Monday 30 May …Baza to Guadix

Bicycles not permitted on Autovia

A 53km ride and first 25km uphill. Coming out of Baza was a terrible climb into a headwind. The gradient steep for about 5km and on a limestone rock road but we conquered it and lapped up the views from the surrounding mountains and valleys. Correction from yesterday, the Orange groves were almonds trees, they are everywhere today as far as the eye can see, in different stage of growth. Are almonds the new superfood or is it the almond milk production and gluten free products? It is a big industry here in Spain.

The mountains are stunning, a mob of sheep with a few goats as we pass by a road alongside the highway. There are shepherds, up ahead is a man with a shepherds crook and 5 dogs just strolling down the path towards us. We stop for a chat … we work out he has 600 head of sheep … they look extremely healthy, and are not bothered by us, just happily grazing and keeping up with man. Although he can’t speak English we may be the only conversation he’ll have all day.

We keep following the highway on the path, a road house stop for a coffee, no villages here. Later we bypass to the village of Gor sitting in a valley, what a lovely sight a great downhill into the town … oops we have missed the turnoff to the square and ridden through the town.

We have come to the end of the ascent and looking to the next 25km of downhill. We come ‘off course’ as garmin gets tired and wants to go to sleep. All’s good we see some paths that should take us in the general direction to Guadix … road signs on highway verify. I can see we are off course but not far away as we go along dirt roads then double back. Another attempt on another road … double back again … perhaps the other side of the highway … double back … back on the other side different path … dead end at phone towers. Our course is near as we look below over the rugged mountains that we have climbed to a spaghetti of roads and highways … Guadix not far in the distance.

By this stage we realise we have explored all options and have to go on the highway. ‘I’m sure it is the N-432 where we saw the bikes are allowed’ a nice big shoulder, within 5 minutes we are stopped by a police patrol car. They are quite angry and we can’t communicate other than one said ‘are you crazy’ after some google translate asking them how can we get there, we have tried all the side roads that came to dead ends. After some time, 2 policemen on motorbikes say follow me … one in front and one behind escorted us on the road shoulder for the 5km off the Autovia ‘no problem’ they say; Garmin then indicates it’s ‘course found’ we finally get to our accommodation, without a stiff fine and in the ‘lock up’.

We are troglodytes tonight … for a bit of fun we are booked into a cave house.

Anyone following my strata can get a laugh out of the back tracking we did today. 11km over.

Although I’ve mapped tomorrow’s ride I’m feeling a little anxious.


Sunday 29 May … Murcia to Baza (pronounced Batha)

I don’t like Sunday’s ….

Pedals off, two garbags and some cling wrap then a wait at the bus station.  Oh oh … 2 electric bikes arrive they are much bulkier than ours and they speak to another driver.  Anxious moments as they start to prepare their bikes.  The bus rolls in and there is a discussion re bikes.  I’m ready for a hip and shoulder should the bikes not fit in … we arrived first.  The others struggle with their bikes … ours lay quite flat on top of other luggage … our preparation paid off.  We get on the bus and breathe a sigh of relief … the other cyclists take selfies with shells … they must be on a pilgrimage … they are going straight to Seville.

Oops … we are in trouble … didn’t realise there are seat allocations in the bus … John has had to move 2 times. Who knows who is in our allocated seat … no 55 and 56.  I’m in 8 too late to start shuffling up the passengers this late in the journey.

The country is beautiful as we drive through the valleys with fascinating mountains around us … I’m getting excited for tomorrow’s ride. Olive groves and orange orchards stretch up the mountains and striking yellow shrubs line the road. It’s a beautiful drive. There are little towns we pass along the way … this is the stereotypical Spain in my mind, dry, rendered old houses/apartments, narrow streets, missing is the cowboy on horseback.

We get to Baza about 2pm. We have a wander around the streets of the old town. It’s like a ghost town … it is a Sunday, I say to John, ‘I hate Sundays, there is no atmosphere’ it’s around 30C+ the shops are closed, in the labyrinth of streets little squares with tables and chairs are deserted. Tomorrow it will be different, vibrant and lively.

Although very quiet in the town, a local restaurant only a few minutes walk was doing a good trade with exceptional food . It may be a good place for breakfast tomorrow.

Saturday 28 May … Alicante to Murcia by train

I really want to ride it was flat …

We had the city streets to ourselves this morning apart from some local joggers.  I expect there were lots sleeping in today after a wild Friday night.

We, on the other hand are on our way to Murcia by train  departing at 9.20am, we like to be early in case there is a problem with the bikes..  The original plan was to train a bit then ride from Elche 60km.  However we have to sort our bus travel to get to Granada so best to get there early?  I’m itching to get back on my bike.

We leave the coast behind and travel through rural land. It was an interesting morning for the train security guards, they had a wheelchair and 2 touring bikes.  

‘I think we have dodged a bullet, Johnny’, we arrived at Murcia bus station to be told we have to wrap our bikes for the 10am departure tomorrow; plastic, cardboard as long as they are wrapped.  John getting a slightly agitated … I say,

‘yes that’s fine, do we have to get the tickets now?’,

‘You can use the ticket machine, as we are closed tomorrow’, 

‘Can I buy the tickets now please’.

Okay John, we go Mercadona and buy some garbags … a short time later I buy 10 x 100ltr garbags and packing tape.  Easy fix I say!

Checking in to the hotel then off to the old town … what a wonderful town, it’s quite hot, long wide boulevards bordered with plane trees, cafes/bars with umbrellas … all part of the ambience and providing shade.  A striking feature is the flower gardens around prominent buildings. The river although a dirty colour looks clean and features an old bridge. It’s always nice to wander around the tall narrow alleys. The jacarandas are in full bloom.

Friday 27 May … Alicante (day at Tabarca Island)

A day at Rotto?? … sunseeking and snorkelling

An easy start and changed rooms in the hotel … wow looks like an upgrade, looks like the honeymoon suite.

11am departure from only 500m from the hotel. Be there 30min before … the ticket lady said yesterday … OMG there must be a school group … I hope we can get on!  People everywhere at this small one person ticket office.  Rushing to beat the school group I join a line … ‘are you in the line?’ ‘No’ he says, I feel I’ve pushed in but nobody says anything so maybe not.  Tickets purchased and hire of fins and snorkel and directions to the ferry.  The school kids must have rented their own ferry.  One poor kid is in tears … maybe he left something behind? His parents forgot to sign the form?  I watch eagerly; upset for him … all good he gets aboard. 

Tabarca has a chequered past as being a refuse for Barbary pirates up to the end of the 18th century and used as a base for raids on the Levantine coast. But today it is a protected marine reserve, declared in 1986 the first of its kind in Spain.

Lovely little bays plenty of room for the day trippers to get wet. The village at the other end with bars, restaurants, hotels and houses. Lovely views of the mainland. A bar is advertising 3€ beer and tapas … yes please patatas bravas at first then fried sardines. Almost time to board the ferry at 4.30pm … ‘Good choice Susie’ says John.

Our evening meal is across the road … an Indian Restaurant … delicious meal. Tomorrow off by train to Murcia … we can’t pre purchase tickets they only sell up to 2hrs before departure, we are assured that 30 minutes before would be okay with the bikes. We did a reconnaissance at the station today. The Spanish are like the Germans they call a shovel a spade … love them!!

It’s Friday night the bars are full, lots of people around. Below us is a bar I can see it is going to be a very late night for the folk in Alicante.

Thursday 26 May … Alicante

It’s easier on the bike” …

A bit of a planning today. A trip to the rail station with many questions, tourist office and bus station. While waiting in the queue John shakes his head ‘like he does’ and says ‘its easier on a bike!’ We are doing a little bus/train hopping to avoid too many hills and to fast track.

John is extremely happy with a map of Spain and Portugal he bought today. He claims it has paid for itself already with planning our way to Granada.

Lots of huge ficis trees around the squares here.

Half a day gone but lovely weather to walk through the streets. Our next feat is the hill … of course there is a castle on top of every significant hill. The long walk in switchbacks is shared by others, I’m so glad this is not the tourist high season, there are many optional paths to walk.

As expected the views again are spectacular, the sky and sea are an amazing blue … a cool breeze welcoming. 360° vistas of the city and hills afar.

We are hanging in the balance today … I had a ‘thought’ there is an island off the coast that I have read about. ‘John, consider this … we stay another night and go to Tabarca Island for the day?’ We investigate options at the marina, we can hire snorkels and fins.

Oh dear the hotel is fully booked … sad face … however they will see if there are any cancellations by tomorrow. We go out to get a meal and they tell us there has been a cancellation,we can stay an extra night in a different room. Weekends are always a problem. I hope it is worth it. My chance to get a good look at the Mediterranean.

I did make it to Spain … John showing his photographic talent.

Wednesday 25 May … Altea to Alicante

I insisted in having the remainder of our strawberries (4) and an orange on the balcony before we left.  A clear blue sky and the sea to match … a group of swimmers out, swimming to a marker and back.  The workers have started and moving the stones up the beach. 

There is an age that a man should wear a shirt in public

We leave to have breakfast at a patisserie, the croissants here are as good as in France, croissant de chocolate … yum. John is settling into the Spanish way of life and a toasted small bagette with cheese and jamon (ham) however more like procuito … very yummy.  We leave south past areas that we haven’t yet seen … more lovely beaches and apartments. 

We left the coast for a short while, the morning sun on the mountains around us is spectacular.  Soon after 10km we were approaching Benidorm, a metropolis, skyscrapers everywhere, traffic lights. A great cycle way in the middle of the road.  What do you do when you are waiting at traffic lights, take a photo. 

I can’t believe the skyscrapers, apartments and hotels.  It’s 10.30am a lovely sunny day, the tourists are making their way to the beach, carrying folding chairs, beach umbrellas and beach paraphernalia.  We see the sea ahead of us and the beach is the attraction here, an exercise group in front of us.  Heaps of sunbathers here today, I’ve seen so any sunburnt bodies here in Spain … and 60+ men with no shirt on … seriously … not a good look!!!

We had periods that we were on the busy roads with a big shoulder up and down hills with views of the sea. The mountains were closing in and very dry. At one point garmin recorded 10% gradient.  We were off course a few times trying to avoid hills but ended up on a main road. We had one last climb … John spotted it first … a tunnel … joy!!

Further on, garmin off my radar, we ended up in a spaghetti lot of roads, the speed increased to 120km … ummm … I’d better look at the course on phone … sure enough we had got ourselves on a major road.

‘Okay Johnny, we have about 15kms to go … I’m not staying on this busy road.’  We found an exit and headed down to the beach in search of my mapped route; garmin was finally happy as was I.

Down to the beaches, the sea breeze is in it’s about 2.30pm, the beach is emptying, is it the wind or hunger why these beachgoers are leaving?  ‘I’m stopping here to have lunch’ I say, hot, thirsty and not long to go and a beach … the beer didn’t last long nor did the toasted roll.  Off for another 10km, ignoring garmin again we were able to follow the coast into Alicante.

My mind is a blurr for today … lovely scenery, amazing mountains. Was it going off course too many times, the huge dead snake I had to go around that was on the road … who knows. Maybe 2 nights in Alicante will restore the mind. A lovely busy town that we have seen so far … we are staying on the edge of the old town and had dinner near the cathedral in a Thai restaurant … walking back we were astonished at the number of people at restaurants.

Our bikes are in a secured parking lot not far from here … there is no parking here even for bikes but for 1€ a day I guess that’s not bad.

One of the main attractions here is the castle … another castle and up on a hill!

Tuesday 24 May … Denia to Altea

Lost in translation …

Starting off through the Old Town of Denia, it is way bigger than I thought. Within 3km we are climbing up the suburban hills with lovely houses. Too far from the beach says John. In no time time we are into our first climb for the day … climbing up the mountain. We have been following these mountains for days and it’s now our turn to venture on the other side. There is a lot of low cloud which keeps the temperature down although it is humid. We climb around the mountain catching some great views, the traffic is very forgiving as cars are held up intermittently behind us. I don’t think anyone will be late for work on our account. Not many opportunities for pics with the blind corners of the road! 2.5km seems like 5km …

Up to the top then another 2.5km down with brakes on all the way. On our decent we see many road cyclists … it must be a training run … they don’t even look puffed!

The other side looks like a different world, the landscape has changed dramatically. We are now riding down windy country lanes and down hills. Small vineyards on the tiered hills … peaceful. It’s getting warm, up to 30C as we are now back on the road amongst traffic up and down hills getting glimpses of beaches that are built out by houses. Signage is predominantly in English … we are nearing Alicante aka Little Britain.

We pass by some small beachside towns and weave back to the hills … hot and bothered we find a bar on the road and order lunch … she can only do a bagette … that’s all we want with ham, cheese and salad with egg …no tuna … and a beer of course. Out came a lovely mixed salad for 2. Okay … no bread … that’s okay John, we’re looking after your cholesterol. We finish the salad and 2 large baguettes appear with ham and cheese. Umm lost in translation.

We then decend to a lovely very salubrious town of Calpe featuring giant rock formations dripping into the sea. Very Ritzy apartment buildings then we are climbing our last hill … 11km to Altea … with tired legs … there is a God … a series of short tunnels cutting through the rocks …. then the downhill began with great views and down into Altea.

John hit the jackpot… our hotel is on the beach and our 4th floor room has a balcony looking out at the ocean. A work in progress below as the beachfront is being revitalised. We watch truck loads of rock being dumped and spread – that is the beach. The paved areas nearby are in the process of new paving … good signs to come … ‘come back in 2 years and see what it looks like.’ he says …

So here we are in our office on the balcony, people watching, listening to the waves on the beach … John doing his admin and me blogging …John’s just had a beer or two and I’ve downed 1ltr of orange juice .. 500g of strawberries have also been consumed … life on my bike … can we stay for a week?

From the office

Double jackpot … another random surprise … the church on a hill of course is the old town with white washed houses small streets and loads of stairs. At the top by the church are restaurants, shops adorn the nearby small streets. What another little gem this town has to offer.

Oh … I will be shot if I forget to mention that we clocked up over 1000km yesterday.

Night shift

Monday 23 May … Cullera to Denia

I can’t use that … my bum looks too big …

An annoying headwind … very unusual, we haven’t had it windy like this before.  A farmer is out ploughing and there is dust flying everywhere.  Thankfully it is short lived when we turn into a side/tail wind … we are very thankful. 

The mountains are ahead of us …

  • Sue:
  • ‘it’s about time I had a pic of me riding my bike … everyone may think I’m swanning along in a car taking pics and not on my bike’ …
  • ‘Here is my phone do you know what to do?’
  • John:
  • Just a minute … I have to put my glasses on’

The naked fields give way to kilometres of orange orchards … it’s very flat as we ride through very good roads/lanes that are divided by irrigation canals and orchards.  We see some mandarins … John squeezes his hand under the fence to get a fallen one … not quite ripe but nice and tasty.

The hills are getting bigger, there is not much traffic on these quiet backroads, a few cars tending to the farm’s parked,  we see an orchard being picked … crates being stacked … I ask if I can take a pic … ‘of course’ … for my trouble they give us 5 freshly picked oranges … later on in the hotel 2 are consumed … delicious!!!!

Tortoise alert!  Some excitement for the morning … as we rode by a canal 2 tortoises dive into the water after lazing on a log … further on a tortoise on the road, I pick it up and put it on the grass … not long after, another on the road … I leave it be.

Getting close to civilisation the path closes in and we have lots of shade … 2 ponies under a bridge on a rope strategically placed to eat the long grass.

We reach the halfway mark at Garnia, 11.30am … we’ll call this lunch  coffee and a roll in the main shopping arcade.  A lovely town … all the fashion shops, lovely paved arcades.  Umm this could easily have done with a better look.  In the meantime it is getting hotter.

We exit Garnia after a nice break … we get funny looks at times.  Over a bridge and onto a ‘greenpath’ ‘you don’t want me to tell you it’s 38C do you? I think the answer was no. It didn’t feel that hot … we have long sleeves, a cap and the breeze was cooling.

The mountains soon disappear or are behind us … more oranges, long straight roads and the next 25km sail by.  Garmin is on target … the familiar tune that we have reached our destination and there before us is the hotel.

The town looks very insignificant … but later on after we are showered and washed our clothes .. we get a map from reception with some tips on a route.

Now the wow factor has slipped in … what a pretty diverse town … we head for the beach past a few bars … things are quiet – it is hot though … nothing special but the port/marina is attractive … we have a drink.  There is a ferry berthed … the Balearic islands of are close (Ibiza, Palma and Formentera, Mallorca) … next trip????

Stop dreaming, as I sip my G&T we are looking at the Denia Castle, very attractive location … I’m not going up there says John (yesterday’s castle must have done him in) 

We continue our route that the hotel guy suggested … the fishmans’ area … so cute with narrow streets, with little plazas and restaurants, colourful houses … very quaint.  We go up a few narrow streets and alleys with a mild gradient and before we know it we are climbing by the castle walls admiring the views below.  We didn’t go up to the very top.

We are on the border of the old town and decide to keep the best to last and visit tonight. A quick way back to the hotel … a 200m tunnel under the castle … how clever.

Well it didn’t stop there, this town is as attractive at night … off to dinner about 9pm …it’s tough being on holiday … so much to do … had a great meal in the fisherman’s quarter, beautiful atmosphere under the stars, then a wander towards the old town and discovered a tapas area … referred to as Street Food Court … all lit up with fairy lights amazing. It didn’t stop there … further on the old town with the lights of the castle and another group of restaurants equally attractive. Wow what a feast this town offers … ticks many boxes.

Sunday 22 May … Valencia to Cullera

🎶 E I E I O 🎶

Off at 9am a nice 22C straight through the rural areas and farmland. The cycle paths are great and well signposted, although Garmin is taking the lead. A few riders and walkers in these outer suburbs later small villages? We stop to take a pic of a senior in horse and cart and a horse following also getting a workout, dragging a weight. A rider stops, we have been leapfrogging with him for some time, I think he asks us where we are going … with a mixture of fingers, my map on my phone and charades. I think the message was it will be hot today for a long ride, you need plenty of water.

There are kilometres of orange orchards and naked fields separated by canals. There are a few riders around going in both directions, we leapfrog a young couple with a toddler in a bike seat; at our last passing … the mother is singing E I E I O to the familiar tune of Old MacDonald … as we pass I join in … putting smiles on all dials. That is the beauty of tour cycling … simple moments like that.

We are approaching the village of Sullana, John called for a coffee stop. Crossing the railway line we take a guess … which way? The streets are deserted but we take a punt and go right … a few blocks and a little activity, a bell tower and council offices … tables and chairs on all corners and in the median street. Here will do … seems this is the towns meeting spot … it’s 11.30am. This is considered morning tea time, beer, wine, coffee, soft drinks and light snacks. We are gradually coming in sync with the Spanish meal times … lunch mid afternoon and dinner around 8-9pm.

Back on the bikes, it is a good surface although it’s getting warm around 30C no shade now as we are in the farming areas, the farmers are busy ploughing … its very flat, reminiscent of Holland, in the distance you can see scattered plumes of dust, indicative of ploughs at work. The hills are slowly getting bigger a sea breeze is refreshing but also tiring as it’sin our faces. In the distance we see evidence of a beachside community, large population of multi storey apartments/hotels. Finally after 60km we arrive at our hotel around 2pm … good timing …

It’s Sunday … the beaches are full, umbrellas everywhere, there is a fresh breeze that doesn’t stop the multiples sunbathing and dipping into the sea. Along the promenade and nearby streets the restaurateurs are enjoying a booming trade. This must be a popular place for a holiday apartment for the Valencian.

High above us is a church on a hill, we have a map … 1.6km on the switchback road … we were glad we walked and not rode, however the road did level out eventually … it was worth the view.

Side note: the bike tour guide remarked yesterday on a construction zone in the centre of the city … it was a roundabout for cars; however since covid the city and has made more pedestrian areas in the old town … where we stood was new paving a few months old. Some planters and palms that had just appeared 5 days ago … the ever changing face of Valencia.

Saturday 21 May … Valencia

When is a river not a river?

It’s a Saturday morning and we are on our way to the city centre to go on a city bike tour.  Komoot is showing the way to the bike shop.  An easy 10km …. very quiet roads at 9am … as we approach the city we are lead onto a large park, later to learn that this is the river!! The roads are quiet because most of the population are out and about exercising on this wonderful day.  Summer has come, and the morning is still a comfortable temperature.  There are many paths to choose … is it a park run? There are cyclists, but the bulk of the population here are jogging. A group of girls jog with a trainer leading.  Just before me a few cyclists cut across my path and park their bikes … a fitness session is about to start.  In the middle section is an athletics track.  Further up men shooting hoops then a warm up on a mini soccer pitch.  This is the ‘river’ … terrible floods in 1957 lead to building a canal, now this riverbed is a 9km green park with lots of shady trees, grassed areas and tracks for all uses. 

Our bike tour begins we are the only ones here today for this city tour, our leader is an Argentinean young man who is doing his PhD at a Uni in Valencia.  He is particularly knowledgeable and very personable.  We ride through many city attractions in the old town, learn a lot about the history and culture of this amazing city. 

The old city is a labyrinth of streets … we realise later when we try to get back on our way home. It was easy with Komoot and a guide.

From history we go to the latest and greatest the city has to offer – the City of Arts and Sciences precinct.  We were in awe at these magnificent futuristic structures.  Something photos could not possible portray.

As John would say, ‘I had a bee in my bonnet’ and wanted to go into Valencia tonight to see the City Arts and Sciences Centre at night. He was finally convinced … the train station only 500m away but the machine was difficult to work. A young lad about 15yo helped us using his phone and google translate … and gave us the Metro card he had and we topped it up for our tickets. He probably spent 20 minutes with us and wouldn’t leave until we were sorted. What a trooper he was … his mother should be proud. We gave him a couple of euros for his trouble.

Meanwhile, the sun doesn’t set until 9.15pm … back on the river paths at 7.30pm, it’s still busy, it has cooled off from the 30+C today, families out relaxing with picnics. Joggers, walkers, birthday parties … it’s all happening. There is an event at the Opera house as people arrive in their finery.

The sun is slowly sinking as we wait in anticipation … a restaurant in the precinct has outside tables … we order a drink each … probably the best rosé I have had. We can see reflections starting to appear as dusk creeps in. Time to cycle around for photo opportunities … we are not alone … it is a paradise for group pics along with selfies. The lights in the buildings reflecting in the water pools are amazing and take on a new level of imagination.