The alarm rang at 7:15am. My goal was to be on the bike with the sunrise, at 8:15. Getting my stuff prepared (which takes 5 minutes; the advantage of having barely any belongings), a coffee and bocadillo (sandwich) and off I was riding along the sunrise.
Pic below: Riding into the sunrise
Today would be a long day. I had some miles to cover. But what I learned very quickly was that the adventure was only to start. I got caught on gravel roads, some of them rideable, some of them just with hike-a-bike.
Pic below: Unexpected gravel roads along the way with no other alternative than riding them. Thanks to my DT Swiss wheels, there were no problems riding them.
I found myself a lot of times in the middle of the country side.
The race against the dark
Sometimes, I turned around to find a better road but sometimes I had no other choice than to just take it. Because on such an adventure ride I never know what comes ahead, it is better not to have any destination because then there is also no pressure to reach anything. If road conditions, headwind or other things slow me down, then so be it. Just adjust mentally and go with it. That´s the beauty of such a ride, especially for those who chase constantly deadlines, this type of riding is an absolute bliss.
When I got away from the coast to head North towards Murcia, I was entering the province Almeria, an agricultural region of Spain. And I could see, feel and smell it immediately. The area was covered by fruit and vegetable plantations, some in questionable conditions. The road surface, although asphalted, was covered in potholes and dirt left by animals. People lived in small sheds surrounded by rotten garden furniture. It was a shocking view compared to the luxury hotels from the Costa de Sol. I chose my route carefully and turned around multiple times when the road seemed a bit too shady. I knew I had to get out of this region before sunset. It would not be a good place to stay here.
But as quickly I entered this ghetto-like area, as suddenly I left it and I found myself in a beautiful remote surrounding. It was 4pm and I had two hours to find a hotel. But there was not even a house around, far away from any other accommodation. But I didn’t mind, I was mesmerized by this beautiful climb and felt in comfort that as soon as I would reach the top, it was all down sailing to the next town where I would find one.
Pic below: Up there in the distance was Garcia Alto. But soon, I would realize that this was a dead end.
But the top did not come and I kept climbing. The sun behind me nearing the horizon. In the distance, I finally found that village that was marking the top of the climb, Garcia Alto. I passed the village on the last stretch of 16% gradient with the anticipation to reward myself with a beautiful descent. But it wasn’t supposed to be. I turned the corner and in front of me: deep gravel. Too deep to ride. And from past experiences, I was suspecting that the gravel would only get worse. By now, it was 5pm. I had 1.5 hours until sunset. If I take this questionable gravel road, I might end up walking. I didn’t have the time for that. I needed to get to this town on the other side of this mountain.
I made the heavyhearted decision to partly ride back down this climb to ride the other road that would be longer but seemed to be asphalted. 1.5 hours to sunset. Would I make it?
I entered the road which, although paved, was covered in deep potholes. Slow progress. I passed small little farm houses with dogs barking aggressively at me. I got immediately reminded of my time in the Midwest where dogs meant sprinting time until they give up on their chase.
But luckily, not here. I was arduously climbing that mountain which again did not seem to end. Just when I thought I would reach the top, it kept going. The sun behind me was already touching the mountains behind me. Not much daylight left anymore. If I was stuck in the dark here, it would be very dark. No street lamps, no other lights around. I started to regret not having taken my front light with me. It was still on the kitchen counter. I only had a small lamp to be seen but too weak to light up the road ahead….”Monika, just ride, it makes no sense to regret, worry or think about the “what if” scenarios. I still have daylight and since we are not in the Pyrenees, this climb cant be THAT long.” I told myself.
And in one moment, after one corner, it all of a sudden opened up. An amazing view in front of me of the big valley towards the next mountain range.
Pic below: This pic doesnt do justice. The depth of the view was just incredible!
I was struck by this sudden change of scenery. And I looked down, there was this descent I was hoping for the last two hours. I saw the town, Turre, I wanted to stop at in the distance. I looked behind. The sun fading away. It would be getting close but I could make it before sunset.
I descended the climb and promised myself that I have to come back here some day again. It had to remember El Cortijo Grande. Down in Turre, I stopped at a hotel I saw while passing. It was poorly maintained but I thought, this might be my only option. I walked inside. An older woman standing behind the bar serving shots to drunk men. The room smelled like smoke. I asked the price for the room. “50 Euros”. I looked around. Contemplating. Do I really want to keep looking or just take it? It has been a long day. 10 hours since I left the hotel this morning.
But I was not satisfied. I wanted to wake up and get excited for another long day on the bike. A good night sleep, a comfy bed and a great dinner were key. I looked at the map. The coast was only 8km from here. I would find there, in Mojacar, plenty of hotels. I jumped back on my bike and kept riding. It was 6:30pm. The sun has vanished. I was not concerned about the light anymore. It was a well-light street, plenty of civilization, a good area and my lights were more than sufficient for this very short section. And when I saw the sea, I knew that watching the sunrise from above the water tomorrow morning, it would be the perfect start into the day. By the end of today, day 2, I have covered more than half of the distance. Tonight, I would sleep very well!
Why riding solo is meditative and my tips for your first adventure ride will be in Part 3.