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.

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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 ;-)

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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.

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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.

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