it.

On towards Alicante tomorrow, so expecting more tourist traps, but at least they’ll be lots of places selling cold drinks; hopefully they don’t damage the environment!

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