Day 12: Orihuela to Calpe (127km)

Today was a good day. The sun was shining from a clear blue sky the entire day and my left ankle was much better.

My wife had sent me Reiki and other energy stuff and I had rubbed a lot of school medicine creams onto it. Together it helped – much to my relief.

Today, I took it a bit easier. Less pressure on the pedals and a higher cadence. Also, I had more breaks.

What was interesting was that the landscape and the style of the cities changed since yesterday. Orihuela was already really nice with an old cathedral and not touristic nor boring at all like many other places before. Later today, this became even better with Elche and Alicante.

Oh, did I mention headwind? It was wild again, but somehow I have gotten used to it meanwhile.

My first stop was the very nice University town Elche. A very characteristic feature is a deep canyon running right through the middle of the town with high bridges across it. The bottom of the canyon is cultivated and their are plastered sidewalks running next to a creek. Very beautiful.

The next stop was Alicante where I had lunch. The seafront with the enormous beach and the yacht harbor was absolutely spectacular. The wind was so strong that I had sand between my teeth.

From there I continued Northeast, passing smaller towns from really nice to absolutely ugly.

After a short but hefty climb I reached the small town Calpe. I have picked a great hotel again. It’s called “Rocinante” which is a variation of the name of my bike “Rosinante”. The place is simple, inexpensive but just great.

Insight of the day: it is always a good thing to not give up hope!

For donations: http://www.betterplace.org/p67064

Day 11: Águilas to Orihuela (121 km)

Today was halftime day. Out of 21 planned cycling days, 11 are completed by now.

I had spent the night near Águilas, in possibly the most unfriendly Spanish trucker hostel there is or I am just not enough of a Spanish trucker.

My day started with a 10 km climb and then a pretty flat route through miles and miles of greenhouses and farms. Obviously, wild turtles live here. I found some crushed bodies as roadkill on the side.

Of course, it goes without saying that there was a strong headwind. Other than that the weather was ok.

I had a late lunch in Murcia. It was a yummy Pizza for a change.

Out of the blue, during the afternoon my left ankle started to hurt. I have had problems with my Achilles-heel on the right side for several years but this was a first. Consequently, I had to cut down my route and look for a place to stay nearby.

I found an apartment in Orihuela not far from Alicante for 20€ which turned out to be a kind of couch-surfing and it was all but easy to get hold of my host. Turns out, he is sharing the apartment with me. At least, I have my own bed.

I gotten all I need from a local pharmacy. Hopefully, the ankle will be better tomorrow. A little pain is ok but you want to make sure that you are not creating a permanent damage.

Insight of the day: The line between resilience and stupidity is sometimes a very thin one.

Day 9: Nerja to Almería (159km)

Today was tough, really tough. Rain, cold temperatures, 2,000 meters in altitude and headwinds – as well as no new donations – were heavy on my mood and I was asking myself “Why am I doings this?”. One thing is for sure: I will be able to appreciate the protection, sense of belonging and luxury of my home, my family and my every day much more.

I am noticing a mood cycle on myself during most days. The first 100km are usually particularly hard. After that, it normally gets better. This was also the case today.

I had stayed in a little hostel in Almería and over breakfast I had a nice conversations with two single ladies from Germany who were there for vacation. Social interaction: check.

My route took me along the coastline with many great views on little villages and lonesome bays. Also, I cycled through many miles of greenhouses where the vegetables e.g. for Germany are grown.

I started listening to audiobooks to give my mind something to do whilst being many hours in the saddle. That was a good idea, although “Fire and Fury” by Michael Wolff on the presidency of Donald Trump was not particularly uplifting in itself. What a crazy world we live in.

In Almería, I took a hotel which had a bathtub to offer and room service. A little luxury at the end of a hard day.

I have received feedback, that it seems hard to find the “donation button” on the right side of the page. So I will add the link to my betterplace project into the blogs to come, just to be sure. Here it is: http://www.betterplace.org/p67064

Insight of the day: sometimes, hanging in there is all that is needed.

Day 8: Pizarra to Nerja (88km)

Today was a short yet important day. Because of my “cultural excursion” yesterday night, I needed to catch up on some sleep. Hence, I only started at 14:00 hrs. I was still a bit shaken, but strengthened by Mark’s great muesli which he had prepared from fruits which he had harvested in the garden minutes before. It can’t get more fresh.

I turned East to Malaga where I had to buy yet another power bank since the new one was already broken. Then I followed the beautiful coastline until Nerja.

On the way I crossed the 1.000km mark which means that I am well on track for reaching Montpellier in two week.

When I checked into my hostel it just got dark. There was a strong headwind on the way, but nothing compared to the miles approaching Tarifa a couple of days back.

Insight of the day: There is really no free lunch. Everything has consequences.

Day 7: Ojén to Pizarra – break day (40km)

One little note before I tell you a fun story: If you read this blog, please do feel free to like and comment every now and then. Thank you!

Today, I had decided to do a break day. Via an Internet-Forum for long-distance cyclists I had met Mark who is living in Pizarra, a small place near Malaga. He had invited me to come by and stay when I am in the region – and I had accepted.

On my decline from the refugio I flew my drone through a very nice valley and up a little hill. Pretty spectacular scenes, I find.

Around noon, I arrived at his idyllic place which is situated outside the village at the bottom of a huge rock overseeing plantations of fruit trees. We sat down beside the small pool and started talking about life. We found out that we were of the same age and that we shared many other commonalities. From then on time passed by very quickly.

After a very late lunch – best Spaghetti Bolognese ever – Mark came up with the idea to show me “his” Malaga at night. At first, I was not enthused because I would be tired and so but at the end I know that these are pretty much the events that make such a tour unforgettable.

So we had a siesta, washed clothes, fixed Rosinante’s gears and then, at 21:00 hrs, took a train into Malaga. Who knows me a little will agree that this was vastly against my habits. Mark, who is also a tour-guide and knows tons about Spanish history, showed me some of the must-sees of the city, like the unfinished cathedral, a sign of the so-called Reconquista. This describes the period, when the Christians, after 800 years of being an Islamic colony, had finally in long wars regained control about the country and replaced all mosques with Christian churches.

What came next, was a serious pub-crawl from one bar packed with good-locking, friendly locals partying to the next one. The atmosphere was like nothing I have ever encountered in Germany. It was like carnival just without the costumes. And this happens here every weekend. Wow!

One thing led to the next and eventually we were as drunk as everyone around us. By 05:00 hrs in the morning we were back at Mark’s place. It was an unforgettable evening. Thank you for this, Mark.

Insight of the day: Sometimes, letting go of all discipline and going with the flow is the right thing – or at least leads to some really good stories.

Day 5: Cádiz to Algeciras (123km)

Today was headwind day and by now I am absolutely toast.

From Cádiz I turned southeast and I had rolling hills and a solid headwind right from the start. However, the more I got South approaching Tarifa this developed into a real storm. I guess it is a surfing hotspot for a reason.

Most of the roads went straight through endless plains followed by soft climbs both with absolutely no protection from the fierce wind. I chose not to fight it simply because this takes away too much energy. I rather went slowly, made myself as small as possible but this still was exhausting.

Around noon, I ran out of water, a beginners mistake. It looks like I needed to go another 40km against the storm until I could refill. Yesterday, that would have been nothing but against this storm it felt like an eternity. Luckily, after 10km a gas station appeared out of nowhere and I could have a “lunch”.

When the wind came sideways, my inframe bags functioned as a kind of sail in a bad way. I was almost blown off the road twice. The storm lasted for about 100km until I reached Tarifa and later Algeciras.

The one fun bit, next to an unexpected call from my wife Carolin in the morning, was a nice drone video shooting of a herd of cows in a pittoresk valley shortly after the start. My first one on out-of-sight-distance under severe wind conditions. All went well, also for the cows 😎

Another great thing was finally seeing the mountains of Tanger, Morocco, i.e. the African coast across the street of Gibraltar. What a small world we live in.

From tomorrow on, I will only be cycling North.

Insight of the day: When you are ready to benefit from a tailwind, don’t complain about a headwind the next day. At the end, life gives us equal amounts of chance.

Day 4: Matalascañas to Cádiz (196km)

What a day! Today was my official distance record on a zis fundraising tour. It was also the longest distance cycled without turns in my life. Boy, that was boring. To be clear, I do not cycle such distances (only) because I do not value the cultural treasures of Andalusia. There was simply not much to see other than about 100km of agricultural monocultures: Olives, oranges, lemons, pine trees … dozens of miles each.

I started off at sunrise. It was foggy and chilly. I was happy to have my gloves. After passing through the Western city El Rocio, I had to pay the price for my learning from yesterday. Can you see the detour in the map? Solid 50km!

First, I had to go about 80km northeast against a pretty solid headwind. Then I crossed the Rio Guadalquivir and finally realized why I needed to do the extra miles. On a distance of about 50km there was not a single bridge across the river. Wow!

Then I turned south and I had a great tailwind all the way to Jerez a la Frontera. In the 12th century, Moslems had colonized this and other cities in the region. That’s why the name contains “at the border”. Hard to spot today other than in some old places.

Then I found a mechanic for Rosinante. After leas than 10 minutes I was back on the road and the gears were magically working again. There seems to be a unspoken law with mechanics that cyclist who are on the road get instant help and mostly for free! Thank you “El Motoriste”!

Finally, I turned south again and had a quick bite of tapas at a bar before I went off to Cádiz.

Insight of the day: When you have a wave of tailwind – ride it!

Day 3: Tavira to Matalascañas (150 km)

Today was the day of unforeseen insights and some laughter.

The first learing was that boarding the ferry across the Rio Guadiana to get to Spain entailed a time change of one hour – to my disadvantage because of reduced travel time.

Also, instead of listening to music I started increasing my Spanish vocabulary. However, I had obviously downloaded a rather old audio book because there were a lot of words to learn around exchanging money or where to find a telephone cell. This made me laugh out loud. How normal it is for us today to have a shared currency and mobile phones. However, it is not.

Around noon, I had some nice tapas for lunch in Huelva. The second learning happened happened a little later in the huge industrial harbor of Huelva. My navigation system (Komoot) had send me 5 km down a road that turned out to be a dead end and I had to return and cycle back. However, instead of being furious it made me smile somehow. I had had similar situations in other big harbors before.

Then followed the very large national park Coto de Doñano and the third learing. For 40km nothing but pine forest and dunes – but no people or villages. Then I arrived in Matalascañas which is a artificial tourist ghost city the size of a regular village and the last civilization for another 40km. According to Komoot the road would now follow the coast line and would then get to another ferry to Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Taking another route would add another 30-40km because of the detour around the national park. The problem turned out to be, that were just was no road. Not even a trail. It was all covered by dunes. What had been there once was long gone.

Since it was to late for the detour I decided to stay in the tourist ghost town which was really special. I used the gained time and the great scenery for some more drone shots.

Insight of the day: Unforeseen learnings can make you angry or amused. It depends on your state of mind.

Day 2: Vila Nova de Milfontes to Tavira (165km)

After a great breakfast, I did my first drone shots on this tour with Abraxas, my new DJI Mavic Pro. It requires some practice, a clear mind and also a road without any cars in order to do this safely . So I figured that a bit of practice right in the morning could help. A group of cows really found this interesting and became groupies.

Today I probably spoke even less than 20 words if I don’t count the conversations with myself, mostly about my sore and hurting bud. On my route through the inner part of the Algarve there were hardly any villages and hence also no bars not to mention market places. Most places were really poor and run down. So eventually I ended up having some toasts at a gas station. This turned out to be the social hub for the villagers. In the absence of alternatives, people would come here for a coffee and a chat and to hang out with friends. So I could at least study some social interactions even if not having some myself.

Shortly after, Rosinante started having some problems with her lower gears. I will need to find a mechanic in the coming days before I head towards Granada and the mountains.

It was really warm today and I had issues replenishing my water supply. I probably need 5-6 liters or so. But luckily I passed by a public water tap in the middle of nowhere.

My first target of the day was the surfing hotspot Faro at the very South of Portugal. After the loneliness of the past days, this place was quite a shock for me. It has an airport and a train station and the road leading into it was like an Autobahn. Based on the huge road advertisements of German, French and British real estate agents, this is the place to be for some richer Norther Europeans. The town has been shaped by tourism and tourists. Makes sense given the combination of countryside, Portuguese way of life and infrastructure.

After a drink I rushed off for my last stretch to a small place called Tavira short before the Spanish border. I was tired and became very hungry. To make it even worse, I had the instinct that there would be no food at my hostel. Hence I entered another gas station and hastily bought me “a healthy dinner” consisting of chocolate, crisps and Coke. Great. And as usual, my gut feeling had been well informed. So this staid my only meal for the evening.

Insight of the day: The coaching Jargon “sitting with the pain” becomes much more tangible in long-distance cycling.