We head for Algeciras in Southern Spain on Christmas Eve- the plan is to meet Emma and Ryan on Christmas day at a local resort south of the big town. The train and bus take longer than expected and we end up with a late night Christmas Eve in a very friendly and very low budget hostel. We get no food but toast and tomatoes and a Christmas glass of something strong with the hostel owner. The next day is a short ride to the resort at Punto Carnero (16K) and waiting on pins and needles for Emma and Ryan to show up.
They made it- A very Merry Christmas indeed. We dine on octopus crunchy leg, lamb and squid along with too much wine. So great to see them.
12/26- We ride to Algeciras to hang out in a big town. 28k. Cool and breezy day in the big city and then back to the hotel. Thank goodness for the tapas in town- we can't find them in Portugal. Another late Spanish meal while we prepare for our tourist day on nearby Gibraltar.
12/27- We put in a big tourist day on Gibraltar. Europe's monkey colony perches on our heads and we explore historic caves, castles and tunnels and enjoy our time with Lionel the tour guide. We all start feeling ill in different ways by the end of this day- I blame the tomatoes we had for lunch but it it might have been the English fish and chips. Perhaps we are just allergic to industrial tourism, riding in taxicabs and monkeys!
12/28- We venture on to dirt track and roads to Tarifa- 30k of rough dirt. Illness and high winds mean that we end up staying two more nights in Tarifa. There is a great museum and we wander around in gale force winds from Africa while watching the incredible kite surfers. We stay in a cluttered apartment where we are forced to give a 5 star review in order to get our cash deposit back- here's a hint- don't stay there.
We are finally healthy and ready to start again on New Years Eve so we head to Barbate- 46 hilly kilometers up the coast. The wind is still gusty. We make it almost to our goal and Karen is blown over on to the pavement. Fortunately the next vehicle is a camper van and the nice French couple give her a ride to town. Karen has hit her face/head and hands. Mild concussion, bruised face and fractured wrist. We end up in another weirdo hotel, but they did give us lots of first aid supplies. Happy New Year and a meal of bread and cheese and leftovers in the hotel. We celebrate that Karen is basically ok and able to continue.
1/1- Karen is able to ride and we take off to get to the big city of Cadiz. After 26K to Conil we call it good and organize a taxi. Emma and Ryan ride the whole way on the beach and back roads to Cadiz, where we decide to take a day to explore. The old town is beautiful and we check out the cathedral and the beaches.
The next day Karen and I take a train to Lebrija and ride to Los Palacio 44k. Emma and Ryan ride the whole way. The most irritating thing about Spain is that whenever we want food the restaurants are not open or they only serve drinks or they will serve food if we come back at 8:30. The timing of when we need to eat is exactly wrong for us. We generally arrive in the mid afternoon, take a shower, rest and look for food and drink. In this town we went to 6 places and finally gave up. The only place that is open is Burger King. Check out how happy we are...
1/4- It started out great, rolling through fields and dirt tracks down by the river. It was 79k to El Rocio, a town with descriptions like "wild west feeling" and "remote". We weren't sure why but after a lovely ferry ride it was easy rolling until the last 10K. Suddenly the road got sandier and we were pushing the bikes through unrideable sand. An easy 20 minutes turned into hours of pushing. It was no easier when we got to town- there are no paved streets and we slogged all the way to the hotel- barely made it before dark. It turns out that the whole town exists because of a Virgin Mary appearance in the 15th century. The event is commemorated with a once a year religious festival that involves a million people making the trek through the sand like we did. They carry statues of the Virgin Mary and really chew up the sand making it almost impossible to ride. We called it Weirdville.
At least we found a big dinner in Weirdville. We needed it after that day.
1/5 - We took it easy from El Rocio to Pichacho near Huelva. 48k We lucked out and found some food before dark. There was a festival parade outside of our hotel for Night of the 3 Kings-evidently the last gasp of the holiday here in Catholic Spain.
1/6 Pichaco to Huelva- 60k. Beautiful weather and the riding was not too difficult. We got to the hotel early and had time to wander around the city and find some tapas. How civilized. But once again no food was available when we went out to find it in the evening. We stood in line with the other hungry folks for lousy sandwiches and chips. It may seem like a small thing to wait and get dinner at 8:00, but Pedaling Pensioners need to eat and lay down after a day of biking. Huelva has more bike paths and was a good place to ride- also the home town of Christopher Colon- we know him as Columbus.
1/7- Huelva to Monte Gordo- 61k and we are back in Portugal after 2 weeks. A great ride on bike paths, some dirt and even boardwalk. For the first and only time there is visible frost on the trail in the frozen morning- actual frost. We ride to Ayamonte and catch the ferry and on the other side find all you can eat sushi at the Asiatic Buffet. We stay at a healthy hotel in Monte Gordo- good food that someone else cooked when we actually wanted it. They give us free wine and a great breakfast.
1/8- the last day of the trip is upon us. We ride from Monte Gordo to Faro and take the train to Lagos. 69k . We find some great gravel roads but also end up going the wrong way down the freeway and some hellish traffic. The roads and the drivers in Portugal are not as bike friendly as Spain. Back to the apartment and waiting for Riley to arrive.