Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Southern Spain 10-Day Andalusia Tour Plan

It is always a bit sad when you finish an epic tour.  After about 4 months in New Zealand and over 5 months touring in Australia before that (not to mention 2 weeks touring in California), 2018 was quite a year of bicycle touring, and not one that I can imagine repeating again any time soon (I have to grow-up some day).  I was in dreamland, and with hours and hours of beautiful southern hemisphere sun with some idyllic scenery as a permanent backdrop, I had been spoiled.  That's why coming back to England in mid-Winter was a bit of a shock to the system.

One of the problems with England at this time of year is the lack of sun; it is dreary, cold, damp and dark pretty much every day.  With this in mind, then, I thought I needed a little break to one of the sunniest places in Europe.

Andalusia receives 325 days of sun every year, and being quite a bit further South with more hours of daylight, it seemed the logical destination for Winter in Europe.  Added to this, my Dad has an apartment in this area of the world, so this is a good base of operations for me to get myself sorted when I arrive and when I leave.  And finally, at £10 each way to fly there, I couldn't go wrong.

It's funny, Spain wasn't really an area of the world I had considered much for bicycle touring, but after some research, Andalusia appears to be a perfect destination.  Wide open spaces, little traffic, beautiful scenery, and impressive cultural stops with fascinating architecture abound along my proposed route.

I am definitely setting myself a challenging route with this one, in more ways than one.  Firstly, this will be the first tour I have done in a non-English speaking country, although with the amount of British holidaymakers that come here every summer, I expect there will at least be some people to help me out if I'm in a jam.  The route also includes some train journeys to enable me to fit more in, and with a network of unfamiliar roads, logistically this is a bit of a challenge.

But physically too, this route will test me.  With 10 days on the go, I will have only one day off the bike, and when I'm on the bike I will have to do approximately 130-140Km a day to get back in time for my return flight.  Challenging on mainly flat terrain, but this is a hilly and mountainous trip, something I had not really realised about this part of the world.  There are some big climbs here - higher than in New Zealand in fact - up in the Sierra Nevada mountains.  For some reason though, since I have been back in the UK, I feel really up for a physical challenge again.

The first section taking up to Granada in the Sierra Nevada mountains after coming down the coast of southern Spain.

Towards the end of the tour I will be ascending to an altitude of about 1750m, just a little shy of the highest road I have ever ridden, which was in the Australian Alps on my Christmas tour in 2015.  But before that I will rise several times over the ten days to over 1000m.  Technically, I could have a go at ascending the highest road in Europe in this tour, the Pico de Valeta which goes up to about 3300m, however with it being Winter it is likely the road will be blocked with snow, not to mention mighty cold.  Instead I will be heading up to Granada on the Goat Path Road, the Carretera de la Cabra, supposedly one of the most scenic roads in this region.

Leg 2 from Granada to Seville via Rhonda
The process of planning a tour is always a fascinating one.  First I think of a place I want to go, then I look at the weather conditions at the time of year and see if it is feasible, then I check out what I might be able to see en route, and then I don't think of anything until a couple of weeks beforehand.  Once the reality of the tour dawns on me, then I plan in more detail and all of a sudden the few famous places I was interested in seeing seem almost insignificant to the route and the journey to get there itself.  I am more enthralled by the journey than the destinations.

Leg 3 on the train from Seville to Jaen via Cordoba.
So I had a few key areas I wanted to visit, which were Granada, Rhonda, Seville, and Cordoba.  Then it was a question of linking it all together in a tour for about ten days.  This was tricky seeing as this route was about 1500Km on the map, but as always when you ride the tour in reality, longer when you factor-in detours and the greater distances you cover using the more minor roads.  All in all, this tour could not be done in ten days on the bike, that's why I will take the train between Seville and Jaen, cutting roughly 500Km off.  Still a stretch, but doable.

The final and toughest leg of the tour back to Los Alcazeres.

The last leg of the trip back to Los Alcazeres should be the hardest, but I should have adapted physically by then.  With the covering of so many kilometres in a short period of time, this tour should be quite a challenge, but unlike in New Zealand I should be travelling quite a bit lighter.  No computer, no squash rackets, less clothing, and no big backpack, so hopefully the bike will be a bit easier to crank up those climbs.

I have been to Spain many times in my youth, but I don't think I have ever ventured out of a beach resort, so this will be a completely different experience and a much more authentic look at Spain, her terrain and her culture.  It promises to be a intriguing mini Winter adventure and another great short tour outside of Australasia.

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