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...
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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