On the ferry back to Europe

gepostet am 1. Oktober 2014, 15:47 von Ralf

No post for quite a while due to missing internet access. Sitting on top of the italian ferry “Fantastic” on its way from Tanger Port Mediterranee to Sete in Southern France, just about 40 nautical miles southeast of Alicante, heading northeastwards. The nice the northeast coast of Morocco was, the tourist places we stayed at for the last days were a little annoying. Also I had enough of spending the day on the road cycling up mountains, so after roughly 4000 km I’m looking forward to unpack the smelling clothes from my bike bags in a few days, enjoy the comfort of having a proper home and see my friends.

Kategorien: English entries, Fahrräder / bicycles, Urlaub / holidays | Kommentare

The first days in Africa

gepostet am , 15:45 von Ralf

On Saturday morning we took the 11 o’clock ferry from Almeria to Nador. I was worrying a little bit about the fact that I did not bring my own life jacket when seeing the ship. However the “Sherbatsky”, obviously a 40 year old former channel ferry, brought us without serious incidents to the other side of the Mediterranean and roughly 5 hours later the African coast came insight. Immigration to Morocco was quite easy. After a police officer had interviewed us about our profession and our plans for Morocco we already got the immigration stamps to our passports shortly after departure in Almeria and so the only thing to do after leaving the ferry was to pass 5 other officers and answering “yes” to the question whether we already have a stamp in our passport. However, it’s worth to mention that after more than 3000 kilometres this was the first “serious” border we had to cross.
The quarter next to Nador’s harbour were surprisingly unspectacular. We got some Moroccian Dirham from an ATM and then cycled the 7 km to the city centre. We checked in to the park hotel. The standard was lower than one would expect being used to hotels in Europe but the price also was. We only paid 100 MAD for a double, a not too bad value for money. Since it was still quite early in the evening we started to explore the city. It was very lifely with plenty of sm all shops where one could buy really everything. Also there was a lot of business on the streets. We walked through kind of a flee market and here and there people were selling fresh fruits directly from the donkey chart. We had an awesome dinner at a restaurant in the city centre and before going to bed we scouted for the central bus station to organize our bus transfer for the next day.
On Sunday we loaded our bikes to the lugagge room of the bus to Al Hoceima. It was a second class bus, so it was a bit older and a bit shabby, but it could have been worse. Before the trip could begin several people went through the bus to sell food and drinks for the trip. Then we headed westward on the N2. The first 2 hours we went through several smaller cities, passing some “Souks”, markets where people from around come to sell their stuff. Then it got more rural and the country road was winding through mountain region, which seemed quite challenging for our old bus and our speed got quite slow. Therefore the bus ride took more than four hours even though it was only roughly 150 km from Nador to Al Hoceima after arriving in the middle of the afternoon and having a snack at a fast food place we did 40 km to Rouane. In the village 15 km before they had told us that we could find a hotel there, unfortunately in Rouane nobody knew about this. However, the owner of a tea house where we had asked for accommodation offered us to stay for free in a house he owned but which was still under construction. It was a bit dusty but more comfy than setting up the tents in the wilderness late in the evening and the funny thing was that we had some goats as flat mates one level above. We spent the evening in our hosts tea house having some glasses of the yummy moroccian tea. It’s made from mint leaves and contains a lot of sugar, so in other words it’s kind of a hot virgin Mojito.
The next day we continued on the N16. Contrary to our map said that we had to expect a gravel road for several kilometres the road was upgraded meanwhile and in good condition. However there was only little traffic and the traffic was somewhat different to traffic in Europe. I was surprised how many people where just walking along the country road. Also we regularly met people riding on horses or donkeys. Roughly half of the cars where so-called “grand taxis”, 30-years old Mercedes-Benz cars with usually shared by up to 6 people. A nice thing were the plenty of small stands along the road selling tasty cactus fruits for very little money. However, considering the very little traffic on the road and the low prices I wondered a little bit how their bussiness pays out. The road did quite a lot of up and down, we nearly had any passage that was not climbing up to a pass or descending to cross a dry river bed and immediately continuing with the next climb. The last pass was quite serious and brought us up to roughly 800 metres aktitude. We had not expected this, so we where about to run a little short in food and water when a kiosk close to the peak saved us. Even though we had some language problems we had some nice conversation with the shop owner during our break. Then we had only few kilometres left to Jebha which included some great views in the Mediterranean, a descent from 800 metres down to sea level interrupted by a stop at a restaurant where we had grilled Dorade for lunch at the restaurants terrace with an awesome view in the sea. Since the 80 kilometres until here already included 1500 metres climb we decided to finish the stage in Jebha, a small fisherman’s village with several tea houses and a few small hotels. We got a really nice room for as little as 100 MAD. Surprisingly main stream tourism obviously has not found this place yet, hopefully this lasts like this for a while. (posted with roughly a week delay)

Kategorien: English entries, Fahrräder / bicycles, Urlaub / holidays | Kommentare

The Spanish coast

gepostet am 19. September 2014, 07:26 von Ralf

A day of contrast brought us to Valencia: Starting in the middle of nowhere we crossed a last 700m mountain pass, then went downhill, had 20 km of headwinds in a flat region before reaching the suburbs of Valencia. We had to cross the city centre in the evening rush hour. After a few days in the lonlyness of the mountains it was really fascinating to ride through multi-storey buildings on streets with up to 7 lanes. We then got on a bike path that brought us out of the city centre. We passed Valencia’s harbour and then suddenly found ourselves on a promenade following the beach. It was quite overwhelming since it felt like having cycled everything in one day: lonelyness and a lively big city, mountains and the sea. We spent two nights at a camp site about ten kilometres south of Valencia and used the day in between for Sightseeing. The city as really nice. We started our tour in the modern centre of arts and science, a very nice example that also contemporary architecture can be beautiful, then strolled through the historic city centre and having a Horchata, a local sweet drink, but after a while we had to escape the heat and hang around in a park for a while. We ended our day with a visit to the maritime quarter and the marinas northeast of the city.
The next days we followed the coast southward. The first day started really nice through the Albufuera nature reserve and then was also quite ok for the rest. But from the second day on it got really awkward. For about 250 kilometres we went through the hell of tourism. It was not that there were some bad places, but for two and a half days we went through anything else than tall 20-storey hotels and endless always the same looking bungalow settlements. It looked as if anyone did put any effort in making it nice, but only in fitting as many tourists on every kilometre beach as possible. Benidorm was the worst place I’ve ever seen in terms of this. Finally around Cartagena we escaped from this region crossed some mountains and after a few more kilometres we cycled on a really beautiful country road along the coast. Now it’s roughly 85 kilometres left to Almeria.

Kategorien: English entries, Fahrräder / bicycles, Urlaub / holidays | Kommentare

The spanish wilderness

gepostet am 12. September 2014, 22:49 von Ralf

Even though Lleida was quite a big city and I visited five bicycle shops, I did not manage it to get Susie a new rim. Part of the problem might have been that my Spanish language skills are as non-existent as the English skills of Lleida’s bike shop employees. However, some spotted the problem when I showed them the front wheel. I was not always happy with their ways to “repair” it, but on the other hand I was missing too many vokabulary to hinder the nice guy from one shop to get a gripper and bend the rim to it’s more or less original shape. However, it seems as if Susie has to survive with that until the end of the trip. After Lleida
we then continued through the inner part of Spain towards Caspe and Alcaniz. It was hilly and before reaching Caspe there were 50 kilometres without any village, but with a nice lake which offered an opportunity for having a bath. We enjoyed it, but at that point we did not know yet, how much we would miss that a few days later. From Alcaniz we went southward into the mountains towards Cantavieja, where we had a nice lunch at a restaurant. It was quite surprising what we got, since we did not understand anything on the spanish menu and therefore had no idea what we ordered. Also I was quite surprised getting half a bottle of Rioja when trying to order one glass. However, both the meal and the wine were yummy and surprisingly cheap in the end – even though we also did not understand the bill. In the following there were some serious climbs and a lot of up and down at high altitude. Today we reached 1700 m.a.s.l. The landscape was fantastic and offered a lot of variety. After every pass it looked completely different. However it was quite lonely up there and there was only very little infrastructure. We camped in the wildereness, or once just on a parking right next to the street. Since there weren’t any camp sites up there everyone seemed to be ok with that. Again, we did not see any supermarket for 30 kilometres and more sometimes. Also it was quite dry up there. Any of the “rivers” from my map had water at this time of year. Fortunately most villages had a central place where one could get drinking water from the pipe for free. However we usually could not carry enough to have something left for other things than for drinking in the evening. In combination with the rough topography and warm temperatures (even though significantly cooler then down in the flat lands) we got quite dirty and sticky after some days. We decided to leave the mountains south of Alepuz and now follow the N 234 towards the coast. Tomorrow we probably will reach Valencia. Today we had at least access to non-drinkable water at our camp spot. I never was that happy about a cold shower ;-)

Kategorien: English entries, Fahrräder / bicycles, Urlaub / holidays | Kommentare

Shit!

gepostet am 7. September 2014, 21:35 von Ralf

We started the day with a little bit of sightseeing in Andorra la Vella. It is quite impressive how much capitalism one could fit into such a small city. In the aafternoon we headed southward and after only 10 km we crossed the Spanish border. We followed route N260 and later C-14 which winded through a rough landscape with some really nice rocky canyons. When reaching the southern edge of the Pyrenees we just escaped a massive thunderstorm. It was really impressive how the mountains right beside us and not too far behind us suddenly disappeared in dense dark low-level clouds within only a few minutes. Unfortunately something stupid happened: In a tunnel exit I crashed into a big stone. Fritz later told me, that he saw it just early enough to escape it and that it had the dimension of a fist. I absolutely did not see it, but only felt a very strong bump that caused serious damage to the rim of Susie’s front wheel. Now she’s set on a speed limit of 40 km/h, I try to avoid using the front brake and hopefully she can make it to the next bigger city, Lleida, which is 60 km away and where I hope to get her a new rim. However, for the night we found a really nice hidden wild camp spot beside the road with nice sound from the crickets and a smell of thyme.

Kategorien: English entries, Fahrräder / bicycles, Urlaub / holidays | Kommentare

France completed!

gepostet am 6. September 2014, 22:59 von Ralf

It’s quite some time ago that I wrote the last post, so time for an update: coming down from the Massif Central to the Languedoc region it got quite warm, temperatures were around 30 degrees. On the fields around us were mainly red wine grapes. We had a short visit in Valras-Plage to have a bath in the Mediterranean and then we turned westward to Carcassonne. The city is mainly known from a popular German board game with the same name. Who wants to have an idea how the city looks like should play the game – yes, it really looks exactly like that. The medieval historical centre with it’s fortification around it is one of the most impressive piece of historical architecture I’ve ever seen – and I think I saw a lot meanwhile. From Carcassonne we then followed the valley of the Aude and then headed towards our first real pass road, the Col du Pailheres. It was a really really beautiful small one-lane road with rarely any traffic that brought us up to 2001 m.a.s.l.. From the top we had a nice overview on the countless hairpin curves that brought us up there. The pass was followed by a descent down to Ax-les-Thermes. From there we directly went on towards the next pass road today, the Port d’Envalira. The ascent was not very difficult, since not very steep, only up to 6% gradient. But it was quite long and with lot’s of annoying traffic since it’s a main road connecting France and Spain. At about 1900 m.a.s.l. we crossed the border to Andorra, a few kilometres later Pas de la Casa, a strange village that exclusively consists of tax free shops, and then we reached the pass at 2400 m.a.s.l.. I never saw a gas station at that altitude before but the Port d’Envalira had four of them on top. I guess that one of them might be the highest gas station in Europe, but I’m not sure about it. After having some “refreshments” we started the descent and I wondered another time about the fact that Susie can really do 17 kilometres in 25 minutes :-D. In the evening we reached Andorra la Vella, even though the capital of Andorra is really small I guess it can compete with most other European capitals when counting the number of gas stations, stores and shopping centres – thanks to the low taxes in Andorra that make the country a shopping paradise for the French and the Spanish.

Kategorien: English entries, Fahrräder / bicycles, Urlaub / holidays | Kommentare

Le Massif Central

gepostet am 31. August 2014, 22:35 von Ralf

From Clermont-Ferrand we followed the old National Route 9 for two and a half days, which brought us into the Massif Central and up to about 1100 m.a.s.l.. In the following we had a lot of ups and downs at high altitude – Yesterday we did roughly 1400 metres of altitude within 80 kilometres. Today we reached the highest point of our crossing of the Massif Central, which was at 1130 m.a.s.l.. Then we had a nice descent down to about 700 m.a.s.l. and followed the Lot valley for a while. Another ascent brought us back to roughly 1000 metres and the afternoon break was at the “Point Sublime” where we had an awesome view on the gorgeous canyon of the Tarn River, which is more than 500 metres deep at some points. Only a few kilometres later we had a first view on the Pyrenees far far away before we enjoyed a steep descent with several hairpin curves down into the canyon. In the evening we arrived in Millau. After a nice dinner I had a nightly view on the illuminated Viaduc de Millau, Europe’s highest motorway bridge, crossing the Tarn valley more then 200 metres above the river. After 1917 kilometres from Kiel it’s only 130 km left to the Mediterranean now, so there is a good chance to see the sea the day after tomorrow. Days are finally getting sunnier and even the evenings are warm enough to enjoy being outside – a clear indicator that we arrived in Southern Europe :-)

Kategorien: English entries, Fahrräder / bicycles, Urlaub / holidays | Kommentare

Bienvenue en France

gepostet am 28. August 2014, 10:19 von Ralf

Finally the weather gets better! The headwinds left us a few days ago and it’s about 25 degrees Celsius, while I’m sitting in the sun in front of a fountain in the historical city centre of Clermont-Ferrand right next to the Cathedral and writing this post. We have crossed the rainy Ardennes and the endless wheat fields of the Champagne region. Unfortunately we did not hit the regions where they grow the famous Champagne wine, but we saw some grapes around Chablis in the Bourgogne region. The north of France was surprisingly rural in some regions – sometimes we had problems to find a supermarket for more than 40 kilometres. Yesterday then finally the first serious mountains became visible. It was awesome to rush through the flat area south of Vichy on a sunny and warm afternoon heading towards the volcanoes of the Auvergne region for the last 60 kilometres and seeing the Puy de Dome becoming bigger and bigger. Now we are right at it’s base taking a day break. Susie needs her rear wheel repaired – after a spoke broke in Lower Saxony it got a little bit out of shape and therefore needs a wheel trueing stand this afternoon. Hopefully there is enough time for an evening climb up to the peak of the Puy de Dome afterwards :-)

Kategorien: English entries, Fahrräder / bicycles, Urlaub / holidays | Kommentare

gepostet am 15. August 2014, 12:17 von Ralf

Weather obviously turns bad in the North now, so it was a good idea to get away from Kiel towards warmer and drier regions. Our first days were dominated by moderate headwinds and occasional rain showers. After crossing the Elbe River at Glückstadt we headed southward via Stade to Achim, then we turned right and went on eastward via Lechbruch am Dümmer, Bramsche and Rheine to Gronau where we crossed the border to the Netherlands for the first time. The Netherlands gave us a friendly welcome. A family allowed us to camp on the small piece of grass land they had next to their house in Haaksbergen. After we just had finished setting up our tents they even brought us a basket with coffee, cheese and apples from their own garden. After a short visit back to Germany and crossing the Rhine in Emmerich we are now in Gennep, close to Nijmegen. The first 560 km are done and we are quiet optimistic to make it to the Belgian border today – at least if this rain will end soon.

Kategorien: English entries, Fahrräder / bicycles, Urlaub / holidays | Kommentare