Monthly Archives: September 2013

Day’s 56 – 60: Chris & Peter, Benidorm, Valencia

Hi guys, been really struggling with wifi at the last few campsites, so will do a bumper blog now.

After we reached Murcia we contacted Chris and Peter, the couple we met back in France. They had said that when they are not travelling they are based in an Eco-Campsite near Alicante. As luck had it, they were there and kindly offered us a bed for a couple of nights!

We had a lovely evening with them and didn’t need much convincing on their offer to stay around for a day! We had a great time, sharing stories of our travels since we’d last met. We followed what was becoming a tradition and had a great debate one evening too!

After sharing many beers, whiskies, delicious meals and stories we eventually had to hit the road again. We wished them both well for their cruise around Greece and bade them farewell again. We both hope that our paths will cross with these lovely people again in the future.

All that was left to do was hit the road again! Our route took us through Alicante and Benidorm to stop at a cool-looking campsite on the coast. The ride was great, we made great time and were both feeling fairly good in the saddle. We arrived at the campsite to find that it’s Dutch owners take a special shine to cyclo-tourists like ourselves. They kindly gave us a pitch for the night, at no cost whatsoever!

It was that night that the latest problems for us occurred. Matt 1 has a habit of stretching out in his sleep, which 99% of the time isn’t a problem at all! This time though our luck switched back from fair to dreadful, and his foot caught in the inner of his tent. Still half asleep, he wrenched it free, only to find he’d torn the netting inside his tent. This left him at the mercy of any parched mosquitos who happened to buzz past.

He got through the night, despite being bitten quite a lot. We moved on towards Valencia in the morning.

On the whole, this was a great ride! Its mountainous beginnings soon gave way to long, flat roads where we were really able to set a decent tempo. We’d decided to stop at a campsite that was situated a few kilometres outside Valencia. About 26km from this destination, I got a puncture! We stopped, patched up and hit the road again, aided by a heroic mountain biker who had decided to tear himself apart in order to set a good pace for us. We really appreciated the boost!

Eventually we rolled into the campsite and set up for the evening. What should have resulted in a calm, restful night ended in Matt being eaten alive by mosquito’s and not sleeping a wink. A few of the rascals even made it through my netting and had a feast on me, though I was able to grab a few hours sleep.

The next morning, we decided the best course of action would be to hole up in a hostel in Valencia and find a camping shop and a bike shop the next day. We’d have done it today, but everything is closed on a Sunday in Spain!

Tomorrow, the plan is one of repairs and replenishment. I need to buy a few inner-tubes for my bike, as my current ones have quite a few patches on them. We’ll also buy Matt a new tent, which will hopefully prove to be a sturdier stronghold for the rest of our tour!

We’ll then clock up as many kilometres as we can, as we ride in the direction of Barcelona.

Matt 2.

Day 55: Downhill to Murcia

Hello readers!

Yesterday we arrived in Murcia after a relatively easy downhill ride. Though my stomach wasn’t quite back to its best, my appetite was returning and my legs were back to their usual selves.

Our ride began by taking a twisty descent down from the mountain into a town where we bought food to fuel our day. After a ham & salchichion baguette, we attacked the twisting, undulating road which lead towards the next major town on our ride to Murcia. There was one stretch of road where the surface seemed to change every few hundred metres. We started on perfect tarmac but ended up riding on thick gravel, very fine gravel, and a semi-tarmac type surface. We eventually rode past some people working on the road so concluded that they were in the process of upgrading the surface.

Before long, we reached the next major town and stopped for a drink and a quick break. By this point, we’d already seen 3 impressive castles in the distance, we’d see another just as we left the town too!

For the rest of the ride, the road gradually levelled out and the surface remained good, minus a couple of kilometres of unpaved road. The Garmin had used these to connect two beautiful pieces of tarmac so we forgave it.

Before we knew it, we were in Murcia at the hotel! We bought some pizza for dinner and proceeded to have a nice chilled out evening.

After a good night’s sleep we’re ready to ride to Alicante, where we will find a campsite to stay. Hopefully it will be another relatively easy day!

Matt 2

Day 54 – Leaving Gor

Hi guys, I’m writing this the morning after yesterdays ride from Gor.

After our stay in the nice hotel, I awoke to one of my fears for our tour. My stomach was not feeling good. With a 120km ride ahead of us, I would be in for a painful day.

Despite my lack of appetite, I forced some breakfast down and we set off. The first part of the ride felt okay, we were picking our way through service roads of varying quality. Fortunately unlike yesterday, we were able to ride the vast majority of them.

We were both grateful when the service roads ended and we were on smooth tarmac again. After a short descent into a town called Baza, we stopped for a spot of lunch. Again, despite my lack of appetite I managed to force some food down.

After this we weaved our way through rolling hills, with a stunning backdrop of mountains dominating the horizon. After a while, it became glaringly obvious that my body was just not up to setting the pace. Matt stepped up brilliantly and practically dragged me the rest of the ride.

He endured some killer headwinds and had to really drop the pace on the long steady climbs in order to see me through. I was hugely grateful for the break as I was feeling terrible.

Eventually we reached our campsite, situated on the side of a mountain in the shadow of a stunning castle. We went through our routine and set up camp. I must say I felt a lot better after the shower, but my stomach still wasn’t quite there.

After a reasonable night’s sleep, I’m feeling marginally better, though still not 100%. Hopefully it won’t hamper our ride to Murcia today.

Matt 2

Day’s 52 & 53: Granada, Gorges and Gor

Hi guys!

The last two days have been very contrasting! Yesterday was calm and relaxed, today we ended up narrowly avoiding disaster once again.

Our day seeing Granada was brilliant. I dragged Matt to the football stadium first. My beloved Watford FC have strong links with Granada CF, so I couldn’t come to the city without at least seeing the stadium.

We arrived, managed to get to the reception and spoke to a man about what we were doing. With a little help from google translate, he agreed to let us have a quick look inside the stadium and take a few pictures!

After buying some supplies and eating lunch, we set off in search of the huge palace which Granada is famous for. The Alhambra Palace. After a long trek up a big hill, we found the entrance. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough money to pay the entry so we saw what we could and meandered around town for the rest of the day.

We went to bed with no idea about what the next day would bring…

The day started well enough, after a hearty breakfast, we checked out and began climbing out of Granada. It was a pretty massive climb but we were both comfortable and very happy to be back in the saddle.

After a brief descent, we encountered our perpetual Spanish menace once again. What we thought would be a motorway that we could either ride on or use service roads turned out to be just a motorway. We got our heads down and hoped to get off as soon as we found an alternate route.

Unfortunately, the Spanish traffic cops found us before we could escape the motorway. They turned out to be very helpful, after making it abundantly clear that we were not to be seen riding on the motorway again, they directed us as far as they could. It seemed as though we would run into trouble before reaching our campsite though, as they couldn’t offer us a direct route to the town it was located in.

The trouble began just after lunch. We stopped in a bar to top up water, then decided to follow the instructions from google maps. The app confidently declared that there would be a path that would successfully leapfrog the next stretch of motorway and eventually leave us with a steady ride to the campsite.

This all started fairly well, we rolled along the first part of the path at a fair pace. Eventually, the path then changed. Gravel became sand, which we were unable to ride on. We’d already rode up a large chunk of the path so we decided to push the bikes until the terrain improved. Eventually it became evident that the path wouldn’t improve. Quite the opposite, in fact.

We ended up pushing our bikes into an ever deteriorating gorge. As we were so near to the end of the path we knuckled down and drove through. Unfortunately for us though, the path disappeared, leaving the new one on top of one of the steep sides of the gorge. We searched for a safe way up then lugged our kit and bikes to the top.

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We’d made it out of this crazy gorge! After riding up a path we found a well paved service road and rode along as if our troubles were over. How wrong we were!

Firstly, I got a puncture. We quickly fixed it and moved on. Our troubles hadn’t stopped though. Just like the path, the service road was deteriorating to the same sandy terrain as our previous “path”.

We gritted our teeth and pushed through. These problems had taken a toll on our time though. We were running our of daylight and were nowhere near our intended destination.

After a struggle through ever darkening skies, we ended up striking luck. We rode through a beautiful town, strangely named Gor.

There was a hotel just around the corner. Both of us agreed to stay there, we were in no mood to think about prices. We checked in with a very friendly man and have since collapsed in front of Eurosport player.

It’s been a really tough day, but through great teamwork, patience and good old fashioned determination, we’ve made it to safety.

Tomorrow is going to take a lot of planning in order to avoid a repeat of today, let’s hope it goes better for us!

Matt 2

Day 51: Nerja – Granada

Hi guys.

I’m writing this from a cool hostel in Granada, the morning after a day of heavy climbing.

After packing up camp and having a small bite to eat, we hit the coast road once again. We rode up, down around and through peninsulas for a good 40km before turning inland to aim for Granada. It was at this point that we probably should have bought some more food to fuel what we knew would be a formidable climb. Foolishly though, we rode on through steadily increasing gradients with some beautiful scenery around us.

As the roads continued to rise, we rode past a beautiful dam and longed to swim in the reservoir far below us. Instead, we began to swim in our own sweat (great image there huh?) as the temperature crept up.

Due to our road being damaged, we were forced onto a motorway midway up the climb. We grinded it out, then pulled off at the next exit. Both Matt and I were beginning to run dangerously low on carbs, so we pulled over to grab a drink in some shade. It was here that we met a lovely Irish couple who’s car had broken down at the same point. We chatted for a while, they had been regularly coming over to stay in this beautiful area since the 1980’s!

Eventually, we had to wish them luck with their roadside recovery and get back in the saddle. Food was now the number one priority.

After an unsuccessful search through one village, we turned up the hill into another. Bingo! There was a bar open which seemed to serve food. We sat downs and ordered a bocadillo for €4. What arrived on the plate can only be described as incredible. We devoured our huge portions and gladly paid the bill. You just wouldn’t find value like that in the UK!

Re-energised, we attacked the rest of the climb to Granada, which seemed to steadily level off. Once in the city, we made our way to our reliable Oasis hostel, which turned out to not be as reliable as we’d hoped. They had no beds for the night.

I consulted my smartphone, which quickly told me there was another hostel nearby, from the same chain who’d put us up in a flat in Cadiz. Not wanting to be turned away again, I booked our beds online.

After checking in, we had a quick shower and chilled out for a while before going into the city to look for food. We found a very reasonable restaurant which had a “menu del dia” for €9.50. This included 3 courses, bread and a drink. How could we refuse an offer like that?!

After eating our fill, we wandered the streets for a bit and looked at the stunning cathedral which was lit up beautifully at that time of night. We headed back to the hostel very happy with our day’s riding.

Today we are going to further explore Granada, check out the football stadium (the team who play there have strong links with my beloved Watford FC) and hopefully see the palace.

Have a good day!

Matt 2

Day 50: Malaga – Nerja

Hello readers, after what seems like an age we’re camping again!

Today has been a relatively uneventful one, we slept in for a bit and left the hostel just after 1100. After riding south, we followed the coast road east. We continued this for the whole journey, stopping only once to buy some food supplies for our camp.

The ride was easy, we only had 60km to cover and a fair tailwind helped us along the flat road. Most of the time, we were riding next to the sea, Matt even got splashed by a wave at one point!

Before we knew it, we had reached Nirja!

After a brief climb we made it to the campsite, paid up and set about reading and lazing around for the rest of the afternoon. Dinner was our usual spaghetti in tomato sauce combo. I managed to spill half of our spicy sauce on my meal which Matt found hilarious.

Now we’re in our tents, ready for an early night!

Tomorrow we have a fairly tough ride up a mountain to Granada, the last city we’ll see for a while. Hopefully the weather isn’t too hot and our bikes hold out!

Goodnight!
Matt 2

Day 49: Malaga

Hi guys,

Two days ago, we successfully completed the ride into Malaga via the town of Mijas. Martin and Siobhan, two of my family friends are there on holiday, so we stopped mid-ride for a drink and a chat. It was really cool to catch up with some familiar faces from back home!

Eventually we hit the road again and descended the mountain then followed the coast into Malaga. We walked our bikes through the beautiful old part of town to our hostel, where we freshened up and changed clothes for the evening. Chloë and her parents had recommended a Moroccan restaurant, which was so good they decided to meet us for our evening meal!

I must say the food there was fantastic, we ate fresh houmous with pitta and shared a lot of dishes between us all. The meat was so tender and well cooked, it was obvious why Chloë’s family loved this place!

We then went up to our hostel’s super cool rooftop terrace bar, where we had a final drink and said our goodbyes. Our stay in this part of Spain has been amazing thanks to this wonderful family. After descending a flight of stairs and climbing into our bunks, we had already made the decision to stay a day in Malaga.

That day was spent doing what we usually do in these Spanish cities. We just wandered around, taking in the atmosphere and looking at the beautiful architecture.

The evening was spent filling our appetite for food and football, we found a tapas bar and settled down with some extremely well priced food and beers. Watching Barcelona usually guarantees goals, and we weren’t disappointed by the 4-0 scoreline!

We returned to the hostel, happy that we’ve seen as much of this beautiful city in one day as we can.

Today, we’re riding along the coast to a campsite midway to Granada. We’ll ride through a town that Matt has been to on holiday on the way, which he’s looking forward to!

Have a good day!

Matt 2

Day’s 45-48: Seeing Chloe in Coín

Hi readers, catching up with the blog now!

On returning to Spain, our ride took us across the coastline to Marbella. It felt a little weird cycling north-east, not south-west, as we have been for most of our tour!

We arrived at Marbella in good time, despite a fairly strong headwind and had a bite to eat while we looked at the task ahead. There was a mountain to ride over before arriving in Matt’s friend Chole’s town, Coín.

We set into our well rehearsed climbing rhythm and made our way steadily up the mountain. There was one point where a Jamaican flag was flying! We stopped briefly in order to get a photo of Matt for the kids we worked with for Mustard Seed.

Before we knew it, we were at the top of the mountain, with only a beautiful descent into the town left. As we arrived on the last corner, I got a puncture!

We arrived at Chloe’s house and met her family including Rudy and Milly, their dogs. Her dad had the football on, so we sat down and caught the last few minutes!

Afterwards we had a barbecue. This included some home made burgers and Chloe’s dad’s favourite, leeks cooked in the charcoal! We then headed into town to see the main square. We sat there for a few hours, eating delicious ice cream. There was an entertaining group of Real Madrid fans sat in a bar, watching their team play out a 2-2 draw.

To close off the evening, we went back to the house and watched a pretty poor horror movie!

The next day, Chloe and her family had planned for us all to go to some local lakes, where we would have a picnic and swim in the water. This turned into a fantastic day, we had such a great time swimming in the lake. We even rented another pedalo!

In the evening, we drove around to the opposite side and had a hearty meal at a restaurant. It included a stunning view overlooking the lake too.

Following that, we all headed back to the house and watched another horror movie, this one was much better than the previous night’s effort!

Today’s plan is for me to do some puncture repairs. Matt is going to take his bike down the road to the local shop, as his chain is acting strangely. It may be a small problem, or not a problem at all, but I think it’s worth getting checked out. Hopefully we can get to the bottom of this before it does something horrific like break again!

Update: We had to spend an extra day here, but Matt’s bike is now 100% definitely mended! Hallelujah!

If all goes to plan, we’ll take the short ride to a hostel in Malaga this afternoon and spend the evening there.

Before we leave, we’d both like to thank Chloe and her family for being so generous over the past few days. We’ve both loved visiting and have been amazed by the area they live in. It’s pretty close to paradise here!

Days 40 – 45: Gibraltar!

Hi Guys, really sorry we have taken this long to post a blog. We’ve just been having an amazing time in Gibraltar!

Over the past few days we’ve seen so many things and met so many different people.

After our tour of the rock and nice dinner on our first evening, we woke up ready to explore some more! This time though, it was to find a laundrette willing to cleanse our ponging clothes. Despite instructions from the lady at the hotel, we were unable to find it at the first attempt.

We had to cut our search short though, as we needed to be at the airport to welcome Yaz and A-bomb! We were slightly late, but caught them as they had started to walk over the runway towards the city centre.

After not seeing these friends for a while, it was fantastic to catch up!

Steph (my Gibraltarian uni friend) took us on another tour around the rock in her super cool yellow convertible. This time we were able to see the monkey’s who live on the rock. We were careful to hide all food as they can be sneaky thieves!

The rest of the day was spent chilling at bars and preparing for National Day! Yaz, Matt and I all bought Gibraltarian national football t-shirts. They were very reasonably priced so we couldn’t resist.

Then in the evening, the time came for Matt to have his hair cut. It was a quick and painless operation which, considering it’s potential, didn’t make him look too bad.

We had some dinner and headed up to the hotel to grab as many z’s as we could before National Day.

The whole day was amazing. The streets were a sea of red and white, people were driving their cars and honking their horns. Everyone was partying! There was a big stage in the main square where thousands of balloons get released and music is played. We had a fantastic time partying the day away!

The next day was all about recovering and speaking to the various media companies on the rock. Radio, TV and Newspaper were all so interested in our trip, especially the charity element. It was bizarre speaking to a camera. We both couldn’t believe the attention we were getting!

Here’s the link for our appearance in the news. Scroll to 17:50 to see us!

Unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to Yaz and A-bomb that evening too.

The next few days were spent unsuccessfully waiting for a package sent from home. We did meet a super cool Dutch cyclist called Joost, who’d just completed his own epic journey from Norway! We wandered around the rock with him, sharing experiences and having a laugh.

Here is a link to his facebook page, there are some stunning photo’s, unfortunately the rest is in Dutch!

On our final day, we decided to head into the main square for one final full English breakfast before returning to Spain. As we paid for our stay at the hostel, the owner gave us a massive discount! It turned out he’d been watching us on TV and wanted to help us out! We gratefully paid up and went to look for food.

As we sat in the square eating our delicious breakfast, people kept coming over to us and giving us money for Mustard Seed. In the time it took for us to finish, we had £35 in our pockets! I’m putting it onto our Virgin Giving page at the next opportunity.

Eventually, it was time to cross the border and head for the mountains above Marbella where one of Matt’s friends lives.

Day 39: To Gib!

Hi guys, we’ve made it to Gib!

Yesterday’s ride went very smoothly indeed. We began our ride by cutting inland through some beautiful wind farms.

After finding the main road, we cruised down the coast towards Tarifa, the most south western point in Europe. When we arrived, it really started to hit home how far we’ve come since that morning in Bournemouth.

We had a few pictures and a snack then hit the mountainous road to Algeciera, then Gib!

After a spot of lunch in Algeciras, we shot around the harbour and crossed the border! Despite having warnings from many people, we crossed over in about 5 minutes with no hassle apart from flashing a passport.

We settled into the hotel then met up with some Gibraltarians I knew from uni. We had a guided tour of the island in her yellow convertible car before settling down to some dinner at an irish bar.

So far, Gib has been fantastic. We’re just waiting for Yaz and A-bomb to fly in this morning before we prepare for National Day tomorrow!

Matt 2