27, 28 & 29 July 2015 – Santo Pola, Alicante, Benidorm and Mareny de Barrequetes

Routes and stats for the last few days below – two parts to 27 July due to Garmin crash:

–> 27 July – to Santa Pola
Another day another failed hammock acquisition attempt; maybe it just isn’t meant to be. I did complete the last significant hill climb for hopefully several hundred kilometres. I’m classing anything over 1,000 feet as significant, however that’s not to say anything less than that isn’t a challenge, especially when there are lots of them in one day. I think it’s going to be fairly flat until I get close to Barcelona now, whereupon there’s another big climb to get to the city.

Morning at Los Madriles

Morning at Los Madriles

After a hot night I was feeling pretty manky, and it was good to get on the road to generate a cooling breeze. The climb over the mountains to Cartagena proved challenging, but not really an issue after all the practice I’ve had over the last few weeks and months. There was even a bit of cloud to obscure the sun for a bit, which kept things a few degrees cooler.

I enjoyed a fast descent down to the city, a big naval port in the province of Murcia; not to be confused with Mercia. Cartagena is another settlement that’s been around for a long time, founded in 227 BC by the Carthaginians, hence the name I expect. It’s been a major port ever since those ancient times.

I took a break down in the harbour, amongst lots of yachts, and was spotted on a webcam by the ‘stalkers’ at home; another good rendezvous completed, and at least you get to see a picture of me on my bike, thus proving I am actually doing some pedalling. As I was devouring a banana I started to hear the strains of military music across the water, and realised a naval ship was leaving port with the music as an accompaniment.

There followed a lovely flat ride from Cartagena to Torrevieja, with a slight tailwind helping me keep up a good pace. I waved at two other fully laden cycle tourers going the other way, the first I’ve seen for a while; I didn’t envy them the hills coming up.

Torrevieja

Torrevieja

Torrevieja is a big tourist spot, with another nice beach, and pristine waterfront. Again I was struck by the contrast between how clean and well-ordered these tourist towns are compared with the non-tourist and less affluent areas. I have to admit I stopped for a cheeky Burger King on the promenade, enjoying several free refills of cold Fanta, which I think I’m addicted to.

After that I rode on to Santa Pola and my campsite for the night; Bahia de Santa Pola. I passed through a very low-lying region, with shallow lakes on either side of the road populated by flamingos – the first I’ve seen on this tour. I covered a total of 109km today, in about 6 hours.

Flamingos in on the flats near Santa Pola

Flamingos in on the flats near Santa Pola

The campsite itself was fine for the night, with friendly staff. It had a good pizza van and a bar with free wifi, so I was happy, despite the noise going on into the early hours of the morning; it was too hot to sleep anyway. Oh, and the receptionist had visited Ely a few years ago, where I was born, and liked the cathedral; he commented on it after seeing my city of birth in my passport.

Tomorrow it’s on up the Costa Blanca, to such delights as Alicante and Benidorm. I need to plan in a few more mini adventures; must go swimming in the sea soon, rather than being lazy and just using the campsite swimming pools. Salt water will help neutralise mosquito bites too!

–> 28 July – to Calpe, via Alicante and Benidorm
A shorter ride of just 85km today, to give my body a bit of a break after a few strenuous sessions, and recovery time from the heat. I was hoping it would be flat again, but there were plenty of ups and downs to keep me occupied as I pedalled up the Costa Blanca.

Morning in Santa Pola

Morning in Santa Pola

I set off from Santa Pola in good time, after another very hot night during which I got little in the way of sleep. Today’s ride proved fairly unremarkable, passing through concrete sprawls and more tourist spots. I rode through Alicante, getting slightly embroiled in traffic and a confusing road system, however the waterfront was nice with lots expensive boats, and an impressive citadel up on the hill.

I had fun weaving in and out of fountains in  park near the waterfront; it’s good to play, whatever age you are, and the spray was very refreshing.

After Alicante it was on to Benidorm, via some busy roads that proved quite tedious, so I mostly just zoned out. Benidorm, true to its reputation, was packed with Brits on holiday, as well as lots of other nationalities. The beach was absolutely rammed, and didn’t look like a lot of fun to me. I saw several people turning, or having already turned, a similar shade or red to Travelling Lobster, which he found very amusing. There are loads of British themed bars and restaurants; I saw one offering authentic cups of Tetley Tea or Nescafe, with real milk; most of the milk you can buy in Spain is UHT. I was vaguely tempted for a minute, just for the novelty value, but would have preferred a ceveza, or even better some Fanta; my addiction is getting worse.

It was somewhat of a relief to get out of Benidorm, even if my morbid curiosity had been piqued, and cycle on to Calpe. The ride took me over some hills and through a series of tunnels near the aptly named Altea Hills; I wondered if it was a take on Beverley Hills – the houses definitely looked expensive, as did the big motor cruiser boats in the marina.

After descending into Calpe the first campsite I arrived at wanted to charge €35, so I bid them adios and pedalled 2km to the next one which was only 2km away, and €23 cheaper; it just wasn’t as close to the beach. €35 really is a ridiculous price for a patch of gravel, and I bet the wifi would’ve cost extra. It was a relief to stop for the day, as I’d been feeling a little uncomfortable due to a slightly upset stomach; sometimes I think I should probably be drinking bottled water rather than campsite water, however it should be fine in Western Europe.

After a cold shower I pedalled down to the waterfront and took a walk along the promenade. Calpe is definitely upmarket compared with Benidorm, with lots of nice looking restaurants and bars, and a lovely view across the water to the large rock looming over the bay.

The walk along the promenade did me a lot of good, easing tension after a hard few days, and stretching my somewhat weary legs. It was fun doing a bit of people watching too, noting lots of different nationalities including Brits, French, Spanish of course, German and American. After buying some postcards I headed back to the campsite via a supermarket, then ‘chilled’ out for the rest of the evening; didn’t have wifi so I wrote the postcards and read my book, a good break from blogging. I also washed my cycling gear again, and was somewhat dismayed by the colour of the water after just one day on the road; so dry and dusty.

I’ve just finished reading the first part of a Sci-Fi story, A Day of Faces, a friend from Norwich is writing; well worth a read and available free here, it’s really good: https://www.wattpad.com/story/35978309?

–> 29 July 2015 – to Mareny de Barraquetes
Another shorter day, covering 88km; I wanted a shorter couple of days to act as recovery rides.

Climb out of Calpe

Climb out of Calpe

It had been almost cool when I went to bed, with a slight breeze blowing in through my open tent door and keeping me from sweating too badly; it can get a bit soggy in the heat in a small tent at times, most unpleasant. Unfortunately the breeze had dropped overnight so it ended up being very warm again. Coupled with the heat, I’d left my tent door open to let the breeze in, but this had the unfortunate side effect of letting mosquitos, or some other biting insect, in during the night; I woke up to find at least a dozen new and very irritating bites – very itchy. So not the greatest of rests again, and I was keen to get on the road and make haste to the next campsite for a siesta!

After trying somewhat in vain to apply suncream to an already sweaty face, and it running into my eyes causing the ‘stinging eye must find water bottle’ dance, I got going and tackled the challenging climb out of Calpe to rejoin the N332. The climb was a steep 800 feet, which definitely wakes you up first thing in the morning. I can’t call it significant due to my 1,000 feet rule but it was still knackering!

Through the hills to Gata de Gorgos

Through the hills to Gata de Gorgos

Thankfully after the ascent there was one of those fantastic descents; not to steep, and goes on for ages. I drifted lazily downhill for what seemed like miles, through a busy quarry area which coated me in more dust, before arriving in Gata de Gorgos. Gata de Gorgos is a brilliant name for a town, and will definitely be one for the parallel book; I haven’t looked it up but wonder if it’s got anything to do with Gorgons or mythology? I’ll have to have a search on t’interweb.

After remembering to post my postcards in Ondara, it was on to Oliva then Gandia, down a fairly busy road, but with some cloud cover keeping off the worst of the sun. I kept my eyes open for a Decathalon for hammock buying purposes but I don’t think there’s another one until near Valencia now.

Rice paddies down near the coast, Cullera

Rice paddies down near the coast, Cullera

I stopped in Cullera to take advantage of the free wifi and air-con at McDonalds, then rode the short distance on to the campsite in Mareny de Barraquetes. I passed a fun looking water park, with dinosaurs, and lots of rice being grown in paddy fields. The roadside was lined with bushes laden with pretty flowers; red, pink and white. In general the area looked and felt a lot less arid.

Thankfully the campsite had a lot of shade, so I pitched my tent quickly and proceeded to have that siesta, snoozing for about an hour and a half. I awoke to the sound of a noisy engine as my neighbours packed up and narrowly missed my tent with their caravan as they left.

Although it was cooler, it was very humid, and having checked the weather forecast it appears everything is building towards some significant storms over the next few days. I need a break from the heat so will welcome any rain, more clouds, and a nice breeze; hopefully a few storms will freshen things up. A bit later on in the evening I heard a few peels of distant thunder, but no rain as yet. The campsite tannoy was warning residents to batten down the hatches just in case, which mostly seemed to involve tying large water bottles filled with sand to awnings to weigh them down.

I visited a bakers in the village for dinner, procuring some fine pizza and bread for breakfast, then headed back to the campsite where I met up with Piers, who is down here with his son and daughter, all the way from Belgium, for a holiday. Piers is English, but lives in Belgium, and has lived in both Africa and Spain in the past. It was great to have a chat and relax over a beer, swapping a few stories and talking about life in general. Thanks for the beer and cuppa Piers; maybe see you in France should our campsites coincide. Good luck with future touring plans.

Tomorrow its on to Valencia and beyond; getting closer to Barcelona and France.

5 thoughts on “27, 28 & 29 July 2015 – Santo Pola, Alicante, Benidorm and Mareny de Barrequetes

  1. nellyinroom

    Was just thinking about you yesterday. Am in Barcelona at present and keep checking the bikes in case I spot Smaug! A cycle-friendly city , it seems with a Decathlon on the coast on the French side of the city. (Hard to work out compass points). Happy cycling!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  2. nellyinroom

    Ah, we will leave tomorrow so it’s a near miss. You been before? Our first time and it’s a great city but a bit hot coming from Scotland! A city geared for bikes however so hope you enjoy your stay!

    Eleanor

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
      1. nellyinroom

        Our first time too, with three boys in tow, and we have all enjoyed it. City seems to be backing cycling so should be easy to get about. Lovely waterfront, lively bars and cafés, a real international feel. Hope you enjoy your stay.

        Eleanor

        Liked by 1 person

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