It was a cool sunny morning in Seville, after a quick ride around the sights I was eager to get cracking. The decision a fortnight earlier to do my first bike-packing trip in Spain had brought with it a lot of last minute packing stress and making my own frame bags had taken much more time than I’d hoped. The constant packing and re-packing to get everything to fit and getting the baggage down to about 10kg had been quite a challenge for someone more used to heavy long trips(packing list here).
I got predictably lost trying to get out of the city but eventually picked up the Transandalusia GPS track about 10km outside of town. After that it was plain sailing along a canal path and minor roads most of the way to the coast.
The sunny January day was slightly cooler than I’d of liked but with a light tail wind and blue skies I was just happy to be on the road again after a couple of months at home. The first couple of days of the trip would be in the fairly flat province of Cadiz, chance to get back in shape before the mountains started.
As I passed along quiet lanes and Donana National park I saw lots of spots that looked perfect for wild camping, many so perfect I already had a feeling I would regret cycling on but it was still early in the day and I hoped to pass the 100km mark before the early sunset winter brings.
From Sanlúcar de Barrameda the route mainly follows a converted railway line and mainly through residential areas of one sort or another. I was already enjoying my skinny load, urban obstacles seem much easier when not a wide load.
I spent an hour or two watching out for a suitable spot to camp after Sanlúcar de Barrameda and eventually just as it was getting dark found a bad spot barely out of site of a farm road near a swamp. To keep a low profile I decided not to use my tent, something I would later regret as the damp swamp air had all of my gear, including sleeping bag, cold and wet within hours, If only I hadn’t left my Bivvy bag at home, the 80g saving just wasn’t worth it 🙂 .
To add insult to injury I quickly found out my quiet spot was just under the flight path of landing military jets and helicopters practicing night flying, good bye quiet silence…….Certainly not one of my better wild camping spots but thats life. At 6am I decided I wasn’t going to sleep anymore so thought it better to just get cracking to try and warm up, I could always take a siesta in the sun later in the day, I would need a long break anyway to dry my gear out.
The first couple of hours of day 2 cycling in the dark, cold and damp I was giggling at the irony of finally doing a winter trip somewhere warmer than the last 2 (Canada, Lapland) only to be cold. But, as the sun started to rise over the sea at Puerto Real, my mood and body warmed up.
By 10am it was warm enough for second breakfast and morning coffee, the sun beams shining through the tree’s and mist on the winter’s morning felt like being in a fairly tail.
A couple of hours later it was warm enough to take a siesta in the sun and dry my gear out after lunch, having a dry sleeping bag again, gave me hope for a better nights sleep. The afternoon continued along quiet tracks and later cliff top paths along the Cadiz coast.
That night I wild camped next to the ruins of an old church.
Day three brought serious tailwinds, as part of a huge weather front that was on its way in. The route often past through deserted tourist resorts and holiday villages, all ghost towns in winter. My morning coffee spot was far less inspiring than the day before.
As the day continued, the coastal paths turned into forrest trails into the mountains. Just across the water I could see Africa, the idea of turning right at Gibraltar and getting a ferry was very tempting, It seems that Africa will always be calling me back….
At the 75km mark I’d enjoyed the first couple of hours of mountain paths, but the weather was looking bleak. My cunning plan to avoid the coming storm in the Youth hostel backfired when I found it locked up for some renovations(despite the website saying it was open). I backtracked along the road for a couple kilometers and got a room at the fancy hotel.
A clean room, shower, steak and chips and cold beer after 3 days on the road is always a pleasure, a pleasure I’m more than happy to pay for from time to time. The next morning when I saw the horizontal rain and gail forced winds I went soft and just booked another night to sit out the worst. Two days later I would cross over into the next province of Malaga and start the serious business of lots and lots of cycling up and down mountains…..
Pt 2 coming soon…..
Note : I haven’t included any detailed info on the route or accommodation as both are very well covered by the data provided by the volunteers @ www.transandalus.org (including Transandalucia GPS tracks)