Day 136. Sagres – Manta Rota, 36 km.
After a few days of slacking in Sagres I have decided to spend 5 nights in an apartment hotel closer to Spain. Portugal is cheaper than Spain and I feel I need a semana tranquila.
Since the Algarve Ecovia and N-125 were once in a lifetime is enough experiences I have decided to try the train from Lagos.
I had semi-tailwind so the ride to Lagos was quick, I found the train station and bought a ticket.
The train had one small cargo area at the end, the door was wide but the lift was quite high. Once the bike was secured to the train I was warned by one of the employees to keep an eye on the bike at all times or it could be stolen.
The train ride was uneventful and I was lucky enough not to have to change trains in Faro.
Once I got to my destination, Cacela, I did some heavy lifting and got the bike off the train and started to bike to Manta Rota just around the corner.
I had found and booked the apartment through hotels.com, as it turned out they had no idea where the apartment was or how to contact the company that owned the apartments. However they gladly accepted my reservation and credit card details.
After some searching I found something that looked like the pictures on the hotels.com site, there was a reception that was manned a few hours per day and luckily enough it was open when I arrived. Since hotels.com had no means to contact the hotel they had no reservation for me, but luckily again they had a room. So I have now added hotels.com to the list of companies/sites I will never use again (just like airbnb.com).
The apartment felt very luxury with kitchen, fridge and washing machine.
137-140. Manta Rota – Manta Rota, 0 km.
Not much to say about these days, one day was rain the rest was sunshine. Did all my laundry, read some books, cooked some food, ate lots of food, walked on the beach, lazy days in the sun.
141. Manta Rota – Lepe 42 km.
Time to go back home to Spain. A short ride to the ferry and then some waiting and then I was back in Spain. First order of business was to refill my SIM card to get some muchos MB Internet again.
Obviously the Vodaphone shop near the harbor was closed since a long time, I had to bike around for a while to find the tourist information. They directed me to the Vodaphone shop in a shopping mall on the outskirts of town. An added bonus was that the shopping center was a massive uphill from the main road, but once I got there I got the refill sorted quickly.
With the one hour time difference between Portugal and Spain, the ferry, the hunt for Vodaphone it was already afternoon and I only had 15 km on the GPS.
I found some great lunch and biked on to the town Lepe, the town felt a bit dodgy but I found a nice and clean hostal, fast Internet and the bike parked securely indoors behind the bar.
It felt great to be back in Spain, the roads are nice and wide. People drive fast but it feels much more controlled than in Portugal. More consideration is given to cyclists on the road.
Things are easier in Spain, it seems I know more Spanish than I thought, when I was in Portugal I felt very handicapped by not knowing the language.
142. Lepe – Moguer, 53 km.
I got on my way late this morning, it was really cold, less than 10C. I don’t have a plan for where to go today, I have started to think that I am getting near the end of my journey, I should focus on riding as few kilometers as possible per day to make the ride last more days.
I have to ride back past Huelva and I really wanted to avoid that town so I biked north of it in the beautiful countryside.
When I had rounded Huelva I went south of the highway to San Juan del Puerto, there is a nasty stretch of road through an industrial area there, lots of trucks and smelly factories. I had a look at some hostels there but decided to go on to Moguer, it was supposed to be an typical Andalusian village with a long and glorious history.
There was a massive uphill to Moguer, the village itself was a myriad of narrow roads with cobblestones, there was very few street signs and they had a very elaborate one-way street system since no roads were wide enough for two cars to meet.
Found the hotel I had my mind on, from the outside it looked really small but inside it had a big atrium.
After convincing the staff that the Wifi actually was broken I helped them with troubleshooting and rebooting of access points.
Next big city is Sevilla, I really struggled to find a route through this big city.
Later I saw a TV program about the southern outskirts of Sevilla, it’s called “Las Tres Mil Viviendas” and apparently the Spanish police do not dare to enter unless in great numbers and heavily armed. I had to rethink my route through southern Sevilla.
My scripts that updates the map from the SPOT tracker had broken, it seems SPOT changed their website so I had to thinker a bit with my scripts to get the updates going again.
143. Moguer – Aznalcazar, 66 km.
The morning was really cold and clear. The breakfast at the hotel was surprisingly good. I start to bike towards Sevilla without any plan for where to go, I decided to just bike for as long as it was fun.
I found a really nice lunch in Pilas and the cycling was great. I found a cheap and nice hotel in the town of Aznalcazar. At sunset I saw the mountains between me and Malaga for the first time.
Later I got information about a ferry over the river Guadalquivir, the crossing was in Coria del Rio. This saved me from the hassle of biking through Sevilla.
144. Aznalcazar – Utera, 59 km.
The restaurant/cafe at the hotel didn’t open until 9 so I had breakfast in another place.
I loaded up and went for the ferry, there were many cyclist out and about in the countryside.
Eventually I found the ferry as it was about to leave, I just made it. It was hard to find since it wasn’t on google or GPS maps.
After crossing the river Guadalquivir I biked through the countryside, it was nice and quiet since it was weekend.
I made it to Utera and found a hotel, it was really cold in the evening and I started to hope that Malaga would be warmer once I got to the other side of the mountains.
It was some kind of public holiday so shops were closed but I managed to find a Dia supermarket that was open and bought plenty of supplies to last me trough the weekend.
In the evening I started look closer to planned route and found that it was going to some mountains, so I re-routed to ride along the highway on the via servicio.
145. Utera – Osuna, 68 km.
The hotel I stayed in had an indoors atrium where all the rooms had their windows. During the night I woke up to a horrible sound, it seemed like someone had brought a donkey in to the hotel and now was sexually molesting it. When I looked out through the window I saw that it was the night manager that was snoring while sleeping on their sofas instead of watching my bike. I called the reception number and after a while it woke him up and I could go back to sleep again.
In the morning I woke up with a sore throat and felt a bit sick, this is not a great start of a day on a bike tour.
It was really cold in the morning, I had to put on several layers of clothing. I biked along the highway all day and there was some head wind and I felt miserable all day.
I didn’t find any lunch along the road so I just pushed on until I got to Osuna, I quickly found a hostal with a cool bike-in reception. I rushed to the supermarket to do some shopping for food.
I tried to find a place to eat dinner at around 21, but it was either to early or to late , not sure which, so I ate some of my supplies instead.
In the evening a car with PA-speakers on the roof drove around town and played a commercial for something, the first 10 times it passed the hostal it was annoying, then it got worse.
146. Osuna – Osuna, 0 km.
My cold had gotten worse during the night so I had to take a day of rest. I walked around in Osuna and found the train station, I managed to buy a ticket for Malaga on a train that could transport my bike as well.
I spent the rest of the day looking at different accommodation options and finally managed to find a small studio apartment in a hotel in Benalmadena just south of Malaga. My plan is to stay there for 2 weeks while I search for a real apartment to rent until spring.
147. Osuna – Benalmadena, 20 km.
Woke up with an even worse cold, I was happy that I had booked the train but still wondering if it would really carry my bike and how much heavy lifting that would be involved. The morning was cold and grey as I rode to the train station. The station was really small and the switches and signals were operated by wire from a console on the platform.
The train was delayed but once it came it was quite easy to get the bike in to the train. There were 3 places to hang bikes, to small for my bike so I just parked it opposite of the vending machines and tied it to the wall. I didn’t bother to unpack the bike so I just stayed next to it during the whole trip, the man from Renfe didn’t seem to mind my parking or me standing around.
The trip was very uneventful except for that one asshole had to smoke in the lavatory and not surprising managed to set the trains fire alarm. After 4-5 minutes the man from Renfe came to investigate, since its about 40-50 meters for him to walk from his cabin I guess he was sleeping, there was no fire so he went back to his cabin. Perhaps this happens all the time.
Once outside the station in Malaga I biked towards the beach and went south along the sea. In order to get out of Malaga I had to ride on a to narrow sidewalk across a highway bridge, and then through some really nasty industrial estate. Once in Torremolinos there was sort of a bike lane for a part of the way and then I had to mix with the crazy drivers on the N-340.
After conquering the insane steep road to my hotel I settled in, Benalmadena, my new home for the next couple of months.
As I am writing this I have been in Benalmadena for almost 3 months, I found an apartment with a very nice view, I have attended some weeks of Spanish courses, I have traveled around the Iberian peninsula and been to Spanish Africa (Ceuta). I still have some travels in Spain planned. It has been very nice and I have really enjoyed the 10 or more hours of sunshine almost every day. But now I starting to feel the need to get back on the road again. I have started to get my bike back in working order. I have changed some broken parts, the one that is going to be most painful is a new Brooks saddle (B135), normally they need 1000-2000 km to get comfy.
In mas o menes 2 months I will start to head north again.
Day 130. Monte Gordo – Faro, 70 km.
First morning in Portugal, there is one hours time difference with Spain so now breakfast is yet another hour later. The morning was cold and very foggy.
The breakfast buffet was really massive with everything a hungry cyclist could want.
I have found something called Algarve Ecovia that is supposed to be a trail/route that runs along the Algarve coast. I also found some different sets of GPX files of the track that I could load in to my GPS.
The track seems to consist of a series of walking tracks that are loosely nit together, so there is a mix of sand, mud, gravel and bad roads. I am lucky to have the track on my GPS as there are very few signs at all.
The countryside outside the tourist towns is very beautiful but rough, there are places where people seems to live in sheds or abandoned houses.
The quality of the roads are nothing like Spain, it’s really bumpy and rough. The traffic along the Algarve coast is horrible, I think this picture describes it better than any words can.
It’s a lethal mix of locals and people on holiday, the only thing they have in common is that there is absolutely no slowing down ever, the speed on the roads is truly amazing. Also there seems to be no two drivers that can agree on where on the road to drive, some drive with their left wheels over the center line and some drive with their right wheels on the shoulder. Everybody drives really close to each other. The result is that you can meet a group of cars going 80-100 km/h with 2-3 meters distance spread out over 75% of the available road.
Roundabouts are designed for maximum speed, the shoulder disappears 1-2 meters before the roundabout, so drivers are used to going fast, looking left and driving very far right when going in to roundabouts. This is not the place to be cycling.
Unfortunately there is not always a connection between the tracks of Algarve Ecovia so from time to time I am forced out on the N-125 road. This is not a pleasant experience.
I have no plan on where to stop for the night but when I am getting near Faro there are some clouds on the sky that looks like rain, so I decide to stop in Faro. I find a great little hotel that offers me to park the bike in their garage.
With the added hour before everything opens for dinner I decide to buy dinner at the supermarket and eat in my room. Making it an early night listening to the rain pouring down.
Day 131. Faro – Faro, 0 km.
Faro in rain is not very great. They tell me that they didn’t have any rain in a long time, that would explain why the streets are slippery like ice. This does of course not slow traffic down.
I take a walk around Faro and then to the shopping mall Forum Algarve. It’s probably a great idea to have an outdoors shopping mall all the days when it does not rain.
I have lunch at a global chain of restaurants well known for their delicious and tasty food.
After walking back to the hotel in the rain I spent the rest of the day resting.
Day 132. Faro – Portimao, 78 km.
The rain has turned the unpaved parts of the track in to mud so biking is slow and hard today. There are many people out on their MTB today, it seems to be a popular Sunday activity.
The track goes through many tourist villages, there are many turns and up and downs, with the heat slowly picking up it becomes quite hard to bike.
There are some mountains a bit inland and there are some very dark clouds hanging over them, but the coast itself is very sunny.
The bike has started to make noises and seems to be as tired as I am, I am so near the South West corner of EU now, tomorrow I will reach Sagres and the journey from North East to South West will be completed.
The Algarve Ecovia sometimes even run across the beach, sand is really fun with a heavy touring bike.
When I near Portimao I see a swank hotel by the river, I am very tired so the threshold for accommodation cost has gone up a bit. I get the same price as on Internet so I check-in, they even have an elevator from the garage to my the floor where I am staying. What a luxury.
There is a buffet dinner, it seems like there are many people staying here on a all inclusive regimen. I have never seen people eat so much, the food was not at all very good so I am guessing they haven’t eaten anything since lunch or breakfast.
Today I decided to take the train back to Spain, the Algarve Ecovia is a once in a lifetime experience in the sense that once is enough.
Day 133. Portimao – Sagres, 73 km.
This is the day when I will reach Sagres, 133 days of travel over 5 months. I start off by following the Algarve Ecovia track, but the person who made these GPX files has a death wish, the track goes over a railroad bridge (for the second time).
I am not going to lift my bike up on the track and roll it on the railroad track over a bridge. I have to backtrack about 10 kilometers and decide to take the N-125 for the rest of the journey.
The N-125 was just boring and the last 10 km or so was very windy.
Once in Sagres I shop around for accommodation, I am staying 3 days to enjoy the end of my journey to the South West corner of Europe. Now all I have to do is bike back or something.
I end up in a B&B that offered a very nice room and great breakfast buffet at a great price.
Day 134. Sagres – Sagres, 0 km.
I woke up hearing the rain pounding the windows, it was a really hard rain. I still decided to take a walk around town and suited up in my rain clothes. The rain and wind made it feel like standing in a car wash, sometimes the wind almost blew me over.
Even with the rain and wind the views from the old fort was great, the bad weather made the landscape look very dramatic.
When I got back from the walk I was soaking wet, I guess there is just so much rain Goretex can withstand.
The weather was so bad this day that I stayed in the hotel for the rest of the day and even had dinner in their pizzeria.
Day 135. Sagres – Sagres, 15 km.
The morning was a bit foggy and chilly but the sunshine soon sorted that out. I biked to the Cabo San Vincente, just a few kilometers away. I was not sure if that or Sagres was the most South West corner of Europe so I decided to not take any chances.
The coast line is very dramatic and beautiful. It’s crowded with surfers in all kinds of crazy vehicles.
Tomorrow the slow return to Stockholm will begin.
Day 124. Merida – Fuente de Cantos, 87 km.
I woke up before sunrise and had breakfast and packed all my stuff. After a while I started to wonder why there was no sunlight outside, I had a look through the window and it was dense fog. My bottle of SPF 50 felt like a really good investment.
Getting out of Merida was not so complicated, the town is not so big. I saw plenty of MTB and road cyclists heading out for a ride.
In the afternoon the fog and clouds cleared and it turned out to be a great day, fantastic cycling.
There was wine harvest season, the countryside was bustling with activity and small tractors and cars that looked that they had been rejected by the scrapyard. Many of the cars had Rumanian and Bulgarian plates, maybe it’s the same people that pick berries in Sweden during the summer.
The road (N-630) was really great, almost no traffic at all, about half way to Fuente de Cantos the road became narrower and the surface was a bit worn.
In Fuente de Cantos I found a Hotel Rural, it’s big building complex with cafeteria, restaurant, pub, disco, cinema and hotel. After some searching they have a room free and I check in and get to park my bike in a big garage.
The restaurant doesn’t open until 21 so I have a quick dinner in the room.
I have gained some hundreds of meters of altitude now, but there is still 20 km uphill to go before the downhill to sea level.
Day 125. Fuente de Cantos – El Gorrobo, 81 km.
It is a dark and cloudy morning, it seems to be hunting season, there are dogs barking and shots fired all over the countryside. My two toasts a.k.a. breakfast is served at 8 so no early start.
The first 20 or so kilometers up to Monesterio are a bit boring, I am so looking forward to being at sea level again. When I reach the summit the view is fantastic and there is a very long crazy 8% downhill. I almost expect to see the sea but on the horizon there are more mountains.
Half way down the cold descent I meet two Japanese cyclists that are going to Santiago de Compostela, they are in a hurry since their visa expires in a few weeks.
The day has many up and downs, but the cycling is beautiful as usual in Spain. Fantastic views and great road.
I stop for lunch and since the kitchen isn’t open I have to settle for a Bocadillo de Tortilla Francesa. Not ideal food but I am starting to like it.
After some really insane downhills I have to conquer one massive really steep and long uphill. The new and shiny highway next to my road has a 6% grade and it looks flat compared to my road.
At the top of the hill I find a cheap hotel, it really looks worn down but I can imagine that it was really great back in the 1970′s or so.
For some strange reason the restaurant is already open at 17:30, or maybe they are still serving lunch, I have a really nice dinner with some massive steaks.
There is no Internet and only Spanish TV so sleeping is the only thing to do.
Day 126. El Gorrobo – La Palma del Condado, 85 km.
The night was very quiet, I am probably the only one living here. I start the day with my two toasts and marmalade. Then I am set to start the continued descent to sea level.
There are many many kilometers of downhill from here, nothing really steep but just nice long downhills.
Just after the 800 km marker I leave the great wonderful N-630, which I will miss, and go west towards Portugal.
There are many many cyclists outside Seville, it seems to be very popular to ride the N-630.
I had my mind set on very flat roads to the west of Seville but I was mistaken, there are many up and downs. Some really nasty hills.
At about 13 I find a place for lunch, they have about 100 seats and the staff is there, but I am the only guest. Maybe they have lunch later in Andalusia than in the rest of Spain. I have a menu of the day for 5.50 Euro.
I pass by an enormous solar power plant, it’s a bunch of mirrors that concentrate the suns rays to high towers with water tanks. The towers are more than 100 meters high and the mirrors stretch out over several kilometers. Again a project visible from space partially financed by EU tax payers.
I didn’t find any open supermarkets today so I end up buying water and drinks and service stations along the road, it’s about 2-5 times more expensive.
I ride in to town and find a hotel, they are closed during the day but opens between 17 and 22 for check-in. I try their automatic check-in machine outside the hotel but it tells me that the hotel is full. Since it’s just 10 minutes to wait I decide to wait and see if the humanoids can find me a room.
As it turns out the machine outside the hotel is broken and there are rooms available. I wonder how hard it would be to put a sign on the machine indicating that it is broken.
There is a restaurant next door and I am told it opens at 19, that seems to good to be true but I go there anyway. The staff tells me that it opens in about 30 minutes or so. I take a walk for 30 minutes and come back, now they tell me that it will probably open in 15 minutes or so. I have a look in the kitchen and there is no-one there, all the stoves are turned off and there is no food in sight.
Well, that is life, I take a walk to the supermarket and buy a bunch of food and have dinner in my room.
Day 127. La Palma del Condado – Huelva, 41 km.
In Spain it seems very common that parents drive their kids to school and just stops or parks outside schools. In some cities I have been the streets of some neighborhoods are completely blocked of double or triple parked cars outside bars and schools in the morning. The town La Palma del Condado has about 10000 inhabitants and they have solved the problem by having a Policia Local standing outside school and blowing his whistle every time someone stops. It is really great that they can afford this and even better is that my hotel is next to his post during this critical mission.
Today is going to be a short day since I have decided to take a rest day in Huelva. I have this great idea that since there is a big university in town I can find a laundromat and also perhaps find a bookstore that has maps of Portugal.
The last 10 kilometers or so in to Huelva was very very busy and not enjoyable at all. Many trucks and high speeds.
Just as I enter the city I find a McDonald’s so I combine lunch with some free wifi. None of the hotels downtown seems very tempting so I decide to try my luck at the nearest one, it’s on the outskirts of town. I manage to get a rate lower than the best one on Internet but still it was more expensive than I had hoped for.
I had some solid leads for a laundromat but it seems all of them where either non-existing or laundries that charge 1-2 Euro per item.
The infrastructure of this town is enormous, there are roundabouts that will take 10 minutes to walk around. The main street in to town is big enough for a military parade with all of Sweden’s military. With a population of 150000 people it must have been really hard for the people of Huelva to finance all of these enormous streets, good job !
Back at the hotel I do some laundry in the room instead and run the A/C on really cold and go to sleep exhausted from walking around town in the sun.
Day 128. Huelva – Huelva, 0 km.
I need to rest so the day is mostly spent in the hotel. Starting with a massive breakfast buffet, followed by lunch and dinner at nearby restaurants. I think I manage to do as little as possible today. For a while I contemplate to go to Decathlon but it’s 4-5 kilometers away and it’s very hot outside.
I see on the Spanish weather program that it has been extremely warm in October, if I understand it correctly the temperature has been higher than the average for August.
Day 129. Huelva – Monte Gordo, 75 km.
As usual getting out of town is complicated, Huelva is no exception. The bike lanes they have are just a big joke. It seems like the traffic system is made to spit out all traffic on the big avenidas as soon as possible. This is great for cars to spare the population the noise and exhaust fumes. But riding a bike this means that there are no riding the small streets, there is a system with one way streets that just spits you out in traffic whatever you do.
On the western outskirts of Huelva there is sort of a slum, it looks like really rough neighborhoods. I am glad I stayed on the east side with the mega roundabouts.
The countryside is also looking very dodgy, sometimes it looks like people are living in old semi demolished buildings or shacks made of whatever could be found on the side of the road.
The day is cool but as usual it heaths up in the afternoon. Along the route I follow a strange waterway, canal del Piedras, nice service roads along the canal.
When I get to Ayamonte I just miss the ferry to Portugal so I have to wait for the next one. The ferry is a really small boat with a big flat deck where people, bikes, cars and donkeys can ride.
The ferry is full of tourists, it feels really strange to hear Swedish people talk to each other.
My first stop in Portugal is Vila Real de Santo Antonio, I spend a while trying to find the Vodafone shop. The town has this really interesting system with no signs with street names or numbers, so having the address didn’t really help.
Once I find the shop it’s closed for lunch between 13 and 15. Vila Real felt like a dangerous place, there was people walking around looking in to every car to see if there was something to smash & grab, also gangs of young gangsta walking around. I decided to bike out of there and find a hotel in nearby Monte Gordo and then go back after 15.
In Monte Gordo I picked one of 50 hotels that had gotten nice reviews and they had a room. I managed to get a room on the top floor with a view of the ocean, they also had a special bike room.
After checking in I biked back to Vila Real and got my SIM card, no ID or passport required, just pay the 21 Euro and I had 500 MB of mobile Internet.
Since this was a tourist only place the restaurants were open when I wanted to eat dinner, all menus in English and I could hear lots of Dutch, Swedish, German and English.
Day 118. Salamanca – Vallejera de Riofrio, 74 km.
Leaving Salamanca starts with a long uphill out of town.
The road continues to go up until I reach a pass at 1005 meters altitude.
The days start out really chilly, often below 10C and then the heat builds slowly. After one in the afternoon it’s usually above 30C.
Today is Sunday so most places are closed and the roads are quiet and nice. I manage to find a bar that is open where I can have some tostados. Things are really cheap here in the countryside.
The road continues to go slowly up and up and up, I will pass the highest pass on my journey today.
The road I am cycling is the N-630 and it’s a service road to the A-66 highway. The road is incredibly good, it’s really wide and the shoulder is mostly between 1-2 meters wide. There is almost no traffic at all, some tractors and some trucks.
In one of millions of roundabouts I see another cyclist parked talking on the phone, I stop and ask if she needs help. She is from Salamanca and on a 4 day tour, she doesn’t have a map or GPS and wonders how to ride back to Salamanca. Fortunately I just came that way so I can tell her how to get there, just follow N-630 and the signs with “Via de servicio”.
Next is the “Puerto de Vallejera 1202 meter” pass, there are some switchbacks to get up to the top but from there is just on big downhill towards Bejar where I was planning to stay.
After going downhill for a kilometer or so I meet 3 Englishmen, they are biking the via de la Plata and they don’t look so happy when I tell them about the road ahead to Salamanca.
I was planning to stay in Bejar but with a few kilometers to go I see a sign for a hotel and decide to try my luck. They had a cheap room and a nice dinner. It looks like the place is a ski resort, just like in Finland, high mountains, steep hills, ski resort, why do I keep going to these places ?
Day 119. Vallejera de Riofrio – Plasencia, 64 km.
It’s really cold in the morning, the Hotel is probably at about 1100 meters altitude. The morning start with a crazy downhill towards Bejar, really cold it was. After Bejar there are some uphills but mostly crazy long downhills. I loose about 750 meters altitude over 30-40 kilometers.
It was really cold going down, but once in the lowlands the sun really heats up in the afternoon. I decide to make it a short day and check in to a hostal while the restaurant still is open for lunch.
Soon I will have to make my mind up about which route to take in Portugal. My two options are to go south to Merida and then west to Badajoz and in to Portugal, or go south to Sevilla and then west along the coast.
I am sure the first option would be nicer cycling but the second option is probably easier for someone that doesn’t speak Portuguese.
Today was fantastic cycling, as usual, the views and nature is really fantastic. The roads (N-630 and N-620) are the best ones I have seen. Surface is great and there is almost no traffic at all. Maybe 10-20 vehicles per hour. In towns and cities it can be a bit narrower and busier.
From what I can see the A-66 highway is also has very lightly traffic, it must have cost the EU taxpayers enormous amounts of money.
Day 120. Plasencia – Caceres, 86 km.
The hostal wasn’t so great as their A/C shut of when the outside temp was low during the night. The temperature in the building was still 25-30 C.
Morning started with yet another cold downhill, it felt great after the night without the A/C. The first part of N-630 was also the access road to the highway A-66 so it was a bit messy and lots of traffic. Just outside town before the highway there was one of these enormous roundabouts, there was something like 16 lanes going in to it and the roundabout itself had 3 lanes and were about 100 meters wide. I am guessing that this must be financed by the EU taxpayers and not the 41 000 people that lives in Plasencia.
Today’s biking along the N-630 will be at an altitude between 300 and 600 meters, so many up and downs but none very steep I hope.
One of the great things with N-630 is that it runs along the highway so here and there I find small access roads to the service stations on the highway. Today I found a place with 24×7 open restaurant, it was fantastic to have a plate with one fried chicken and fries for lunch at 10:30 ! Finally !
After lunch, at 11, it’s almost to hot for t-shirt and shorts, the sun is really hot. The N-630 and the highway split up to cross the Rio Tajo at different bridges so now it’s all countryside until next town.
Since the bridge over Rio Tijo is the only one for a long distance the actual Camino Santiago walking trail comes out on the road for long stretches so I meet lots of walkers.
The nature is as usual fantastic and the bike ride is also fantastic but in the afternoon the temperature passes 35C and going is hard.
When I get to Caceres I try the first Hostal I see, a quick look on google confirms what I can see on the outside, it’s a dirty place with cockroaches. So I move along some kilometers until next hotel appears. This happens to be a 4 star hotel but by now I am exhausted and after trying to get the internet rate but failing I decide so suck it up and check in. Very expensive but at least the A/C lowers the temperature in the room to 15C and I slowly recover from the day in the sun.
Today I was riding along one of Spain’s enormous infrastructure projects, the high speed train line between Madrid and Lisabon. Further north I was riding along another high speed train line for 3 or 4 days, that was the line between Madrid and Burgos. These projects involves enormous bridges and moving around earth in such a scale that the building sites must be visible from the moon without binoculars.
As I am guessing that all or most of it is financed by EU taxpayers I wonder how good idea it actually is to reward Spain’s failing economy with these projects. Spain has this great idea to place signs next to all projects financed by EU taxpayers so that the citizens of Spain can see how much money they get from EU taxpayers. That is probably why it seems like people here like EU a lot. From these signs I can see that the panhandling has been going on since they had pesetas instead of Euro.
So congratulations Spain ! If you live in a country that is a paying more than it’s getting from EU, go to Spain and enjoy the best roads in EU, you probably paid for them anyway.
Day 121. Caceres – Merida, 67 km.
So I woke up in this expensive hotel and went for a shower, there was no hot water . Yes, I thought, I’ve struck gold. I called reception and complained big time, they said there was nothing they could do. So I went down to have breakfast and it was really nice with scrambled eggs and bacon. Back in the room I called again and complained that there was no hot water, there was nothing they could do. Soon I would teach them what they could do.
When I checked out I placed all my bags in front of the reception desk in a nice pile and started to complain that there was no hot water. They said it was nothing that they could do about it and handed me the bill. I handed it back and said no hot water no pay for expensive room. This went on for a while and 4-5 calls were made to managers somewhere and the queue of business people were building behind me. Once they understood that I had the rest of my life to stand there and wait and wait until they compensated me they canceled my bill and the stay was for free. This was better than I even had hoped for.
Since there was a small delay when checking out the super markets had opened so I stopped by one of the big ones to get some drinks for the day and also to get some cash as I was running low. None of the ATM machines would give me any money, claiming that there was some technical problem.
I bike out of town on their nice bike lanes, once they stop it’s out in traffic on N-630 again. The road is a bit up and a bit down, but all uphills are very flat so no major effort is needed.
I find a small bar along the road that can serve a bocadillo tortilla francesa for lunch at 11:30, not an ideal lunch but under the circumstances it’s great.
In the afternoon it becomes really hot, well over 35C. The sun is so strong now that I need to re-coat myself in my SPF 30 suncream several times per day to avoid getting burnt.
In a small town along the road I stop at a service station to get something cold to drink and while I stand in the shadow and cool down I see two minibuses with trailers pulling up to fill diesel. One of the guys starts to talk to me and it turns out that they are an adventure travel company that do bike rides on the Iberian peninsula. They have a bunch of people out biking on Trek hybrid bikes and they follow them around, bringing food and cold drinks wen needed. The trailers also had bike racks with spare bikes and place to store all the bikes and luggage. Sounds like a great idea, I wonder what it would cost to do my 6000 km journey with a minibus following me around. The guy is Portuguese and he’s super friendly and offers me water or cold drinks.
Just before Merida I get overtaken by 4 people on Trek hybrid bikes and no panniers, I guess that they are the adventure cyclists. As there is a downhill in to Merida I almost manage to keep up with them. In the last roundabout before town I see the Portuguese guy with the minibus again, he’s cheering on his cyclists. When I pass by he again asks if I need water or cold drinks.
So yet another day of fantastic cycling, a bit to hot but thinking of Finland and France I have decided to not complain about that.
I reach the Hostal where I was planning to stay, once I get inside and ask if there is a room for two days the receptionist says – yes there is a room but first here is the key to the garage so you can park your bike and take the elevator up with all you bags.
I like this place already. The room is very small, but everything needed was there and the price was also very small. I ask if there is a restaurant open for lunch and there is one just down the street. They have a menu of the day for 6.50 Euro.
There is a big supermarket just across the street, this place will be great for a day of rest.
I walk around the neighborhood and try some ATM machines but no luck. Then I go to the supermarket and buy dinner.
Day 122. Merida – Merida, 0 km.
I wake up in a cold and dark room feeling very rested, I decide to have two days of rest here. I get up and go over to the supermarket and buy a big breakfast, then I take a walk around town.
I find a tourist information but they can’t help me with finding a self service laundromat, they only have laundry services they claim.
I find a ATM that works and have a late lunch at the same restaurant as yesterday.
The mornings are really cool and nice but already at 10 it’s 25C and the afternoons are really hot.
Day 123. Merida – Merida, 0 km.
Second day of rest. I pretty much do nothing this day. I have a look at the bike and do some small maintenance on it.
I have lunch at the same place as yesterday, it’s great, starter, mains and dessert for 6.50 Euro.
In the evening I walk over to the supermarket to buy drinks and food for tomorrow and also get some more sunscreen as my SPF 30 is running out. They have SPF 50 so I decide to get that as it might require fewer re-coatings.