The slap!

Day 253, Almeria, 13.010 km

It’s always the same thing. Considering the relief of the area it happens quite often. Several times a day at the moment. The road has been going up for a few kilometers. The drivers of the cars that overtake me raise their thumb, as if to say « Courage! ». The cyclists I pass give me a slightly surprised look: « Loaded like a mule, totally crazy that one ». I raise my head and I see the pass: a bend, the end of a signpost sticking out, it feels like the end! My thighs are burning, it’s hot. I’ve got sweat in my eyes, I’m short on breath. Only 100m left. I put my head in the handlebars, and I push. Right, left, right, left. Only 10m to go. I can’t take my eyes off my front wheel, I’m in a tunnel. There is only 20cm of asphalt in front of my tire. 5m. 3m. We’re there. The slope softens, I’m freewheeling. This is the moment when everything changes. My body relaxes, I take a deep breath, another pass done. I know that it will go down again. I enjoy it in advance. I raise my head, and there, bim, a real visual slap: the landscape unfolds in front of my eyes: the mountains, the sea, the road which goes down in twists and turns, sometimes going up again just after, promise of other painful kilometers and of a new slap to come. A treat!

Mountain slap
Valley slap
Sea slap

Quiet departure from Valencia after a good night in a real bed, but when I put on the bags I realize that my rear wheel is flat. For the second time in three days. I spend a good half hour looking for a spike or a thorn. It’s a waste of time. I’ll be careful on the road… My head is a bit elsewhere this morning, it’s hard to find the motivation… The prospect of spending 5 days alone maybe. Or the bed that I already miss. I don’t know. Besides, there is not much to see: endless straight lines between orange trees, a road that follows the coast but on the wrong side of the hotels, and impossible to find water, the fountains are closed and the employee of the cemetery where I stop makes me understand that « his » water is not drinkable. Fine. I go up to the small town of Xabia and then go down to the beach. At least it doesn’t change, it’s always so pleasant to see the sea. It’s getting late and the whole area where I am is full of houses… It’ll be hard to find a little corner of the forest for the night. The campsite is closed, I fall back on a small park, hoping that nobody will come to disturb me…

The beach, again the beach
Moraira, one night stop

The next day, I have a good and a bad news. Good news: nobody came during the night. Bad news: my rear wheel is deflated. Again… I want to leave so I just pump it up and hope it will last until the evening. Bad idea. I barely have time to admire the views of the Ifach rock, to ride around the Calpe salt marsh, to climb a small pass when I realize that my rear wheel feels weird on the descent to Benidrom. Flat again, for good this time. I stop, look for another needle, a piece of glass, plastic, something. Fail. I’m starting to think that I’ll have to go to a repairer – for a flat tire it doesn’t look serious – when I realize that the inside of my tire is damaged and that it’s killing my tubes. Great. I put a piece of plaster on the tire and tell myself that I’ll have to change it quickly. Cartagena maybe? Or maybe Almeria? We’ll see.

The rock of Ifach

The salt marsh of Calpe

And the ride goes on: mountain, beach, beach, mountain, road in edge of sea, with sights on an island in the open sea, it seems that the buildings go directly out of the water. I look for a place to bivouac and I fall back on a pine forest on the edge of beach. There are a lot of people still walking around, so I kill some time and wait for all these people to go back home. I fix my tubes, clean my bike. Then I sneak into the woods to an isolated spot. Isolated. What a joke. I pass not one, not two, not three, not four, not five but six people who also seem to enjoy this isolated place. Great. I decide to wait a bit before pitching the tent, I eat, and then I have a brilliant idea: I’ll pick up the garbage that is lying around me and I’ll tell the eventual guard who will come to ask me why I pitched my tent in this park that it’s my way of payment: a full 35-liter bag for a night of camping. It took me barely 25 minutes to fill it up and I didn’t even have to take my eyes off my bike… I let you imagine the state of the wood… and of course nobody came but I had my excuse ready just in case.

Sunrise in the pine forest

The next day, my wheel is not flat yet! So I decide that the tire will wait for Almeria. Small lunch break in Cartagena, tour of the city and we continue. I have two passes waiting for me in the next 30 kilometers and I decide to climb one of them before stopping for the evening. That goes smoothly, and in the descent I look for a place to sleep. I’m struggling a bit and I’m starting to think that I’ll have to fall back on a campsite when I see a small path leaving the road. Bingo! Perfectly sheltered from the wind, with a nice view on the mountains, I found my little corner of paradise!

Another nice sunrise

The next day is a long sequence of ascents and descents, with the mentioned slaps at the top of the passes, my legs hurt but I enjoy it! And there is always a nice beach that I ride along for a few kilometers. And a turtle that crosses the road in front of me and that I put safely in the grass on the side of the road. Then an uphill, a downhill, and again my rear wheel starts to feel weird. A look at the tire quickly shows me that the plaster technique does not work on the long term: I’ll change the tire in Almeria. Until then, I put 3 layers on so that it does not move during the next two days (fingers crossed), I am offered a beer by some Spanish people who camp next to the place where I repair (bike attracts beer apparently) and I leave! Still some nice roads before the night, which I will spend on top of a mountain with a view on the sea! It’s full of rocks, of course, but I have a good mattress and the view is worth it! And even a lighthouse watches over me if I have nightmares…

I’ve had worse views from my bedroom’s window…

Last stage before Almeria, I am not sure yet of the route: either the shorter, easier, by the road way. Or a portion of track, along the sea, promise of nice viewpoints but which adds me 30 kilometers and 500 meters of difference in height. We are here to see some landscapes, no? I choose the long way. Indeed it is full of stones, it shakes. That even makes Bob move, and he seems to turn to me to say « Are you serious there? Couldn’t you do things simply for once? « . But I have the wind at my back, and enough to dream about for years. I stop almost every 5 minutes to take a picture. It’s simply beautiful.

It shakes but it is worth it!

When I get to the top, I realize that the repairer I wanted to go to for the tire closes at 13:30. It’s 11:50. I have 37 km left and a big climb. It’s possible but I won’t have time to kid around. I start the time trial mode: the climb is cleared in a flash, downhill even faster and then comes a long straight line of 30 km along the beach. I push, I push. At a fork in the road I see a sign that says: « Almeria (by the beach) – 25 km / Almeria (by the road) – 30 km ». I take a look, the beach side looks like it is paved – Go – WHAT A MISTAKE!!! HE SHOULD HAVE THOUGHT A BIT!!!! Beach means sand. Sand means it’s impossible to move forward with a loaded bike. Sand means it’s hard to push the bike. I keep on hoping that the paved road will come back soon (Christelle, we’ll talk about the frost effect sometime…) but I finally realize that after a few kilometers of struggling, it will be sand until the end. I find a small path, half sand, half stones, which brings me back to the road: I lost 45 minutes and I will never be on time at the store. Quick search: I find another one that only closes at 14:00. It’s 13:07. 20 kilometers. All flat. Time trial mode again. I swallow the first 19 kilometers at almost 30 km/h, I begin to think that I am going to make it, I enter town and I must cross a kind of channel, with a puddle of mud in the middle. I put Jay up to his hubs and myself up to my ankles in it. Simple I said. When I leave, I get splashes up to my eyes (apparently it’s good for the skin). I finally arrive at the store at 13:52, just in time to find a new tire. A busy day that will end with a little restaurant, a little walk in town and a big night in a bed!

Next step, Granada! Until then, be well!

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