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.
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.
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 a 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. I 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I 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.