No plan is better than any plan…

Day 257, Malaga, 13.393 km

Before I left, when people asked me what I was going to do with my sabbatical year, I inevitably answered: « I don’t really know, I don’t want to make too many plans, just enjoy the time I’m going to have… ». In the end I made some plans, first to cycle around to visit all friends and family I have in Europe… Then to continue my tour along the sea, in Spain and Portugal… When I arrived in Valencia, I met Chris, a cyclist who is also doing his own tour of Europe, coming from Portugal and going up north. Chris tells me:  » if you don’t want to absolutely follow the coast, go and have a look at Tabernas, it’s really nice… And if you can go through Granada, it’s worth it ! « . Change of plans, we don’t follow the coast anymore but we enter a little in the lands. Great decision! 5.550 m of difference in height on the last four days, the legs still shaking of all these climbs, but in terms of landscapes, we are probably in the Top 3 of all the trip!

Departure from Almeria, direction the north! I don’t know it yet, but the specialists will recognize the route of the 12th stage of the Vuelta 2009: Almeria, Rioja (I didn’t see a lot of vineyards, normal, the wine region is located in the north of Spain), then the climb to Tabernas. Unfortunately, I ride along the highway for most of the way, with a little bit of a headwind, but my spirits are high. I also pass by the Fort Bravo studios, which are the shooting site in Europe for all western type movies. So far, so good.

First contact with the Sierra Nevada
Mini Hollywood

We go on then and start the serious part: a small transition in soft slope before attacking the climb of the pass of Velefique, classified first category (!!). I go up first to the village of Senés, with superb views on the valley while passing. The wind is still there, a bit cooler than in the morning (we are already around 1.000m of altitude). I miss the fork, a small kilometer of climbing for free, and we continue to go up. My beautiful asphalt road turns into a dirt and rocky road (it would be much too easy otherwise, thanks GPS), and continues to climb. I would like to say that I feel the air becoming rarefied, but except the fact that it is a little cooler and that my legs hurt a little more I do not feel much… The end of the ascent is rather soft, I even end up joining the road and arriving at the top of the pass. No sign for the picture, but the driver of a van is applauding me while passing, it’s just as nice!

The climb from Senés
The last part of the climb, with the Tetica de Bacares dominating

Once the climb is finished, we can go down again! And this descent towards Bacares is simply magnificent: the road is wide, with not too tight laces, I make a peak at 70 km/h, and the view is superb. Small detail that will be important later, I can see the road that goes up to leave the valley, and this climb is going to be tough. But for the moment I’m going down, I enjoy it, and I wish I had an extra pair of eyes to look at the landscape while I’m watching the road…

The beginning of the descent
The arrival in Bacares

I allow myself a little break in the village, the time to eat something and recharge my batteries before the last climb, my second first category pass of the day: the Calar pass. 15km. 800m of difference in altitude. I’m rested and ready to go. I am punished by the slope at the first kilometer of the climb. Impossible to move forward, I feel like my heart is going to explode, I’m liquid (while it’s 6pm and temperatures are starting to drop), I take a break. I still have 12km to go. I catch my breath, stretch my legs a bit, and go back on the bike. After a mini-flat (but really small), it’s punition time again. I have the impression that the bike weighs a ton, that the road clings to my wheels, I take another break. I still have 11km500 to go. I’m starting to think that I’ll spend the night there. A little overconfidence maybe? Finally, the hardest part was at the bottom and the rest of the climb goes pretty well (all things considered). I end up arriving at the top of the pass, almost at 2.000m of altitude (for the purists, the famous stage of the Vuelta went up a little bit higher, then they came down and went up a second time through the Velefique pass. I confess, I didn’t have the courage to go that far…). So I stop for the day. 2.700m of ascent with the luggage, we have a new record!

The arrival at the summit
The view from the bivouac

The next day, I start with a 20km descent. I should do that more often (on the other hand it means going up without going down the day before, dilemma…). 40 km/h average speed. Without pedaling. Easy. Then a few hills to pass and I find myself riding along the highway, on a paved service road (it’s not the case every day, I can tell you that) with the wind at my back and the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada looking at me. Very enjoyable! Then follows a last climb before arriving in Granada (pass at 1.300 m, but considering what I had to go through the day before, I feel like being on vacations) and a looooong descent in the Sierra Nevada, splendid views, I even have to stop every 200 m to take a picture, that’s to say! I’m in a very happy mood when I arrive, and a nice bunch of travelers to share tapas and chat with in the evening only adds to this perfect day!

The Sierra Nevada in the distance
The descent to Granada
Again and again the descent to Granada

The next day, I decided to spend part of the day visiting Granada, before making two short stages to reach Malaga. I’m glad I did! The visit of the Alhambra, a complex of palaces that overlooks the city leaves me speechless, a passage through the Generalife gardens a bit dreamy, and a small meal in town ready to face the road again!

These reliefs… what details!
The Albaicin district seen from the complex
It’s spring and the trees are blooming!
Granada seen from above

A short stage is planned, or so I think, and I intend to use the technique I discovered the day before: do the whole uphill part today and keep only the downhill for the next day. What a good idea! Except that the wind is there, that I leave the road quite quickly and eat a few kilos of dust on the way up, and that a gust or two are close to making me fall in the ditch. I love it. I still have a nice view on the olive fields, and the mountain opens a small passage for me to go down to Malaga! What more could I ask for!

In the valley, the olive trees
The beautiful descent!

After a quiet night under an olive tree, I go down easily to the coast at Torre Del Mar and then along the sea until Malaga. Small pause on the beach to wait for the hostel to open, quick shower and visit of the city before a quiet evening and a good night in a bed!

The sea again
The beach, best place for a small nap
Beautiful view on the city from the Castillo de Gibralfaro

Next step, Sevilla, for the Easter weekend and a few days of rest! Good evening !

A little point with regards to geography

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