What should of been a slick early morning get away from the closed hotel I’d been allowed to sleep in was delaying by half an hour stumbling around in the semi dark fixing a puncture (no comments about tubeless please Mr Rissik). With a quick stop at the fuel station for a sugar and artificial flavour breakfast I quickly got moving to get warmed up, cycling in -2C was not really what I’d expected coming to Spain.
The track outside of town proved to be a muddy mess and fairly unpleasant to ride. When the track crossed the main road again I decided to just stick the road for most of the morning and just enjoy the views.
(note: unlike previous blogs you can now click on the pictures for a larger version, time to start bringing my blog into 2015)
I arrived in Alhama de Granada just as the town square was coming to life so was able to stop for a much tastier second breakfast than my first. Sadly the weather went down hill after that and the rest of the day is a blur of mountains, cold and snow.
The 75km day ended with the last 20km blasting down hill into Valle de Lecrín (“Valley of Happiness”). Suitably frozen I checked into a Hotel at Melegis. As usual I arrived between 4-5pm just as the restaurant was closing (I never did get used to the siesta culture), so had to make do with beer with olives and nuts to fill my hungry belly until 7pm, the tough tough life of cycle tourist……
Sunrise the next morning in the Valle brought with it the hope of warmer weather.
By second breakfast I’d climbed the first 600m of the day and had a stunning panorama of the Valle de Lecrin and a hint that the weather maybe changing again.
Half way up the first climb into the Sierra Nevada two young boys stopped me to ask a question, my first thought was ” here we go again, can you give me……Africa style all over again”. I explained that I don’t speak Spanish so with a little sign language they made it clear one wanted a tissue. I laughed and rummaged around in my frame bag for a tissue and received a ” sank you” from the older of the two. I found my self laughing, wondering what was stranger, my Africa trauma that has me automatically thinking kids are going to beg or the the fact that eight year olds no longer use their sleeves to wipe a snotty nose. I pedalled on in contemplation, I had many many more hills to climb that day and more stunning views to enjoy while I pondered the thought processes of eight year olds around the world.
Around lunch time the forrest trail turned into some tasty single track, the weather turned a little bleaker and things got interesting.
A few hours later after a little cycling, mountain biking, hiking, and an unplanned dismount, the single track turned back to something resembling a road, sadly the snow didn’t get any less slippy.
Eventually I found myself under the 1700m line again and could get back to the fun. After all, what goes up must come down. Some screaming brakes, 800m and 5 degrees later I was on the flat on a tar road with just a small climb into Pampaneira to go. After the 50km and 2000m day I staggered into the hotel needing a warm shower, food and rest. The generous tapa with each beer and a glimpse into village life in the mountains seemed like a good enough excuse for a rest day.
After my rest day the weather up top still wasn’t looking too hot and the mountains where still looking very white, the Transandalucia route to Trevelez would once again have me above 1700m on small trails over 2 passes. I’d had enough snow fun already so decided to take the easier option and stick to the road that stayed at a lower altitude, luckily out of season the roads are fairly quiet.
The next couple of days to Instincion in the province of Almeria were a combination of quiet mountain roads, dirt trails and the occasional kilometer or two of fun singletrack.
Once in the sleepy town of Instincion and its dodgy blue hotel my time was about up. I only had 5 days to cover the 500km to Alicante in time for my flight home. So this is the point I left the Transandalucia trail and stayed on road to cover the distance in time.
Heading through the Tavernas desert was beautiful. It was like being in Wyoming again, just with good coffee.
Endless kilometers through the agricultural parts of Murcia were less inspiring, though being on the flat with a light tail wind meant cycling 155km in a day was a breeze (the joys of almost 3 weeks mountain training I guess).
23,000 vertical M
3 unplanned dismounts
2 tired arms
many many big smiles
And that folks was my Spain trip with a hint of Bikepacking and a little of the Transandalucia MTB trail. Hopefully someday I’ll fly to Almeria and pick up where I left off.
Random thoughts on cycling the Transandalucia mountain bike trail
1. First of all a big thanks to the volunteers from www.transandalus.es who have put together awesome, accurate and detailed route guides including good gps tracks, all organised by province and FREE. This takes all the hard work out of trip planning and navigation. The forum and Facebook page are friendly and the volunteers are eager to give tips and advise.
2. The route was not quite what I’d expected. I had hoped for more single track, the route was mainly good quality dirt roads with some quiet tar roads, often only a couple of kilometers single track/ mountainbike route per day. That said if there was more track and less road it would take quite a long time to complete the full 2000km route.
3. Do you need mountain bike experience? Nope, I had non and had only ridden my new mtb 50km (though I do have a lot of experience riding crappy dirt roads). The few really really white knuckle downhill parts are short and not a problem to walk your bike.
3. Does my bike need shocks? If you have them fine, if not fine too.
4. Cycling in winter? Probably better to go a month or two later than I did (I was there late Jan to mid feb).
5. Language…..Not a lot of Spanish in the mountains speak English so if you speak some Spanish its handy. I don’t and got by, the people were generally friendly and patient with the dumb tourists too lazy to learn Spanish before going on holiday.
6. Accommodation out of season is reasonably priced as is eating out.
7. Bike shops can be few and far between, spare brake blocks can be very handy when descending 1000-2000m a day.
8. The route is rarely technically difficult, and rarely too physically demanding(though some climbs feel endless). The physical challenge is mainly the fact that if you want to cycle more than 50km a day you will be climbing 1200-2000m a day in Malaga/Granada.