30 & 31 July 2015 – Benicasim and Sant Carles de la Rapita

I don’t have recorded route/stats for 30 July, as my Garmin crashed and needed a factory reset, however I’ve plotted the route I took and included the link below, along with a link to the 31 July ride:

–> 30 July – to Benicasim (Azahar camping)
I probably cycled about 130km today, partly due to a wrong turning which nearly took me on to an auto-pista, because I wasn’t concentrating. Lets call it 120km to be on the safe side; I don’t know for sure – as mentioned my Garmin crashed. At the moment I’m using a large-scale map which doesn’t show all the roads I pedal down, and misses out quite a lot of the smaller towns and villages. Having my Garmin break caused a slight issue on the navigation front, however I can’t go too wrong as long as I keep following the coast North East; just gets tricky where lots of roads converge or diverge.

I packed up after a relatively good night’s kip, with no storms having made an appearance quite yet. Piers supplied a cuppa before I rode off towards Valencia; much appreciated, thank you. It was a nice ride along the coast, with the landscape getting a lot greener, and the appearance trees in abundance. A bit of cloud cover helped keep things cooler; the ‘cover’ steadily built all morning. There were a lot of road cyclists out, mostly ‘senior’ clubs by the looks of it; guess a lot of retired folks as the younger generation would be working. The density of fellow cyclists led to a high wave/ola/allez-allez density as I approached Valencia, at one point having to dodge around a Mini with a bent axle; the wheels were at a very odd angle.

On route to Valencia; lots of trees!

On route to Valencia; lots of trees!

Just outside Valencia I diverted away from the coast to visit a Decathalon, continuing my search for a hammock; sadly they were out-of-stock, again. I think I’m going to give up until France, unless I pass another one directly on my route. The diversion set me up nicely to cross the city in pretty much a straight line. I opted out of a site-seeing circuit, having been advised there wasn’t an awful lot to see, at least not compared with the likes of Salamanca or Leon. Valencia was busy but easy to cycle through, however it did start raining as I pedalled along; whilst very refreshing I had to seek shelter when it turned torrential, to avoid getting completely drenched. The rain was brilliant as it dropped the temperature to about 23 degrees Celsius, which was sheer bliss after riding in the mid to high thirties for so long.

A long ride to Castellon de la Plana followed, which was mostly quite boring, passing lots of fields of orange and lime trees, as well as plenty of olive groves. As already mentioned my Garmin crashed and wouldn’t restart, and I took a wrong turning which nearly had me pedalling down a motorway (River would have been proud). Luckily there was an exit just before the auto-pista properly started and I was able to loop back around and on to the correct road.

There was one dramatic bit, I think in Port de Sagunt, where I initially thought the thunderstorms had returned. It turned out to someone setting off a load of fireworks from on top of one of the tower blocks, with plenty of artillery barrage type affects going on. I don’t think many of the locals would have been very impressed, but it entertained me for a bit; it was probably kids, due to it being broad daylight.

I made it to Azahar camping for about 16.00. Azahar is just next door to Benicasim, another coastal town with beaches and lots of hotels. I set up in a nice shaded spot, which wasn’t so vital today due to the cloud cover, then visited the local supermarket for supplies.  I spent a relaxing evening doing some planning and updating my blog. I think I’ll reach Barcelona either on Sunday or Monday; will probably stretch the ride out until Monday, then spend a couple of nights in a hostel to visit the city properly – hostels cheaper during the week. As always any plan is subject to change; could just end up cycling straight through and on to France if it becomes too much hassle.

Azahar camping

Azahar camping

A big storm hit later on in the evening, complete with thunder and lightning, which gave my tent a good wash, as well as Smaug; good to get rid of some of the accumulated dust. The water ran down the hill in torrents, and I was slightly concerned the small patch I was camped in might get washed away, however thankfully the water mostly ran around my tent. Rumblings of thunder and flashes of lightning continued into the night, along with heavy downpours, keeping things cool, although not mosquito free. I happy to report my the Hilleberg Akto remained dry throughout, despite the best efforts of Thor and his cohorts.

–> 31 July 2015 – to Sant Carles de la Rapita
A factory reset on my Garmin Edge 810 seemed to do the job, meaning that was up and running  ready for the day ahead, even if it did wipe all data on the device; thankfully I’d recently backed everything up to my laptop and online at Garmin Connect.

I discovered a bit of water had leaked in through the ‘varmint’ holes in the bottom of my tent; see previous blog post from Sweden (Vittangi), where my tent was attacked by a vole. Thankfully it was only a small amount and dried pretty quickly. Waiting for the tent to dry out and a slow pack up led to a late start, not leaving Benicasim until 09.30; positively decadent!

A Via Verde took me down the coast from to Orpesa, meaning I avoided a big climb and spent several kilometres off-road, enjoying a decent track alongside the sea. The Via Verdes run on old train tracks and are used by walkers, runners and cyclists. It was really nice riding along without any traffic, enjoying the scenery and cooler weather, and saying hello to all and sundry. There was even a longish tunnel to cycle through, although someone doing circuit training was blowing a whistle in it which was a little shrill. It would be great if there were more Via Verdes on my route, however sadly they seem few and far between; nice to take advantage when they do appear though.

Unfortunately the Via Verde ended and it was back to the N340, which was full of heavy traffic; I’m not sure why more of it doesn’t use the motorway which runs roughly parallel, perhaps it’s a toll road. Thankfully I left the busy road at Alcocebre, opting for a bit of an adventure along the coast which confused my Garmin due to riding on ‘unpaved roads’.

The coastal route ran for about 16km to Peniscola, through the Parque Naturel Sierra de Irta. The bumpy track, from which you can access lots of mountain bike trails, is mostly used by 4×4,’s or other cyclists. I was fine on my Oxford Bike Works Expedition Bike, but it was slow going, taking care to avoid the bigger rocks and pot holes to minimise the chance of spoke breaks or worse. I decided I didn’t care about speed today, especially after positively ambling along the Via Verde earlier, so just took it easy, enjoying the trail. It felt very peaceful and remote, being away from the main road with just the sound of the sea for company, and the occasional light rain shower keeping it cool. I said hello to the odd cyclist, and only saw about 4 cars, moving very cautiously, on the whole trail. Some great views, and it smelt wonderful; sea, seaweed, pines and just generally fresh. On one bit I turned a corner to see a father and young son dash naked into the sea, splashing around laughing, and being watched bemusedly from the shore by their mother; I pedalled past unnoticed.

I stopped for a break in Peniscola, sniggering slightly at the name (I know, infantile, but even the smallest thing can be amusing after a long time solo cycling…). It’s a picturesque town, with the older bit built on a peninsula that juts out into the sea; a walled town with castle sitting at the top. As usual there were tourists in abundance, eating ice-creams, enjoying the beach, or just generally bimbling about. I got into a slight fracas with a few kids with water-pistols, and had to use my water bottle as ammunition; luckily I was rescued by parents as was severely outnumbered with no chance of reinforcements or evac – they had me cornered on the sea front, and Lobster was hiding, damn that cowardly crustacean.

After cycling along the promenade for a bit and splashing through several flooded areas (good fun), I had to rejoin the main roads for a while. The N340 proved to be busy still, however I turned off it to the Alfacs campsite down by the sea, just west of St Carles de la Rapita; I kept wanting to say de la Raptor, sounds much more impressive.

I was in for a bit of a shock at the campsite; it had grass, something I haven’t been able to pitch my tent on for a long time! I could push my tent pegs in without the aid of a rock, and the ground had a vague spring to it, especially after the rain, bliss. I should mention that the weather today had been excellent, with the occasional rain shower again keeping things fresh, and clouds keeping the sun at bay. A drop in temperature and a bit of fresh air does wonders for one’s energy levels and alertness.

The campsite is right next to the sea, and has its own small beach area. Despite the pebbles I wasn’t deterred from a quick dip in the Mediterranean, my first of the tour amazingly. It was really refreshing, and the salt water helped stop irritating mosquito bites from itching. Then I decided it would be a good idea to wash my cycling gear again, which may have been an error given a massive thunderstorm hit shortly afterwards, complete with heavy rain. I watched for a short while then retreated to my tent whilst my washing got re-washed; it wasn’t very dry by the morning.

Evening spent doing some reading and surfing, from the comfort of the on site bar, over a couple of cevezas. On towards Tarragona tomorrow, Barcelona not far away, and more adventures to come.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s