21/10/2018 Simon ‘Wardy’ Ward is nomadonanomad
It was 51 days ago that I rolled off the ferry in Roscoff, at the north western tip of France, and now I’m sitting outside a very nice hotel (only 3 star, but it’s a bit of a treat for me) in Malaga in the south of Spain having a very large, very cold and, if I say so myself, a very well deserved beer. (More will follow)
I’m now wondering how many folks out there thought I wouldn’t make it? Well there have been times when I’ve been on that list, and the mood swings have been, at times, dramatic. Yeah, at times I didn’t think it would happen.
Only this morning, at about 7.30am, I was totally fed up, bored out of my brains and definitely not a happy bunny. (when that happens all the negative thoughts come out about whether I’m capable of doing what I’ve set out to do)
Woke up in my hostal in Alozaina, Andalucia listening to the sound of thunder and seeing flashes of lightning and expecting to have to spend another day staying out of the torrential rain that I got caught up in 2 days previously. (My clothes still hadn’t properly dried out)
When I eventually got my shit together and checked the weather channel, just in case there’d been a change in the forecast, I got a nice(ish) surprise which suggested that there may be a window of opportunity for me to escape without getting wet, and get myself to Malaga where I’d hoped to be two or three days earlier.
I checked the forecast for Alozaina, and every town I would have to travel through and yes, it looked as though it was possible to make it without another soaking. I packed my stuff and went outside to get a better look. To the west it was awful, thunder and lightning still going on, but to the east, where I was wanting to go, it looked somewhat more promising. Do I risk it?
Yes! Go for it! Decision made. The first 8 kms was up a long but gentle hill, heading north, not east, and with the storm still raging to my left. As I look to my right I can see, way off in the distance, and down in a valley, Pizarra, the next town I’m aiming for, bathed in weak sunshine. Fingers and toes crossed.
Along the way there’s been lots of mudslides onto the road and the bike and I are getting covered in the stuff. Still not a happy bunny, but a bit of faint hope is starting to come over me with every kilometre I cover and still no rain.
(When I got to Malaga I felt it would be a good idea, before checking into the nice hotel I’d promised myself, that I should take the bike to a car wash and give it a good hose down. I got some funny looks from folks but I’m used to that now. The bike looked great after a good clean!)
Back to the escape! I get to the point where I turn right and head east, away from the storm. It’s also downhill for the remaining 45 kilometres to Malaga where the weather is somewhat better than I’ve experienced for the last week. My spirits suddenly lifted so much that I decided to put some music on, and I hadn’t done that in some time.
The speaker was turned on and the first song to play was a fabulous live version of Slade’s ‘Cum on feel the noize’, which made me laugh like hell. It followed up with ‘Coz I luv you’, my favourite Slade song, and then it played ‘Lazy Sunday’ by the Small Faces. In no time I was whizzing down the hills with a big grin on my face and my trials of the last few days were almost forgotten.
The change was massive because those previous 5 or 6 days had not been altogether brilliant to say the least, and doubts had been creeping in. ‘Why am I doing this?’. ‘Am I enjoying this?’, etc. etc. Part of the reason had been my attempt to get from Seville to Malaga to check out some stuff ready for my return to the UK, prior to departure to Argentina in December. Yes, it’s complicated. Don’t ask!
To save you asking. I don’t want to ride my bike back to the UK. It’s too cold and wet! Also, my travel insurance runs out soon. I had the idea to store my bike in Malaga while I was back home getting my final check-up regarding my eye, and then getting my Yellow Fever jab which is a must for South America. After that, return to collect the bike and fly to Argentina from Spain.
So I was very fortunate to meet some fabulous folks in Gerena, which is about 20 kms north of Seville who have very kindly offered to store my bike and my other gear until I get back from the UK. Great! I still felt I needed to get to Malaga to find a bike shop that would supply me with the necessary bike box for the flight to Argentina and, as I had a couple of weeks left I thought I would ride there, check stuff out and ride back. Easy enough, or so I thought…….
I should have known things were going to be tough when one of my new friends told me that when they drive the car to Malaga their ears ‘pop’ as they go over the mountains. Unfortunately, that didn’t register with me and I planned the journey anyway. My plan worked out at 4 days, and it helped that I could leave a load of my stuff with my friends, that I didn’t need, which lightened the load by about 15 kilos. Again, easy enough…….travelling light…….ears popping..…huh!
Oh, my Buddha! Riding down the coast of France I’d got used to doing 80 to 90 kilometres a day, fully loaded, and without thinking about it, because it was so flat. One day I did 107 kms, even stopping to do a load of laundry on the way, and was as proud as a proud thing. Spain was a bit different, a lot steeper, and Extremadura in particular, was bloody tough. Little did I know it was just a gentle warm up for Andalusia.
Now, for those of you who have been on your ‘hols’ to Andalusia, parked your towel on a sunbed, and then been waited on hand and foot, let me tell you about the Andalusia that I’ve experienced. Ears popping going over the mountains from Seville to Malaga? Well I thought my whole body was going to explode! 80 to 100 kms a day went straight out the window, even after shedding 12 to 15 kilos of gear from the bike I now realised what I’d been warned about. More importantly I was starting to get a feel for what was awaiting me when and if I make it to the Andes. I struggled to do 60 kilometres, and a couple of days was down to 40. Bloody hard is not even close to being accurate.
The hills here are so steep that I have, from a safety point of view, walked my bike DOWNHILL on a number of occasions! There are some beautiful towns and villages that I would love to visit again, and stay longer, but only with motorised transport. In the last blog I mentioned the ride to Fregenal de la Sierra and the walk/push to, and out of, Candelario. Compared with the walk/push up the hill to Olvera, then the buttock clencher down to Alhaquime, quickly followed by the slog to Setenil de las Bodegas, it was a walk in the park. Warning! Andalusia kicks arse! (And Yunquera is a place I will never go to again)
My plan, after cycling to Malaga, was to cycle back to Seville, leave my stuff there before flying back to England. No chance now. Rental car companies in Malaga are going to be hearing from me tomorrow, that’s a certainty. No way am I going to ride back on the bike, I’m just not up to it! The days when I’ve been holed up in hotels watching it rain have been spent working out a way to get from Seville to Malaga in December with a fully loaded bike. No way round that one! The plan now involves 7 days, not 4, and a 70 kilometre detour around the worst of the mountains. Still a lot of hard work though!
I was planning on this blog being titled ‘France v. Spain’ with my thoughts about both, but that will have to wait. Something to do when I get back to the UK, along with getting my Spanish a lot better than it is now ready for South America. Another blog idea was going to be along the lines of ‘What I eat in a day’, which again can be done at some point in the future.
But for now, that’s enough, and I’m going back to the hotel bar to check that the last beer I had was ok by having another one. It’s called quality control and I’m an expert! And on my return visit to the bar, and bearing in mind mention of a future blog entitled ‘What I eat in a day’, I’ve just found out that breakfast starts at 07.00 and finishes FOUR AND A HALF HOURS later at 11.30! Now this is an hotel that’s never had a long distance cycle tourist as a guest before. They have no idea what’s about to befall them in the morning. I will be there, fully ‘bibbed’ and ready for the feast at 06.59 sharp!
As always, thanks for reading this far and may your God go with you.
Simon ‘Wardy’ Ward.