Refreshed from my day off it was time to hit the road again, the wintery storm was still in full swing but was forecast to die down by lunch time. But before lunchtime I had many muddy kilometers to get through.
Though hard work the short climb out from Puerto El Bujeo on the boggy forrest road was a nice warm up for things to come.
Between the cloud bursts there was also the occasional glimpse of Gibraltar below.
What followed was an awesome twisty descent towards Algeciras, brakes screaming, mud flying and all that good stuff that makes you want to own a mountain bike. Note to self: don’t go around corners at 30km/h on the side of a mountain when there’s gail forced winds, almost getting blown off the side of a mountain could be bad for my health.
My nice new shiny bike and bags, were no longer so shiny and new.
Just before Algeciras I took a left onto the next stage, I saw no reason to head into the big port city. Sadly the next stage was all on road, but the roads through the beautiful cork forrest were quiet. As I approached Castellar Viejo on top of its hill the sun started shining again and things started to look up.
After a late lunch and beer in the beautiful Castellar Viejo to recover from the cheeky climb I figured I could still do the next 21km stage before dark. On paper the route looked easy enough to Jimena de la Frontera, a short decent, 15 or so kilometers on the flat then a short ascent to the village. How hard could it be after a fairly easy 65km???
Well the quick descent started with the first piece of real mountain biking of the trip ( more about my opinion of calling something a MTB route or off road route another time…). The track wasn’t to steep but was an interesting route along a riverbed that is probably dried up 360 days a year.
A few kilometers later the toughest 10km of the trip started No, not a mountain, river bed or gravel road. But muddy fields.
At a glance or in a photo it doesn’t look too bad. But a kilometer in it just turned to clay, the kind of clay that just loves to stick to bikes.
What followed were 2 hours of pushing, pulling, pushing with brakes on, carrying and all kinds of other tricks I tried to think of to get through the fields. Ultimately all where fairly futile so it was just a miserable couple of hours of hard work, all part of the fun of travelling off road out of season.
That night I slept like a log at the campsite near town. The next day started cold and damp but soon warmed up, as did the views during the 800m climb up to Carrera del Caballo pass. Followed by another awesome fast descent on the forrest roads.
It was very tempting to sit in the sun in El Colmenar and join the locals for Sunday lunch, But it was still early in the day so I cracked on to attempt the first stage of Malaga. I was once again rewarded by beautiful views and rugged dirt roads over the 3 passes totalling 800m of climbing.
Just before the town of Jimera de Líbar the route turned into muddy single track, what I’d hoped would be a 20 minute ride to town after a long tough day turned to another hour of playing in the mud. I arrived in town well after dark a broken and cold man and stumbled into a local bar to ask directions to the local campsite and maybe get a meal.
What I encountered at ” bar Alliola” was an Aladdin’s cave of beers from all over the world as well as the better local ones. Two hours later I waved goodbye the British barman warmed up and with a belly full of food and honey beer.
Arriving at a dark deserted campsite in February isn’t much fun at the best of times, the cold wind and damp air made setting up my tent even less attractive. As I checked out the ablutions building it seemed 5 degrees warmer than outside and certainly wind free. “Stuff it, I don’t mind being a tramp for an night.”
The next morning, refreshed from a warm nights sleep I cycled the 20km (700m) to Ronda, got a hotel and took the opportunity of a big town to have a rest day and organise some extra clothes, Spain was proving more wintery than I’d packed for.
Pt 3 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)