Back on the road and looking for adventure...
After a 10 day rest in Valencia, Spain to let my broken foot heal, we were ready, more than ready to get back out on the road. We decided to head south along the coast with a little mountain climbing mixed in. Our original route we had planned would take us high up into the mountains, but as we realized on the first go, it is quite cold in the mountains in Spain, especially this year and almost all the small villages we planned to resupply in, were closed down for winter. So we took the coast.
The first stretch leaving Valencia and headed to the city of Gandia, was beautiful with a winding path right along the ocean front of the Mediterranean. From Gandia, we took a hiking/mountain biking route up into the mountains called Via Verde del Serpis, all the way to Cocentaina. We passed an incredible amount of unfriendly middle-aged-men riding down the hill past us and collected all their valuables they dropped on the trail behind them; a cell phone, headphones and money. It was an eventful day with spectacular scenery. We did have to work for it, however and after riding the following day into the town of Ibi, we were at over 3,000ft in elevation and it was freezing.
Riding out of Ibi, we dropped all the way back down to the coast to the big coast town of Alicante and took a day off to see the city and walk along the malecon. The following day we rode to the outskirts of Torrevieja, where we stayed a night with Ville's good friend from Finland's parents, Hessu and Sirkkis, who were renting a place for a couple months to soak up the sun and golf every day. Sorry Jazzy J we didn't get to see you, but we enjoyed hitting the nightclub with your Mom and Dad. The following morning, we scored some goodies in a Finnish market in downtown Torrevieja and had a pretty crappy ride through a bunch of greenhouses to the next big coastal city of Cartagena (we chose the 'car route' instead of 'biking route' on the GPS and learned the hard way that the slower route was far better even if it was slower, interesting and quite often took us to places fit more for hikers than fully loaded mountain bikes). We took a day off in Cartagena to walk around the city, see the ruins and drink our Lonkero drinks (Finnish beverages of gin and grapefruit juice) on the oceanfront.
The next morning, we climbed up out of Cartagena and things became more interesting. It was a long, slow climb over the coastal mountains and when we dropped back to the coast at the town of Isla Plana, the weather was much warmer, the town's architecture was more beautiful and expats from Central Europe were everywhere. Until then, the winds we battled everyday were fairly fierce and we had been riding in two layers of clothes to stay warm, even climbing! And the architecture of apartments, storefronts and buildings were not what I had pictured Spanish architecture to look like, we had been passing more skyscrapers that were all shuttered and looked abandoned. Every town, village and city we had passed though looked apocalyptic. This being our first time to Spain, we were not quite sure if it was because of COVID and the lack of tourism or if it was normally like this in the winter, but we have been told it is a bit of both. Once, we arrived in Isla Plana and headed south, we found the tourists, en masse. Lots of German and French license plates passing us and we hear there are lots of Central Europeans that live along the Spanish coast in the winter.
For those who don't know, Spain is one of those "siesta countries" and for those that didn't follow along on our ride through Argentina (another "siesta country"), we are not the biggest fans of them. For a touring cyclist who needs to stick to the riding schedule of daylight hours, it is a nightmare. There do not appear to be regular scheduled business or working hours here, one day a cafe will be open at 9am and the next day, maybe noon? Siesta is from around 3 pm until 8 or 9pm, so you better not show up at that time and expect to find anything open to get food. What is siesta you might ask? Siesta is time for everyone to go home and eat lunch and take a long nap. We say "Buenos Dias" to all the people we pass, some say it back, others do not. Since this is a more touristy coastline and not more of a remote route, we don't find the same friendliness from the locals we might if we were off the beaten path. But we can understand that, it must be hard for the local Spaniards to have an overwhelming amount of tourists descend on these small villages, wanted or not.
From Isla Plana to Puntas de Calnegre, about 18 miles, the road and Eurovelo 8 biking route we have been following, hugged the coastline, was sheltered from wind, nice and warm, packed full of playas, tourists, bars and restaurants. It also had long sections of hillsides covered with greenhouses and long stretches of beach with German vans and RVs, similar to the beaches we passed in Baja California full of Canadian and American snowbirds. After Puntas de Calnegre, things got REALLY interesting! We climbed up into the coastal mountains again through the Cabo Cope and Puntas de Calnegre Nataional Park, however, the trail we were riding on became a goat trail and then that even disappeared. We spent five miles, pushing bikes up and down steep washes and ravines wondering why had challenged maps that had said our chosen route was 'hikeable', but not 'bikeable.' Well, it sure was an adventure!
By the time we reached the town of Aguilas, we were sweaty, battered and bruised and stopped at a restaurant where we ordered so much food, even the waiter reigned us in. From Aguilas to Garrucha, for about 40 miles, the road hugged the coastline which was packed full of warm sunny beaches , bars, restaurants and tons of tourists. While we were riding along the sea cliffs in the morning, we passed an older Spanish man on an electric bike, who after a few leapfrogs, asked us to pull over at a lookout. When we stopped, he told us about a town nearby that was a good spot for food and beer. When Ville, being polite, said, "Oh, nice. Food and beer." The man replied, "Oh! You want to go get a beer, huh? OK! Let's go have a beer." And off we went, following him a few miles down the road to a small cafe in the center of the town of Villa Ricos. If anyone knows how to find the characters along the way, it is us.
After leaving Garrucha, we climbed steeply up and over more coastal mountains into the town of Carboneras back on the coast and there we were back in the wind and cold weather. We did get to see a family of mountain goats on the side of the hill and when I startled them, they ran stright up the side of the mountain. That was last night. Today, we climbed through Cabo de Gata National Park and it was beautiful! We climbed through dry, grassy hills of small estancias (farms), past cactus and wildflowers and then dropped down a dry wash of bright red and white rock until we came to San Jose, the small town we are currently staying in. Tomorrow, we plan to ride to the outskirts of Almeria, where we plan to begin a long, slow climb up to Granada.
Thanks everyone for writing us, commenting and following along. Without you, I would ditch the laptop that weighs more than a brick and lighten my load, but since you keep reading, I will keep writing. As for the foot, it is slowly healing. It has posed some challenges on this last leg of the journey, but I don't want my life to get too boring :) I have been taping it every day and Ville helps me sometimes with the bike when it is pushing it up or down major stuff. What a guy. And last but not least, the book is coming along with the editor. I am hoping to be close to getting it ready to print in about a month when we return to Oregon. Stay tuned! Until then, keep on keepin' on ya'll...
And we're off! But...wait...
We started off on our Spain Bicycle Adventure really well! Roy, Ville and I had a few days off to put our bicycles together, run a few errands and see a few of the sights in Valencia. I assumed I broke my foot before we left (because I ran it into our dresser, my little toe went sideways and I promptly popped it back into place before pretending it simply hadn't happened) and without seeing a doctor, I taped it, rested and we flew to Valencia. I was unable to walk more than hobble through the airports, but riding my bicycle seemed reasonable and so we set off into the mountains, Tres Amigos!
The riding went well, the scenery was spectacular and the weather was stellar. Ville and I met a local farmer, Miguel, in a small cafe who took us to his orchard and filled a bag of clementines for us to take along on our journey. What a guy! The route was great, easy climbing, back roads most of the way and our new bicycles were a dream! It was all the other things I had not taken into account that were not, shall we say, optimal with a broken foot: squatting to pee, putting my foot down when stopping the bike and climbing in and out of the tent. On the first night camping in an abandoned olive orchard, I fell on my foot climbing out of the tent and reinjured it. Ville made the call that we would return to Valencia the next day and see a doctor to get a proper x-ray and our buddy, Roy, decided to continue on south without us. We were really sad to part ways and bummed we don't get to travel together, but we were happy he decided to keep going because once we got to Valencia, saw an ER doctor and confirmed a broken toe, we were grounded for a minimum of two more weeks with a total healing time of 6 weeks! No bueno.
The silver lining, is that Ville and I were able to enjoy more of Valencia than we had planned and as it turns out, it is actually a pretty cool city! For a week, I sat in our vacation rental and finished a bunch of online continuing ed courses to keep my Real Estate License active (I work as a real estate agent in Bend and Portland, Oregon, when I am not riding bikes OR writing a book) and I used crutches to get out and about for breaks. No better time to be couch bound. We connected with a local Warmshowers' dude, Alex, and his girlfriend, Alex, and we met for lunch and shared some travel stories. After sending x-rays to my good friend, Sara, in Bend (who also happens to be a Physician's Assistant), I was given the OK to do "light" riding with my taped foot and we ventured out into the city. We rode through a green space, that runs through the length of the city and all the way out to the beach, almost daily. We ingested lots of paella, seafood, pork, goat cheese, pastries and coffee. For those who have not made it to Spain yet, we highly recommend a stopover. The food is tasty, the wine is fabulous, climate is moderate and the architecture is a beautiful blend of old and new.
Tomorrow, we are planning to leave Valencia and head south down the coast. The plan is to, as per usual, not make a plan and ride until we get hungry or tired. We will likely stay in a hotel until I can walk gingerly on my foot. We will talk to strangers, take risks and enjoy life. We hope you will come along with us. Until next time, keep on keepin' on ya'll!
P.S. A BIG Thank You to everyone that wrote us about The Book! It has been the biggest undertaking of my life. It turns out, writing a Blog while doing a two-year bicycle journey was fairly easy compared to sitting at a computer (while in Buenos Aires, Helsinki and Portland, Oregon) and trying to write a book about the ride. Sharing all the stories of kindness from strangers all along the way, was my driving force in doing so and it is our way of giving back. There are so many great people in this world! If you have not already, sign up for The Newsletter and I will let you know when the book is ready to be released and how you can order your copy. Thanks again for your continued love and support.
K.G. & Ville
In New Zealand on bikes.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” - Hunter S. Thompson