Day 15: L’Ametlla de Mar to Barcelona (155km)

Today was tough. I was feeling exhausted and was lacking energy. After 60km, I crossed the 2,000km mark, so I should have felt enthusiastic and motivated but I was just flat.

The route had been pretty much straightforward for the first couple of hours with a lot of steep little climbs. I had an early lunch near Sitges.

When I approached Barcelona, I was forced onto a narrow and crowded coastal road which was winding up and down through the cliffs. For cars this is a scenic drive. For cyclists it is hell because it’s so narrow you can’t even stop and rest. I caused a huge traffic jam because cars could hardly overtake. Cycling there is legal but cars would still honk or drivers would throw swear words at me. This went on for 20km or so. Not a very nice experience.

After that it did not get better. The road led directly onto an Autobahn which was definitely illegal for me to drive on. I took an emergency exit because I did not want to end like the roadkill I am seeing almost every day.

After that I decided to take the train for the remaining 20km into Barcelona. It was simply too risky and I don’t want to do stupid things at least not if I can avoid them.

However, it felt like cheating to take the train.

I arrived in a pretty good hotel for school classes and travelers like me with a very good service. The price is the triple from some places I have staid on my tour so far. But hey, it’s Barcelona!

Later that evening, I learned that my plans for returning home from Montpellier would not work out which was very disappointing. I will need to find another way home.

Insight of the day: The higher the load you carry the smaller your steps should be.

Day 14: Chilches to L’Ametlla (172 km)

Today was another great day with sun and without headwind. And a lot of people were thinking of me and sending me warm and heartily messages which was good for my soul.

It is notably getting colder now and I reckon it is because I am cycling North now for a week or so. Amazing how you can cycle from one climate to another one with the power of just your legs.

The route today was pretty unspectacular. There were several times when I had to cycle on roads together with many trucks. But somehow you get used to it. Also, I was listening to a very interesting audio book which made it less boring to cycle alongside the coastline without actually seeing the sea at most times

I had a late lunch in Benicarló, directly by the harbor where I had found a Kebap shop. It tasted like home. I know this sounds funny. Tapas are great – but not for every day.

At sunset, I arrived in my little hotel directly by the harbor of L”Ametlla de Mar. The guy at the reception was also a cyclist and he was the first one on this trip to ask me about some background of where I come from and where I am going to. He also told some of his cycling stories and we shook hands. A meeting of minds.

Since I was tired and not very hungry, he kindly invited me for dinner (and breakfast, too) which means that he opened the kitchen for me and allowed me to eat and drink whatever I could find. A very nice gesture that was!

I have estimated that I will need another four days to reach Montpellier – if nothing major happens. That means I am very much on schedule or even ahead. A week ago with all this headwind, I felt that I will never be able to reach this goal.

Insight of the day: Don’t lose faith and look out for people who believe in you.

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

Day 13: Calpe to Chilches (162km)

Today was another good day. The second day on this trip without severe headwind. And the sun was shining, too. Under this circumstances, 160km were no big problem. Great.

After an early breakfast, I turned straight North and had a little climbing to do. The rest of the day remained relatively flat.

I had lunch in Cullera, a pretty little town about 20 km away from the regional capital València which was obviously the highlight of the tour so far.

What is interesting about València is that it has in fact really pretty suburbs in contrast to all other Spanish cities I came through so far. And it has real bicycle lanes. And here I mean not the usual couple of 100 meters alibi tip of lanes which start and end abruptly. València is really the first major Spanish city I see which understands cyclists and how to invite them into urban circulation.

Another thing I observe, is that people are getting friendlier, more open to strangers and more cultivated in total, if I may say so since Alicante and Elche.

If you have a look at the bigger map you meanwhile can see the route pretty clearly.

Insight of the day: Don’t think too much. Just do it!

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

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 10: Almería to Águilas (141km)

Today was an early start. By 8:30 hrs I was on the bike heading northeast. My family had send me this picture. It made me very happy 💕. It shows Carolin, my wife, Tabea and Samuel (Hannah and Kara are missing) as well as Fabio, our favorite Italian restaurant owner.

At the start, I first had to climb up to a very dry plateau which I had to cross over 60km. Towards the downhill part, I met to other cyclists and we chatted a bit. Once cyclists talk to you here, you can be sure that they are not Spaniards. Also here, it was an Englishman who started the conversation. He lives six months here during Winter. Seems to be a common and compelling concept.

Towards lunchtime I stopped in Carboneras. I was so tired that I almost fell asleep during the eating. So I went for a little Siesta under a tree and I indeed fell asleep immediately. Very refreshing.

Afterwards, there were only smaller climbs and rolling hills. A couple of times I was overtaken by a group of Swiss bikers. Then I caught them again when they were having one of their many breaks. Race biker are a very special group of people. If you want to belong, you have to comply with a special set of rules. If not, you will be ignored by everyone.

Insight of the day: When what you are doing is supposed to be fun – and it is actually not – then it might be time to change your approach.

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.