Spain was both wonderful and infuriating on a bicycle.
We loved the little bars, where we discovered great coffee, smoked ham, cheap glasses of sherry and massive loaves of bread. The interior, with its unspoiled cobblestone-street villages and open landscape was equally impressive.
What we were less happy about was the traffic on the Mediterranean coastline and wall-to-wall holiday resorts. The best of Spain is definitely not by the water!
We were here three times: once going from France into Spain, once coming back from Morocco and into Portugal and once from Portugal back to France.
Today we entered the sixth country so far on our tour, Spain. It’s the first time we are travelling in a place where neither of us speaks the language, so we have a steep learning curve ahead of us. The route here was nothing short of beautiful – first through flat nature reserves and then
After examining the map and doing our sums last night, we discovered that we would have to turn inland slightly from the twisty, hilly coastal road to try and make a bit of time. Our whole extra week that we thought we had to make our way from the Ardeche to Valencia for Christmas seems
Today was a day of dodging the rain, from the moment we woke up around 7am. We packed up everything in the tent and then, every time there was a break in the showers, we stepped out to put a couple more panniers on the bikes. Finally there was a big enough dry spell for
When we started this day we both said we had no desire to go into Barcelona. Traffic, expensive hotels, nowhere to camp. Who needs that, we said, we’ll just go along the seafront and camp on the otherside. Well, apparently the 50km or so of heavy traffic in the run up to Barcelona wore us
We didn’t take any pictures this morning as we made our way out of Barcelona, but if we had they might have been captioned something like: “We’ve run into a motorway.” “Hey, here’s a roundabout with no signs whatsoever.” “Oh look, another motorway.” and “We have no idea where we are”. It took us a
The nicest part of today came right at the end, a lovely deserted beach with a few palm trees on it to camp on. Well, deserted in the Spanish sense, which means all the apartments along it are empty and only a daytime walking path runs long its edge. We had tried to find a
A bit of overenthusiasm to see the rice fields of Spain led us to one of our longest days in quite a while. After an enjoyable morning winding our way through olive groves on a quiet road with hardly any traffic (we finally found an alternative to the busy highway we’ve been following lately), we
Campgrounds are like buses, first you can’t find any and then three come along at once, or in our case at least half a dozen. Around noon, having tired once again of the busy highway, we decided to go into the seaside town of Peniscola for lunch. On our way in, all we saw were
Our decision to quit early yesterday paid off as a much warmer, sunnier day dawned. What we hoped for on the Spanish coast! We headed into the town and took a road that led right along the coast, which made for some stunning scenery as the winds and unsettled weather of the day before created
We hadn’t planned for such a long day but once again we had trouble finding a campground, just when we thought we were maybe far enough south to avoid that annoyance, so since we had plenty of energy we carried on to Valencia. Our luck was in because the hostel we had already planned to spend
With plenty of Christmas indulgence under our belts, we headed out from Valencia just before noon. We were in no hurry to leave our friends or a fantastic city, full of beautiful architecture, parks and a beach. The ride out of Valencia was fairly straight forward – out to the beach then to the right
A lazy day for us. We slept in, enjoyed a long lunch on the beach and finished early just outside of Denia, a busy seaside town with ferries to the party island of Ibiza and plenty of British pubs. After speaking almost only German yesterday, it seems this may be where the British invasion of
We’d rather forgotten how to climb hills, having followed mostly fairly flat routes lately, so today’s mountainous path came as a bit of a shock to the system and it’s fair to say we were exhausted by the end. The route was pretty though, taking in two regional parks and some beautiful rugged coastline, and
Another hilly day dawned for us. Although the climbs weren’t quite as steep as yesterday, the road took in plenty of rolling hills throughout the day. Alicante was our lunchtime stop – surprisingly not quite as tacky as we’d expected. The seafront area is quite nice and with the mountains in the background it’s not
Perfect days are made like this one: Waking up in the morning to a beautiful view from your wild campsite Enjoying a great cafe con leche at a local cafe for only 1 euro Buying your food for the day at a bustling Saturday market Eating lunch on the beach on a sunny 21 degree
Considering we had planned on an easy day of riding into Europe’s oldest city, Cartagena, 60km was a bit more than we bargained for, being New Years Eve and all. But this didn’t seem to stop us. After checking out one hotel in Cartegena, a bit too expensive, and finding another full, we bailed on
A lazy day if there ever was one. After listening to the expats in the campsite celebrate New Years (the Germans at midnight European time, and the Brits one hour later in time with the UK), we rolled out of our tent quite late in the morning and just managed to get on our bikes
We were up before the first rays of the sun and on the road as soon as the light would allow us to cycle. For our effort, we were greeted with a good 10km of climbing. Having gone without a proper breakfast in hopes of finding a cafe down the road, it was a tough
This day turned out to be one of the most beautiful of our trip so far, a scenic route that took us first along the sea, then up some challenging hills and into the Cabo de Gata park where we were surrounded by mountains and views across the sea. A day which reminded us that,
A short day for us, but by no means an easy one! We could have taken the relatively flat and shorter path to the city of Almeria, but instead we chose the beautiful but challenging road along the coast. Starting with a hilly few kilometers into the town of San Jose, where we stocked up
After watching the sun rise over the beach this morning, the rest of the day turned out to be one of function over beauty. The route we took along the coast made the most sense, as we head towards our next farmstay, but it certainly wasn’t scenic. Quite the opposite. First we passed the back
Today was all about climbing. Up we went from our beachside camping spot, into the Alpujarras mountain range, with the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada always in our distant view. At least the hike up was at a decent grade, so we were able to climb at a steady 10km an hour without getting
On top of the world in the AlpujarrasOne of our shortest days yet but one we both agree was our most challenging so far, both mentally and physically, despite the gorgeous scenery. The route we had chosen to get to our farmstay looked as if it should be reasonably flat on the map but we
We felt a bit rusty as we returned to our bikes after nearly a week off, but the hardest part of the day was over as soon as we’d pushed our way to the top of Bill & Sue’s driveway. Their home, where we’d spent the past few days doing some brush clearing and weeding,
We both woke up with sore throats and had the feeling that this was going to be a short day. No sense pushing yourself if you’re not really up to it – this definitely isn’t a race! We struggled with the hilly roads at the start of the day, before rolling into the busy town
We set off from Torox a little worse for wear, as our colds drained us of energy. We were keen to get to Malaga though, to check out what ferry services were available to Morocco. After several weeks on the Spanish coastline, we’re now ready for a change and we’d heard that there was a
There wasn’t so much cycling today, but lots of running around before we boarded the ferry for Africa. Not, of course, before a morning coffee and a tasty tortilla sandwich in one of Malaga’s cafes. Next it was off to a downtown bicycle shop, where we played a game of charades with the owner, trying
After three months in Europe, we crossed into Morocco today, a country we’ve been to twice before, but never on bicycles. Before we’ve concentrated on Marrakech and the desert and we hope that this time we will be able to do a proper tour of most of the country. Our entry took place at the
We rose before the sun this morning, dragging ourselves out of bed around 5:30am for some last minute preparations before the first ferry to Spain. No matter how much we pack and unpack, we never seem to get any faster at getting our bikes ready for the road after staying in one place for a
We thought we were getting up early when we reluctantly stuck our noses outside the tent this morning, only to find mist still covering the field and a chill in the air that sent us straight back into our sleeping bags. Actually it was about as late as we’ve ever slept in so far on
We crawled out of our tent to a very cloudy day. It looked ominous and before long rain was pouring from the sky so we dashed back inside and discussed our options for the day. Rain and bicycles don’t go so well together. Even though we have wonderful rain gear that keeps us dry, we
The morning started looking a bit gray, yet we knew today would be a later start than normal and we were glad to see the skies lighten up as the day went on. Walking around Sanlucar tracking down a coffee and something for breakfast we went by some of the sherry bodegas, hoping for a
With the pressure on to get to Portugal to meet some friends, we cycled nearly until the sun had set through acres of Spanish countryside and part of the Donana natural park. When we first started this journey we thought our days would be completely free of pressures to meet deadlines like we’d experienced during
Are we there yet?? That was Friedel’s most asked question of the day as we cruised towards Portugal. We’d set ourselves an ambitious goal of getting just inside Portgual by sunset to make our last day to Rich’s house on the coast, south of Faro, a relatively easy ride. Despite having a hefty number of
Once again we set out to do a half day and ended up putting in a fair number of kilometers. We rose early from our bed in the hotel room overlooking the gorge carved out by the Douro river and headed straight down to the internet cafe to make the most of our last chance
Eight months into this trip and you’d think we’d have it all figured out by now. Far from it. Today we got another reminder about pacing. After a night of wild camping, and with at least a few more in view given the rural terrain ahead, the idea of getting to a campground this evening
We made the most of our overpriced campground by sleeping in after our long trip the day before, taking two showers and doing some work on the bikes. The brake pads really needed replacing after so many kilometers. It’s only the second time we’ve replaced the back pads (the last being in Koblenz, Germany) and
Today it felt like we had all of Spain to ourselves. We slept in again – the result of late nights, we now have light until nearly 10pm – and only hit the road by mid-morning but even then we hardly saw any cars on the road. Only the occasional tractor passed us as we
We had a pannier emergency today: an oil spill all over the inside of our cooking bag! We’d searched for days for a half litre bottle of oil (the size of screw-top bottle we’ve bought to carry oil in) but we never saw anything less than a litre. Finally we gave up and bought a
Often on our bikes we joke with each other that the next stretch of road to the nearest town or landmark must be “all downhill” – in our dreams! Usually the reality is much less pleasing, involving at least a few hills to climb, but today we got our wish. From the time we got
The heat is really sucking the energy from our bodies. Our distance today wasn’t anything special – more or less a normal day on the bikes – but we struggled to get to the campsite in Estella, feeling shattered by the time we finally got the tent up and ate, near 8pm. Although the mornings
It’s not been the best week for food on our tour! After our oil-spill of a couple days ago, today we woke up to curdled milk. We’ve been trying to work out the best way to carry milk for our morning coffee on the road. We can buy small lunch-box sized cartons of UHT long-life
We had good intentions of starting out early today and crossing into France and the nuns in the pilgrim hostel where we spent the night certainly made sure we got out of bed in good time. At 6:30am the lights went on in all the bedrooms and, while we rolled over and tried to ignore
“Grandiose Vista No, not Microsoft, the view Biking down the road” — Andrew “Mountains rise ahead Sun warms our toes as we bike To their misty peaks” — Friedel We took a tip from Keith, a pilgrim we met in the hostel in Pamplona, and spent our morning composing haikus while cycling towards the pass
We never dreamed we'd be crossing water in our bare feet on Christmas Eve, but we were... We were also bouncing our way along muddy tracks, walking the bikes a fair bit of the time, and we were having a blast. Sometimes distance isn't everything.
It's Christmas Day. The roads are silent. The skies are blue. We pass the day by taking photos (lots of them), cycling through olive groves and - of course - seeking out a Christmas lunch in a Spanish bar!
Muddy tires, high mountains, fantastic views and an encounter with a delicious bakery. It's just another day on our bike tour of Andalucia and our legs are getting a real workout as we climb up, up, up.
It's nearly 9am before we get out of our tent and start packing up the bikes. The later-than-usual start drives Friedel crazy in particular. Even though it's winter and there's no light until 8:30am, she's been awake for at least 2 hours and would have liked to be on the road far earlier. "We're losing the whole day," she grumbles (we haven't had a coffee yet either).
When we leave Granada the sky is the most incredibly intense blue we've ever seen. It's hard to imagine that this will be a tough day on the bike, but it will be. The hills start early in the day and never seem to let up. And then, the weather changes into a thick, cold mist.
A night of sleep is an amazing thing. All our stresses of the day before fade away and we are ready to take on our next day of cycling in Andalucia. The weather starts out misty and grey but soon the intense greens in the fields, the warm colour of the sun and the rich blue of the sky makes us feel - just for a few minutes - like we are cycling in a painting.
As our trip winds down, we inch up the last big hill at a snail's pace to reach the high point of our journey - literally. It's not so high compared with the world's great mountain ranges but the steep grades and constant ups and downs of Andalucia's roads have tested our legs as much as the Himalayas. Frankly, our muscles feel like jelly after so much climbing so we are proud to reach this point.