Garmin all working again, routes and stats below:
- 01 August: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/851458375
- 02 August: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/852862025
–> 01 August – to La Pineda
Sometimes I look at the overall map of Europe, take a moment to savour how far I’ve come, what I’ve seen and experienced already, and review what I’ve got left to pedal. It’s been such a journey of contrasts already, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what Eastern Europe is like, not to mention Turkey and Istanbul. Who knows who I’ll meet and what adventures I’ll have along the way. I’d best not get ahead of myself though; still got a bit of Spain to finish, and then some downtime in France.
After more overnight thunderstorms and rain, accompanied by some very impressive forked lightning shooting across the sky, I was up and packed by 08.30, but had to wait for reception to open at 09.00 to pay up before leaving. One of the chores of cycle touring is definitely the packing up each day. I don’t mind making camp, but packing everything up again in the morning can get tedious, especially when your stuff is a bit damp from the humidity or rain.
A bright day meant the suncream was back on, however at least it was still cooler, and fresher after the storms. I pedalled off to Ampolla, then over the river to L’Aldea as the clouds came in. Perhaps I shouldn’t have bothered with the suncream as it started to rain, quite hard, however after the heat and dryness of the last few weeks I’m still loving the rain. After a ride along the coast there followed a long climb up into the hills, through lots of terraced Olive groves and orchards. The ascent was somewhat undulating, and pretty tiring, however I received some stalwart encouragement about halfway up form a cyclist on a sleek road machine; lots of ‘allez allez’ action. I reached the top at El Perelló, then joined the N340 to scoot back down the hill to the coast again; a lovely long descent, past a power station and through some nice hills to L’Hospitalet de l’Infant.
The rest of the ride took me past a lot of beaches, packed with holiday-makers, and several coastal towns. There are loads of French on holiday here; must be a very popular getaway spot being not far from the border, by car anyway; takes a bit longer on a bike. I stopped in Cambrills for some lunch from a bakers, consuming a great slice of vegetarian pizza, packed with onion and red peppers; was delicious hence the mention. Then it was a slow pedal along the coast to Salou, and then La Pineda and my campsite for the night. I was able use cycle paths or ride along promenades for much of the latter part of the ride, which made for a pleasant break from the busy road, however I did have to be careful not to run anyone over; people walk oblivious to anything coming there way in cycle lanes still, just like the UK.
La Pineda camping is a fairly good campsite, but very expensive at €32; that’s more than a hostel in Barcelona! I think the whole Salou area is pretty expensive, and there wasn’t, as far as I could tell, another campsite close by, so I bit the bullet and stayed. My irritation over the cost was exacerbated when the campsite restaurant closed at 19.00; a tad early I thought, however I managed to grab a take-away pizza before it shut – all they had on offer given time available.
At least the campsite wifi was decent, so I could catch up with some planning and deciding my route for the next few days. Almost certain I’m going to stop in Barcelona now; need a break before crossing over into France, and it’ll be good to see the city.
–> 02 August – Tarragona and Castelldefels
It took a bit of old school Metallica to get me going in the morning, and provide packing-up motivation. Some of my stuff is getting pretty manky, due to the heat, humidity and sweat; probably more detail than you need to know but I think it’s important to convey all challenges of life on the road. I’m considering either burning the smellier bits and buying new stuff, or when I get to friends in France giving everything a thorough wash; the latter will be more economical however not as safe as taking off and nuking the site from orbit.
After texting my niece, or rather my brother, to wish her happy 2nd birthday, I pedalled the short distance to Tarragona, on quiet roads; not much traffic on Sunday mornings. Tarragona proved nice, with some old Roman ruins including an amphitheatre, and good sea views. There appear to be Roman ruins all along this bit of coast.
There were lots of cyclists out today, leading to a high Hola/Allez-allez/Vamos count – approx 26 I think. The ride along to Cala Romana, then inland to La Mara and Altafulla was pleasant, but the traffic got heavier so I swapped the main road for the smaller roads next to beaches. This had its own challenges with regular speed bumps making me wince as my panniers creaked and bike shook with each jarring bump. The route was more wriggly, but had some nice sections either next to or on promenades, passing a lot of beaches.
On I pedalled, through Creixell, Calafell and Cunit, then Villanova and down to Sitges, once a fishing village and now another thriving tourist destination. I had a walk around the latter, enjoying the shaded streets, even if they were packed with people. I bumped into a rather ragged looking cyclist coming the other way; an old fella with a mountain bike that had seen better days, but that he’d thoroughly customised with bits of string, wooden handlebar extensions, and ‘custom’ panniers, with a few pans hanging off the side. He seemed pretty excited to stop and have a chat, in fairly good English, and spent some time examining my ergonomic handlebar grips with the intention of sanding his down to match their shape. He told me the route over to Marseille is ‘a lot up, then nice down’. I’m not sure how long he’d been on the road for, however I suspect that’s how he lives, given his appearance and rather threadbare look; shouldn’t make assumptions however, he might be a millionaire for all I know, would have been interesting to hear more about his journey through Europe.
The coastal road from Sitges to Castelldefels was picturesque, but unfortunately very busy. It was still an enjoyable ride, and obviously popular with roadies; was passed by quite a few cyclists going both ways. A few expensive sports cars also roared past; at least one Ferrari, and a Masurati. The expensive cars, coupled with the expensive looking yachts and motor cruisers down on the sea, led me to believe there’s quite a lot of money in this part of Spain; guess I am close to Barcelona now. There were some lovely views out over the Mediterranean, with hills to my left and a cliff down to my right.
The campsite in Castelldefels, the 3 Estrellas, proved a good one, and cheaper than the previous night. The 3 Estrellas is right next to the beach, and the last campsite before Barcelona. It’s also pretty close to the airport, so don’t stay there if you get irritated by the aircraft noise (I don’t). I set up then took a walk along the beach; they have a windsurf hire shop on the campsite, and by the sounds of it the location benefits from a pretty consistent wind (chatted to one of the staff); would have been good to get out on the sea if I’d been staying a bit longer, although I’d probably have spent most of the time in the sea and not on the board. You can hire kayaks and stand-up paddle boards too, as well as fat bikes, so lots of fun to be had.
With about 15 miles to go before reaching Barcelona I finally got around to booking a hostel for a couple of nights; Hostel St Christopher near the centre, which allegedly has bike parking. I decided on two nights to allow for some sightseeing, and to maybe get a haircut, and do a bit of bike maintenance; new rear brake pads needed. I also need a mental break from the camping routine, and it’ll be nice to enjoy some air-con and a real bed, albeit in a dorm; I bet I’ll be missing my tent after 24 hours!
I had another look at my route through France and down to Istanbul. I’ll be having at least a week off in France as I visit friends, following a bit of a convoluted route as they don’t all live in Marseille anymore; it’ll be worth it though. This leaves me slightly concerned as to whether I’ll have enough time to cycle all the way back to the UK post Istanbul, however I really shouldn’t worry, as I can always extend my tour by a week, or jump on a train for a bit. I’m not going to think about it and just enjoy the flow and experiences coming up; more mini adventures needed along the way too.