Routes and stats for 23 and 24 July below:
- 23 July: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/842421837
- 24 July: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/843279471
–> 23 July – to Torrox via Marbella and Malaga
After starting Stage 2 of my tour on 22 July, I’ve been making decent progress up the coast towards France. I’m keen to get some good mileage done early on, as I’m planning some time off when I arrive in the Marseille area. That said, there’s a lot of Spain to go yet, including Barcelona which would be nice to look around. It’s very hot still making cycling pretty tough going, especially when you throw in some mountains, of which there are plenty. I keep getting told by locals that the weather is exceptional, and not in a good way; it’s too hot for everyone. I’m having to carry extra water and drink pretty much constantly to avoid dehydration, but it’s manageable so far.
Today was a long ride, covering 128km in about 7.5 hours. Meant to start earlier but my 2 days off have shown me slightly, and I didn’t get on the road until 08.30. I pedalled up the coast via lots of familiar sounding places on the Costa del
Troll Sol, including such delights at Puerto Banos, Marbella, Torremolinos and Malaga. There were a few uncomfortable stretches on the Autovia, which turned out to be the only option for some parts of the ride, however there was often a ‘Via de Servico’ running alongside, and almost always a decent hard-shoulder to use. As far as I can tell you’re allowed to cycle on Autovias as long as there isn’t a no cycling sign.
There was a Via Verde running alongside the coast past Puerto Banus and Marbella, which made for very enjoyable riding. Via Verdes are the Spanish ‘Green Ways’ and excellent for cycling or walking on.
As the morning wore on the coastal stretches in tourist towns started to get busier, until the beaches were packed with people. Despite it being a bit of a concrete jungle the coastline was much nicer than I expected; clean and well-tended, with no litter and lots of little restaurants and cafes. It’s also great cycling alongside the Med, with a sea breeze keeping things cool, and lots of things to distract you from the tedium of turning those pedals; sailing boats, sand castles, and nice views. A few distant memories floated to the surface around Puerto Banus and Marbella, from a long weekend about 15 years ago, when work flew us all out for a break; quite a messy weekend as I recall.
I saw another police road block today, with officers checking the cars going past for someone; they weren’t interested in me though, despite carrying a shifty looking lobster. I wonder if they were looking for the same person or people as yesterday.
My arms got slightly burned today, despite studious application of suncream; it just sweats off. It’s the first time I’ve burned for ages, and is purely down to how hot it is. I must have drunk about 6 litres of water/fanta whilst cycling, and more when I stopped for the day. I took a pause in Malaga to visit a Decathlon in search of a hammock, or hamaca in Spanish. They’d sold out but I did enjoy the air conditioning for a while, and the free wifi allowed me to double-check the route into Malaga, which turned out to be slightly tricky due to rivers and motorways.
After a final climb into the hills above Torrox I made it to the El Pino campsite, and to a friendly reception for once. I set up in a nice shady spot, and decided to eat at the campsite restaurant as they had an all-you-can-eat salad bar, and decent lasagna, all for €10, winner.
Man it was hot though, even after 11 o’clock at night, making for a rather uncomfortable night’s sleep; a slight migraine didn’t help, must be slightly dehydrated despite drinking loads.
–> 24 July – to Roquetas de Mar
After yesterday’s efforts I had thought I might stop earlier today, but that depended on campsite options. As usual I had a few ideas as to where I might stay, with a stretch goal of Roquetas de Mar should I be feeling energetic. I ended up pedalling 160km in about 9 hours, so the legs are holding up alright.
As with yesterday I didn’t manage quite as early start as I wanted. I’d like to start earlier to avoid the heat, but as it doesn’t get light until about 07.00, and I don’t want to cycle in the dark; I guess leaving by 08.30 isn’t too bad. It always takes me a while to pack up in the morning, especially after a breakfast to make hobbits proud.
After a great descent down to the coast from the campsite, I followed the N340a to Nerja, waving and saying hello to lots of road cyclists out for a morning ride. The N340a runs parallel to the motorway, and is a quiet road as a result, barring the bits in towns. The mountains reach the sea along this part of the coast, leading to some wonderful scenery, tempered with fierce climbs, lots of bends, and quick descents. I must have passed dozens of cyclists during the morning, and even a couple of other tourers in the afternoon. I haven’t seen any other cycle tourers for a while so it was good to wave and say hello; always lifts the spirits to know you’re not the only daft individual cycling in these conditions!
After some strenuous pedalling I made it to Almunecar, which must surely be town name hearkening back to the time this area was under the control of the Caliphate, then on to Salobena, tackling one hill after another with very rarely a flat bit. I could have stopped in Castell del Ferro, but I’d only covered about 70km by that stage, and there looked to be lots of campsite options further on. Feeling good, despite the hills and heat, I pedalled on, stopping in El Pozuelo to buy a drink; after two litres of cold Fanta, two bananas, followed by crisps and biscuits, I was ready to continue.
I noticed towers on the hills at regular intervals along the coast today, often perched precariously. I don’t know when they were built, but imagine they must have once been manned as watch towers, linking the various forts and citadels; saw several of them too. It was good to be away from the busier tourist areas, instead passing lovely beaches with far fewer people, and smaller towns and tourist spots, probably mostly frequented by locals. Also saw a lot of goats, with the odd herd sheltering from the sun under bridges and shady spots made by the motorway; expect there’s been goat herding along this coast for centuries.
It was getting really hot again, with the breeze only making itself known when not blocked by the mountains. I was a bit worried about getting burned, as any suncream I put on just sweated off again. At one point my head must have got too hot as suncream kept running into my eyes, leaving them sore and stinging; I had to stop to wash them out to avoid crashing.
I had a look for the campsite in Adra, but couldn’t find it so carried on, the cycling getting easier as the landscape flattened out a bit. I began to see more and more greenhouses as I left the tourist areas behind, and entered a massive agricultural area, with peppers, tomatoes and no doubt many other fruits and veg being grown. I expect some of it makes its way to the supermarkets in the UK; shame about the carbon miles. The farming looks to be pretty intensive, and it makes you realise the effort that has to go into keeping all those supermarket shelves stocked. Imagine the chaos if the supplies ever stopped flowing; anarchy within 48 hours I reckon.
The cycling was a bit boring after the mountains, and I stopped in Almerimar to try to find a campsite. This town looks to be a purpose-built tourist settlement, with marina, beaches, and a huge golf course. The wind also looks like it’s pretty consistent so probably a good sailing/surfing spot. I couldn’t find the campsite although I didn’t look too hard; the golf course was tempting with its lovely greens and little lakes, but I figured they might object to a grimy cycle tourer pitching their tent on it; might raise the par for that particular hole. I’d actually passed a couple of other campsites but they didn’t really appeal, being a bit blasted by sun, sand and wind, so I decided to carry on to Roquetas de Mar.
After mile upon mile of greenhouses, accompanied by some Jack Johnson on my phone (on speaker not earphones), I made it to the campsite in Roquetas, having covered 160km. I had fairly wobbly legs after over 4,500 feet in ascents, and a big distance, so it was with some grumbling I pitched my tent on yet another gravel surface; at least it was shaded.
After washing my cycling gear through, vital in this heat, I phoned home then bought dinner from the campsite shop, settling in for a quiet night. The campsite was fairly busy and noisy but very little can keep me awake after a long day on the saddle. Talking of saddles, did a bit of maintenance on mine, tightening it a notch and applying some Proofide; got to look after the Brooks to ensure it keeps looking after my posterior!
I hear there are big storms in the UK, with lots of rain. Don’t know how anyone can deny climate change is happening when we have such extreme weather patterns everywhere. I wonder what it’ll take for people to finally realise our current lifestyles just aren’t sustainable; might write a longer post on this at some point, but it’ll wait until I’m back on the UK.
Will try and find another Decathalon in the next few days, really want a hammock now!