Archive for April 3rd, 2010

Tarifa to Granada (30 miles, 3 hours)

I’m not going to lie, I’m not having a good go of it in Spain, and it’s all because of Easter. It’s now been 3, going on 4 days that I haven’t had a cellular Internet connection because no stores are open, and none of the campsites have had free or working wifi. Without the Internet, I can’t check train or bus schedules or get coordinates and information about campsites or hostels down the road.

Today, I rode about 20 miles through Tarifa (saw Africa across the strait of Gibralter) and then on to Algeciras where I hoped to catch a train to Valencia, or at least somewhere that could get me to Valencia. When I got to the station, they told me there was no way to get there today, but I could go to Granada for 20 euros. It would be a pretty draining mountain pass back to Tarifa, so I elected to go the Granada route, figuring that I could probably catch a train from Granada to Valencia on Easter Sunday.

View to Africa Across the Strait of Gibralter
View to Africa Across the Strait of Gibralter

The train tracks from Algeciras to Ronda were closed for repairs so we had to take a bus to Ronda and then get the train to Granada from there. This means I had to take all of the panniers and gear off my bike and place them in my large nylon bike bag, and then fold the bike to store it under the bus. The process went rather smoothly though, and it all arrived in one piece when I transferred to the train. The train passed through some gorgeous countryside and the fields were the brightest shade of green I have ever seen in my life. Add to that the mountainous backdrop, and you have panoramic vistas which can’t be accurately captured from the window of a moving train car. I tried nonetheless.

When I got to Granada though, the sun was just setting and it was still another 4 miles to the closest campsite. At the train station ticket counter, they told me the trains to Valencia were full both Easter Sunday and on Monday, and they suggested I check the bus station the next day. I couldn’t bear the thought of being stuck in Granada, not putting some miles in on the bike for two more days and wasting another day after that on travel.

Sunset Station, Granada
Sunset Station, Granada

There was a grocery store across the street from the train station that was still open for another 10 minutes, so I hurried through, trying to buy enough food to last until Monday, since I knew it would be an issue finding anything on Easter. Unfortunately I forgot bread, and I had already annoyed the checker when I hadn’t weighed and put prices on my fruit at the fruit aisle, like I was supposed to. I didn’t want to have to relock my bike and show my face again, so I forged on. By now it was completely dark, I didn’t have my hi-visibility green reflective vest to wear, because somehow it fell off my rack the day I arrived in Spain (foreshadowing of the time I was to have?), and I had to rely on my three flashing lights and reflective patches on my bags.

Many of the streets were barricaded and closed to vehicle traffic and there were hoards of people enjoying the cool spring air. I was not enjoying it. Once again, I only had maybe an hour of gps battery life to get me to somewhere to sleep, and “Nigel” kept leading me astray at almost every turn.   I really hate trying to navigate and bike in the cities. It’s so unsatisfying, because you keep having to stop and don’t cover any distance quickly, there are never good street signs to know where you are, and I end up having to u-turn every few blocks because the GPS sucks. I could try navigating by city map, but it’s much more difficult to follow and read quickly at bike speed compared to pedestrian speed.

I tried a few hostels as I passed through town, but they were all full. It was 10:30 p.m. when I finally arrived at the campsite in Zubil, 4 miles south of town. They showed me to a spot that looked like concrete in the light of my headlamp so I set up my tent without the stakes that hold the rainfly away from the tent, and prayed that we wouldn’t get rain. Once again, no wifi. I read my online bike research that I’d already downloaded to my laptop and found out that the roads out of Granada to Baza didn’t even allow bicycles, nixing my idea of at least getting out of town on the bike.

I awoke at 4:44 a.m. to the pitter-patter of rain on my tent. Ugh! I just wanted to scream and cry and go back home, where I knew where I’d sleep each night, had a fridge for food and could buy a week’s worth at a time, and could get information from the Internet anytime I wanted. I was reaching the breaking point with frustration and sadness.