Cycling Andalusia (2001)

My bike and I are in Tarifa (Spain) and I see mountains in the horizon. That is Morocco!! The following is something I sent as a group email to all my friends a few days after I started my cycling tour through the south of Spain from an internet café in Cadiz. Hope you enjoy it!

Day 1

Saving you all the boring details…I get to Seville by plane. The time 10:00 p.m. My moral, high and rising…after encountering some problems with my bike. For me, I call them catastrophes, given my very limited knowledge of bike mechanics. Anyway, sorted and I’m on my way…Luckily (NOT) the town is pretty far from the airport..By the time I cycle my way to the center of town, bump into a few people who help me find a vacancy in some youth hostel, get something to eat and its already 12:30…I’m thinking of staying in Seville for a day then I remember my tight schedule. I lay the plan in my head and go to bed wondering what’s in store for me…Mental note: every girl I have seen here is stunning, I think I’m in love.

Day 2

Woke up at 8am. By 9 I hit the road. Took me about an hour to reach the motorway..unfortunately, there is no alternative route. The temperature by now is 28 and rising…FAST!! First 2 hours: Many voices in your head speaking to you, you settle the debate..only one remains “I’m gonna do this no matter what”…My energy on full blast, singing extracts from ROCKY, and other similar songs to keep me energised..I chant words of encouragement out loud to myself. Now that I reflect, it seemed a bit silly, things like “Its just you and the road, it wants you to do this, but its not going to make it easy for you, its going stretch you hard to prove you worthy of it…show it what your made of”…”NO PAIN”…”I ain’t feeling anything, give me more!!” Anyway, the next 2 hours…not a word 🙂 Singing in a low voice occasionally and the chanting only in my head. The temperature, 36 degrees. My whole life is now centred round the road, every hill is the journey, every straight my reason of existence. 6 hours through, I’m not looking more than a few metres ahead, you can almost see your reflection in the boiling asphalt, dead voices in your head’re facing many battles, that mind one is only one of them.

You long for the truck to pass by to bring that momentary gust of wind, you close you eyes as if taking it all in and you keep going. People on the road..not a soul!, only the occasional cyclist coming the other way. A very brief encounter, we look at each other, nod, maybe feel that someone is actually on the other side so it makes you feel better and you keep going. It’s almost 2, I’ve been on the road for 5 hours, time to get something to eat. Surprise, NOTHING!! Half an hour later, a small broken sign points to the east and a name of a small town not on my handy AA road map. I go in, its like a ghost town, or maybe its Siesta who knows!! I talk to a lady in a canteen store, “Donde esta Restaurante?”…after a lot of deciphering, she gives up…points in a direction and says 3 kilometres..I head that way, at this point I’m thinking, I hardly understand directions in Arabic or English, yet I’m following this one in Spanish blindly and I could drop unconscious any minute now. 10 minutes and I see a reads (Restaurte), the A and the N have fallen I guess! A mixed Salad and platter of chicken taste like the best I have ever eaten in my life. Its true what we learned in Economics about marginal utility…I rest for another hour then I hit the road…not for long though, I’m so exhausted it only takes little over than 45 minutes and I feel I’m just about to cry from the pain. My speed has been reduced from 13 miles to just 5! I climb a really big hill and I can feel my entire body screaming for mercy…I reach the top and I look in front, another hill….this time twice as steep. I am starting to believe in signs more and more, some power is watching over me (or thats what I like to think)..I see another sign, this time it reads HOSTAL and all the letters are there!! 🙂 For 5 hours I’ve only seen 2 gas stations, no restaurants (the one I stopped at was a detour through a town) and certainly no hostels but now in my most painful hour, its there! “UNA PERSONA, UNA NOCHE POR FAVOR”…I eat and sleep, wake up at 9pm…I Cross the road, and sit staring at the highway, the open fields and the sun setting over the horizon…I think its strange how peaceful it is now, a peace sets into me and the other voice dies again, “Tomorrow I wake up at 3am to avoid the sun and I keep going”…BUENES NOCHAS

Day 3

Its 3am, I eat a couple of KIT KATS, drink a little of water, take one last look at the hostel that saved my life..and I’m off! First, that hill that stopped me yesterday, no problem! It is pitch dark, I didn’t really plan for this, no lights on the road…other than my faint bicycle light and the occasional car passing by from in front or behind…Nothing! It’s very scary, you and nature..but you are not one. You hear strange sounds, barks, howls, and whistles through the bushes that make you feel like something is running behind you…You struggle to maintain your sanity and you go on, trying your best to shut those voices, they are so so many now. An hour later, you toughen up, you fear are one with nature. On one occasion a dog came running after me barking from a nearby farm (god knows what happened there)…I scream at him, he runs away, I’m proud of that and I remember ´Dances with Wolves´!! 7 o’clock I stop to get something to eat yet nothing is open so I keep going. Food is a bless, Lack of it is all! I start feeling the pain…yet I look at the signs behind me, the one that says Seville is 92 the one that says Jerez (my 1st destination) says 6..I go on. The rest of the trip to Cadiz has been a war inside my head, at one point I think there is no point, that I already have proven what I need to and have to stop, there is no use killing myself like that. This is my holiday, why am I not tanning on the beach somewhere. Other times you feel you must go on, that it is do-able. Sports people talk of second wind, I must have hit third and fourth, I kept going on, if you ask me now…I don’t know how. Finally, at 2pm (not having eaten) I reach Cadiz (a port town on the Atlantic Ocean, has one of the longest bays in the world. NOT a fact, true only according to a certain Spaniard I know). You can really smell the water miles away, I have been to the Mediterranean, the Red Sea but never the ocean. A handful of miles to go and I feel so excited, like I’m going to meet an old old friend, strange because I haven’t seen her before (I like to refer to the ocean as she, its so pretty)…perhaps I feel I deserved it that’s why I feel we’ve known each other for so long. I go into the first hostel I see, a little overprices but I don’t really care, I pack my bike (the guy allows me to take my bike in to the room on the third floor, how cool!), lie on the bed (for 10 minutes I think) and I sleep for 5 hours!! I wake up at 8pm…the sun only sets at about 10pm here. I shower, put some clean clothes on and race to the ocean..once I reach the sand, I take my shoes off and walk slowly towards the water…The small broken waves brush against my feet, the water is pleasantly cool. A smile fills my face and I stand staring into the horizon…the sun is about to set. I think I must have stood there for 30 minutes at least as when I looked at my watch it was 9pm. For an hour I walked along the bay…feeling the cool water on my legs and now gentle sun on my skin. I watch the sun set then leave..I have met the ocean for the first time…and what a way to meet!!

Its 10:26 now, I guess I’ve been writing this for a while now. If you have made through till here, hope it hasn’t been painful reading…this morning I though I wouldn’t go on, write now I think that I could do this till eternity and beyond.

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